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The benefits of bran

Constipation is seldom discussed, but it affects just about everyone at one time or another. In fact, constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, resulting in about 2 million annual visits to the doctor.

"Many people assume that they're constipated when they don't have a daily bowel movement," says Dr Craig Rubin, professor of internal medicine and head of geriatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "But everyone has different bowel habits. A normal pattern for one person may not be for someone else." Constipation occurs when the over absorption of water by the colon causes hard, dry stools.

To keep regular, gradually add fresh vegetables, fruits and fiber to your diet. And keep active. Home remedies are an alternative to over-the-counter laxatives, which can cause bowel inactivity.

"Mix and then refrigerate a half-cup of unprocessed bran and a half-cup of applesauce with a third of a cup of prune juice. Take two tablespoons after dinner followed by a glass of water; increase to three to four tablespoons if needed," Rubin suggests.

If constipation persists for more than two weeks, consult your primary care physician.

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