Anyone who knows me knows I love to talk about poo. Its size, its shape, its smell everything about poo there are no limits (much to my teenage children’s disgust).Your poo can tell an awful lot about what is happening in your body and with your health.If a lot more people looked back into the bowl after they have a poo we could really cut down the amount of bowel cancer in this country.
In clinic I am often asked “how often should I be doing a number 2?” my answer is very different to their regular doctor who says its okay to go 3 days per week. Me, I believe our bodies are finely tuned and they are designed for food in food out scenario. Three times per day is optimal and at least once is preferable.You can be going once per day and still be constipated.
I can already hear everyone saying that can’t right but let me assure you it is. Constipation is by far the most commonest digestive symptom I see and it affects everyone at some time from babies and toddlers to the elderly and everyone in between.
When you are constipated it leads to toxic waste materials being recirculated in your body which leads to microbial imbalance and can often have a flow on effect to disease.
Causes of Constipation
There are many causes of constipation and an essential part of the treatment plan is to find out what is causing yours. Some likely suspects are;
Dehydration- Water is an essential ingredient to help keep the food you eat moving through your small intestine and to keep it flexible. In the large intestine the water is taken out of food so it can become poo and be excreted. There is a danger that if you haven’t had enough to drink the poo gets hard and becomes difficult and painful to pass.
Thyroid problems- an under active thyroid can cause constipation issues because a portion of thyroid hormone is converted to its active form in the gastrointestinal tract. If there is an imbalance in bacteria this can affect its conversion and slow things down.
Nutritional deficiencies- enzymes are needed to help with the processing and the absorption of the food. If you don’t have enough of these vitamins and minerals this affects motility. One of the most critical nutrients for motility is magnesium and because we have such a processed diet and a stress filled life magnesium is often deficient.
Lack of exercise- Exercise can stimulate the natural contraction of your intestinal muscles especially aerobic exercise so popping in a Jane Fonda video may come in handy here. It reduces the time it takes food to move through your intestines which can reduce the amount of water being absorbed into the large bowel.
Dysbiosis- everyone knows about good and bad bacteria right? Well its when the bad guys gets the upper hand. This leads to leaky gut which then cases inflammation. Inflammation affects motility.
Food sensitivities- cause inflammation. The food is not assimilated or absorbed properly. This leads to more inflammation, constipation and gut lining damage.
Use of medications- medications like iron, anti-depressants, opiates, antacids and many more can cause poor motility which leads to constipation.
Neurological issues- caused by spinal injuries, Parkinsons, Multiple sclerosis can impede the message getting through from the brain to the bowel.
What can you do to fix these problems?
Avoid inflammatory foods- You may want to go on to an elimination diet and work out which foods are triggers for you. Some of the usual suspects are corn, gluten, dairy, soy, colours and additives, eggs, nuts & nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, chillies, capsicum, goji berries, eggplant, potatoes).
Increase the healthy fats in your diet as they lubricate the digestive tract to help things to keep moving. Good examples of this are avocado, macadamia oil, olive oil, ghee and coconut oil.
Increase your water intake-I know you hate how water tastes. Add some fruit and herbs to get it tasting better. Aim for 1.8-2 litres per day.
Increase your exercise- exercise is crucial to human beings on so many levels. Move your body when ever you can . Add incidental exercise every day. Don’t sit at your desk for longer than 20 minutes. Get up and shake it out.
Get your thyroid checked- this is a biggie especially here in Australia. The reference range is so large you really could have a subclinical issue and not know it.
Add soluble and insoluble fibre to your diet everyday- You get this from fruit and vegetables so eat up! Resistant starch is also great as it feeds your good bugs. You can find this is in cooked and cooled potatoes and rice that has been in the fridge.
Chew!- Oh I know I go on about this but this is where your digestion begins. It sends the chemical messages to your body to prepare to stoke the fires for digestion. The longer you chew, the less your digestive organs have to break your food down.
Supplement- Magnesium, probiotics, slippery elm, aloe vera juice some herbs can all be of benefit to the digestive system. Remember it is important to keep things moving.
Eat fermented foods- they give you the added nutrients from the foods that have been fermented and the gut loves them. Some good ones to start are sauerkraut, kim chi and kefir. Take a class and learn how to make them at home. It is so easy.
Do not hold on-when you get the urge GO! The more you hold onto to it the more your brain gets the message that you don’t need to and slows motility. Give yourself time to be able to go to the bathroom without being rushed.
Squat- Get a stool in the bathroom to put your feet on when you need to go. It puts your pelvis at the right angle to get the job done efficiently and effortlessly.
Seek help- Constipation is not normal! Find the cause. As a long time sufferer of constipation I can tell you not to give up hope you will find the cause.
Lets see if some of these ideas can help get you moving again.