We've all had those days when we've wanted to throw up our hands and say, “I don't give a crap!” But what happens when that's all you want to do and you just can't? Constipation can disrupt, or even ruin, a perfectly good day, but there are many ways to improve digestion, aid in elimination, and relieve yourself of this frustrating problem. We will look deeper into constipation in this two-part article series.
Before we look into some ways to address constipation symptoms, let's look deeper into some reasons why things stop flowing in the first place…
There are numerous reasons why an individual can become constipated, including: poor bile flow and fat digestion, low hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach, low fiber or water intake, under-stimulated peristalsis, stress, laxative dependence, and hypothyroidism. Additional reasons include painkillers—specifically narcotics, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis, depression, a diet rich in chocolate, bananas, dairy or black tea, calcium and iron supplements, antidepressants, antacids, blood pressure medications and diuretics, antihistamines, pregnancy/postpartum, and others.
Let’s look at some of the main issues in more detail...
Bile Flow and Fat Digestion:
Bile is the alkaline fluid produced by the liver and secreted by the gallbladder to aid in digestion of fats in the diet. Often the liver is overburdened by toxins, hormones, and metabolic waste which can result in a lack of bile production. Other times there is a blockage in the gallbladder that prevents an adequate amount of bile from being released. In turn, the body will have a difficult time digesting fats because it is bile that emulsifies and breaks fat molecules down into a size that can be assimilated by the small intestine. Without the necessary lubrication that fats provide, the stool can become hard and stuck in the colon.
Here are some things you can do if poor bile flow is the reason for the backup:
- Support the liver by decreasing the amount of toxins in your diet and lifestyle by: limiting alcohol intake, eliminating foods of the processed variety, and eating lots of veggies (such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, artichoke, cabbage, root vegetables, and plenty of fiber).
- Make sure there is an adequate amount of healthy fats in the diet such as fish, krill, and olive oil. An average adult needs at least 2 TBS of fat with each meal. When constipated, try taking more oil in addition to sea salt in the diet. 3000Mg of fish oil daily may also be added or 1000Mg of Krill oil. A Flow System at our office could help determine if you are eating enough healthy fats and which kinds you need more of in your diet.
- Salt water remedy: 1 tsp sea salt to 2 cups warm/hot water for mild relief. 2 tsp to 4 cups is standard for laxative effect. The salt water in combination with fat help improve bile flow. It works as a gentle laxative without being habit forming.
- Effective herbs for this type of constipation include: dandelion root, burdock root, and yellow dock. These help support the release of bile containing waste (hormones, cholesterol, and toxins) from the liver and the gallbladder to be excreted into the intestines and eventually eliminated from the body. Human Nature carries a product called Beet Flow from Empirical Labs that helps the liver/gallbladder release enough bile to digest foods properly.
Gallstones and Other Blockages:
Gallstones are hardened digestive secretions made from bile, cholesterol, and/or bilirubin that collect in the gallbladder. They range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. If there is a blockage in the gallbladder due to stones, you can try to flush it out naturally by detoxing the liver and gallbladder through a cleanse. A specialist at Human Nature would like to oversee you during this time if you have never participated in this type of cleanse before. Contact us for an appointment by calling: (608) 301-9961. Supplements that gently assist the gallbladder are Psor Rbs (Lecithin and Borage Seed Oil) from Enzyme Formulations and BileMin from Apex Energetics. If your blockage is due to another cause, contact your physician for further screening.
Low HCl in the Stomach:
Inadequate stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) can also contribute to constipation. Overuse of antacids can suppress natural stomach secretions. Without proper HCl levels in the stomach, food is not getting fully digested before it enters the small intestine, which in turn makes the other systems of the body work much harder. This can slow digestion and bowel movements.
Luckily, there are remedies to help lower the pH of stomach acid, which helps the digestive system process food properly. Some remedies include: lemon water, apple cider vinegar, and Betaine HCl (available at Human Nature).
There are several imbalances that can occur in the body that can cause constipation in an individual, one of which being hypothyroidism—an underactive thyroid gland, slows the body’s metabolic processes, even the gut. Metabolic processes including digestion and elimination are slowed by the lack of stimulation by the thyroid gland. This lack of fire from the thyroid can make an individual feel tired, cold, and sluggish. The elimination organs are not being stimulated properly, therefore are functioning at a slower rate.
There are herbs that can help with stimulating the organs of elimination, such as black walnut, but because everyone has different needs, a one-on-one consultation is needed to determine the best direction for each individual.
Stay tuned to our next post for Part 2 on constipation! -Erin Liljegren