Senna is a yellow-flowered plant that typically grows in India and China. The leaves of the senna plant are used in non-prescription medicines and herbal supplements to treat constipation. There is not enough research to rate senna as effective for other health concerns, such as hemorrhoids or weight loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. Exercise caution when using senna to relieve constipation.
If you have fewer than three bowel movements per week or your stools are harder than usual, you may have constipation, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Stress, chronic disease, or certain medications may cause constipation. Inadequate fiber or fluid intake and lack of physical activity can also contribute. If constipation lasts for more than a few days, talk to your doctor about what might be causing it.
Senna and Constipation
Senna may relieve constipation by stimulating the muscles of the colon to push fecal matter through more quickly. It may also help your colon absorb water to soften stool. You may expect a bowel movement within six to 10 hours of taking senna, according to the National Cancer Society. Active compounds in the senna plant, called sennosides, may be responsible for its laxative effect.
Senna can cause diarrhea, which may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. You may experience nausea or vomiting, although these issues are less common. Some people may be allergic to senna leaves. The color of your urine may change while you are taking senna laxatives, but should go back to normal when you stop. Avoid using senna for long periods of time, as chronic use may impair the normal function of your colon, cautions the American Cancer Society. Consult with your doctor before using senna if you are pregnant or nursing.
Before you consider using senna for constipation, make sure you are consuming enough fiber and water every day. Aim for a total dietary fiber intake of at least 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams per day for men, advises the US Department of Agriculture. Increase your fiber intake gradually and drink at least eight glasses of water daily to avoid potential side effects of fiber, such as gas and bloating. The more fiber you consume, the more fluids you should drink, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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