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 complain of constipation or take laxatives.
Now the Food and Drug Administration 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 to 40 grams of fiber daily from 100 percent whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies, physical activity (walk, walk, walk), stress management and getting eight to nine hours of sleep. That’ll keep you going.
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In 1974, at age 60, Jack LaLanne swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf, handcuffed and shackled, towing a 1,000 pound boat. That’s mucho macho! Fortunately you don’t have to go to such extremes to be a healthy guy with healthy swimmers. But if you’re packin’ even a few extra pounds (around 74 percent of guys in North America are overweight), your swimmers could use some help!
A new study from Stanford University found that the larger a man’s waist circumference and the higher his body mass index, the lower his semen level, and therefore his sperm count. Men with a healthy BMI (somewhere between 18.5 to 24.9) typically ejaculate about 3.3 milliliters of sperm-containing semen. Men with a higher BMI produce less semen for sperm to swim in — around 2.8 milliliters. And you can get only so many swimmers into that size pool!
So, to make the pool (and your sperm count) bigger, here’s what you need to do:
1. Eat 300 to 500 fewer calories a day. That equals about 1 American beer (145), a chocolate chip cookie (160) and one cup of sugary cereal (110) with ½ cup of whole milk (75). And eliminate the Five Food Felons.
2. Get sweaty! The most-effective, least-expensive way is a walking routine with interval training. So put on your walking shoes (10,000 steps a day is your goal) and walk 100 steps a minute for 10 to 15 minutes; then go for 2.5 minutes of intense walking at 130 steps per minute. Repeat as often as you can.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.