Constipation can be more than just a ‘pain in the bum’- it can be a chronic and severe problem. It is the name we give for difficult and infrequent stool passage with symptoms of straining, a sense of incomplete evacuation, hard/ lumpy stools or a prolonged time to pass a stool. There are many causes of constipation, including:
- Inadequate fibre
- Inadequate fluid (water)
- Not going when the urge arises, or holding on
- Obstruction disorders such as colon cancer
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of good fats/oils in the diet
- A diet high in refined foods, sugars and processed grains
- Food intolerances
- Imbalance in the healthy flora of your gut
- Side effect of medications such as anti-depressants, anti-convulsants
- Some health condition e.g. hypothyroid, pregnancy
Luckily we have a lot of simple dietary and lifestyle strategies that you can work on to encourage more regular bowel movements. As always in Naturopathy, first we need to identify the cause. Sometimes this means some further investigations need to be run such as a food intolerance test or a stool analysis. Sometimes it is a matter of tweaking your diet or lifestyle, and I find that a combination of the following can do the trick:
1. Ensure regular DAILY exercise; this can be as simple as going for a 20-minute walk.
Exercise gets everything moving…including the bowels!
2. Ensure that you are not dehydrated and are drinking AT LEAST 2 L of water. To make sure you are absorbing this water add a good pinch of mineral rich Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt (both available from your local health food store). For every cup of tea or coffee that you drink you must add another 2 cups of water, as these function as diuretics.
3. Ensure you are getting enough GOOD FATS in your diet. Good fats keep the stool soft so that they are easy to pass out. Good fats include flaxseed oil, fish, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, coconut oil.
4. Ensure you are getting enough ROUGHAGE in the form of fibre. Good sources of naturally occurring fibre include- Apples, pear, papaya, carrot, celery, pumpkin, almonds, avocado, cabbage, green beans, oats, beans. Essentially you need to increase your fruit and vegetable intake as much as you can.
5. DANDELION ROOT TEA is another way in which many people find relief from constipation. Dandelion relieves constipation by increasing the production of bile in the gastrointestinal tract, it is bile that makes your poo brown. Many of my patients find that 1-2 cups a day is enough to keep them regular.
6. Address your STRESS levels. If you are constantly feeling anxious and stressed, your muscles are going to be tight and constricted and will not allow the poo to pass through the intestines. If you are constantly in a rush or busy your body will not be in the mood to have a bowel movement or you may miss the urge to go. Always go when the urge arises and do not hold on.
7. Start your mornings with half a LEMON SQUEEZED INTO WARM WATER to help switch the digestive system on and get digestive enzymes and acids flowing
8. Add a serve of CHIA SEEDS AND FLAXSEED into a smoothie, porridge or yoghurt daily to boost up your fibre and healthy oils.
I have seen great improvements in promoting a regular bowel habit by incorporating these strategies, but please reach out if you feel your gut needs more assistance or investigations
Thanks for reading!