Constipation is a common but neglected problem. For instance, only a few people know what the causes of constipation are. And the number of people who understand the mechanism that leads to constipation is even lower.
So, what is constipation? It is a condition characterized by “hard” stool. This hard stools travels slowly through the colon. Many people are interested to know why the stool becomes hard. Research studies have associated the hardness with the lack of water in the stool that surrounds the intestinal walls. However, the same studies could not explain why this lack of water occurs in the stool.
There are many substances which can help with constipation. An understanding of how stool forms helps make the work of these substances clear. For instance, they reduce the amount of water that is lost from the stool. In a few cases, it even causes the intestine to take in water from other body areas. This water reabsorbed into the stool. Now with the desired normal water level, the stool loses its “hardness” and gets softer. Thus these substances are known as natural stool softeners since they “soften” the stool. Due to their function, they are beneficial for curing a number of conditions, such as irregular bowel syndromes and constipation.
There are many types of natural stool softeners. The most popular of these are listed below:
Herbal supplements: The most widely used herbal supplement is senna. Many people who used this supplement report improvements in the symptoms associated with bowel disorders. Senna is a particular type of natural herb; this type is called anthraquinone. It is also sometimes called sennoside. The herb works like a stimulant. For instance, it stimulates the nerves present in the intestine. Then the nerves transmits message to the nerves lining the abdominal walls. The process leads to quicker movement of the stool. Senna also stimulates the nerves lining the walls of the colon. As a result, the colon cells lose less water. The final result is a higher volume of water in the stool, which, in turn, softens the stool. However, people should be careful before they start using herbal supplements since these – including senna – have not received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Mineral oil: They are used as “lubricants”. For instance, they go to the abdomen and lubricate the abdominal walls. As a result, they prevent water from being lost from the stool, though they do not increase the water volume in the stool. The mineral oil is not absorbed by other parts of the body – so the chances of side effects associated with the use of mineral oil are low. However, a few stool softeners – called Dulcolax – are made of alkaline substances. These softeners distort the chemical bonds in the oil. As a result, the mineral oil can be absorbed by different body organs. Thus mineral oil should never be used with such substances.
Fiber: These- also known as dietary fiber – are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, and also available in fiber supplements. They make light stool bulky. Bulky stool absorb a greater amount of water than light stool, and thus are softer. People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables may never face problems such as constipation. However, increasing fiber intake is not always effective – especially for people who have resorted to this method for alleviating their condition.
There are other substances which were considered as natural stool softeners in the past. These substances include the cascara plan and aloe-Vera. However, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of these substances for constipation.
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