Constipation is one of those issues that doesn’t get taken seriously unless someone has a problem with it. But once you have a problem with it, it can be devastating.
Constipation is defined as moving your bowels less than 3 times a week. I have been taught that you want to aim for at least one time a day. I usually go 2 to 3 times a day. I like to keep things flowing through me regularly. As long as you are going more than 3 times a week, you are fine and healthy and shouldn’t try to take anything to increase the frequency. You can however, try some of the tips I have listed to naturally and easily increase your frequency.
At a seminar I took, chiropractor and nutritionist David Seaman said that going to the bathroom once day is good, twice a day is great, and three times a day is a party. He meant that you want to go as many times as you can throughout the day. Don’t worry about going too many times. The alternative is much worse.
Gastro-intestinal or gut health is extremely important to the body’s overall functioning, and important in preventing pain. How can constipation increase pain in your body? Let me explain because everything is connected.
The gut is the only place for the inside of your body to come into contact with outside materials like food. Your gut is a long tube that connects your mouth to your anus. Incidentally 70% of your body’s immune system is located in the gut. The more healthy your gut is functioning, the better your immune system will be functioning.
If food gets stuck in your gut for any number of reasons, it will become more toxic the longer it stays inside of your body. It is the same thing that happens if you leave any food sitting out on your counter for a day or two. That food on the counter will start to decay and rot within 24 to 48 hours. That same thing is happening in your gut as food stays there for hours to days, if weeks in some extreme cases.
If you aren’t eating enough fiber and eating lots of processed foods, then it will take longer to eliminate those foods from your gut. The longer food stays in your gut, the more likely it will be to turn rancid and toxic, and the more pressure will build up in your gut.
The more rancid and toxic food becomes in your gut, the more free radicals will be produced, and the more free radicals that you will absorb into your system. These free radicals increase chronic, low grade inflammation and can increase overall pain levels. You would be increasing inflammation that already present in your body. It’s like throwing fuel on a fire.
The more pressure that builds up in your gut, and more likely you will be to develop polyps and diverticulitis. Polyps and diverticulitis can be very painful and make the act of eating extremely uncomfortable and not enjoyable (I love to eat and would hate it if something made eating unpleasant).
The longer rancid and toxic stool is in contact with your gut, the less optimal your immune system will function. The part of the immune system that is located in your gut will utilize its’ energy in fighting off the free radicals and toxins that are being produced from the digested food in your gut. Rather than spending its’ energy on helping the body out in other ways.
Other issues that can cause constipation are too much protein, iron or calcium in your diet. Pain pills especially narcotics are well known for causing constipation. Change in routine can also cause constipation. Many people don’t like to, or just won’t, go in a strange or public bathroom.
Meats (especially red meat) will slow down digestion and can cause constipation. Meat takes longer to digest than chicken, fish and fruits and vegetables. Meat will stay in your gut longer and prevent food from moving through your gut at a healthy rate. Especially if the meat is eaten with other low fiber foods.
Eating low fiber foods and not enough fiber is a good way to slow down digestion and develop constipation. Low fiber foods are any processed foods, fast foods, white flour products such as white pasta and white bread. These foods will be digested very quickly by your stomach, but will slow down digestion.
How can you prevent constipation and how can you treat it once you have it? There are many ways to treat constipation without having to do anything drastic or invasive.
The best way is to increase your intake of insoluble fiber. This type of fiber is not digested and will help ease the transit of digested foods through the gut and out the bottom. This type of fiber is found in whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, fruit and vegetables and is not absorbed by water.
The other type of fiber is soluble fiber. This type of fiber is processed and digested and is absorbed with water. This type of fiber can help out with balancing out blood sugar and preventing high blood pressure, heart disease, and other issues. This type of fiber is not as effective at helping with constipation, but can aid somewhat.
Movement and exercise can be very helpful in getting things moving and preventing constipation. Exercise and stretching will aid in increasing blood flow throughout the body which will make it easier for the gut to pass stools. Exercise and stretching will physically move things around in your gut. Try doing some core strengthening exercises next time you are constipated. Squeezing and contracting your abdominal muscles will increase pressure and help push things along and out of your body. Twisting and stretching will also move things around in your gut and aid in pushing digested food out of your gut and out of your body.
Don’t use caffeine as a laxative though. Caffeine will aid in constipation initially by stimulating the muscles in your gut to be more active and therefore help to move the digested food along through your gut. But it is also a diuretic. This means that caffeine will pull water from your body and from your gut, and make your stools harder. The harder a stool is, the harder it will be to move it through your body.
Conversely, the more water your drink, the easier it will be to move your stools through your body. The more water you drink, and the more water content of the food you eat, the softer your stools will be and the easier they will move through your gut.
If you are having trouble treating constipation on your own, it is a good idea to go and see a health care professional. There may be an underlying health issue that can cause the constipation such as a thyroid issue. A health care professional can decide if you should use a stool softener or a laxative.
Stool softeners and laxatives are available over the counter, but they are very easy to become reliant on. Stool softeners work just like drinking extra water. It softens up the stool to make it easier to pass. If you are treating yourself with over the counter stool softeners and laxatives and have been for over a month consistently, then go see a nutritionist or a health care professional. They will be able to give you some ideas and hints on how to break the dependence on those laxatives. If you need to take something to go to the bathroom every time, then something is wrong. It could be that you are on large amounts of narcotic pain medications or have some other issue that is causing chronic constipation, but know how to manage and treat it in a healthy and productive way.
If you are not drinking 4 to 6 glasses of water a day, then try that. If you are not exercising and stretching, then try to add that to your daily routine. Any little bit helps to make you a little less constipated. And a lot of little differences build up to make a large difference.
If you can help your body without taking more pills or by doing something invasive, that is a good thing. And if you can help your constipation with exercising and eating right, then that is the Pain Free Way.
Here is a link to a slide show about causes and treatments for constipation. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ss/slideshow-constipation-facts-10