Dr. Jin Sung – July, 2012
Constipation is a very common problem, but fortunately is one that can usually be easily remedied with lifestyle changes. Ironically, one of the biggest hindrances to your success may be not realizing you’re constipated in the first place.
Conventional medicine typically defines constipation as fewer than two or three bowel movements a week. But you should really be having one bowel movement a day, and preferably two or three. So if you are having anything less than one bowel movement a day, you should take steps to relieve your constipation.
Regularity is so important for your health because without it, toxins accumulate and are recirculated in your bloodstream. Constipation can also increase your risk of hemorrhoids or fecal impaction, in which your stool must be removed manually.
Fortunately, although constipation is very common, it is also usually temporary and relatively easy to resolve.
What Causes Constipation?
One of the main causes of constipation is a poor diet — one that focuses on processed foods and sugar and lacks fresh vegetables that are good sources of fiber. Fiber helps move bulk through your intestines and promotes bowel movements.
Other common causes include:
• Laxative abuse: If you take laxatives over a long period of time, you can become dependent on them. First you may require higher dosages to have a bowel movement, and eventually your intestine can fail to work properly.
• Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland is a common cause of constipation
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This can cause spasms in your colon that slow the speed at which the contents of your intestine move through your digestive tract.
• Ignoring the urge to go: If you consistently ignore the urge to have a bowel movement, for instance to avoid using a public toilet, eventually you may stop feeling the urge.
Also food sensitivities can play a large role in constipation. I would suggest going gluten free for 1 month to see if your bowels normalize.
Why Laxatives are NOT a Good Option
Americans spend three-quarters of a billion dollars every year on laxatives, according to the American Gastroenterological Association, which is not only a waste of money but a potentially harmful move.
One of the biggest risks of laxatives, especially stimulant laxatives, is that your body can become dependent on them for normal bowel function. When you stop using them, it takes a long time for the activity of your bowel to be restored.
This is true even of senna or cassia laxatives, which are frequently marketed as natural.
These laxatives, when used for a period of weeks or months, may even decrease your colon’s natural ability to contract, which will worsen constipation. Further, overuse of laxatives can damage nerves, muscles and tissues of your large intestine.
So if you absolutely must use a laxative, make sure it is only for a very short-term period. And remember that laxatives do absolutely nothing to address the underlying causes of your constipation. But fortunately the natural tips in the next section do.
Relieving Constipation Naturally
If staying regular is a struggle for you, here are my top recommendations:
1. Get checked for hypothyroidism, especially if you’re a woman over 40. Constipation is one of the hidden causes of hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Disease)
2. Try squatting. This is the best, natural position to help expel stool from your colon and reduce your risk of hemorrhoids, and it’s still the way many people around the world go to the bathroom. In your home, you can get many of the same benefits by placing a stool near your toilet to raise your knees, purchasing a special squatting device to modify your toilet, or simply squatting on your own toilet.
3. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Vegetables are phenomenal sources of fiber, and I suggest eating those that correspond with your nutritional type freely. For added fiber to help normalize your stool, try whole organic flaxseeds. Grind the seeds in a coffee grinder, and then add a tablespoon or two to your food.
You can also try organic psyllium. Psyllium is unique because it’s an adaptogenic fiber, which means it will help soften your stool if you’re constipated, or reduce frequency of your bowel movements if you have loose stools.
4. Exercise regularly. This helps stimulate circulation and intestinal function, causing your bowels to move properly.
5. Take a high-quality probiotic. This helps to balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut, which is essential for proper digestive function. Probiotics are also useful in fighting IBS, which can contribute to constipation.
6. Aloe vera, magnesium and vitamin C supplements can also be useful tools to speed up your bowel movements.
If you integrate this advice into your lifestyle, you should be able to virtually eliminate your risk of constipation and any reliance you had on laxatives. For one final tip, make sure you heed nature’s call. The longer you ignore the urge to have a bowel movement, the more water is absorbed from the stool. This makes it harder and ultimately can make it more difficult to stay regular.
Dr. Jin Sung is a chiropractic physician who offers a unique, drug-free, and effective approach to the management of chronic health conditions. He utilizes Brain Based Therapy and Functional Medicine approaches to achieve excellent results with his patients. Call 978 688 6999 or visit www.DrJinSung.com