Constipation: it’s not a happy topic! It’s probably the last thing most people want to talk about; but excellent digestive function is so important! I see numerous people in clinical practice with this problem and most often believe that they are stuck with it. Despite lots of different causes, many solutions to constipation are available.
A little bit about digestive function:
When food enters the mouth, saliva production and chewing well start the digestive process. On arrival in the stomach, enzymes produced by the pancreas start breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The small intestine absorbs all the nutrients and moves the rest along to the large intestine. The contents at this point are a sloppy consistency, like a semi-thick soup. Once it enters the large intestine, all the fluid gets absorbed, creating a firmer consistency. By the time it reaches the rectum, the waste product is more formed. Constipation becomes a problem when 1. The intestines struggle to move the contents along. Or 2. When more water (and waste material) are being reabsorbed to create a harder stool because it has been sitting in the rectum for too long. Laxatives may be used as a last resort when things get desperate; but if you constantly rely on them, the bowel gets lazy and needs the external kick start more often. Nausea, cramps and diarrhoea may occur as well.
Causes of Constipation:
Most people believe that constipation is when you are always straining. However, the true definition is when bowel motions become more infrequent, leading to discomfort and fatigue. To ensure optimal digestive function, normal elimination should be occurring at least once or twice daily. When we are infants, as soon as we feed, we usually defecate shortly afterwards. A newborn baby’s colon is nice and clean and working well; and ideally that’s how it should be for everyone. However, as we get older, we eat foods that slow down bowel function and before we know it, there’s a problem! With our busy lifestyles and seemingly time poor schedules these days, it’s easy to grab fast foods to fill up on to keep us going. But sometimes those foods aren’t always the best choices!
Starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes can cause the bowels to slow down significantly. Same goes with heavy proteins such as red meat. Digestion uses a lot of energy, but it needs even more to move these foods along via peristalsis. Limiting them can really make a big difference to the muscular tone of the bowel.Solution: Fibre rich foods such as raw vegetables and fresh fruit are much better choices and will feed all your beneficial bacteria for multiple health benefits!
Lack of exercise
Regular exercise helps maintain good bowel tone and assists optimal elimination. But when we sit at a desk all day and don’t move enough, the bowel starts to struggle, especially if we are overeating, or eating the wrong foods. Jogging, walking, dancing and especially yoga help massage the stomach and assist healthy digestion and elimination.Solution: Ensure you are getting some physical activity daily to reap the benefits.
When we are constantly anxious, we use up a lot of nutrients, especially magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for muscle relaxation in many parts of the body including the bowels. Peristaltic activity relies on the intestine constantly contracting and relaxing to move its contents along. If we are magnesium deficient, the intestines stay mainly contracted and slows the bowel down. This leads to constipation.Solution: Make time daily for stillness and relaxation. The more we relax, the better able we are to digest efficiently. Deep breathing into your belly can work wonders!
If we don’t drink enough water, or regularly consume dehydrating beverages such as black tea, coffee and alcohol, dehydration often results. That means that the large intestine has less fluid to absorb, resulting in a stool that is hard and pellet-like.Solution: Carry a water bottle and sip small amounts frequently. Not only will the liquid soften your stool, but your skin will look a lot fresher too. These are the main reasons why you might be constipated. However, if you have tried all the methods I have outlined with no benefit, you may benefit from a thorough assessment. For more information, visit www.torquayholistic.com.au or call me on 0402 539 020. Yours in Health, Lynda.