(Natural News) Constipation is not an uncommon problem. In fact, it is one of the most frequently reported gastrointestinal disorders around the world. Constipation can affect many aspects of a person’s health, particularly his quality of life. Constipation that becomes chronic can even interfere with a person’s ability to do simple tasks and can lead to complications. Therefore, finding effective treatments for constipation are the focus of many studies. One such study conducted by researchers from Pusan National University in South Korea investigated the laxative effects and mechanisms of action of traditional medicines. The researchers chose three herbs, namely Liriope platyphylla (lily turf), Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Chinese licorice), and Cinnamomum cassia (Chinese cinnamon), and showed that their combination can be used as a natural remedy for infrequent bowel movement. Their findings appeared in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Causes and complications of constipation
Constipation refers to the difficult passage of stools that lasts for several weeks or longer. When people experience fewer than three bowel movements in a week, they are considered constipated. Constipation can be due to many things. Some of the most common causes of constipation include:
- Inadequate intake of dietary fiber
- Changes in daily routine, lifestyle, or eating habits
- Side effects of medications
- Insufficient fluid intake
- Anxiety or depression
Meanwhile, chronic constipation is caused by more severe issues, such as:
- Blockages in the colon or rectum
- Nerve problems around the colon or rectum
- Impairment of muscles involved in elimination
- Hormonal imbalance caused by diseases
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If left untreated, chronic constipation can lead to complications, such as:
- Hemorrhoids or swollen veins in the anus
- Anal fissure
- Fecal impaction
- Rectal prolapse
These complications not only affect the rectum, they also interfere with intestinal function. (Related: Childhood Constipation: A Bigger Health Problem Than We Think.)
Herbal medicines can relieve constipation
Chinese cinnamon, Chinese licorice, and lily turf have long been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. These medicinal herbs are effective against gastrointestinal problems and are known to relieve constipation.
For their study, the researchers induced constipation in Sprague Dawley rats using loperamide (Lop), a medication used to control diarrhea. Then, they treated the rats with an herbal mixture containing L. platyphylla, G. uralensis, and C. cassia (LGC).
The researchers examined alterations in excretion parameters, histological structure, mucin secretion, and related protein levels in the rats. They also ensured that for the entire duration of the experiment, food intake and water consumption were constant among the animals.
The researchers reported that the group treated with Lop and LGC had significantly greater stool and urine excretion than the group treated with Lop plus a vehicle. Administration of LGC in the constipation model also restored intestinal transit ratio to normal levels and increased the number of goblet cells, mucosal layer, and muscle thickness. Goblet cells are found in the small and large intestines and produce the mucus which protects the intestinal walls or lining.
The researchers also found that the Lop- and LGC-treated group had greater mucin secretion than the Lop- and vehicle-treated group; expression of MUC2 (mucin gene) and AQP8 (water channel gene) also increased. Mucin is a major component of mucus.
After further analysis, the researchers reported that LGC treatment increased muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) in the rats. Acetycholine is a neurotransmitter that induces gastrointestinal smooth muscle contractions.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that traditional herbal mixtures like LGC have a potent laxative effect that can counter Lop-induced constipation via mucosal tissue changes, mucin production, and increased expression of mAChR and its downstream signals.
Other natural remedies for constipation
Besides using TCM herbs, there are other ways to deal with constipation naturally. Here are some effective tips for preventing or relieving constipation: (h/t to MedicalNewsToday.com)
- Drink plenty of water
- Incorporate more fiber into your diet
- Exercise regularly
- Make a habit of drinking caffeinated coffee
- Eat probiotic foods or take probiotic supplements
- Adopt a low-FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet
- Snack on prunes
- Avoid dairy products (if you have lactose intolerance)
Constipation is a health problem that can greatly affect your life and may prevent you from doing your day-to-day activities. To avoid constipation, eat fiber-rich foods, exercise regularly, and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Or, you can use medicinal herbs like Chinese cinammon or Chinese licorice to deal with infrequent bowel movement.