Recently, I treated one of my elderly patients with a conventional medicine called Miralax, in response to the grumble of his dreaded condition, constipation. Two days later when he developed explosive diarrhea, he called back, regretful that he tried the potent potion, but I thankful that not much worse had happened.

The colon is the initial part of the large intestine responsible for absorbing the water out of ingested contents. Then by passing the contents to the rectum, the latter part of the large intestine, rhythmic contractions occur and solid but soft stool is expelled out of the body. This process which takes about 8-12 hours, requires many crucial factors, notably water and fiber, for smooth processing. Think of it as a potter who is preparing clay and needs the exact amount of water and powder for the perfect blend. When these factors are disrupted as in an aging colon, hard, difficult to pass stool ensues. If the recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber per day is 20-35 gm per day, and the average American diet consists of 2-20 gm, then one can imagine the high prevalence of constipation in our society.

This dreaded illness, fortunately entails a wide array of remedies, from medication to herbs to acupuncture to exercise, all valid in their own way. Once a patient confessed to me that by pressing the right side of her buttock she’s able to trigger the rhythmic contractions necessary to have a successful bowel movement. Mysterious. For those not so lucky, my first advice is to eat five prunes a day.

These dried, sweat and chewy fruits are an excellent source of dietary fiber (1/4 cup averages 2gm fiber) and antioxidants, as well as a natural laxative called dihydrophenylisatin. All make this century-old remedy, the colon’s happiest food.

Remembering the potter who needs the perfect blend of fiber AND water, keep well hydrated as you savor your prunes today.

A message brought to you by Dr. Nasimeh Yazdani from Seaside Medical Practice in Santa Monica.