Synthetic laxatives can lead to electrolyte disturbances, dehydration and mineral deficiencies. Laxative abuse can also cause long-term and potentially permanent damage to the digestive system, including chronic constipation and damage to the nerves and muscles of the colon.
Overuse of these synthetic laxatives may cause dependence (lazy bowel syndrome), poor absorption of vitamins and nutrients (particularly potassium), dehydration, damage to the intestinal tract, and worsened constipation. Those who take laxatives for a long time may need to go off them slowly to allow the bowels to return to normal function.
High-fibre foods improve bowel regularity. Eat whole-grain breads and cereals (made with wheat bran, whole oats, rye, and flaxseed), fresh fruits (especially strawberries, apples, and rhubarb), dried fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
• Broccoli, spinach, and kale contain magnesium, which improves gut motility.
• Aim for 25–35 g of fibre daily.
• Drink plenty of fluids, water is best, but pure fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas are also fine.
Foods to avoid:
• Refined and processed foods are high in sugar and contain little fibre.
• Mucus-forming foods (dairy) slow the transit time of waste and can be constipating.
• Caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating and should be minimized.
• Increase physical activity, as exercise helps stimulate intestinal and bowel contractions. Try walking, biking, or swimming.
• Set aside time to have a bowel movement, such as after breakfast.
• Don’t resist the urge. The longer you delay going to the toilet once you feel the urge, the more water that is absorbed from the stool and the harder it becomes.
• Acupuncture, massage, and reflexology may help by improving intestinal motility.
• Detoxification, a short-term cleanse or juice fast along with fibre supplements (psyllium, flaxseed), allows the body to focus on removal of waste. This is particularly helpful for chronic constipation.
FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR DR GOVIND SHUKLA, NUTRITION EXPERT
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Govind Shukla, Specializes in Pharmacology, Toxicology, Nutraceuticals & Herbal Drugs has published More than 100 research papers in National & International Journals. He is also a reviewer of International Journal of Pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, Chief editor of IJPNR Journal & Freelance Medical Writer for Different publication Groups including Lambert Academic Publishing Saarbrucken, Germany.