It isn’t a good time, sitting, waiting, wishing for something to manifest. In fact, it is totally painful. Yes, I’m talking about constipation. It affects millions around the world and is the most pressing health condition that exists. Why then, are there not better ways to solve this ever-pressing problem? (pun intended)
Many people think that constipation simply has to do with food. Of course, food is a huge factor. Not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water can be contributors to constipation. If we eat foods that we are sensitive to, the body often responds with bloating and constipation. But there are a number of other factors that contribute to this agonizing issue, which we will explore in this article.
How the Body Poops
The gut operates under a principle of pressure and lubrication. Without these, you cannot poo! This is why consuming a substantial amount of fiber helps you go to the bathroom. The fiber simply creates the pressure needed to push stools along the digestive tract, and allows for the lower sphincter to relax so you can go poo. Fluids also help to create pressure, and have a double purpose of lubricating the digestive tract. Another key source of lubrication for the gut is consumption of healthy fats.
The Physiology of Constipation
Without proper pressure and lubrication, there is a high chance of constipation. However, it is not this simple. Constipation is not only about food, it is mediated by a variety of other mechanisms.
Hormones are another influencer of constipation. For those with thyroid issues, metabolism is moving at an incredibly slow rate, processing food and nourishment very slowly, so they evacuate it in the same manner1.
Estrogen dominance, which is an epidemic these days, also causes constipation2. High progesterone is required to have healthy moving bowels. Progesterone levels are high when there is no stress, allowing the lower sphincter to work properly.
Nervous System Constipation
Stress is the other highly notable factor in constipation3. If you’re stressed, not only are you low in progesterone, but also in minerals that help with relaxation and laxation such as magnesium and vitamin C.
A sedentary lifestyle is a huge factor in constipation4. Movement of the body is required for movement of the bowels! Makes total sense. In order for the smooth muscle of the bowel to contract properly, regular exercise and movement is required5.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the picture of constipation is correlated to being unable to let things go. You may have a tendency of holding onto things and not working through them. If you hoard, on either a physical and emotional level, you likely have issues with constipation. The body tends to freeze and slow down its activity to protect you.
3 Simple Fixes to Support Constipation
You can run but you can’t hide. With all of these factors contributing to constipation, it can be difficult to get away from it. Your bowels are dependent on what is going on inside your body. This is why it is so important to include health practices in your daily routine that will help to support all of these influencing factors.
1. Analyzing Your Poo
If you learn how to read them, your poops can become your FREE daily oracle of the state of your health. They can help you decipher which factors are contributing to your constipation, and from there you can take the necessary steps to improve it.
This is my expertise, in fact I encourage you to download my free infographic, Legends of the Throne. This infographic takes you through different characters in the Royal Kingdom that represent different types of poops, and what they mean for your health. Click here to get the free download.
Did you know that there are more than 50 shades of poo? Not really, but it sounds pretty cool, just like the movie 50 Shades of Grey. There are many, however, and it’s important to know what colours are normal and which ones could be a medical emergency. Download my free infographic, the 50 Shades of Poo, so you can find out what you should be looking for in the bowl. Click here for the free download. I promise you will be blown away by this one simple measure of poo yet there are so many more.
2. Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil packs are an amazing tool for constipation. In a study done in a home for the elderly, castor oil packs were compared to conventional laxatives and found to be just as effective6. The amazing thing is, there was no harsh urgency to run to the bathroom, as with laxatives.
So castor oil packs work on the physiological aspect of constipation, but they also indirectly help to balance hormones. Castor oil packs have a long history of use in treatment of hormonal problems, including estrogen dominance and hypothyroid. They improve detoxification in the liver via glutathione7, which helps the liver to clear out excess hormones.
Castor oil packs work on the nervous system element of constipation by improving relaxation and reducing stress8 9. Another bonus of using castor oil packs is that they reduce inflammation10 11, which can be yet another contributing factor in constipation12.
3. The Three Legged Stool
In practice, one thing I like to teach my patients is the Three Legged Stool of Bowel Movement Success. Now we know that constipation is about so much more than just food, but since the bowel runs on the principle of pressure and lubrication, it is still an important factor to support.
1. Fiber (pressure) – We are drastically deficient in the amount of fiber we are eating. The recommended dosage is 30 grams of fiber per day. On average, North Americans consume only 4-5 grams per day.
Get fiber from vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, these are my favourite. I love CHIA SEEDS, they are high in calcium and fiber!
2. Fluid (pressure and lubrication) – Our bodies are 80% water. Water is the universal solvent so it moves and cleanses things. Ideally, each day you want to consume 30ml/kg (or 2.2 lbs) of body weight. More if you are exercising.
3. Fat (lubrication) – Fat is like lubricant to your colon. Avocado (fiber and fat), olive oil or coconut oil are all amazing lubricating fats.
So, bottom line, pooping is dependant on so much more than just the foods you are eating. Digestion and elimination function is mediated by hormonal and nervous systems in the body, as well as your lifestyle and emotions.
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2 Ji-Eun Oh, Yong-Woon Kim, So-Young Park, and Jong-Yeon Kim Estrogen Rather Than Progesterone Cause Constipation in Both Female and Male Mice. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2013 Oct; 17(5): 423–426. Published online 2013 Oct 17. doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2013.17.5.423 PMID: 24227943
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