Unfortunately, many of us are unaware that we are suffering from constipation. Many people who come to my practice think it is “their normal” to have a bowel movement every 2-3 or even 5-7 days! It is even more sad to see kids suffering from constipation as constipation leads to impaired detoxification and future hormonal issues, especially for girls.
I wrote more about SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) as a cause of constipation HERE. But there are some other causes you need to consider to improve your digestion and to get rid of constipation.
Who is considered to be constipated? Constipation is a bowel movement every two days or less. So, what are the main reasons for constipation?
- Constipation due to lack of water
- Constipation due to lack of fiber
- Bloating and constipation
- Hormonal problems and constipation
- External factors and spastic constipation
- Taking medications and dietary supplements as a cause of constipation
- What you need to know about constipation
1. Constipation due to Lack of Water
Nutrients from the food are absorbed in the small intestine, and undigested particles move further into the large intestine. It is there that stool is formed. Water is also absorbed there – and the consistency of stool depends on the amount of water you consume daily.
If a person does not systematically drink enough water, he develops chronic constipation.
The recommended water intake is about two quarts per day. If you don’t feel like drinking plain water at all, soups, boiled or steamed food, and fruits, as well as fresh vegetables, will help you “get back to normal”. If there are problems with constipation, fried, dried, smoked foods and dry snacks are best avoided – such foods are more likely to worsen the situation.
2. Constipation due to Lack of Fiber
Just drinking water is only half the battle against constipation. It is a fiber that retains water in the stool due to swelling, helping to propel it further. There is soluble and insoluble fiber, and it is advisable to consume both types of dietary fiber daily.
The recommended fiber intake for an adult is about 30 grams or 1 ounce per day. That’s at least one fruit a day and one generous serving of vegetables. Also, mucus-forming products with soluble fiber – flaxseed porridge, psyllium husks – will also help.
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Foods Rich in Fiber
You can add healthy fiber to your diet with a variety of foods and dishes:
- leafy greens;
- sprouted legumes and grains;
- dried seaweed;
- Brown rice;
- cereals from whole grains;
- dried fruits without added sugar.
Fiber not only helps to go to the toilet regularly but also feeds the intestinal microbiota. To maintain a healthy diversity of microflora, you need to consume a variety of types of dietary fiber.
3. Constipation due to Bloating
A constant excess of gases in the intestines can cause constipation too. The accumulated gases prevent the stool from moving along the tract. They cause pain and discomfort, cause spasms, because the intestinal loops are compressed.
A common cause of bloating is dysbacteriosis, in which pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria grow out of control and overcome the beneficial bacteria.
Functional stool test analysis helps to identify pathogenic bacteria, parasites, yeast, and bacterial overgrowth, as well as digestive function, and more. I use in my practice GI MAP stool test with great success because it helps to identify some potential causes of digestive symptoms. It is much easier to understand then how to deal with bloating and constipation and what your microbiota is missing.
4. Hormonal Issues and Constipation
Thyroid hormones regulate essential bodily functions, including metabolism and digestion. With hypothyroidism, the decrease of production of thyroxine – thyroid hormone – occurs which in some people leads to chronic constipation and other digestive disorders.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are very non-specific, so you need to get tested to check your thyroid hormones. When levels are low, a person may also experience chronic fatigue, excessive sweating, muscle weakness, weight fluctuations, or irregular heart rhythms.
5. External Factors and Constipation
The gut-brain axis is a two-way connection that exists between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. Fear or even pleasurable excitement is stress for the body and provokes the “fight or flight” response.
Stress can slow down peristalsis and cause constipation.
Therefore, before a trip or an important meeting, it is better to have dinner with something easily digestible and not to cause heaviness in the stomach. A warm bath or shower, a hot drink, meditation, and massage will help you relax.
6. Medications and Dietary Supplements as a Cause of Constipation
Constipation is mentioned as a side effect in the instructions for hundreds of different medications. If you’ve improved your diet but are still suffering from chronic constipation, check to see if you’re taking medication or food supplements that could trigger it.
These drugs and supplements can slow down peristalsis and make bowel movement less regular:
- Iron-containing supplements;
- Diuretics (water pills);
- Aluminum-containing supplements;
- Anti-inflammatory supplements.
This does not mean that you need to stop taking medications or supplements yourself if you suffer from constipation. Try to increase fluid and fiber intake and eat regularly.
What you Need to Know About Constipation
No need to be scared when faced with chronic constipation – this is not a harbinger of cancer. But the problem cannot be ignored either. Persistent constipation and the need to push hard to have a bowel movement can actually increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids or tumors. If you cannot determine the cause of constipation on your own and eliminate it, you need to consult a doctor.
To cope with constipation, it is not necessary to immediately drink laxatives. It is much more useful to pay attention to the diet.
If you suffer from severe pain, weight loss, blood or mucus in the stool, unusually thin “pencil” stools – you should definitely consult a doctor with these symptoms. It is important to be examined and check for inflammation, polyps or other neoplasms in the intestines. Your doctor may order a calprotectin test, a marker of intestinal inflammation, a colonoscopy, and other tests.
This does not constitute medical advice, always seek the direct advice of your Doctor or Medical Provider for your specific health care or needs.
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