Poop is a frequent topic in my practice since a person’s bowels tell so much about the workings of one’s body. One of the many challenges that those living with Parkinson’s disease face is constipation, which is generally defined as abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of dry hardened feces. Constipation is a symptom with a myriad of causes including the decreased gastric motility from the disease itself, medications, diet, insufficient fluid intake and physical activity level. Let’s look at some ways that you can help address your constipation.
- Water intake – one of the most important changes you can make! Dehydration stimulates the colon to reabsorb the left over water in the stool making it harder to pass. The colon is the first to donate its available water to more vital organs such as the brain and lungs. Tea, coffee and alcohol do not count as fluid intake since they can act as diuretics. Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses per day, but increase to this level slowly to allow your system time to adjust. You may find that you initially retain water, but gradually your body will release the extra fluids and stay at a well-hydrated level.
- Dietary Fiber – increase daily intake to 25g to 35g. Although we often reach for bread to fulfill the daily fiber requirement, bread is highly processed which means it’s lacking nutritionally; not to mention that wheat contributes to intestinal inflammation. So instead, reach for black bean salad (1/2 cup of legumes = 8g fiber), berries (1 cup = 8g fiber), guacamole (1/2 cup = 8g fiber), pear (6g fiber), sweet potato (1 med = 8g fiber), or sunflower seeds (1/4 cup = 4g fiber). This way you’ll be getting your fiber along with a powerful pack of nutrients. Remember that the fiber soaks up water like a sponge, which helps add bulk to the stool, making it soft and easy to pass; but without taking in enough water, you’ll only aggravate your symptoms.
- Physical Activity – increased activity helps stimulate the intestines.
If diet, water and exercise are not adequate to relieve the constipation, additional steps can be taken:
- In the morning, drink warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice plus 1 teaspoon of ground flax seed or psyllium husk.
- Drink 1-2 tablespoons of 100% aloe vera juice each day.
- Decrease sugar intake which contributes to constipation by replacing nutrient dense foods and by creating more systemic inflammation.
- Work with a nutritionist who can assist you in addressing your unique needs and lifestyle and provide additional suggestions to relieve constipation.
As the body adapts, the changes will make a difference. But, remember, the changes will take some time, up to 3 to 4 weeks. So, be patient, and avoid trying to solve the problem with the use of laxatives and enemas, which cause rapid removal of bowel contents. Such products can actually worsen constipation and damage the lining of the intestines. Laxative and enema use should be a last resort and should be discussed with your physician.
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