Clinical Nutrition For Dummies
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The digestive system processes the fuel your body needs for survival. This system is one of the most important in your body because it is connected to and works in tandem with almost every other body system.

When your digestive system isn’t working properly, you can experience an almost endless series of physical and even mental health effects. Take, for example, the effects of being constipated (lacking regular or satisfying bowel movements).

  • Physical effects of constipation: Constipation can bring on bloating, feelings of fullness, lethargy, abdominal pain, and other physical discomfort. In addition, not being able to empty your bowels is theorized to raise the risk of developing cancer in your intestines.

  • Mental effects of constipation: People often become anxious, nervous, and, if the problem becomes chronic, possibly even depressed.

Assuming that no underlying physiological issue — like malfunctioning intestinal motility (the ability of your intestinal wall muscles to move digested food through the bowels — is causing your constipation, the best way to keep your bowels working properly is to keep your diet balanced, healthy, and fresh:

  • Balanced: Eat an appropriate amount of healthy food from each food group to ensure you get the appropriate nutrition. Make sure that approximately 50 percent of your caloric needs come from whole grains and other carbs full of fiber. Also make sure you drink plenty of water.

  • Healthy: Opt for more foods that are lower in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. Examples include fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and healthy fats.

  • Fresh: Eat whole, garden-fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats rather than processed foods.

Such a diet ensures that you get plenty of fiber, which helps bulk up stool and provides for faster, easier passage from the body. Additionally, ensure that you get sufficient exercise and that you refrain from smoking and limit your alcohol consumption.

Here’s another tip to keep your digestive system working properly: Drink lemon or lime juice in a glass of warm water. This reliable remedy for constipation has been used for thousands of years, and it’s a lot cheaper than expensive fiber supplements. Follow these steps:

  1. Mix the juice from half a lime or lemon to warm water and drink it before you go to bed.

    Overnight, the citrus/water mixture helps loosen you stool.

  2. Upon waking, drink another glass of the mixture, wait about 30 minutes, and then attempt to move your bowels.

  3. Repeat these steps for a week.

If you’re eating and exercising properly but still find yourself constipated, consult a physician. The problem may be medication (some include constipation as a side effect) or stress, or it may indicate a hormonal problem. Your doctor can help you uncover and address the cause.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Michael J. Rovito, PhD, is Founder/Executive Director of the Men’s Health Initiative. Dr. Rovito specializes in male health promotion, chronic disease epidemiological and behavioral research, and community-based wellness interventions. He steadfastly supports the notion that proper diet and exercise are the best and safest ways to achieve optimum wellness.

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