Constipation is the #1 gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S. affecting almost 5 million people. It’s a condition of the digestive system often stemming from any number of reasons including:
- Intestinal dysbiosis, pathogenic bacteria in the gut, lack of healthy flora, yeast, parasites, Candida overgrowth, H.pylori and other infections
- Bile insufficiency and hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid)
- Anxiety, stress, adrenal insufficiency
- Eating inflammatory foods the body is sensitive to (specifically dairy, wheat, corn, soy, artificial sweeteners, sugar and gluten)
- Lack of fibrous veggies and leafy greens
- Decreased peristalsis, leaky gut and GI dysfunction
Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from constipation, and it tends to be more common in those over age 65. Normal bowel transit time is 12-24 hours. From a functional perspective, an individual is considered constipated if a day passes without a bowel movement.
Constipation is a stressor on the body that affects overall health, quality of life and leads to an accumulation of body wastes, metabolic by-products, and increases a person’s toxic load. Unreleased wastes produce toxins related to fermentation, protein putrification and rotting, and can become a breeding ground for parasites, yeast, Candida overgrowth, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, polyps, an increased risk of colon cancer and many other diseases.
Side Effects and Signs of Constipation
Infrequent bowel movements can cause all sorts of ailments including:
- gas and bloating
- a distended belly
- fatigue, brain fog and irritability
- diverticulitis, prolapsed bowel, colon polyps
- bad breath, body odor
- a coated tongue
- yeast, bacterial, fungi and Candida overgrowth
- hemorrhoids and varicose veins
- congested lymph, liver and gallbladder; gallstones
- eczema, acne, hives and dark circles under the eyes
- poor absorption issues and several nutrient deficiencies
- dementia and cognitive disorders
One of the first early, early signs of dementia, Parkinson’s and cognitive dysfunction is constipation.
If you experience constipation, resorting to laxatives is not the answer. Regular laxative use can be quite harmful, destroying healthy intestinal bacteria, damaging the colon and leading to laxative dependence, dehydration, chronic constipation, and even death.
The first step toward healing is to identify the root cause of constipation.
Root Causes for Constipation
- Dairy products. Gluten, grains, processed carbohydrates and sugar. Grains contain anti-nutrients that irritate and inflame the bowel wall. These items must be removed from the diet.
- Insufficient fiber intake (lack of leafy greens and vegetable intake)
- Food sensitivities. Common culprits for almost everyone include wheat, dairy, gluten, sugar, corn, soy, artificial sweeteners, peanuts and eggs. Aside from the top offenders, you can be eating the healthiest of foods and these are the very foods you’re sensitive to. That’s why it’s important to identify your personal hidden food sensitivities with an IgG test.
- Antidepressants, opiates, antacids, antibiotics, iron supplements, and many prescription and OTC medications
- Long-term chronic constipation is almost caused by gut dysbiosis, decreased peristalsis, leaky gut, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), H.pylori, yeast and Candida overgrowth, parasite infections, dysbiotic bacteria, mycotoxicity and fungi.
- Insufficient bifidobacter, a species of healthy bacteria in the colon
- HCL deficiency, hypochlorhydria (lack of stomach acid) and insufficient production of bile and digestive enzymes.
Other common root causes for constipation
- Congested liver and gallbladder, sticky bile and a need for bile salts
- Pregnancy can cause temporary constipation
- Some diseases (Parkinson’s diabetes, kidney disease, colon cancer, neurological disorders or muscular diseases)
- Environmental chemicals and toxins. Pesticides, GMOs, chlorinated and fluoridated water, chemical exposure, aluminum, mercury, lead and heavy metal toxicity.
- Low thyroid function, Hashimoto’s disease, autoimmune disorders
- Low serotonin
- Magnesium deficiency
- Weak abdominal muscles from lack of exercise
- Excess iron found in some baby formulas. Extra iron is quite toxic for most babies and can contribute to constipation and other problems such as infections.
- Sympathetic dominance, chronic stress, anxiety and unresolved emotional issues affecting colon muscles
- Vitamin B deficiencies needed for colon nerves
- Pyloric or ileocecal valve dysfunction
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Minor dislocations of the spine
- Stagnant, congested intestinal lymph
- Laxative overuse and abuse. Laxatives are the third top selling item at drug stores and roughly $725 million is spent annually on laxatives! Do NOT use laxatives—they deplete bile!
The good news is that you can cure constipation with the following dietary, lifestyle and nutritional remedies.
Natural Remedies to Cure Constipation
Use Food as Medicine to Cure Constipation
- Always start by modifying the diet. Eliminate processed foods, sugar, peanut butter, artificial sweeteners and GMOs, which wreak havoc on your gut.
- Strictly limit offending foods: all grains (including whole grains), gluten, dairy, corn, soy and sugar, which are very difficult on digestion and culprits that trigger constipation and weaken the intestinal wall. Cutting out gluten, grains and sugar intake will slash colon cancer risk, improve digestion and bowel function, and improve your health in a wide variety of other ways as well.
- Avoid ALL dairy products, except butter. Lactose intolerance is a major cause of constipation in children.
- Avoid all processed factory-farmed frankenmeats. Remember, you eat what the animal ate!
- Drink plenty of filtered water every day away from mealtime to keep the cells and tissues of the intestines hydrated. Constipation is often a symptom of dehydration. This is especially important to pay attention to while traveling.
- Fiber up! Increase intake of non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens and low sugar fruits, NOT grains and starches. Eat more fiber-rich prebiotic foods such as dandelion greens, artichokes, asparagus, onions, garlic and chicory root. Chia seeds, freshly ground flax seeds and nuts. Green drinks. Additional fiber can be obtained by supplementing with a quality fiber powder, which can be found here.
- Eat more healthy fats. The intestinal cell walls are made up of fat and need healthy fats to function well. Healthy fats such as organic extra virgin olive oil, avocado, pastured butter, ghee, coconut oil, macadamia oil and fatty fish help to lubricate the bowels and move waste through the colon.
- Include grass-fed, pasture-raised butter. Butyric acid found in butter is a short-chain fatty acid produced by friendly colon bacteria from fully digested fiber. Without enough butyrate, your colon doesn’t do a very good job of resisting carcinogens or detoxing.
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kefir
- Bone broth
- Teas: Dandelion root, senna, yerba mate, green tea, ginger, Smooth Move
- Organic homemade apple sauce, especially helpful for kids who are constipated. Add raisins that have been soaked in senna tea.
- One tablespoon sesame oil taken before bedtime.
- Aloe vera juice in the morning and also after meals softens and helps unwanted material to slide out more easily. It also reduces inflammation in the gut, and helps soothes the stomach lining and intestinal walls.
- Avoid carbonated drinks and chewing gum
- Include healthy herbs and spices like turmeric, cumin, garlic, coriander and ginger, which stimulate digestive fire.
Lifestyle Tips to Cure Constipation
- Heal the gut. Many functional experts agree that 90% of all disease starts in the bowel. Even the brilliant and ancient physician, Hippocrates quoted that “all disease starts in the gut.”
It is extremely important to identify the root cause of gut dysfunction and optimize gut function. Possible causes include HCL deficiency, bacterial overgrowth, lack of healthy flora, gut pathogens such as H. pylori, Candida, yeast or parasites, SIBO, IBS, leaky gut or intestinal permeability.
A comprehensive PCR stool test that screens for pathogenic organisms including parasites, yeast, dysbiotic bacteria, Candida overgrowth, levels of healthy gut flora (bacteria balance and imbalances), absorption, inflammation, immune function (sIgA), short chain fatty acid status, intestinal pH and other biomarkers of GI health.
- When you sit on the toilet, place your feet on a stool so your knees are raised.
- Pay attention to how you deal with the stress in your life, which affects digestion and elimination.
- Certain yoga asanas especially twists, forward folds, and inversions stimulate digestive fire and are very effective to cure constipation.
- Bodyweight full squats
- Maintain a good sleep routine.
- Daily exercise. Rebound on a mini trampoline. Take a walk after meals.
- Address underlying emotions. As the saying goes, “let go and let God.” Let go of what you’re holding onto. Release old ideas. Stress, emotional trauma and holding onto the past can cause constipation. According to Chinese medicine, an inability to grieve and let go is linked to an imbalance of the large intestine.
- Optimize digestion naturally with these 20 tips.
- Avoid prescription and OTC drugs, antacids, iron supplements and laxatives.
- Use the bathroom when you have the urge. Do not hold it.
- Rule out an hypothyroid and irritable bowel syndrome (both of which can be an underlying cause of constipation).
- Optimize liver, gallbladder and kidney function.
- Learn to s-l-o-w down, relax and activate the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. Practice deep, full belly breathing and relaxation techniques every day. Soak in an Epsom salt bath, listen to your favorite music, meditate, walk in nature, read something spiritual or any other activity you enjoy.
- Apply castor oil compresses over the abdomen, 2-3x weekly.
- Massage your ileocecal valve, which is located between the large and small intestines. The ileocecal valve acts as a block that prevents toxins of the large intestine from backing up into the small intestine. It also keeps food in the small intestine from passing into the large intestine before the digestive processes has been completed. When this valve doesn’t open, feces stays in the small intestine unable to move any further. This back-up causes constipation.
- Acupressure. Place your fingertips below the navel and gently push in about an inch. Hold for 1-2 minutes while taking deep slow breaths.
Nutrient support for Constipation and a Happy, Healthy Colon
For colon health as well as regularity of bowel movements, it’s important to address balanced gut flora and magnesium intake.
Primary Nutrient Support for Constipation
- A high-quality probiotic that contains Bifidobacterium
- HCL with digestive enzymes. Bile support. Pancreatic enzymes. Supplements won’t do you much good if your system isn’t able to absorb them efficiently. Most people, especially as they age have insufficient levels of stomach acid, which interferes with proper digestion and absorption.
- Magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate taken on an empty stomach 30-60 minutes before bedtime up to bowel tolerance. Studies have suggested that low magnesium may be associated with higher rates of colorectal cancer among other diseases.
Secondary Nutrient Support for Constipation
- Vitamin C to bowel tolerance
- Supplementing with Butyric Cal:Mag can eliminate polyps and help to reduce the inflammatory condition of the mucosal walls of the intestines by reducing intracellular seepage of undigested food particles.
- Triphala, an Ayurvedic herb is helpful for constipation
- Liver and gallbladder support. Bile support such as Beta TCP or Beta Plus
- Vitamin D
- Methylated folate, B12, thiamine and B6
- Essential fatty acids
- L-glutamine powder
Other natural remedies for constipation
- One tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar and the juice of a fresh lemon in 6-8 ounces. Add a pinch of cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of Celtic sea salt. Drink before meals.
- Aloe vera juice in the morning, mid-day and again before bedtime.
- One tablespoon sesame oil taken before bedtime often provides overnight relief.
- Drink one tablespoon of olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice before bedtime.
Drug-free solutions for diverticulitis