If you often struggle to go poop, you're not alone. Chronic constipation is one of the most common digestive issues.
Although constipation is pretty easy to detect, it can be caused by many different underlying conditions, so it may not be as easy to treat.
So let’s look at some of the most common causes and treatments for constipation.
Most Common Causes of Constipation
A Fiber Shortage– Dietary fiber isn’t digested by your body, but instead travels relatively intact through your stomach and intestines. As fiber travels down your intestinal tract, it absorbs water which ultimately adds bulk to your stool and assists in the movement of waste products through your intestines. A shortage of fiber in your diet can be directly related to your difficulty going to the bathroom.
Dehydration– As you can see with adequate amounts of fiber in your diet, you will need to add water for that fiber to work.
Food Sensitivities– Constipation can be a common symptom of digestive disturbances related to food sensitivities + food sensitivities can cause inflammation. Inflammation disrupts your body’s ability to digest and eliminate inflammatory foods. Although food sensitivity can be caused by a wide range of foods, gluten and dairy are the most common culprits.
Disruption of the Gut Flora– Your digestive system is home to a wealth of different types of good bacteria that help break down and absorb food and then eliminate waste. Many factors such as taking antibiotics or oral contraceptives, stress, or inflammation can disrupt the natural gut flora leading to yeast overgrowth, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and leaky gut, all of which can cause constipation.
Bowel Obstruction– A more acute cause of constipation can be an obstruction in the small or large intestine that prevents your stool from moving through. Common causes of intestinal obstructions are scar tissue or adhesions caused by abdominal surgery, hernias, tumors, Crohn’s disease (which can narrow or twist the intestine) or even cancer.
Hypothyroidism– An underactive thyroid, slows down many of the body’s systems, including elimination. For your body to eliminate waste, your colon must contract, and slow or weak colon contractions can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. It’s estimated that 25 million American have an underactive thyroid and most have no idea that they do.
Autoimmune Disease– Autoimmune diseases are triggered when your body is working hard to defend itself against something potentially dangerous, such as an allergen, a toxin, an infection, or even a food, and it fails to successfully differentiate between the intruder or toxin and parts of your own body. This causes your immune system to attack your own organs. Autoimmune diseases can affect many different systems in your body; they include neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease, thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s, and multiple-system conditions such as Lupus. All of these diseases can cause constipation.
There are, of course, many other potential causes for constipation, such a not getting enough exercise, excessive stress, or regular painkillers use, so it is best to take a comprehensive view of your health and what factors might be contributing to your constipation. Once you understand what is causing your constipation you can properly treat it.
Our digestive system is built to remove toxins and wastes from our body. When we don’t eliminate properly and regularly, these toxins build up in our intestines, and then can be absorbed into our bloodstream. When the waste sits stagnant in our intestines, it produces bacteria that can disrupt the balance of healthy flora in our gut and can lead to inflammation.
Many people believe that the easiest and perhaps only way to relieve their constipation is to resort to laxatives, but these can be harsh on the body and are ultimately a short-term solution since they don’t address the true underlying cause of constipation.
To truly cure constipation, it’s key to identify the root cause and treat that along with the symptoms.
Solutions for Treating and Preventing Constipation
Drink Plenty of Water– To keep your intestines moving, make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water a day. This is especially important if you drink diuretics such as coffee or alcohol.
Consume Enough Dietary Fiber– Eating foods rich in dietary fiber is a staple for regularity, so be sure to reach for a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods – While you’re reaching for high-fiber foods, stay away from foods that are inflammatory, particularly gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and sugar. Since food sensitivity and inflammation triggers are unique to each individual, I recommend you begin an elimination diet to identify your own food sensitivities.
Start Taking Probiotics– If your gut balance has been disrupted, it’s key to restore the beneficial bacteria that keeps your gut in check. Taking probiotic supplements will ensure that you have plenty of the good bacteria needed for regular bowel movements.
Get Your Thyroid Tested– If you and your doctor suspect your constipation is caused by hypothyroidism, you should have your thyroid levels tested (including T3, Free T3, and Reverse T3). If your T3 levels are low, you will want to adopt a thyroid protocol including a high-quality multivitamin, a gluten-free diet, and potentially taking a prescription thyroid medication.
Get Tested for Autoimmune Disease – Get a blood test for ANA (antinuclear antibodies), which are the antibodies that typically attack your tissues instead of foreign invaders, as well as more specific types of antibodies, such as thyroid antibodies. This will help you uncover any underlying autoimmune conditions and armed with this knowledge, you can halt or even reverse your symptoms. By eliminating toxic foods, introducing restorative ingredients, and identifying environmental toxins, autoimmune symptoms and antibodies can be reversed.
Intestinal Scope– If you experience severe and constant belly pain with your constipation, you could be suffering from an intestinal obstruction and you should see a Gastrointestinal MD immediately. Your physician will perform a scope to identify the obstruction to determine next steps.
While you are treating the root cause of your constipation, you can relieve your immediate symptoms with a magnesium citrate supplement, which plays a vital role in metabolic functions and aids bowel movements by attracting water into your intestines.
In my office, after ruling out all of the above causes of constipation I recommend my patients try Magnesium Citrate. Magnesium Citrate helps relax bowel spasms and is an osmotic laxative. Magnesium citrate is non addictive and gentle.
To determine the level of magnesium you need I recommend starting with one 100mg pill at night and increase by one pill a day up to a maximum of 1000 mg or 1 gram a day. Stay at the current dosage when you are having one to three firm but not hard bowel movements. If you have loose stool back down to the level where you had firm bowel movements.
You don’t need to suffer through or simply accept constipation as a regular part of life. If you continue to deal with constipation, take an in-depth look at your diet, your environment, your microbiome and your habits to uncover the real cause of your constipation and discover the right solution to get regular!
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