Herbs & Natural Remedies:
Psyllium, cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana), senna (Senna alexandrina), vitamin C, honey and coffee.
Psyllium: powdered seed (Metamucil, Fiberall). Cascara sagrada: commercial preparations (Caroid and Nature’s Remedy). Senna: commercial preparations (Correctol, Ex-Lax, Fletcher’s Castoria, Herb Lax, Perdiem, Senokot). Vitamin C: tablets. Honey: bulk honey. Coffee: beverage.
How it Works:
Psyllium seed is a bulk-forming laxative. Add water and it expands, providing bulk to stool. Bulkier stools press on the colon wall and stimulate the urge to go. Senna and cascara sagrada stimulate colon contractions. Large doses of vitamin C may loosen the bowels. A recent study shows that honey, a traditional laxative, does indeed help. Coffee’s stimulant action also stimulates the colon.
Psyllium, senna and cascara sagrada: follow package directions. Vitamin C: 1,000 mg every two hours. Honey: 1 tablespoon in water or juice every two hours. Coffee: 1 or 2 cups, as needed.
Take psyllium with plenty of fluid to avoid intestinal obstruction. Senna and cascara sagrada may cause abdominal distress. High doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea. Coffee may cause insomnia, jitters and irritability.
Eat more plant foods. Start your day with a bran cereal and add raisins for extra fiber. Drink plenty of nonalcoholic liquids. Exercise regularly. Iron can be constipating; if your multivitamin contains this mineral, switch to one without it.
San Francisco health writer Michael Castleman is the author of 11 consumer health books. Visit www.mcastleman.com .