Constipation is a dreadful condition to be in. Deeply uncomfortable, bulgy of gut and energy sapping. There are good ways of tackling this and there are not such good ways. This blog is going to start with the simple and work to the more intractable causes. I will also advise some of the less obvious pitfalls encountered.
The simplest answer is drink enough water. When we dehydrate, the body draws water out of the colons, making the collecting poo much drier and so harder to pass on through. A guide to how much water to drink daily; if inactive it is the bodyweight in Kgs x 0.033 ltrs. If active it is the body weight in Kgs x 0.044 ltrs. Of course, these amounts will go up if it is very hot or we get unusually sweaty. And it is water, not fruit juice, squash, fizzy drinks, hint of bilgeberry or tea. Yes, they argue that we get water from our fruit and veg and so on – but there is no beating a glass of crystal clear water. The body knows exactly what to do with it. There is no digestion involved, no dubious sweetener to confuse it or sugar to make us fat and ill.
Next simple answer is eat enough fibrous vegetables. These are the cabbages, salad vegetables, some roots such as beetroot can get things moving nicely. Nuts are also a good source of fibre. Of course, there is dried fruit like prunes and figs (mind you, fresh figs can cause a surprisingly rapid trot). These can be used on occasion, but are best occasional since they are very sweet and, if relied upon daily, we will start to bump into a major problem with all fibres – that of intolerance. More on that in a moment.
If this is not working then we start to add fibre to the diet. There are 2 sorts of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble adds bulk to the stool and insoluble scrubs away at the insides of the colons. Both sorts are desirable, with slightly more emphasis on the soluble stuff. Incidentally, soluble fibre is what is in vegetables. This all sounds pretty easy. But there are some guidelines to follow; probably because of the proximity to the colon wall, the guts become intolerant to fibre very quickly indeed. So although we may be poo-ing more copiously, there will be an increasingly bulgy gut as the gut gets irritated by the fibre and inflamed. So guideline one is change the fibre each and every week – hence the caveat with prunes or figs. Guideline one leads to guideline two: try to source at least 4 different types of fibres. The more the merrier.
This leads to the next question of what fibres are available? The most readily available one is psyllium husk, also called Isphagula husk. Best taken as a powder with water. It is a soluble fibre. Next up is flax or linseed, ground or as seeds. Slippery Elm is fairly easy to source. Bran from wheat or other grains is an awful fibre to take, leading to guideline number three: avoid wheat bran and other brans from grains. They contain phytates and these bind to nutrients like zinc and calcium and pull them out of the body, and so are anti-nutrients. If eaten as a normal part of the diet, all grains should be soaked in water before eating to neutralise the anti-nutrients. Another single fibre that may be found is pectin, made from citrus peel or apple pulp. Getting out of the shops, fibres made of several different types can be bought. Often these will also contain probiotics as well.
Adding fibre to the diet can have many health benefits as well as getting the poos moving – like reducing cholesterol, aiding weight loss, reducing the insulin impact of a meal and reducing the risk of developing bowel cancer. Click on the linked blog for more information.
If it is decided to try adding fibre to the diet, start adding a little and slowly increasing the amount until the desired result is obtained. Make sure plenty of water is drunk. Fibre can be taken after breakfast and after dinner. It can be taken before meals, in which case it will aid weight loss as well. Fibre will not help everybody. There are arguments both ways about how much fibre to take. Nevertheless, we can’t tell until we try.
Leaving added fibre aside, another simple solution is to give ourselves enough time to sit there, enthroned. If we are excreting well, then the stuff comes out quickly and easily. But if we aren’t, then it is important to relax and give things time.
Which neatly leads to the next cause of constipation – stress. Of course, if we are really frightened, stress has precisely the opposite effect and will empty the bowels and bladder whether we will or not. Apparently we don’t know why this happens – the best idea being it lightens the load as we sprint to safety. But on a long term basis, stress draws the blood away from the bowels and so slows their function. In the blog on how long we should exercise for, I made mention of the fact that in most iron man races (swim 2.4 miles, bike for 112 miles, then run a marathon) at least one competitor has to have part of their bowel cut out due to death of the bowel wall from prolonged lack of blood. This is extreme stress – but I find everybody is so stressed as a matter of course, that they don’t seem to realise that they may be currently enduring very high stress levels as part of everyday life, and one result is that the daily dump is getting less satisfying.
Moving along, three other things that work: a course of good probiotics, magnesium citrate and triphala herb. Magnesium citrate is a sort of source of magnesium, but because magnesium is combined with citric acid instead of a protein like glycine, it has a speeding up effect on the bowels. Triphala herb also speeds up the bowel and helps reduce inflammation. If trying mag citrate or triphala, do build up the dosage slowly – either that or consider wearing a nappy at night. You have been warned.
A brief word on Irritable Bowel Syndrome This has a stress component and can alternate between constipation and diarrhoea. The best course of action is get off the foods that are irritating the gut and go on a gut healing protocol. Contact me for further details if interested.
Other causes of seized up guts could be a toxic liver and a poor digestive system. The liver and digestion are intricately linked and the whole process is set of by good levels of HCl in the stomach, which triggers peristalsis and the whole digestive cascade. A free contributory action to help the liver and digestion is good breathing. There are many different ways of breathing – approximately 450! – but to help the liver, the diaphragm needs to move downwards on the in breath and up on the out breath. So when we breathe in, if we put a hand over our stomach, or upper abs, we should feel that stick out a little bit. Here is a link to a blog that teaches how to isolate the diaphragm when breathing: http://www.clareharding.com/simple-breathing-for-relaxation-any-time-any-place-good-before-that-difficult-meetinginterview/
Other contributory factors to constipation are mental; traumas during potty training is an obvious example, and physical. With the latter, serious misalignments in the head and neck and/or jaw, and these can be caused by physical injury, dental braces, or prolonged stress, cause excessive tension in the muscles that lift the shoulders. This makes it hard to relax, and sometimes hard to bear down – it hurts too much. So these are more difficult problems to overcome and require patience and dedication to the cause.
So these were varieties of ideas as to how to help things move along more easily. Give them a whirl and see if any of them help.