What is Constipation?
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) which is part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) “constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times a week.” I disagree. Like all other digestive disorders, constipation can be mild to moderate, severe to extreme in its manifestation in your body. Having a bowel movement fewer than three times a week is severe to extreme constipation and puts you at risk for all kinds of other health problems related to and caused by your ongoing condition of unresolved fecal toxicity; which is exactly what constipation is.
Our bodies are designed to eliminate fecal waste on a regular, continual and ongoing basis. Ideally? For every significant meal we consume, there should be a bowel movement to represent that meal. Therefore, if you consume three meals per day, you should have three bowel movements, usually within an hour of the meal itself. At the very least, you should produce at least one significant (sizable, voluminous) bowel movement every twenty-four hours. This bowel movement should come out easily, within a minute or two, there should be no straining, it should come out in one long continuous soft but formed mass (the size and shape and texture of a medium to dark brown banana) and when you are done, you should feel empty and complete.
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems in the United States. More than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation, accounting for (at least) 2.5 million physician visits a year. Constipation is also the underlying cause for many other digestive disorders including diverticulosis, diverticulitis, IBS, colitis, proctitis and many other seemingly unrelated symptoms and conditions, like headaches, arthritis, chronic fatigue, urinary incontinence, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and many others.
Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults ages 65 and older. However, I am receiving increasing numbers of calls and emails from concerned parents about their children and teen-agers with chronic constipation. Pregnant women may have constipation, as a result of the expanding uterus pressing against the colon; and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery. Self-treatment of constipation with over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives is by far the most common remedy attempted. Around $725 million is spent on laxative products each year in the United States alone.
Constipation is a big problem, perhaps the most common digestive disorder. Like all other digestive disorders, it is completely correctable and easily prevented from future occurrences. If and only if you eliminate the root causes and if and only if you become more proactive (vigilant-mindful) in your own self-care.
My book, Healing Digestive Illness will teach you how to do this. If you want specific step by step guidance and detailed personalized instructions contact me directly.
Constipation symptoms can be mild to moderate or severe to extreme. Any variation from the ideal size, shape, and form of your bowel movement, any variation in the ease of elimination, whether you feel empty and complete or full or partially full; and any variation from the normal period of regularity (24 hours) could be signs of constipation.
The surest sign of constipation is your transit time. Transit time is the time from the completion of a meal until it shows up as waste in your toilet bowl. The ideal transit time is somewhere between 18-24 hours, depending on what you ate and how much you ate. A 24-30 hour transit time is acceptable as long as the bm (bowel movement) comes out easily and you feel empty and complete when done. If your transit time is more than 30 hours you are technically constipated. This would be mild constipation.
Checking your transit time is important because many people have regular bowel movements every day, sometimes like clockwork at the same time every day, but since they have never checked their transit time, they don’t realize that what they are eliminating today, is the food they ate two or three or four days ago. This is not good.
The longer your fecal waste remains inside your body the worse it smells and the more potential health problems it creates. (see list below) Clients have been amazed to discover that what they thought was perfect regularity turned out to be moderate to severe constipation with transit times of 48 to 72 hours and longer! Click here on the words checking our colon transit time for a simple explanation about how you can find out this important information for yourself.
Symptoms of constipation begin with too much time sitting on the toilet bowl waiting for something to come out. A sluggish bowel movement, any straining, or pushing on your part, the need to massage your lower abdomen, anything that you have to do to coax it out of you…indicates constipation. Small pieces of fecal matter instead of one long continuous banana-like movement indicates constipation. Small, hard, rounded balls of fecal waste, either bound up together or separated; indicates constipation. If you alternate between days of no bowel movements at all and then loose bowel movements you may be constipated. If you experience any pain or major discomfort, like cramping and bloating along with these other symptoms already described you may be constipated. Excessive wiping often indicates incomplete elimination, which means there is still waste material inside your rectum, which means that your bowel movement was incomplete and this often indicates constipation as well.
Over the years the following symptoms and conditions have cleared up when someone suffering from constipation became regular again, or for the first time. In other words, the following symptoms and conditions are either directly caused by constipation or are simply related to and indirectly caused by constipation: lung congestion and difficulty breathing, even asthma. Sinus congestion, post-nasal drip, sinus-related headaches. Any kind of headache including migraine headache. Back pain, including lower back pain and sciatic pain, arthritis pain anywhere in your body. Water retention anywhere in your body; swollen feet and ankles, puffy swollen lips, cheeks, eyelids or under your eyes puffiness. Mood swings, mental confusion, fuzzy thinking, memory loss, inability to concentrate, inability to focus, inability to retain information, inability to process information, any and all learning disabilities; anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, insomnia. Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, irritability, malaise, fibromyalgia, apathy, irregular heartbeat, weight gain, inability to lose weight, excessive perspiration, excessive body odor, bad breath. Hives, skin rashes, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, acne, dandruff, hair loss and many others not listed here.
All skin problems anywhere on the body have their origin in the health of the digestive system in general. If you are constipated, you often have skin problems and one or more of the symptoms noted above or other symptoms and conditions not listed here. When you relieve your constipation and become regular, many other seemingly unrelated health conditions and symptoms will clear up and go away.
As with all other digestive disorders, the root causes of constipation, (mild to moderate or severe to extreme) include one or more insulting habits and influences over time in seven key root-cause areas: 1. Mindfulness-or lack thereof, 2. Hydration-dehydration, 3. Micronutrient deficiencies, 4. Macronutrient imbalances and excess, 5.Intestinal dysbiosis, 6.Oxidative Stress and 7. Redox Molecules Deficiencies.
Of all the insulting habits that cause constipation, the number one cause is chronic unintentional dehydration. So before doing anything else or looking anywhere else, make sure you are properly hydrated by following the very specific guidelines of the watercure recipe. Many clients report significant improvement in their constipation condition once they become properly hydrated; especially with the more mild cases of constipation.
To better understand the causes of constipation, it helps to know how the colon or large intestine works. As digested food moves through the small intestine most of the micro-nutrients are absorbed. This assumes of course that the small intestine is working normally! (which is not always the case.) This means that by the time our digested food reaches the colon, it is mostly waste and water. The major function of the colon is to remove the water from the waste and push the waste forward through a series of muscular contractions called peristalsis.
So, you can see that if the waste does not contain enough water as a result of chronic unintentional dehydration, the waste or stool can become dry and hard and then become compacted into little balls by the action of the constant muscular contractions of the colon. If the muscles of the colon are not properly nourished and energized, they will not function normally. Slow or sluggish or incomplete peristaltic action will result in our fecal waste moving far too slowly through colon and often getting stuck in the main channel of the colon or getting stuck in one or more of the various muscular pouches of the colon called diverticula.
Fecal waste material that gets stuck in these bowel pockets is called diverticulosis, which is another very common digestive disorder. When the one or more of these bowel pockets filled with fecal waste gets infected, we experience a lot of abdominal pain and discomfort, sometimes excruciating pain and discomfort that sends us to the emergency room at the hospital. This is called diverticulitis, which is similar to appendicitis; which can be life threatening if not treated immediately and effectively. Chronic constipation is the underlying cause of both diverticulosis and diverticulitis.
Other Constipation Causes include:
- not enough fiber in the diet (and not all fiber is the same)
- lack of physical activity (especially in the elderly)
- milk, cheese, ice cream, and dairy products in general
- too many refined and processed grain-flour products
- changes in life or routine such as pregnancy, aging and travel
- overuse and abuse of laxatives
- ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
- specific diseases or conditions, such as stroke (most common)
Medications that can cause Constipation include:
- pain medications (especially narcotics)
- antacids that contain aluminum and calcium
- blood pressure medications (calcium channel blockers)
- anti-parkinson drugs
- anti-spasmodics (muscle relaxers)
- iron supplements
- anti-seizure medications
Specific Diseases and Conditions that can cause Constipation include:
- Neurological disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- spinal cord injuries
- Metabolic and endocrine conditions
- Diabetes (Types 1 and 2)
- poor glycemic control
- Systemic disorders
The remedies for Constipation begin with your willingness to pay attention to and become more mindful of the relationship between what, when, how and how much you eat and the normal functioning of your entire digestive system. Constipation is totally preventable and the remedies are completely within your control by making changes in your diet and lifestyle. Sometimes, with mild cases, it can be as easy as correcting one (bad) insulting habit; like addressing your condition of chronic unintentional dehydration by implementing the steps of the watercure recipe. Most likely you will need to pay attention to and make corrections in all seven root-cause areas to be effective. You will need to get properly hydrated and stay properly hydrated. You will need to slow down at meal times and learn to chew your food completely before swallowing. You will need to address micronutrient deficiencies. You will need to eliminate junk foods. You will need to minimize processed foods and learn to integrate more fiber-rich whole food recipes. You will need to address intestinal dysbiosis and learn about the importance of periodic colon cleansing. You will need to understand the importance of specific organic quality whole food supplements including superfoods, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and antioxidants. You will need to address redox molecules deficiencies. And most importantly you will need to learn how to manage your emotions and all the other negative stress factors (and other sources of Oxidative Stress) in your life more effectively.
Like all other digestive disorders, Constipation is completely correctable and easily prevented from future occurrences. If and only if you eliminate the root-causes and if and only if you become more proactive in your own self-care.
My book, Healing Digestive Illness will teach you how to do all this. If you want specific step by step guidance and detailed personalized instructions contact me directly by phone: 413-536-0275 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated on August 7, 2017