With ten per cent of Britain's population regular sufferers and the NHS spending £45m annually on laxatives, I am sure constipation demands serious consideration.

The Victorians blamed it for most problems, including sexually deviant behaviour.

Constant constipation leads to stomach pains, indigestion, wind, bad breath, a feeling of bloatedness and heaviness.

Ayurveda and Chinese medicine agree that toxic gases and substances are absorbed in the body and lead to other illness.

Regular, normal bowel function gives a healthy feeling.

Babies can be given some water in between feeds to help proper hydration. A quarter of a teaspoon of ginger powder and dill powder steeped in a pint of warm water to which maple syrup or syrup of figs is added makes a mild, safe laxative and anti-flatulent for babies. Just give one or two teaspoons between feeds two or three times a day when constipated.

Children should be encouraged to drink enough water at school as well as at home.

Eating lots of dry foods, crips and chips can lead to sluggish bowels in later life. Healthy school meals with green vegetables, sweet ripe fruits and live yogurt help to maintain good, healthy bowels.

Among adults, stress, depression, irregular meals, fast foods, not enough fresh-cooked meals, overwork, late nights, poor sleep, smoking and too much coffee can all cause constipation which, in turn, leads to stomach aches, acidity, wind, piles and even diverticulitis.

Regular jogging and exercise, including yoga, are very useful. Excessive workouts in the gym can dehydrate you and lead to constipation. Regular eating habits, plenty of leafy vegetables prepared in polyunsaturated cooking oil with herbs such as ginger, capsicum, chillies, garlic, cumin, oregano, mint and coriander help to promote good digestion and bowel habits while providing the high fibre and cellulose which work as bulking agents and lubricants. Now you know why curries are so popular.

Regular sufferers can benefit from high fibre and fruits such as peaches, ripe pears, bananas and apples. Sweet fruit juices and live yogurt drinks also help to regulate the bowel. Ayurvedic medicine recommends sweet lassi, made by blending three to four tablespoonfuls of live yogurt with a glass of hot water to which is added one teaspoonful of cumin and coriander powder and syrup or rock salt. Drinking this daily after your main meal will ensure regular bowel habits and good digestion. Massaging the abdomen gently with warm sesame seed oil before a shower or bath can also help.

For stubborn constipation, we give a herbal enema made by boiling ten roots (dasmool)

in water mixed with sesame seed oil.

Rhubarb is a good laxative. Whole bran, psyllium seed and trifala are very helpful in chronic constipation and diverticulitis.

Trifala also detoxes the body and liver. If nothing else helps, go for the vindaloo.