By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 08, 2012
- Why your bowels slow down and how you can keep them moving
- Why you shouldn’t fall for the great fiber hoax
- When to turn to the natural solution of last resort
I’ve received a lot of reader mail lately asking what to do about constipation. Today, I’ll talk a little bit about that. But to me, the more important question is, what’s causing my constipation?
Constipation doesn’t just happen for no reason. There is always an underlying cause. So when you simply treat the symptom of having slow-moving bowels, without addressing the cause, you can turn an easy problem into a chronic condition.
That said, most people don’t believe me when I tell them the three most common causes of constipation: diet, dehydration, and stress.
And that’s not the only thing that might surprise you about constipation…
“But what about fiber?” you might be wondering. After all, if you watch television or even ask your pharmacist, they will direct you to some form of fiber in a jar.
Well, you would be better off eating a big plate of vegetables and washing it down with plenty of water.
That’s because the type of fiber your system needs to get moving is soluble fiber – which is the type of fiber you get from fruits and vegetables. Psyllium, which is the most commonly-used form of fiber sold over-the-counter for constipation isn’t absorbed by the small intestine. In fact, it doesn’t even occur naturally in the diet.
It’s grown and sold only as a fiber additive.
To be indelicate for just a moment, the main content of a bowel movement isn’t fiber. It’s bacteria. So if you bulk up on non-soluble fiber, and then pass it through, you still aren’t having the healthy bowel function you need.
Eating enough fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water (minus the caffeine), and getting enough exercise are the three best ways to ensure regular, healthy bowel movements.
And because moving bacteria through the system is critical, be sure you are taking a probiotic, especially if you have problems moving your bowels. Your gut requires the right mix of good bacteria to do its thing. Loading up on gut flora is a much better solution to constipation, especially chronic constipation, than loading up on psyllium.
Stress is a more challenging cause to alleviate.
One simple effect stress has on the bowels is it can cause you to ignore or put off your natural urge to purge. Every time you decide to work a little longer or check off another item on your to-do list, or rush in the bathroom instead of take your time, you leave more toxins to build up in your intestines. These toxins leech more water from your system. And you create the conditions for constipation.
Also, it is easier for a relaxed body to move… period. The same conditions that cause tension headaches, tense muscles in the neck and back, can also create tension in the digestion process. Relaxed bowels move more easily than tense, uptight bowels. Simple, but true.
When you address the underlying cause – by changing your diet, alleviating your stress, or simply staying hydrated, you will naturally start moving more regularly. But this might take some time.
And until these changes produce results, there are a few things you can do to get some relief…
First, gently massage your colon, which is located in the lower left quadrant of your abdomen. Move your hand in a circular pattern, in one direction. This will help stimulate the organ, and along with drinking some warm water, might be enough to get things moving.
If you feel you need a more extreme solution, there is a natural solution you can use. Fair warning, it’s not pretty. But it will get the job done:
- Take one gram (1000mg) of vitamin C every hour until you feel your gut rumbling, you pass wind or actually feel the need to move your bowels.
- Take 200-300mg magnesium in the morning, afternoon and early evening
- Drink lots of fluids
This vitamin and mineral cocktail will push you to your bowel tolerance, and increase motility, and your bowels will evacuate.
To be clear, I only recommend this in extreme circumstances, as a last resort. It is no more a regular remedy you should use than any other over-the-counter solution.
Last but not least, do not ignore ongoing challenges to your bowel function. There is a wide range of normal, when it comes to shape, sizes and frequency of bowel movements. But there are also warning signs you don’t want to miss. Such as, alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, black tarry stools, and pencil-thin stools. These could be indications of colon cancer or polyps and should be checked by a doctor