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No Crap! Or, What to Do About Constipation Post-SHTF

Preppers everywhere seem to constantly worry about medical emergencies like gunshot wounds, anaphylaxis, diabetes, heat stroke and more… and with good reason. While these emergencies are certainly ones to prepare for, I would suggest that it’s more likely to be the “lesser” medical issues that most people will have to contend with.

Although intestinal issues can actually become life-threatening in some cases (such as with an intestinal blockage) most of the time issues like constipation are nothing more than a significant discomfort. In a post-disaster / post-collapse / SHTF environment, on the other hand, constipation may become a serious problem yet again. Read more about constipation at WebMD.

Why Should Constipation Be Such a Problem?

According to WebMD, causes of constipation include (pay attention to the first six points):

Constipation is usually caused by a disorder of bowel function rather than a structural problem. Common causes of constipation include:

  • Inadequate water intake.
  • Inadequate fiber in the diet.
  • A disruption of regular diet or routine; traveling.
  • Inadequate activity or exercise or immobility.
  • Eating large amounts of dairy products.
  • Stress.
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement, which is sometimes the result of pain from hemorrhoids.
  • Overuse of laxatives (stool softeners) which, over time, weaken the bowel muscles.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
  • Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum.
  • Medicines (especially strong pain medicines, such as narcotics, antidepressants, or iron pills).
  • Depression.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Colon cancer.

In some cases, lack of good nerve and muscle function in the bowel may also be a cause of constipation.

And that’s a list when times are normal! You see, our bodies are very accustomed to eating specific foods, in the quantities consumed, at the times consumed, and so on. In much of the developed world we are blessed with a wide variety of food choices, which I would believe contributes to healthier bowels. Regardless, many people continue to suffer problems with their bowels.

Certainly, there are many additional factors besides food consumption that may play a factor in constipation problems, including prescription medications and stress (as noted above), to name a few. In fact, you may find that a problem like stress actually increases constipation-related issues post-disaster.

Think about what might happen to your food consumption habits if you now had to live on your food storage alone. I would suspect that, although you would do it, your body–specifically, your bowels–would NOT be very happy about the drastic switch! Think of your family too; children, in particular, may be more susceptible than adults are.

What Can You Do About It?

Fortunately, there are several suggestions you can try to help alleviate the pain and discomfort of constipation. Before getting into them, however, you should be aware of a few serious warnings from WebMD:

Call your doctor if:

  • Constipation is a new problem for you.
  • You have blood in your stool.
  • You are losing weight even though you are not dieting.
  • You have severe pain with bowel movements.
  • Your constipation has lasted more than two weeks.

With the warnings out of the way, here are some potential solutions that may work for you:

  • Drink Plenty of Water – Water is critical to proper bowel movements, especially during stressful times such as an emergency as well as when your eating habits have changed. This is yet one more reason why it is critical to store plenty of water to begin with AND have the ability to replenish it daily.
  • Eat More Fruits and Vegetables – Roughage from fruits and vegetables help to move bowels along. Unfortunately, these can be difficult to come by post-SHTF. Buy a number of freeze-dried fruit and vegetable cans from supplies like BePrepared.com; this is good planning for most people, in particular, those who are accustomed to eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies each day. Also, consider planting some berry bushes and fruit trees as a “down the road” and replenishing solution… and save money doing it.
  • OTC Medications (laxatives and stool softeners) – Medications can be helpful to alleviate acute forms of constipation but should be used sparingly and should not be used by young children (you know, read the directions). Of course, such medications may be just the thing you need to get “over the hump” so-to-speak.
  • Glycerin Suppository (for kids) – A better approach for younger children. Suppositories help to draw fluid to the intestines, which aids with bowel movement. They might even be a better alternative to OTC medications.
  • Fiber (psyllium husk powder) – Oftentimes people lack fiber in their diet. Consider storing a few bottles of powder to aid with constipation problems or for regular use. Keep it tightly sealed and it should last for years.
  • Flax Seed – A more natural approach to inducing bowel movements. I’ve never tried it myself but my wife says it works well for pregnant women (she’s a midwife, you know!).
  • Epsom Salts – Another alternative to alleviating constipation. I didn’t even know Epsom salts could be used for such purposes until I choose to read the labeling one day. Check it out.
  • Enema / Colonics – Introducing water directly into the rectum may also help with bowl movements. There are people who get paid to provide colonics and those who swear by them. While it may be difficult to give yourself a colonic, an enema would be easier (and probably safer to do on your own). You can purchase an DIY enema kit for cheap.

Constipation is no laughing matter. Begin hydrating yourself by drinking plenty of water now. The more hydrated your body is the better off it will be in general and especially when combating post-disaster bowel disorders. In addition, you should work to include storage foods in your regular meal plans. The more accustomed to these foods your body is the more likely you are to tolerate them when they are your sole means of nourishment. And, have at least two or three of the aforementioned “remedies” on hand just in case you ever need them.

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