In Part 1 of this series, we discussed some important issues that can cause constipation, such as poor bile flow, gallstones, low stomach acid levels, and hypothyroidism. In this segment, we will continue our conversation about constipation and additional tips to try get things moving again.
Adequate fiber intake bulks up the stool and assists the transport of waste out of the body. Both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber are helpful for constipation. Fiber is not digestible by the body; insoluble provides necessary roughage in the bowels that gently scrape debris out of the intestines and detox the colon. Soluble fiber takes longer to move through the colon but can help with lowering cholesterol levels, for example.
To make sure you are eating enough fiber per day, try to include two cups of vegetables with every meal. For extra fiber, you can add ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and/or psyllium husk to your smoothies. We carry Fiber Plus in capsule and powder form from Ortho Molecular for extra help. Take with plenty of water.
Peristalsis is the contractions that occur in the smooth muscles of the body in order to push out content; in this case, it is the small and large intestines that are pushing the food, chime, and eventually stool through and out of the body.
When peristalsis is slow and constipation occurs there are remedies to get things moving again:
- Triphala-an Ayurvedic formula has been around for centuries to treat a variety of symptoms including constipation. It consists of equal parts of three fruits: Amalaki (amla), Bibhitaki, and Haritaki. The formula is high in Vitamin C and stimulates the peristalsis in bowels. It is used as a gentle bowel tonic, but also has a variety of other uses; such as, liver detox, and aiding in the reduction of serum cholesterol and lipid levels. Human Nature carries Triphala from Banyan Botanicals in tablet form. More info about this formula: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/herbs/triphala/
- Massage is a gentle way to relieve constipation. Start by lying on your back. Begin massaging your intestines by starting with light pressure on your lower right abdomen, moving upward above your belly button, and around and down the left side of your abdomen in a circular movement. You should be following the path of the large intestine in a close-wise motion. Repeat the movement for several minutes. This stimulates the large intestine and colon.
Laxatives are designed to bring relief of constipation quickly and are very effective at doing so, but they are a temporary fix and don't really address the root of the problem if constipation is a regular occurrence. If used for long periods of time, stimulant (over the counter) laxatives can lead to dependence, meaning your body simply won’t function properly without them. Some people need to take regular laxatives in order to eliminate waste effectively. Let’s look at some gentle remedies...
Natural Laxative Remedies:
- Vitamin C: Katy suggests increasing your dose by 1g Vitamin C per day until the desired results are achieved, and then reducing by 1g for a maintenance dose. At Human Nature, we can measure your Vitamin C with the Flow System to help monitor your intake and stay on target.
- Magnesium: In higher doses, some forms of magnesium work as a laxative because they are less absorbent in the gut, which saturates it faster leading to a laxative effect. A gentle form of magnesium that works for many of our clients is Natural Calm by Natural Vitality. It comes in a powdered form which easily allows an increased or decreased dose.
- Aloe Vera: You can use the aloe plant as a laxative in three different forms: as a juice, a gel, or a capsule. In any form, aloe is a very effective laxative and should be taken as directed. At Human Nature we carry the Aloe Vera Gel from both Kroeger Herbs and Mountain Rose Herbs, as well as Aloe Vera capsules from Ortho Molecular: Super Aloe 250 or a higher dose, Super Aloe 450. Aloe vera is safe to take on an on-going basis at the proper dose. Cape Aloe is a stronger form of aloe and should be used sparingly.
- Senna: Senna is an herbal laxative that is available without a prescription. The active components in senna act as a local irritant to the colon which promotes peristalsis and evacuation. Senna is only recommended for short term use because of the irritation to the colon and the liver. Long term use has caused diarrhea, cramping, and clinically-studied liver injury. Infrequent use (one time per month) may be tolerable for occasional constipation. http://livertox.nih.gov/Senna.htm. Smooth Move tea by Traditional Medicinals is an effective tea laxative that contains the senna leaf.
If you are suffering from constipation with an unknown cause try these things first:
- Get plenty of rest, relaxation and practice deep breathing exercises. Relaxation is key because elimination is a parasympathetic function, aka the “rest and digest” portion of the nervous system. It's very important to have a predictable schedule for the body to relax after meals, especially in the morning for elimination and detox to occur.
- Be sure to incorporate at least twenty minutes of exercise into your day every day, even if it is just a leisurely walk. This not only gets your bodily systems moving, but also helps with stress reduction.
- Drink plenty of water because dehydration causes constipation. Try to drink 8 pints per day.
Finally, what aids in relieving symptoms will vary depending on both the individual and the root cause of the problem. Many clients come to us when elimination is not regular. Unfortunately, there isn't one specific formula, or combination of remedies, that works for everyone. One thing may work successfully for you and fall short for someone else because we all have different body chemistry and reasons why we became constipated in the first place. Constipation can be a complicated issue, but not a hopeless one. If you are an individual who is frustrated by constipation, try the above methods and see if they work for you.
Furthermore, you can contact Human Nature for an appointment so that we can assist you with a more personalized plan of action. We are here to help get to the root cause of your discomfort and make constipation a thing of the “passed.”
By Erin Liljegren