Are You Dealing With Constipation?

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Constipation is a condition in which you may have fewer than three bowel movements a week; your stools are hard, dry, or lumpy; they may be difficult or painful to pass, or you may have a feeling that not all stool has passed.

Constipation is not a disease, but it may be a symptom of a medical problem and can last for a short or a long time.

How Common is Constipation?

Constipation is common among all ages and populations in the United States. About 16 out of 100 adults have symptoms of constipation, and it rises to about 33 out of 100 for adults over the age of 60.

Certain groups of people are more likely to be constipated, including women, especially during pregnancy or after giving birth; older adults; non-Caucasians; people who eat little to no fiber; people who take certain medications or dietary supplements; and people with certain health problems, including functional gastrointestinal disorders.

What Causes Constipation?

You may be constipated for many reasons, and constipation may have more than one cause at a time. Causes of constipation may include slow movement of stool through your colon; delayed emptying of the colon from pelvic floor disorders; colon surgery; functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome; and certain medications and dietary supplements.

Certain medications and dietary supplements that can make constipation worse are antacids that contain aluminum and calcium; anticholinergics and antispasmodics; anticonvulsants; calcium channel blockers; diuretics; iron supplements; and medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease, depression, and ones used to manage pain.

In addition, life changes and changes to your daily routine can cause constipation. For example, your bowel movements may change if you become pregnant, as you get older, when you travel, when you ignore the urge to have a bowel movement, if you change your medications, and if you change how much and what you eat.

Certain health and nutrition problems can also be a cause of constipation, like not eating enough fiber; not drinking enough liquids or dehydration; not getting enough physical activity; celiac disease; and disorders that affect your brain and spine, such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord or brain injuries.

Conditions that affect your metabolism can also cause constipation. Conditions such as diabetes; conditions that affect your hormones, such as hypothyroidism; inflammation linked to diverticular disease; as well as intestinal obstructions, including anorectal blockage and tumors and anatomic problems of your digestive tract.

What Helps Get Things Moving?

Oftentimes, there are many things you can try at home for constipation.

Try changing what you eat and drink. This can make your stools softer and easier to pass. Try eating more high-fiber foods and make sure you drink plenty of water. Adults should be trying to get 25 to 31 grams of fiber a day. Reducing your consumption of caffeinated and sugary beverages throughout the day may be your first battle in getting proper hydration. These drinks can offset the osmotic balance of the gut and inhibit gut motility.

Increase your water consumption to include drinking a minimum of half of your body weight in ounces daily and three-quarters of your body weight in ounces during the summer. Drinking 16 ounces of water when you first wake up is a great way to support healthy bowel activity.

Increasing the amount of physical activity you perform daily will also help treat symptoms of constipation. 

One movement that is particularly effective for stimulating bowel activity is rebounding off a small trampoline. This light bouncing motion helps to stimulate intestinal contractions and move fecal material. 

Exercise has countless other health benefits, including combating fatigue, relieving stress, reducing signs of depression and anxiety, lowering pain sensitivity, as well as improving the frequency of your bowel movements.

Try to train yourself to have a bowel movement at the same time each day to help you become more regular. For example, try to have a bowel movement 15 to 45 minutes after a meal, because eating helps your colon move stool. So, sit on the toilet 15 to 45 minutes after you eat if that is convenient for you. If that is not, then find a time that will work for you every day.

Make sure you give yourself enough time to have a bowel movement and use the bathroom as soon as you feel the need to go. Try to relax your muscles or put your feet on a footstool to make yourself more comfortable. Our ancestors used to poop in a hole in the ground. In many cultures, the toilet is much lower to the ground than the traditional western world has it. Squatting down deep is not only very good for our back and legs, but it also helps to open up the colon in such a way as to get a better release of fecal material.

This process has been shown to relieve the tension from your intestines and allows for a much easier elimination process. 

If you think certain medications or dietary supplements are causing your constipation, talk with your doctor. He or she may change the dose or suggest a different medicine that does not cause constipation. Do not change or stop any medicine or supplement without talking with a health care professional.

The body demands fat for the optimal functioning of our organs and cellular processes. Fat helps regulate hormone function and is partly responsible for intestinal motility. One clinical study showed that consuming a high-fat diet for only three days decreased the period for which food remained in the stomach. Good fats to consume include coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut flakes, grass-fed butter or ghee, avocados, olives, and olive oil.

Salt is a life-sustaining nutrient that promotes thyroid function, adrenal health, and electrolyte balance. Alterations to these life processes very easily can create symptoms of constipation.

Research supports that you should be consuming a minimum of 1.5 teaspoons of salt per day. You can consume the sum of the salt you need from natural sources, such as beets; carrots; spinach; turnips; fish; and sea vegetables like kombu, kelp, and dulse.

Most people with chronic constipation have very low stomach acid levels. Stomach acid is important for triggering the entire digestive system by properly breaking down proteins and stimulating the release of bile from the liver and gallbladder, as well as pancreatic enzymes from the pancreas.

Stress depletes our ability to produce adequate stomach acid, which then causes poor digestion and inflammation in the gut, worsening stress and inflammation in the body. 

Increase the healthy bacteria in your gut by consuming fermented foods and beverages. Fermented foods contain live and active cultures of bacteria, which support intestinal health. Add fermented veggies like sauerkraut, kimchi, and homemade pickles into your diet, as well as coconut water, kefir, and kombucha.  You do not need much. Start with one to two tablespoons per day and see how you feel. Try to work up to a half-cup, daily.

Magnesium is one of the most popular supplements used to treat constipation for its ability to relax the muscles, encouraging the movement of stool. Increasing your uptake of magnesium-rich food sources can help you overcome constipation.  Excellent plant sources include green veggies, nuts, and seeds.

The signs you would be getting too much magnesium would be loose stools, light-headedness, or leg cramps, in conjunction with high-dose magnesium intake. 

Seeds, such as pumpkin, chia, and flaxseeds, are excellent sources of fiber in your diet. Combined with increased water intake, chia seeds swell and form a gelatinous substance, which easily moves through the digestive tract.

Flaxseeds exhibit much of the same laxative activity as chia seeds and can be easily added to your foods.

Pumpkin seeds are a nutrient-dense food source and contain minerals that promote digestion. 

You may want to try an over-the-counter laxative for a short time. There are fiber supplements, osmotic agents like milk of magnesia, stool softeners, lubricants, and stimulants.

If you have been taking laxatives for a long time and can’t have a bowel movement without taking a laxative, reach out to your practitioner.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health.

The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107 in Frederick. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.

*Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and https: drjockers.com.

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