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Dangers of Laxative Overuse for Chronic Constipation

by Cindy Gray

While laxatives can help increase stool frequency, overuse of laxatives often results in chronic constipation.While regular bowel movements are critical for good health, “forcing the issue” with chemically-laden laxatives can do more harm than good. The body can quickly become dependent on laxatives and once you stop taking them constipation symptoms return, sometimes even worse than before. Laxatives contain chemicals that help increase stool bulk and frequency, which provides temporary relief for constipation. But overuse often results in chronic constipation and so it becomes a vicious cycle. 

Laxative use is rampant in this country and millions of dollars each year are spent on products that claim to relieve symptoms. Since the colon is the largest organ in the immune system, keeping it working efficiently is critical to good health.

Related: The Best and Worst Foods for IBS

Instead of reaching for a laxative, consider some natural approaches to treat chronic constipation. Your first line of defense should be to add fiber your diet. Most American diets are woefully lacking in fiber due to our national obsession with over-processed foods. To increase you fiber intake, eat plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and whole grains. Keep fatty foods to a minimum.

Probiotics are also helpful in maintaining regularity and they are found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt. Many people take probiotic supplements that provide the “good bacteria” in the digestive tract that help our bodies break down foods into components that provide healthful nutrition. 

Talk to your health care provider about natural ways to manage chronic constipation and other digestive problems. Laxatives should be used only as a last resort and only under the supervision of your physician or holistic practitioner.  

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