Constipation is common in Western cultures where it is often a top gastrointestinal complaint. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know it can wreak serious havoc on your mood, energy levels, ability to think and overall well-being. It is safe to say that those with chronic constipation deal with an almost permanent sense of discomfort as infrequent bowel movements lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating, nausea, pain, lack of appetite, hemorrhoids, etc.
When fecal waste is not quickly and efficiently eliminated from the body, prolonged bacterial fermentation of this material produces harmful chemicals, releasing toxins into the body. This stresses organs and is associated with a range of symptoms. Toxins in the bowel can damage and weaken the intestinal wall, potentially leading to digestive problems and nutrient deficiencies.
Factors that may cause constipation include lack of physical activity, dehydration, poor diet (low in fibre, omegas, enzymes, magnesium and probiotics), stress and insomnia, as well as other underlying health conditions such as digestive issues, underactive thyroid, and more.
While our bodies are all different and we each have our own standard of what feels “normal”, many natural health experts believe 2-3 daily bowel movements is optimal for good health.
The Ultimate Healthy B.M Formula
PERISTALSIS– This is the smooth muscular contraction of the colon. Consider mild, non-tolerant herbs such as aloe, rhubarb and triphala to help stimulate peristalsis. Other nutrients that help to promote natural movement include chlorophyll, Vitamins C & B’s (esp. B5). Note that Senna & Cascara are only for acute cases as they can cause dependency and irritation.
HYDRATION – Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation, so drinking enough water is of vital importance. Also, consider hydrating minerals, such as magnesium hydroxide or citrate, which are used to relax the bowels and draw water into the intestines. Aloe is also said to help soften stool.
BULK – Aim to take in between 30-40g of fibre daily. It is important to consume a balanced blend of soluble/insoluble fibre in order to absorb toxins and excess cholesterol, manage blood sugar while also promoting elimination. Too much soluble fibre can slow down bowels and cause constipation, but too much insoluble fibre can speed up transit time to the point of diarrhea. Try flax as a source of both! In addition, regular intake of probiotics (in food and supplement form) are important as they help to support colon health, bowel regularity and overall digestive function. Look for a probiotic that is rich in bifidobacterium, the most prevalent bacteria in the large intestine!
LUBRICATION – Consuming adequate essential omega fatty acids in foods and supplements (i.e. omega-3 fish oils) will help restore moisture to the intestinal tract. Also, ingredients such as slippery elm, aloe & marshmallow are commonly used to help soothe the intestines.
EXERCISE – Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least 3 times per week. Walking/jogging/running are especially helpful for peristalsis! Yoga can also help strengthen the abdominal muscles and colon.
TIME – It is important not to rush your bowels! Try to have a regular bathroom schedule and aim for a relaxed state. The more you ignore your body’s call to use the restroom, the harder it gets.
POSITION – Try to keep your feet raised on a step stool in order to have your knees above your waist in a squatting posture. This is said to be a more natural and supportive position for bowel movements.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – Constipation is common in those who struggle with underactive thyroid, sluggish liver (bile acts a natural laxative), underactive stomach/low HCL (necessary for peristalsis), low digestive enzymes (for proper food breakdown) and stress/overworked adrenals (defecation occurs in “rest & digest” state). Pay careful attention to avoid processed/refined foods, chemicals, sugars and common food allergens (i.e. dairy, gluten). If you suspect any of these underlying issues, you may want to look at correcting them as they may be contributing to your constipation, among other symptoms.
A natural health professional may also recommend colon hydrotherapy, chiropractic spinal adjustments or acupuncture to help treat chronic constipation. Ask your practitioner if these options are right for you.
The “Healthy B.M Formula” is meant to help you achieve daily bowel movements! Consider these factors if you are having difficulties with regular elimination and ask a natural health product advisor for more information on specific foods, supplements and lifestyle tips to help support your journey to optimal health.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.