Barley is a promising laxative and functional food against constipation
(Natural News) According to a recent study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, fermented barley extract is a promising laxative agent and natural remedy for spastic constipation.
After investigating its effects in constipated rats, South Korean researchers reported that fermented barley exhibits antioxidant, gastroprotective and immunostimulatory properties that make it a powerful functional food ingredient against spastic constipation.
Constipation: Symptoms, causes and risk factors
Constipation occurs when you go several days without regular bowel movements. But how often you pass stool largely depends on your metabolism. Some people might “go” up to three times a day, while others might do so every two days. Both scenarios are perfectly within the healthy range of bowel movement frequency.
When you don’t empty the colon as often as it needs to be emptied (which depends on digestive health), your stool can dry out and harden, making it more difficult to push out of the body. Other symptoms of constipation include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Painful bowel movement
- Bloody stool
- Stomach ache
- Frequent urge to pass stool
Although an unpleasant experience, constipation is often not indicative of any serious digestive condition. On the contrary, it’s often due to changes in diet and poor lifestyle habits, such as:
- Lack of fiber
- Little or no physical activity
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Excessive consumption of dairy products
- Medications (anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, antacids and antihistamines)
Certain people may also be more at risk due to factors like age and reproductive health. For instance, older adults with slow metabolism and infrequent physical activity may often be constipated. Pregnant women are also prone to constipation due to fetal movement and hormonal changes before and after childbirth.
Additionally, constipation can occur alongside other symptoms of digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal obstruction and even colon cancer. When it occurs due to IBS, it is known as spastic constipation. (Related: Peppermint oil is a safe and effective therapy for IBS.)
Fermented barley extract as a natural remedy for constipation
Since constipation is primarily caused by a low-fiber diet, it’s important to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Barley, in particular, is hailed for its incredibly high fiber content. However, according to the South Korean study, plain barley does not exhibit potent gastroprotective effects against symptoms of chronic digestive conditions.
To enhance its effects, the researchers decided to ferment barley before obtaining an extract. They reported that the fermented barley extract showed beneficial properties, such as antioxidant, gastroprotective and immune-stimulating properties. The fermentation process also increased the amount of nutrients and plant chemicals present in barley.
To examine how the fermented extract influenced spastic constipation, the researchers tested the extract on 48 healthy male rats. The researchers gave the rats loperamide, a type of medication used to treat diarrhea, to induce spastic constipation.
Once a day for six days, the researchers orally administered the fermented extract to the constipated rats. They collected fecal samples for analysis prior to the experiment and immediately after the fourth oral administration of the extract.
The researchers found that the fermented barley extract increased gastrointestinal motility in the constipated rats, which signified a laxative effect. It also showed low toxicity even at high doses (100-300 mg/kg). These results led the researchers to conclude that the fermented barley extract is a promising functional food ingredient and laxative agent that can treat spastic constipation.
How to prevent the recurrence of constipation
Constipation can interfere with daily activities, and it can be especially difficult to deal with when you’re not at home. But there are steps you can take to avoid this condition. Here are some ways to prevent constipation naturally:
- Eat fiber-rich foods like beans, leafy greens, fruits and whole grains like oats and quinoa
- Avoid foods with little or no fiber at all, such as processed meat, sugary foods and refined breakfast cereals
- Drink water frequently
- Exercise regularly
- Limit caffeine intake to avoid dehydration
- Manage your stress levels
- Make it a habit to pass stool at least once a day or once every two days to cleanse your colon
Constipation can cause mild to severe discomfort, especially when left untreated. Fortunately, fiber-rich foods like barley can help protect against constipation and other digestive problems.
Visit NaturalMedicine.news for more stories on functional foods that improve digestive health.
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