Constipation

man with constipation hard stool difficult bowel movement

What is Constipation?

Normally bowel movements should occur at least once per day and may occur up to 2-3 times per day.  Every time you eat a meal, the entire digestive tract moves in rhythmic contractions known as peristalsis.  This is what moves your food through the digestive tract and eventually moves stool out the other end.

Signs and Associated Symptoms of Constipation

  1. Decreased frequency of bowel movements: some say less frequently than 3 times per week, lasting greater than 3 months, although I would consider it to be less than once per day on a regular basis.
  2. Bloating
  3. Hard stool that is difficult to pass
  4. Gas
  5. Hemorrhoids
  6. Fresh blood on wiping after a bowel movement
  7. Abdominal discomfort or fullness
  8. Sense of incomplete evacuation of stool
  9. In children, there can be involuntary leakage of stool (encopresis)

What Causes Constipation?

  1. Iron supplements – this is a common occurrence with iron supplements.  Higher dose iron supplements can be difficult to absorb, cause irritation in the digestive tract and lead to constipation.
  2. Hypothyroidism – having an underactive thyroid slows down metabolism.
  3. Food sensitivities – foods that irritate the digestive tract and trigger inflammation, make for a rigid bowel that doesn’t easily move food through.
  4. Low fibre diet – fibre helps to bulk up the stool so that the digestive tract knows there is something there to be moved along.
  5. Low water intake – water helps to keep the stool softer and easier to pass, even adding one or two glasses of water to your current intake can help.
  6. Lack of physical activity – gravity works.
  7. Certain medications – such as morphine and codeine.
  8. Travel – disruption in routine and dehydration from airplane cabin pressure can contribute to constipation from travel.
  9. Pregnancy – the change in hormones during pregnancy can contribute to constipation.
  10. Dysbiosis – overgrowth of unwanted organisms in the gut and/or lack of beneficial bacteria.

What is the Naturopathic Treatment for Constipation?

  1. Ensure adequate food and fibre intake.
  2. Thoroughly test for and address any sluggish thyroid issues.
  3. Test for and remove food sensitivities from your diet.
  4. Prescribe a lower dose of iron that is more easily absorbed.
  5. Balance hormones in pregnancy through diet.
  6. Minerals to keep the stool softer and easier to pass.
  7. Increase bile production and flow to stimulate bowels to move.
  8. Probiotics and/or antimicrobial herbs and then probiotics.

References

Borre M, Qvist N, Raahave D, Worsøe J, Ærthøj JP, Christensen P, Krogh K. The effect of lifestyle modification on chronic constipation Ugeskr Laeger. 2015 Apr 6;177(15). pii: V09140498.

Huang R, Ho SY, Lo WS, Lam TH. Physical activity and constipation in Hong Kong adolescents. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 28;9(2):e90193. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090193. eCollection 2014.

Jadallah KA, Kullab SM, Sanders DS. Constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: a review of current and emerging drug therapies. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul 21;20(27):8898-909. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i27.8898.

Iizuka N, Hamamoto Y. Constipation and herbal medicine. Front Pharmacol. 2015 Apr 8;6:73. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2015.00073. eCollection 2015.

Dupont C1, Campagne A2, Constant F3. Efficacy and safety of a magnesium sulfate-rich natural mineral water for patients with functional constipation. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Aug;12(8):1280-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.12.005. Epub 2013 Dec 14.

Tabbers MM1, Benninga MA. Constipation in children: fibre and probiotics. BMJ Clin Evid. 2015 Mar 10;2015. pii: 0303.

Summary
Article Name
Constipation
Description
Constipation can be caused by an underactive thyroid, pregnancy, food sensitivities, dysbiosis etc. Natural treatment addresses the root of the problem and helps resolve constipation rather than mask it.
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