Editors note: I am not a medical practitioner nor am I certified in nutrition or health. Through research, personal experience and testimonies from others I've written this post. If you plan to make any changes to your lifestyle I recommend talking with your doctor to make sure this is the right step to becoming healthy for you.
While 16% of Americans have chronic constipation that doesn't make it healthy. It's just one more sign that the American lifestyle needs some adjustments. If you are one of the many people suffering from this often painful symptom, it's time to look at your body and see what lifestyle changes you can make to feel at your best and be ready for adventure.
Let's start with what is happening in your body.
Elimination starts in your Liver. The liver’s job is to turn fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble ones so that you can pass them through your sweat, urine, and stool. These toxins are from the environment around you, pesticides, excess hormones, etc. and are made of fat so that they stay in the body longer to do their job. Once the toxins are broken down by the liver, they become free radicals which can be extremely toxic to the body and therefore need to go through the second phase quickly. Here it enters the gallbladder to combine with other chemicals that neutralize it and then mix with fiber in the large intestine to finally leave the body. Pretty simple, right?
The majority of this process will happen at night when your body is resting, your intestines repair themselves and your liver detoxes. It's estimated that the liver does the majority of its detox work from 3 pm to 3 am. Therefore you should have your first (or only) bowel movement first thing in the morning.
Constipation is a blockage in one of the main forms of elimination, your large intestine. Therefore, your body pushes excess toxins to your liver. When the liver get’s clogged they go to your skin. Because of this, you are having a domino effect of symptoms from not being able to pass a bowel, pain in your liver after eating and acne or other skin problems like acne and eczema.
There are tons of reasons you are constipated including stress, medications, poor diet, lack of exercise and an unhealthy gut microbiome. All of these are common in the American lifestyle and aid in damaging our gut causing symptoms like constipation. There is good news. All of this is possible to change with a few lifestyle changes.
Side Effects of Constipation
• Anxiety - This can be a trigger and a side effect. If you're constipated, it means that your gut microbiome is off. Your gut bacteria are the foundation of health and impact almost every area of your body including your emotions. If your bacteria are off balance and you have more "bad" bacteria then "good" you can see an increase in weight gain, depression and anxiety, infections and so much more.
• Lower Back pain - Based on where your large intestine is located having back pain or abdominal cramping is not unusual.
• Gas and Bloating - The smelly gas is due to constipation and having stool sitting still for extended amounts of time. When food sits in your intestines it begins to ferment which will increase the amount of gas you have and the odor. With its usual exit blocked it will also start to build up causing your bloating.
• Acne - Toxins sitting in the Large Intestine can be reabsorbed by the body. The body will then try and find a new way to release it through the skin.
Things that can trigger constipation
• Caffeine - Coffee works as a laxative for some, but too much or any for some, can create constipation.
• Alcohol - This is mostly sugar plus it puts the liver on overdrive for clearing out toxins. reduce your alcohol intake and maybe go a month without drinking to see how that affects your symptoms.
Both Caffeine and Alcohol inhibit anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) which makes you have to pee more causing you to become dehydrated making it harder to poop.
• Dairy - minor food allergies can affect your microbiome and your pooping. Try getting off of dairy for a couple of weeks and proceed with other common allergens if that doesn't do the trick.
• Stress - the hormone Cortisol, does some crazy stuff to the body including, messing with your metabolism and disrupting the gut
• Sugar (Glucose) - fruit is made of fructose and is partnered with fiber making it an excellent choice; white bread, pasta, oats, candy, alcohol, etc. are simple sugars and should be avoided. Sugar also plays a considerable role in throwing off your gut bacteria. Keeping a high fiber diet (minimum of 30 grams per day with a variety of soluble and insoluble) and following a low simple carb diet will help promote a healthy gut. Complex carbs, on the other hand, should be eaten in loads. Break out those veggies and start absorbing all the goodness.
Things You Should Eat For Constipation
• Drink PLENTY of water. (This will help loosen the stool)
• Warm Liquids like tea or lemon water. Room temperature or warm, just not cold.
• Leafy Greens - Which are high in fiber and other nutrients that feed the gut.
• High Soluble Fiber foods - Oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and peas
While you want soluble and insoluble fiber, soluble will help with loosening up the stool. So keep eating your greens but add these soluble fibers to your diet too.
• Chia seeds - High in fat, fiber, and protein this superfood is impressive. They start to turn to slime and get larger which is great for the gut. You can just add them to your water and drink throughout the day or add it to a smoothie or Greek yogurt.
• Healthy fats - avocado, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, some butter (butter, avocado and Coconut oil are high in saturated fat, so you want to limit the amount you use in a single day but still want some saturated fat in your diet).
Supplements For Constipation
• Probiotic - I think EVERY American should be taking a probiotic. You want one with a variety of bacteria and ideally at least 50 billion CFU (Colony-forming units). If this causes more bloating or stomach pain take one every other day for 2 weeks (or reduce the dosage by 1/2 it you're taking multiple pills for a full dose) and then go to every day. You can also get more probiotics in foods like fermented foods - Pickles (in brine, not vinegar), Kombucha, Greek Yogurt or CoCoYo yogurt which has added probiotics to it. (Great in a smoothie)
Women who get a lot of UTI's and Yeast infections. Get a women's probiotic. It's abundant in Lactobacillus which are the primary bacteria in the vagina. You specifically want to find L. Rhamnosus, L. Casei and L, Gasseri. Otherwise, for the gut, you want a variety of Lactobacillus strands and Bifidobacterium.
• Magnesium - Most Americans are low in magnesium. This mineral needs to be attached to something for the body to absorb it. Get Magnesium Citrate which is also used as a natural laxative. (Take daily up to 300mg for women 400mg for men) Epsom salt baths are another way to absorb Magnesium and will help with any muscle pains as wells as help reduce stress.
• Start the morning with 1/2 a lemon squeezed into water and drink that first thing to get your metabolism started and to help you poop (it's worked for me.) You can also make a tea with lemon juice, hot water and a chunk of fresh Ginger and a splash of honey.
Exercise For Constipation
Exercise is great for the digestive system. Doing yoga poses with “twists” helps to massage the organs and can stimulate a bowel movement. If you don’t already do yoga, try adding a class to your weekly schedule. However, any forms of exercise multiple times in the week will help aid in your constipation.
Your stress level isn’t helping anything. Finding time for yourself to journal, meditate, or read is a great way to destress and let it all go. Taking care of yourself in this way will help lower your cortisol levels which are wreaking havoc on your gut.
We could go on and on about ways to help you aid in your constipation. But all of these steps should help you make strides with your symptoms and hopefully get rid of them for good. Of course, if you want to dive deeper into this healing your gut, and eating a healthy well-balanced diet will always make a huge difference. Eat lots of protein, high-quality fats and complex carbs (especially greens or fibrous fruits and veggies) in every single meal, leave the sugar for special treats, and you'll be amazed at the changes you feel throughout your whole body.
Now its time to get out there and live your life of adventure.