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Active ingredients:Dried pulverised juice of Aloe vera leaves, with anthranoid...

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Constipation, a bothersome daily problem

Constipation is not only a matter of difficult defecation, but it is also pain, the need for frequent and unsuccessful visits to the bathroom and continuous contemplation of how to solve the problem. Is it possible to treat constipation with natural extracts?

The problem of constipation: can it affect just anyone?

It most certainly can. The victims of constipation are persons of any age, from the first years (and even the first months) to old age, when constipation is even worse. Constipation also affects pregnant women, and unfortunately very many of them (remember that pregnant women and children can adjust defecation with proper diet only). The issue of constipation is caused by a physiological response to bad diet and little physical exercise. It can also stem from pathological changes in the body.

Constipation in general

Also referred to as obstruction, or commonly constipation, it is difficulty in passing stools. The problem is also diagnosed when frequency of evacuation is over two days.

Causes of constipation

The cause of constipation should be investigated first in the daily dietary habits and lifestyle. If a diet is poor in fibre and liquid food and in tandem with sedentary and stressful life of little physical effort, then constipation can occur quite often. It is the so called physiological base of constipation. The causes, however, may also originate from pathologic conditions. This mainly involves disorders of the intestines: obstruction, scar tissues and neoplastic lesions. Constipation can also be caused by intoxicaton by lead or arsenic. Some pharmaceutical drugs, especially strong painkillers and narcotic drugs, are also a root of constipation that is difficult to treat.

Aloe vera and alder buckthorn – plants with a proven effect on constipation

Constipation as a result of poor dietary habits and low physical activity can mitigated by changing the diet and the introduction of daily exercise. Immediate remedies include preparations of suitable plant extracts.

The aloe is certainly an effective natural medicine in treatment of constipations. An especially recommended solution is a combination of the aloe extract with the Frangula cortex (alder buckthorn bark) extract (i.e. the drug Alax), which ensures an enhanced and relatively prompt laxative effect.

Alona, a congealed juice of various aloe species, contains anthraglycosides (the compounds are distinguished by a mild to severe laxative action, depending on the molecular structure). The mechanism of laxative action of Aloe vera is based on inhibiting the "escape" of sodium ions and water from the intestines to the blood. The plant simultaneously triggers the inflow of water from blood to the intestines, which liquefies the faecal mass. Liquefaction of stools results in easier and painless defecation.
Frangula cortex also contains anthranoid compounds. The mechanism behind the alder buckthorn is stimulation of nerve ends in the intestines. The effect is intensified peristalsis (which enables movement of faecal masses) and inhibition of extraction of water from the intestines.
Byckthorn bark can be classified as a mild laxative, whereas Aloe vera is a strong laxative. The first effects of administration of these extracts can be seen after 8 hours. Hence it is recommended to administer laxative preparations before sleep to easily evacuate the bowels in the morning.

However, if constipation persists despite changing the lifestyle and you are uncertain of the cause, see a doctor.

What should you look for when choosing a laxative?

First and foremost, check the following:

  • Is the preparation classified as a pharmaceutical drug or a dietary supplement?
    However unimportant it may seem to the patient, since both preparations are available at pharmacies, the question is critical. Why? Mainly because dietary supplements have not been subjected to numerous trials required for drug registration, which include tests for efficacy and safety, or the actual contents of active ingredients.
  • What ingredients does it have?
    As a rule of thumb, the presence of two laxative ingredients is more effective than just one. This is both due to safety of use (two-component drugs may contain therapeutic substances in smaller doses than single-component drugs do) and efficacy/effectiveness (the synergistic effect, i.e. multiplication of the desired effect by use of two ingredients with similar action). Hence it is a good idea to look for a formula which, apart from an aloe extract, also contains an extract of the alder buckthorn (e.g. Alax).
  • Who is it intended for?

Preparations with Aloe vera and laxative action can be administered to patients over 12 years of age. They cannot be taken by pregnant or lactating women. It is also not recommended to administer laxative preparations to persons hypersensitive to anthranoid compounds or in diagnosed intestinal diseases or appendicitis. Consult the use of laxative drugs with a doctor in the case of patients being given cardiac drugs, diuretics or steroids (there is a risk of modified efficacy of the latter drugs).

  • How do you administer the preparation?
    The administration depends on manufacturer's indications. Concerning Alax, 1 to 2 tablets are recommended just before sleep and washed down with a glass of boiled water.
  • How soon does the laxative effect occur?
    The laxative response should appear relatively fast, but is should not occur instantly. Such action is essential as too early a laxative effect may result from overly intense irritation of the digestive tract. Due to the comfort of use by the patient, it is usually recommended to take the medicine before sleep when expecting an effect of evacuation after approximately eight hours (i.e. after waking up).

Alax, a drug for constipation

Alax is a drug for constipation which contains pulverised juice of aloe leaves and a dry extract of alder buckthorn bark. Hence the formula combines laxative effects of two herbal materials which are leading solutions in the treatment of constipation, namely the aloe leaf extract, which is a strong laxative, and the alder buckthorn extract, a substance with milder laxative properties. Note that Alax brings about the therapeutic effect relatively soon, approximately eight hours after administration.

Can laxatives be continuously laxative?

Because of the mechanism of the majority of laxatives involving stimulation of the large intestine to work, they should not be administered continuously. Otherwise the intestines will become indolent and will not stimulate evacuation. It is therefore important to take laxatives only in sporadic constipation.