Healthy Habits to Relieve Constipation
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
By Dr. Ann-Marie Regina, ND Are you feeling backed up? Bloated? In pain? Constipation can be caused by a number of different concerns. Your body excretes stool for a reason and when the bowels become sluggish health issues can arise. Reabsorption of hormones occur in the large intestine and if bowels are not emptied regularly, this can result in estrogen imbalances. Further, toxins are processed first through the liver and can become water or fat soluble. Fat soluble toxins are typically eliminated through the bowels. Toxins such as heavy metals, environmental chemicals, pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi) that can be eliminated through the bowels are also being reabsorbed when there is constipation. The importance of understanding why routes of elimination are not functioning optimally, is integral to overall health.
Repercussions of Constipation
Gas & Bloating
Acne, Psoariasis & Eczema
Exacerbations of existing symptoms & conditions
Healthy Habits to Get the Bowels Moving
1. Drink Water! Water is essential for lubricating and hydrating the bowels. If you find yourself straining or having small, incomplete stools you may be dehydrated. Begin each day with a glass of warm or room temperature water to get your bowels moving. 2. Healthy Fats & Oils. Healthy fats and oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, nut butters, avocado's will also help to hydrate the digestive tract and get things moving. 3. Eat Your Fibre! Fibre helps to stimulate stretch receptors in the digestive tract that result in bowel movements. Not all fibre is the same. Ideally majority of fibre will come from vegetables, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and to a lesser extent fruit. Avoid processed cereals & grains and dried fruit to stimulate bowel movements on a regular basis. 4. Eliminate Food Sensitivities. Underlying food sensitivities can result in inflammation in the gut and the whole body. One of the symptoms that they can cause is inflammation among other things. Ask your naturopathic doctor about food sensitivity testing. 5. Eliminate Damp Forming Foods. Foods such as dairy and sugar can result in inflammation in the gut leading to constipation. In Chinese medicine, such foods are termed damp forming. They are difficult to eliminate and slow digestion. A sign that you may be eating too many damp forming foods is when stool stains the toilet bowl. 6. Manage Emotions. Emotions such as anxiety, depression and stress can result in constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and aggravate other digestive conditions. Your digestive system slows down during stress as the fight or flight response becomes triggered and shunts resources to the muscles rather than focusing on digestion. Further, the large intestine functions to emotionally and physically "let go" meaning, if you are emotionally constipated, that can cause physical constipation as well. 7. Movement. Lack of physical exercise can result in sluggish digestion. Exercise helps to stimulate food to move quicker through the digestive tract improving constipation. 8. Optimizing Sleep. When sleep is off, everything in the body can become dysregulated including digestion. Sleep allows for the body to restore and regenerate. If sleep is a chronic issue, symptoms such as blood sugar dysregulation, weight gain, appetite hormone imbalances and heart burn can occur and contribute to constipation. 9. Eating Whole Foods. Eating a whole foods diet will maximize good quality foods and reduce processed foods. Processed foods contain less nutrients that are important for healthy bowel function, and typically are full of additives that result in inflammation in the gut and the rest of the body. 10. Avoid Snacking! Snacking between meals can slow down the body's natural flushing system. A system of nerves called the migrating motor complex (MMC) found throughout the digestive tract functions during a fasted state. The MMC stimulates the bowels to flush things out, but again it can only function when food hasn't been eaten for about 3-4 hours. If you find yourself constantly snacking, this can be contributing to constipation. Why Consider Individualized Care For Constipation? The basics listed above can be very helpful for relieving constipation, but everyone is unique and has a different health history. Factors such as medications, health conditions such as diabetes, liver congestion, insomnia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), IBS, stress, anxiety, depression and others can result in constipation and are treated differently. It is important to find the root cause of your constipation as that will be a much more sustainable and effective treatment. Using things such as stimulating laxatives everyday to ensure bowel movements can result in dehydration and dependancy. And without a proper assessment from a health care provider, it can be dangerous to self treat. Naturopathic doctors can provide other treatment options such as herbal formulations, acupuncture, cupping, homeopathics and dietary counselling if indicated to reduce constipation. Dr. Ann-Marie Regina, ND focuses on optimizing digestion and providing individualized nutritional counselling. She works with patients to make healthy lifestyle choices that are specific to them. Dr. Ann-Marie is now offering 30 minute nutritional consults focused solely on creating sustainable and effective dietary adjustments that address your concerns. During the nutritional counselling visits, Dr. Ann-Marie will assess your nutrition & diet with an assessment tool, review weekly food diary and provide meal plans if necessary. The assessment will also take your health concerns, activity level, hormones, food intolerances, age and sex into consideration. Most importantly, nutritional consults provide the support and education that will allow you to establish an eating regime that works for you that you can maintain long term. To address your digestive concerns, please book an appointment with Dr. Ann-Marie Regina, ND or to schedule a complimentary 15 minute "meet and greet."