Health Concerns

Constipation

Supplements To Aid Elimination

Certain herbal-based formulations containing black radish, artichoke, deoxycholic acid, peppermint and wormwood extract help stimulate peristalsis, speed digestion of fats, and prevent stagnation of food in the digestive tract.

Black radish extract has a high content of fiber, which can increase peristaltic movements and add bulk to the stool (Rigo 1982). Also, it can help increase the secretion of mucus in the colon, which aids in elimination (Sipos 2002).

Peppermint, with its active ingredient menthol, is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes smooth muscle, the same type of muscle that lines the walls of the intestines. Among patients with constipation secondary to irritable bowel syndrome, peppermint oil helps to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life (Grigoleit 2005).

Probiotics And Prebiotics For Healthy Digestion

The colon has a robust population of beneficial bacteria that help digest any remaining nutrients. Beneficial bacteria include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum). A healthy population of beneficial bacteria is essential for proper digestion. Among elderly bed-ridden Japanese, intake of yogurt containing B. bifidum was reported to improve the frequency of bowel movements (Tanaka 1982). Another study found that commercial probiotic preparations helped increase bowel movement frequency among elderly people (Ouwehand 2002).

People with irritable bowel syndrome suffer from alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, often suffering painful abdominal bloating and gas production. Bifidobacteria supplementation produced a significant reduction in abdominal distension and improved symptom scores along with faster bowel transit times (which reduces cancer risk) (Agrawal 2009; Guglielmetti 2011). Several recent studies demonstrate significant improvements in measures of gastrointestinal well-being, decreases in digestive symptom scores and bloating, and increases in health related quality of life during bifidobacteria supplementation (Guyonnet 2009; Ringel-Kulka 2011).

In addition, prebiotics, or fructooligosaccharides, have been shown to promote normal bowel movements. Fructooligosaccharides are sugars that are fermented by beneficial bacteria and aid in digestion. In one study, elderly patients who were constipated benefited from taking fructooligosaccharides (Kleessen 1997).

Supplements To Relieve Acute Constipation

Some cases of constipation are caused by insufficient peristalsis, which means there is not enough colon contractile activity to completely evacuate the bowels. However, there are specific nutrients that, if taken at the right time, can induce healthy colon peristaltic action without producing adverse effects.

On an empty stomach, certain nutrients have been shown to induce healthy colon peristalsis. One combination is 4 to 8 grams of vitamin C powder and 1,500 mg of magnesium oxide powder taken with the juice of a freshly squeezed grapefruit. A convenient product sold by several vitamin companies is a buffered vitamin C powder that contains magnesium and potassium salts mixed with ascorbic acid. Depending on the person, a few teaspoons (or, in some cases, 1 to 2 tablespoons) of this buffered vitamin C powder can produce a powerful but safe laxative effect within 45 minutes. This therapy has to be individually adjusted so it will not cause day-long diarrhea.

Also on an empty stomach, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) in a dose of 2,000 to 3,000 mg will produce a rapid evacuation of the contents of the bowels. Vitamin B5 powder is unpalatable, but there are many health benefits attributed to it, in addition to its ability to stimulate peristalsis. Nutritional laxatives such as magnesium, ascorbic acid, and pantothenic acid are becoming more popular with people who have constipation that is resistant to fiber therapies.