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Olive Oil & Constipation

By Owen Bond

Olive oil is extracted from the fruit of olive trees, which are indigenous to the Mediterranean region but now grown in many countries. Olive oil contains a variety of healthy nutrients, such as oleic, palmitic and fatty acids, which provide many benefits. Its properties have been well-studied in regards to preventing arteries from becoming clogged, although it is also useful for intestinal health and bowel cleanses. Maintaining normal flow through the intestines and stimulating bowel movements prevents the intestines from becoming clogged, or impacted.

Composition of Olive Oil

The composition of olive oil varies by cultivator, region, altitude, time of harvest and extraction process, but it primarily contains triglycerides such as oleic acid, palmitic acid and omega fatty acids. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat considered healthy for the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. Olive oil also contains powerful antioxidants such as vitamin E, carotenoids, hydroxytyrosol and esters, including oleocanthal and oleuropein. Many researchers have speculated that olive oil may be partly responsible for the low incidence of heart disease and intestinal problems seen in Mediterranean peoples when compared to Americans, according to "Nutrition and Public Health." Higher consumption of red wine and vegetables along with more vacation time are other likely factors.

Olive Oil and the Intestines

Like most oily substances, olive oil is a lubricant that can line the intestines and prevent sticky, undigested food or fecal matter from clogging the intestinal lumen or becoming impacted within the intestinal folds, as cited in "Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition." Further, the omega-3 fatty acids deter inflammation and toxic build-up within the mucosal lining of the intestines.

Olive oil also has mild laxative properties, which means it soften stools and promotes regular bowel movements. Still, it tends to reduce intestinal contractions. Oleocanthal displays anti-inflammatory properties similar to the drug ibuprofen, which can help with inflammatory intestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis. In a sense, colitis can clog intestines with inflammation and swelling. Hydroxytyrosol is a powerful antioxidant within olives and some studies suggest that it has protective properties against certain malignant tumors, including those that grow in the intestines, according to "Human Biochemistry and Disease." Intestinal tumors can become big enough to block or clog the intestines.

Other Benefits of Olive Oil

In addition to promoting gastrointestinal health, olive oil has proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular health because it helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, particularly harmful LDL cholesterol that can clog arteries, according to "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Olive oil can also lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Further, olive oil balances omega fatty acid ratios by increasing omega-3 and displacing omega-6 fatty acids, which is thought to reduce inflammatory reactions throughout the body. Olive oil’s antioxidant activity is central to its impact on cancerous processes, and reducing harmful free-radicals also helps with tissue aging related to oxidative damage.

Other Foods that Unclog Intestines

In addition to olive oil, many high-fiber foods are helpful to clean and unclog the intestines. Fruits such as lemons and oranges contain soluble fiber and vitamin C, a strong antioxidant. Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are high in insoluble fiber and chlorophyll, which protect the digestive tract. Cereals such as bran flakes are excellent sources of fiber, which absorb water in the intestines and promote bowel movements. Psyllium husk is especially absorptive and acts as an efficient sweeper for debris and toxins in the intestines. Finally, drinking lots of purified water can act to unclog the digestive system and a variety of herbal remedies can stimulate bowel contractions and relieve constipation.

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