Constipation: Why It’s so Harmful and How to Cure itMay 25, 2023
How can something that’s so uncomfortable to discuss be so important to health and well-being?
It is so uncomfortable that some people forgo talking about it at all costs - including their health and well-being. What are we talking about? Constipation!
A healthy elimination pattern includes at least one daily BM (bowel movement) that is soft, formed and easy to pass. In more traditional cultures, people eat and have a BM after each meal. That’s actual elimination efficiency. Indigenous people ate far more fiber, exercised each day, followed natural circadian rhythms and had plenty of sun exposure. They also experienced stress but it resolved one way or the other - even if it meant not surviving. Thankfully, we do not encounter many life or death situations in our modern day. But we do feel chronic stress that often does not get resolved. This can actually have a significant negative impact on our overall health and well-being.
We use blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate and quality as indicators of wellness. These universal vital signs do indeed shift during times of stress; in an emergency you will likely see great shifts but you may not see subtle and insidious shifts during chronic illness. More importantly, normal values are so few and far between in most people with chronic illness that we have accepted common as almost normal. Just because something is common does not mean it is normal.
There are other very important signs that can help us, much more effectively, determine someone’s long term health and well-being.
Think about your bowel movements as another vital sign.
In a healthy gut, you eat, digestion occurs and your body absorbs and assimilates all the nutrients it needs. The waste then travels through the large intestines to the colon and is expelled. It not only contains the indigestible parts of the food consumed but it also contains cellular debris and toxins. These toxins are plentiful in most people’s systems and this key drainage pathway does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting rid of it. If you are constipated, the following toxins get reabsorbed and can create even more virulent toxicity.
- heavy metals and
- excess estrogen
A great analogy is that bowel movements are like taking out the trash.
They should be contained in a proper container and it shouldn't be too hard to take out. We’ve all been there when the garbage men haven’t picked up your trash for some reason - the flies and other vermin come and create a lot of upheaval as they feed on the trash; in short they make a mess of a mess. That’s how constipation is in your colon - the longer a BM stays within the colon, the more it ferments and causes all sorts of bacteria to feed off of it and its contents get reabsorbed. We do not want this. This not only causes discomfort and feeling unwell. Chronic constipation will cause disease eventually both gastrointestinal and further afield. This is the main drainage pathway for detoxification.
Now that you know why it’s so important to have consistent daily BMs, let’s talk about some actionable tasks to get there.
- Consider taking a magnesium supplement
Most Americans are deficient in Magnesium which is our master mineral. It plays a big role in over 600 cellular actions within our body. We are deficient because our soil is deficient and our fruits and vegetables don’t contain what they used to. It’s also due to our chronic stress and the body’s use of magnesium in response. One of its functions is to help the bowel produce wave-like movements to evacuate the bowel. Optimal levels help enable our muscles, our minds and moods, even our GI tract and colon to function.
There are many forms of magnesium supplementation but some are more bowel stimulating. These include:
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium oxide
A good rule of thumb is to start with citrate for a week or so and see how it affects you. If it’s not working by producing a daily soft, well formed BM each day, try oxide which is a bit more stimulatory and see how that goes. Your body will let you know which one is right for you.
Some other helpful habits to get the bowels moving…
- Hydrate and increase fiber. Most of us are not hydrated enough. Drink clean, filtered water between meals. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces. So…if you are 150 pounds, aim for approximately 75 ounces of water. Don’t drink much with meals as this actually inhibits optimal digestion. Drink enough to clear your palate or help you swallow but that’s it. Hydration also aids in the help that fiber can have with constipation but it’s best to go low and slow when it comes to fiber for constipation. Incorporate some more fiber in your diet by adding some fruits and veggies. Stop, sit and listen to how you respond. You may need to peel back some of the fiber until you can get those gut bacteria balanced.
- Try a probiotic made up of mostly bifidobacteria CFUs. Our gut is teeming with microbes. Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria species serve many purposes including sending signals of calm and anti-inflammation. Bifidobacteria, which is dominant in the large intestines, helps with motility and having balanced amounts may aid in BMs. It’s important to get a bifidobacteria heavy one because if the probiotic contains more lactobacillus then the constipation may become worse. Stop, sit and listen to your body if you try this.
- Eat more healthy fats. Incorporating more healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, eggs, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts and seeds will not only help you go, it will promote heart health and a healthy weight. Really. All the myths attached to these healthy fats from many years of a different narrative have been debunked! The gut and the rest of our body and mind need healthy fat. Our gut uses it to help pass a stool more easily - think lubrication.
We hope this has highlighted the importance of conquering constipation. If these tips are not moving the needle, it may just mean that there is more work that needs to be done. If this is the case, consider working with a gut health consultant. A comprehensive stool test can also be quite helpful in understanding what’s going on in your particular gut. With this information, a personalized and comprehensive protocol can then be created with you for sustainable relief and decrease your risk of illness stemming from constipation.