Q: A friend of mine, 22 years old, is suffering from some eating disorder. He consumes a laxative regularly before going to bed. His weight has fallen from 67 to 57 kg. What is wrong with him and does he need to see a doctor? What diet do you suggest for him?
A:Your friend’s main problem appears to be of constipation. Consuming laxatives is not a solution. What he needs to do is increase the fibre content of his diet. Eating foods high in dietary fibre, particularly insoluble fibre, is an effective way to manage constipation. Dietary fibre attracts water, creating soft, bulky stools that stimulate bowel contractions and ease elimination. Certain foods and drinks, and the proper amount of exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of constipation.
Eat high-fibre foods such as raisins, raw vegetables, salads, bran cereals, whole-grain bread and fresh fruit.
Eat prunes or figs.
Eat oatmeal, apple, legumes (dried beans) and barley, to soften the stool.
Flax meal is excellent. You can buy the seeds and grind them yourself. Flax meal is a good source of natural fibre and health-promoting Omega-3 fatty acids. It can be stirred into or sprinkled on foods.
Drink plenty of liquids—at least eight glasses a day. Water and herbal tea are best. Juices are not recommended, nor are caffeinated drinks, as your body can become dependent on these in the long run.
Drink several cups of warm-to-hot liquid in the morning. Herbal teas or water work well.
Use brown rice instead of white rice
Consume whole grain breads
Snack on dried fruits, nuts and dates.
Cook with whole grain wheat, bajra, jowar flour.
Eat high-fibre cereal with fresh fruit for breakfast
Select whole fruits rather than juice
Eat the skin of well washed fruits and vegetables
Have a salad with dinner
Add beans to salads
Foods that make constipation worse are alcohol, canned fruit, bananas, pears, guava, white rice, white bread, and sabudanna. Using certain laxatives also causes constipation. With continued use, your body becomes accustomed to the effects of the laxative, and if you stop taking it, the colon slows down and its contractions become very weak. This is called laxative dependency constipation, and it can be severe.
Exercise also helps relieve constipation. Do daily exercise, like a brisk half-hour walk.
Visit the toilet for 15 minutes in the morning, even if you are unable to have a bowel movement. This relaxes and stimulates your digestive system.
Sit quietly for 15 minutes after eating a meal to aid digestion.
Regarding the fact about his weight loss, it could occur due to a number of reasons. A doctor should always investigate sudden unexplained weight loss. The doctor will want to check for overactive thyroid gland, hidden infections, and other causes of weight loss. Don't put off going to the doctor - the sooner the cause is found, the sooner he can be treated and on the way to recovery. In the meantime, he needs to try to eat a healthy diet. It can helpful if he keeps a food diary for a few days to see exactly what he is eating. Healthy between-meal-snacks such as fruit, muesli, milkshakes, and cheese can help him put on weight.