When bears hibernate for five to seven months, their guts compact sloughed-off intestinal cells, residual undigestibles like hair or leaves, and even foot pads that come off while they sleep (they lick their tender tootsies). These form a plug that stays in the digestive tract until the bear leaves the den.
And you thought you were constipated! Well, there's a good chance you are. An estimated 63 million North Americans have chronic constipation - more than twice as many women as men. What triggers it? One culprit is gastroparesis, intestinal nerve damage associated with diabetes, which affects about 12 percent of the population. Dehydration and too-little fiber in the diet trigger problems for millions more. Lack of mobility, taking certain anti-hypertensives or opiate pain relievers, being low or hypothyroid, lupus and laxative abuse can clog up the works, too. By age 65, nearly one in two women and one in three men take laxatives.
Now the FDS warns that saline laxatives containing sodium phosphate can kill you (13 people have died) if you don't follow label directions exactly. These laxatives draw water into the intestines, softening the stool. This process may cause dehydration or abnormal levels of electrolytes that can damage the kidney. Most risky: Taking a dose that's higher than recommended or taking more than one dose a day. A better solution? Eating 30-40 grams of fiber daily and getting eight to nine hours of sleep. That'll keep you going.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.