Constipation Trouble? Here’s 5 Tips to Get You Going….
Constipation is one of those topics few like to talk about. If you’ve suffered from this problem, though, you know it can be both painful and frustrating.
Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. It affects approximately 2% of the population. Women and the elderly are more commonly affected.
You are considered constipated if you have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
- Straining during a bowel movement more than one-quarter of the time
- Hard stools more than one-quarter of the time
- Incomplete evacuation more than one-quarter of the time
- Averaging less than one normal formed, but soft stool daily
Common causes of constipation include:
- Inadequate water intake
- Inadequate fiber in the diet
- Disruption of regular diet or routine
- Inadequate exercise or immobility
- Eating large amounts of dairy products
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement too frequently
- Overuse of laxatives (stool softeners)
- Low thyroid hormone
- Neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Too much calcium in supplements or antacids
- Certain medications, anti-depressants, pain killers, and iron supplements
- Eating disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Colon Cancer
If you simply treat the causes and the symptoms go away!
Here are five simple natural suggestions to “keep you going”:
- Probiotics – When the wrong bacteria or yeast gain control of the bowels, they slow things down to ferment foods just how they like them. A good quality probiotic like, lactobaccilus or bifidobacter can help change that. You’ll want to take a dairy-free brand with at least 25 billion cfu’s per capsule daily
- Dehydration – Without enough fluids to move things through the intestinal tract, the feces becomes hard and your digestion slows way down. Drinking a large glass of water upon waking improves bowel movements in most cases. Drinking a large glass of water few hours of the day can also alleviate IBS symptoms.
- Fiber – For both constipation and IBS, dietary fiber is the first line of intervention for symptom relief. I usually recommend patients add 2 TBSP of ground flax seed or chia to their breakfast or smoothie. Another way is to use psyllium caps or powder.
- Vitamin C – One symptom of vitamin C deficiency is constipation. Taking vitamin C in amounts just below bowel tolerance (gas, bloating or diarrhea) can definitely improve bowel movements and regularity. Start slow with 3000 mg spread throughout the day and every 2-3 days add another 1,000 mg to the regimen. When you reach bowel tolerance and stools loosen up, back off a little and maintain the dose that works for you
- Magnesium – if patients I see are complaining of difficulty with constipation, the first thing I usually recommend is adding magnesium citrate at bedtime. Many patients sleep better, have less muscle pain and bowel function dramatically improves with a little magnesium. Doses typically range from 300-600mg but may go upwards of 1000mg daily.
Still no relief?! If the five suggestions above don’t relieve your constipation, then you might have food sensitivities… A common symptom of food sensitivity is constipation. Studies show that milk can cause constipation and a more recent study also implicates gluten. Constipation is more likely to occur in children fed gluten at at less than six months of age with a 35% increased risk of constipation. You might try doing a three week elimination diet avoiding the common culprits: gluten, dairy, sugar, and soy.
If you have slow moving bowels, bowel pain or both, find the cause and fix it! Treating the symptoms only hides the causes, allowing your problems to grow into bigger problems.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net