While constipation is rarely dangerous, it can cause discomfort and concern when it occurs. Bowel movements vary from person to person, but the University of Maryland Medical Center describes constipation as when you have fewer than three bowel movements weekly. Straining during bowel movements and having harder stools than usual are other signs of constipation. Commercial herbal teas are available that relieve constipation. Talk to your physician before consuming laxative teas.
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A number of issues can cause a bout of constipation. For your bowels to move normally, you need enough water and fiber, so dehydration and a decreased fiber intake often result in constipation. Lack of exercise and stress can also slow down your bowels. Certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and metabolic disorders, can cause constipation. Some medications -- pain drugs, anticonvulsants and antacids -- can cause constipation.
Senna is an FDA-approved, non-prescription herb used to treat constipation, and most herbal laxative teas use it as the primary ingredient. Senna, which contains active substances called "sennosides," exerts a stimulant laxative effect. The sennosides irritate the lining of your intestines, which helps your bowels get moving. Senna is likely safe for most adults, but avoid using it for longer than two weeks. Its possible side effects include stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Herbal Teas to Avoid
Cascara, an herb available in some teas for relieving constipation, contains substances that stimulate your large intestine, which increases motility. The stimulation causes your intestines to contract, which increases the water and electrolyte levels, facilitating movement and easing constipation. However, a number of toxic adverse effects have been reported by cascara users, causing the Food and Drug Administration to deem it unsafe, reports Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Avoid herbal teas that contain cascara as an active ingredient.
Use herbal teas for cases of mild constipation only and on a short-term basis; avoid using them if you have chronic constipation. Drinking enough water, engaging in regular physical activity and consuming the proper amount of fiber help to relieve and prevent constipation. You should consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber every day. Fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, oat bran and legumes are good sources of fiber.