Naturopathy for Constipation
What is Constipation?
Normally bowel movements should occur at least once per day. They may even occur up to 2-3 times per day. Every time you eat a meal, your entire digestive tract moves in rhythmic contractions known as peristalsis. This is what moves your food through your digestive system. Eventually, it moves stool out the other end. The passing of stool should be relatively effortless, not requiring straining, pushing or tearing of the anus.
Constipation is where bowel movements:
- occur less than once per day or
- feel incomplete or
- are hard and difficult to pass.
Signs and Associated Symptoms of Constipation
The signs and symptoms of constipation include:
- Decreased frequency of bowel movements. Some sources say bowel movements less 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?
Common causes of constipation include:
- Iron supplements
- Food sensitivities
- Low fiber intake
- Low water intake
- Lack of physical activity
- Medication side effects
This a common side effect of iron supplements. Higher dose iron supplements can be difficult to absorb. The extra iron irritates your digestive tract and leads to constipation.
Hypothyroid means having a slower than normal thyroid. Having an underactive thyroid slows everything down in your body.
Foods that irritate your digestive tract and trigger inflammation, make for a rigid bowel that doesn’t move food through easily. Common food sensitivities that cause bowel issues are dairy and gluten.
Low fiber diet
Fiber helps to bulk up your stool so that your digestive tract knows there is something there to be moved along. I recommend having at least 30-40 grams per day of fiber.
Low water intake
Water helps to keep your stool softer and easier to pass. Even adding one or two glasses of water to your current intake can help. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day.
Lack of physical activity
Among the myriad of benefits of physical activity, is that it helps to keep your bowels moving. Impact activity like jogging helps because gravity works.
Medication Side Effects
Certain medications, such as morphine and codeine, can slow down your bowels.
A disruption in your routine and dehydration from airplane cabin pressure can contribute to constipation from travel.
The change in your hormones during pregnancy often slows your bowels.
Dysbiosis is the overgrowth of unwanted organisms in your gut and/or the lack of good bacteria that keep you healthy.
What is the Natural Treatment for Constipation?
Natural remedies for constipation include:
- Ensure adequate water and fiber 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 in a form that is more easily absorbed, like a bis-glycinate iron.
- Balance hormones in pregnancy through diet.
- Use minerals like magnesium to keep your stool softer and easier to pass.
- Increase bile production and flow with herbs like artichoke and dandelion to stimulate bowels to move.
- Antimicrobial herbs and then probiotics to fix dysbiosis.
- When you travel, drink 1 liter of water for every 2 hours that you are on a plane.
Book an appointment here or call the clinic for more information at 416-481-0222.
Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc, ND
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.