WHAT IS CONSTIPATION
Constipation is one of the most common ailments/ conditions that we see in our naturopathic clinic. Constipation is usually characterized by a change in daily bowel habits, particularly a decrease in the number or consistency of bowel movements( hardening of stools), or pain and difficulty passing stools or ineffectual bowel movements, or a lack of daily bowel movements. Constipation occurs when waste passes though the intestines too slowly. A healthy colon eliminates waste in 6 – 18 hours. Anything beyond that is generally classified as constipation.
If you are usually regular but go two or more days without a bowel movement, and then have pain or difficulty passing a large hard stool, you are constipated. Whatever stool maybe passed after may be hard, knotted and dark or normal.
SYMPTOMS THAT ACCOMPANY CONSTIPATION
- Bloating and flatulence
- Appetite loss
- Mild nausea
- Repeated straining causes hemorrhoids or bleeding due to straining
- Chronic constipation is unhealthy because toxins are formed and absorbed when waste remains in the intestines for excessive periods
- Headaches, bad breath and skin problems can result and increase the susceptibility for intestinal cancer!
- Waste should be eliminated through the bowels on a regular basis, usually once or more per day
If constipation is experienced along with other abnormalities, including blood in the stool, weight loss or pain, see a medical doctor for a proper diagnosis to rule out other serious health issues such as colon cancer or bowel blockages. Even if unrelated to an underlying problem, chronic constipation should be taken seriously because it can lead to a loss of muscle tone in the bowel, setting the stage for a life long problem.
WHAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION?
- one of the main reasons for constipation is drinking insufficient fluids
- Too little fiber and high sugar diet (three of the most common causes)
- Without enough fluids and bulk,and a high sugar diet, the peristaltic muscles becomes sluggish, and stool becomes hard and develop rough edges. These rough edges can cause a rectal fissure, a painful microscopic tear in the rectum
- Too much fat in the diet
- Lack of physical exercise
- Holding back the urge to defecates
- High stress levels
- Cow’s milk can cause hard, dry stools in children!
- Medications such as iron pills, antacids, diuretics, pain killers and anti depressants
- Thyroid inactivity
- Liver problems
- Imbalance in intestinal flora
- Magnesium deficiency and folic acid deficiency
- Parasites (one of the most common causes for chronic constipation. Giardia lambia - in the U.S. it is estimated that about 50% of the water supplied to the communities is contaminated with this parasite
Blastocystis hominis and Entamoeba histolytica have been implicated in wide in a large numbers of physical and emotional illnesses. People can easily pick these infestations up from salad bars, day care centers and household pets.
HOW CAN I COMBAT CONSTIPATION?
Increase intake of fiber in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. The daily diet should include 5 – 10 servings of fruits and vegetables together. This could be broken down in the following way:
- 4 cups of vegetables
- 1 cups of fruits
- 1 cup of wholegrain cereal.
- The whole fruit provides most fiber. Take a piece of fruit ˝ to 1 hour before a meal or after a meal. Leafy green vegetables are high in magnesium, a lack of which can cause constipation
- Highly refined foods such as rice and pastas are stripped off any nutrients or fiber, replace these with good quality foods
- One could substitute highly polished white rice with wild rice, organically grown brown rice or basmati rice. There are pastas available which are made from flours other than white flour - for example - spelt pasta, whole wheat pasta, among others
- Because dehydration can lead to constipation, increase the amount of liquids in your diet. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
- Have spring water, herbal teas, juices, and soups readily available, and take them often rather than pop and carbonated drinks, which contain high amounts of sugars and other substances not particularly useful for the body
- A glass of hot water with a little lemon taken first thing in the morning helps promote normal bowel function
OTHER FRUITS AND VEGETABLES THAT HELP WITH CONSTIPATION
- Prunes - a time tested effective remedy
- Cabbage - sauerkraut
- Oats - oatmeal with flaxseed tea
FLAX OR PSYLLIUM?
Psyllium, available in capsules or powder, is an excellent stool softener with mild laxative properties. However, psyllium husks can irritate the mucosal lining and cause bleeding at a microscopic level. It can also lodge itself behind or in the folds of colon polyps and cause inflammation.
Flaxseeds are high in mucilaginous fiber and supply the body with Omega 3 essential fatty acids. They absorb up to 8 times their weight in water, thereby softening stools and making them easier to pass.
FIBER AND B VITAMINS
The fiber of wheat bran and oat bran also acts a natural laxative. If taking any fiber supplements, it is very important to increase fluid intake as its necessary for waste movement.
A deficiency of B vitamins can also cause constipation, therefore having foods high in B vitamins – such as almonds, most leafy greens, whole grains, would be beneficial.
SUPPLEMENTS & HERBS THAT MAYBE HELPFUL FOR CONSTIPATION
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- B vitamins
- Aloe vera juice
- Cascara sagrada for temporary overnight relief
- Slippery elm
- Tissue salts
- Exercise - walking is the best bowel regulator
- Epsom salts
WHAT TO EXPECT AT OUR NATUROPATHIC CLINIC
At our clinic, during your initial 1 hour one on one consult with our Naturopathic Doctor, Sushma Shah, you will be undergo comprehensive symptom intake in detail, in order to find out what is the root cause of your symptoms and at the end of the visit, you will be required to do some blood and urine testing. Her assessment is oriented toward determining what is impeding your body's ability to function normally. She may require you to do some specialized stool, urine, blood and saliva testing in order to correctly diagnose what is causing the disorder in the body. She will determine what assessment tools will be more helpful in establishing a treatment strategy specific to your health needs.
Sushma Shah N.D. may order some specialized testing, if need be in order to get all the necessary physiological information and to get a more complete picture of your symptoms - to get to the root cause of your symptoms. Following this visit, you will be coming in for a second visit, in which she will be doing a full physical check up, including a breast exam, a traditional Chinese medicine tongue and pulse diagnosis, body fat analysis and blood glucose testing.
After having gone through your case, she will be giving you an INDIVIDUAL TREATMENT PLAN that is specific to the symptoms you have.
Please ask your doctor or naturopath before starting on any supplements. Its is better to first identify the cause and then treat it with the right remedies, even though those mentioned above have minimal side effects.
The information on this article is the property of SUSHMA SHAH N.D., and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease. For any questions, or concerns, please contact us at 416 913 4325 (HEAL) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about constipation, please visit our Constipation Centre.