Constipation: Common Causes and Natural Approaches for Optimum Relief
Constipation: Common Causes and Natural Approaches for Optimum Relief
Inconvenient. Uncomfortable. Painful. But did you also know that your hard to pass bowel movements can contribute to skin conditions, headaches, joint pain and hormonal problems?
There is good news. Follow these natural approaches to get some relief and get things moving again!
As a naturopath, my priority with clients is to always get bowels moving well to eliminate toxicity from the body. A sluggish bowel equals a sluggish body.
Up to 15% of the population experience constipation at any one time. And whilst missing the odd day is unlikely to cause a problem, it does put a strain on your body when it becomes chronic.
Whilst the NHS may define constipation as less than three bowel movements a week, from an optimal health perspective the bowels should move at least once daily; up to three times a day is considered optimal by hardcore naturopaths!
The Bristol Stool Chart is the easiest way to assess the state of your bowels. Types 1 and 2 are associated with constipation. You can find a copy here:
Common symptoms associated with constipation are bloating, pain, wind and lower back pain. But you may be surprised that symptoms elsewhere in the body may be linked to your sluggish bowels. Like headaches, fatigue, skin conditions, joint pain, even female hormonal problems.
Why? When toxins can’t escape via the bowel and waste sits longer in the colon, toxins are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and they have to go somewhere. It puts additional pressure on the liver- our major organ of detoxification – that can hinder its ability to effectively perform other functions like hormone metabolism.
What causes Constipation?
Getting to the root cause of the problem is always the first step to providing solutions.
Common causes are dehydration, medication side effects, hormonal (oestrogen dominance), sub-optimal thyroid, poor digestive secretions, dysbiosis (pathogenic bacterial strains), stress and anxiety, hectic lifestyle, lack of fibre, calcium/magnesium imbalance.
If you feel your medications are to cause, do have a review with your doctor to see if there are better alternatives.
Do you chew your food well and take the time to eat your meals without rushing? Have you experienced symptoms like burping, indigestion, feeling full quickly after eating? Poor digestive secretions not only interfere with digestion, but it can slow down the transit time through the gastrointestinal tract and make everything really sluggish.
Remember to practice mindful eating by setting aside quality time to eat your meals without distractions.
Are you aware of how stressed or anxious you feel when you sit down to eat? Did you know that the body is not designed to digest food when it is feeling stressed at the same time? Digestive secretions are strongly impaired when we are stressed which links to mindful eating above.
It isn’t realistic to avoid all stress, but you can train your mind to be calm when you want to eat. An easy way to switch the brain into its “rest and digest” phase just before eating is to practise deep abdominal breathing
Are you so busy rushing around that you miss the vital clues to go? Are you eating on the go? Eating at odd erratic times? All these actions can result in your natural circadian pattern of passing bowel movements being disturbed and missed.
Try and spend a day listening to your body and its signals. This is important in so many ways beyond bowel movements too. Don’t rush your toilet trips, make it an experience. Some thinking time, clear your head. Just give yourself time to sit and see what happens. But please don’t strain to rush things along!
Remember those holidays where you had to struggle to squat over a hole in the floor? How we laughed at the sheer madness of it all. Or is it madness?
A squatting position is the most natural way for the body’s anatomy to pass bowel movements along. Instead of standing on your toilet! – Try using a footstool to change your position and see what happens.
Massaging your lower abdomen starting from your lower right pelvic area up and across your naval area and down towards your left pelvic area encourages stagnant waste to move.
I’m a fan of castor oil packs, an ancient medical practice largely forgotten by modern society except for naturopathic practitioners like me! A castor oil pack is placed onto the skin, the oil is absorbed through the skin which encourages stools to soften and the muscles to relax. They don’t have to be messy to use and a hot water bottle is really soothing and relaxing.
Exercise is important to encourage the muscular contractions. Yoga moves can be fantastic for gently massaging your digestive organs. Take a look into poses such as seated and supine spinal twists as well as the cobra pose.
We all know that fibre is important for bowel regularity, but do you know there are different types?
Most people talk about roughage but this type of fibre (known as insoluble fibre) can be too harsh and irritable to the gut lining. It’s important to include it, (like tougher vegetable stems and skins) but there’s another type you must be eating.
Soluble fibre helps to keep the stools soft. It draws water to the bowel and helps increase bulk but in a gentle way. Good sources are oats in the form of cooked porridge (not raw), apples, carrots, bananas, pulses, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli and pears.
Plums, Prunes and Kiwi fruits have been found to have a stimulating effect on the bowel so include a serving every day.
Flaxseeds soaked overnight in water and consumed whole alongside the mucilage can work wonders for constipation- and for alternating IBS type bowel movements. Use one dessert spoon in a 200ml glass of water. The contents could be added to porridge or a protein shake to hide the strange consistency!
Constipation can be a problem with mineral imbalance- too much calcium and not enough magnesium. These minerals work together to make muscles contract and relax. But if they are out of balance, the muscles in the bowel wall may be contracting without relaxing making everything tight and stuck.
Magnesium citrate is a regular go-to in my practice.
Whilst this is the last tip, it’s by no means less important. It’s the one that most people tend to overlook, yet it is so simple.
You should be consuming 2L of fluid every day- mostly hydrating sources. This can be pure or flavoured still water. Herbal and fruit teas. Try to avoid more than three cups of tea and coffee every day (including green tea), as they can act as stimulants and diuretics in excess and hinder digestive secretion.
Why is this relevant? The body will draw water from the bowel if it senses the body is dehydrated and this makes stools harder to pass.
Try adding each one of these suggestions to your routine each day. You may be surprised by the difference it makes.
Leave those laxatives alone.
If you’ve been struggling with constipation and even after trying the above, nothing seems to work, don’t hesitate to book a free discovery call with me. We can go through what you’ve been experiencing and see what the best next steps are… You can book by visiting www.peytonprinciples.com, call me direct on 07730 513303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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