Feeling fat and bloated from too much holiday eating? Are you suffering from “irregularity”? Most people are.
Are you old enough to remember the old laxative commercials like this one below for Feen-a-mint from the late 70’s? It’s about a mother and daughter who share the problem of constipation. It certainly puts a new twist on family bonding.
Back then, I thought the ad was just stupid, now it makes perfect sense. You inherit your gut flora from your parents; like mother like daughter. I doubt the makers of Feen-a-mint understand this either.
Constipation is a real problem for millions of people and the problem is getting worse.
If you ask most family doctors or pediatricians if constipation is normal, my guess is most of them would say ‘yes’ or they would at least say it’s very common. For the record, constipation is common, but it’s not normal.
Why Constipation is a health hazard
Constipation is a hazard to your health – and doctors should treat it far more seriously than they do! This isn’t really the most pleasant topic, but it certainly needs to be addressed.
Thanks to our lifestyle choices and bad medical advice, we have an epidemic of constipated people here in the US. In fact 1 in 5 people suffer from it. I’m only skimming the surface here, but I hope by the time you’re finished reading this, you understand enough to fix your “irregularity.”
Why is constipation a health problem?
According to GutSense.org, “Constipation predisposes you to all major colorectal disorders starting with enlarged hemorrhoids and ending up with colorectal cancer.” That should make you pay attention!
Here’s Three Reasons Why This Matters:
1) Slow elimination (or NO elimination!) can lead to a delay in gastric emptying, which can lead to heartburn and acid reflux.
2) Fecal matter is loaded with the toxins your body has worked hard to remove. When those toxins sit in the impacted stool in your digestive tract, your body can reabsorb those toxins.
3) Chronic constipation can be a sign of a systemic autoimmune disease. An article from Maedica, a Journal of Clinical Medicine, refers to constipation as a gastrointestinal manifestation.
What causes constipation?
There are a host of problems that can lead to constipation including:
- Parasites – This one often goes unrecognized by the medical community as you see in this article from Dr. Oz, constipation is just one symptom of a parasitic infection. Since too many doctors don’t know enough about real gut health, countless people are given the diagnosis of IBS when they in fact have parasites.
- Food allergies/sensitivities – this is especially important regarding constipation in children! Read more here: Chronic Constipation and Food Hypersensitivity: Evidence of a Relationship in Children. Gluten and processed dairy can be some of the biggest offenders – if you’re habitually constipated, try eliminating them (start one at a time) from your diet for at least a week and see if it makes a difference. See our post on How to Do An Elimination Diet.
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) – Most people associate diarrhea with IBS, but constipation is another symptom.
- Prescription medications – More than 150 prescription medications and OTC-meds can cause constipation. Some of the biggest offenders are pain medications, statins and antidepressants. Here’s a full list from GetConstipationRelief.com (but ignore the rest of their advice!)
- Hypothyroidism – Since there is also an epidemic of hypothyroidism, it would explain why there’s so much constipation, too. This article from Dr. Chris Kesser on the gut-thyroid connection, is a must read. He explains “….low thyroid function slows transit time, causing constipation and increasing inflammation, infections and malabsorption.”
- Ignoring the urge to go – From GutSense.org, “If you keep suppressing defecation for too long, usually over a day, retained stools gradually impact, dry out, harden up, and require straining to get expelled regardless of size. When that happens, the chaffing of dry stools against the delicate lining of the anal canal causes big-time pain and scary-looking bleeding.”
- Laxative abuse – This is often seen in chronic dieters and those with eating disorders. Contrary to what you might think, taking laxatives doesn’t make you lose more weight; it makes you lose water and valuable electrolytes and it causes constipation. This can be very dangerous and even deadly.
- Low-fat diets – Here’s a great explanation of why fats help eliminate constipation from RealConstipationRemedies.com. Healthy fats have healing properties and help lubricate the colon.
- Heavy metal toxicity – these include mercury, lead and aluminum (think vaccines!) Heavy metals can damage the nerves of your intestines and contribute to sluggish elimination.
10 Natural remedies for constipation
Okay, so you’re dealing with constipation. What can you do?
1) Educate yourself. Spend some time on GutSense.org to educate yourself on the causes of constipation and all the bad advice people are given. Pick up a copy of Fiber Menace to get an understanding of why the mantra “eat more fiber” is greatly flawed.
2) Get tested for food sensitivities/allergies. You don’t need to see a doctor for these tests – but you should work with a qualified healthcare practitioner who understands this.
Here is a list of resources for testing.
- Life Extension – this is the test I had done. If you’re a Life Extension member you can save over 40% on the test in the spring during their annual sale. Otherwise, it’s still probably cheaper than an office call to an allergist.
- Test yourself! You can do an elimination diet for 2-3 weeks and then re-introduce the food to your diet. Here’s another free option – using the LNT Coca Pulse Test. http://empoweredsustenance.com/food-sensitivities-test/
- The Intolerance Testing Group – I‘m not familiar with this clinic, but it certainly peaked my curiosity. They say they are the most comprehensive intolerance testing in the world and test for over 600 food and nonfood items. Their prices are very reasonable. If you’ve had experience with them, please share in the comments below!
3) Never take MiraLAX® or any other laxative product that contains polyethylene glycol 3350 – and never give it to children! MiraLAX® has been placed on the FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System – it’s dangerous! See more here from GutSense.org.
As you’ll see in the information contained in GutSense.org and Fiber Menace, taking laxatives and drinking too much water can be very very problematic. If you really need to get things moving, then consider a product without added fiber (which can further complicate the problem). Below are two quality products you can find at Natural Healthy Concepts.
4) Eat fermented foods and/or take probiotics. We carry a plethora of great probiotics, but if money is tight, you can make your own fermented foods. We had a local fermenting enthusiast, Thomasa Meinnert, a busy mom of four, share her fermenting knowledge with us at our Speaker Series earlier this year. She showed us all how easy it is to make great tasting cultured foods.
- Check out her website here.There are a plethora of websites and Facebook pages you’ll find on cultured foods.
5) Heal your gut! Probiotics foods and supplements can be a huge help, but sometimes it takes more work to heal your gut.
- The GAPS Diet is a very good place to start.
6) Increase potassium in your diet. According to Fiber Menace, “Potassium deficiency happens to be one of the primary causes of costiveness (hard stools) and constipation (irregular stools.) Foods that are highest in potassium include: sweet potatoes, tomato sauces, winter squash, greens and beans. When all else fails you could take a potassium supplement.
7) Get a Squatty Potty – or make one of your own. Our modern toilets do not lend themselves well to proper elimination; the Squatty Potty gives you proper positioning. If you’re pregnant these can be especially helpful in helping you avoid hemorrhoids and they are kid-friendly, too!
8) Get tested for parasites. Getting to the root cause of the problem is the first step, and parasites could be a cause.
9) Eat more FAT! Yes, we all need more healthy fats and undigested fats help lubricate the passage of stool through your colon.
- Cold pressed, organic Olive oil and coconut oil are two good choices available at Natural Healthy Concepts.
10) Get the metals out! Detox the heavy metals from your body. There are a variety of products that may help or seek help from a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To your left is a helpful graphic from GutSense.org on the Bristol StoolForm Scale, to give you a better understanding of healthy bowel movements.
If you’ve been battling constipation for a long time, it’ll take time to get yourself better – but it could save your life! And please, if your children also suffer from constipation – do something now before it leads to more serious problems.
It’s never to late to turn things around, or perhaps I should say, get things moving?
Did I miss something? If you’ve overcome a problem of irregularity, please share it with us in the comments section below!