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. Passing stool should be relatively effortless, not requiring straining, pushing or tearing of the anus. Constipation is where bowel movements are less than once per day or feel incomplete or are hard and difficult to pass.
Signs and Associated Symptoms of Constipation
- 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.
- Hard stool that is difficult to pass
- Fresh blood on wiping after a bowel movement
- Abdominal discomfort or fullness
- A sense of incomplete evacuation of stool
- In children, there can be involuntary leakage of stool (encopresis)
What Causes Constipation?
- 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.
- Hypothyroidism – having an underactive thyroid slows down metabolism.
- Food sensitivities – foods that irritate the digestive tract and trigger inflammation, make for a rigid bowel that doesn’t easily move food through.
- Low fibre diet – fibre helps to bulk up the stool so that the digestive tract knows there is something there to be moved along.
- 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.
- Lack of physical activity – gravity works.
- Certain medications – such as morphine and codeine.
- Travel – disruption in routine and dehydration from airplane cabin pressure can contribute to constipation from travel.
- Pregnancy – the change in hormones during pregnancy can contribute to constipation.
- Dysbiosis – overgrowth of unwanted organisms in the gut and/or lack of beneficial bacteria.
What is the Natural Treatment for Constipation?
- Ensure adequate food and fibre intake.
- Thoroughly test for and address any sluggish thyroid issues.
- Test for and remove food sensitivities from your diet.
- If you need to take iron, try a lower dose of iron that is more easily absorbed.
- Balance hormones in pregnancy through diet.
- Minerals to keep the stool softer and easier to pass.
- Increase bile production and flow to stimulate bowels to move.
- Probiotics and/or antimicrobial herbs and then probiotics.
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