Constipation is often thought of as merely a situation leading to a little discomfort. However when not addressed, chronic constipation can lead to serious health problems.
In Western medicine suggestions to help with constipation often include:
Fiber supplements to bulk up stools to make it easier for the colon to move stools.
Stool softeners are often recommended when people have really hard stools which can be particularly painful and cause added discomfort from fissures and hemorrhoids.
Spoken about less but maybe even more important are the following solutions that are a little more focused on cause:
Increasing water intake. The colon loves water. We absorb water through the colon as it squeezes stools to absorb minerals and vitamins. When we don’t take in enough water, bowel movements are compromised.
Gut dysbiosis happens when unhealthy bacteria offset the balance of healthy bacteria. Gut dysbiosis is a factor in constipation. Probiotics and fermented foods can help to promote healthy gut flora.
Insufficient stomach acid often limits our body’s ability to break down food and the extraction of minerals. Insufficient stomach acid also means the small intestine and large intestine must work significantly harder to extract nutrients from food.
Too much animal protein. Generally, healthy portions of animal protein won’t muck up the gut. The body is prewired to maximize the amino acid intake. Since the body can only process so much animal protein at a time, peristalsis will slow down to allow the body to capture the maximum amount of amino acids possible. An ideal serving varies based on body type, gender, and activity but a good benchmark is a portion the size of one’s hand.
Certain pain medications slow down peristalsis. If you’re taking meds that list constipation as a side effect, being proactive can go a long way in preventing constipation.
Processed foods is especially tough on the gut. Few have adequate fiber and many are loaded with refined sugar that contributes to gut dysbiosis. Reducing or eliminating refined flours and sugars will support healthy bowels.
Lastly through the lens of Chinese Medicine, we also look at the role of systemic Qi deficiency and stagnation. Qi is responsible for all movement in the body including movement of bowels. When we have inadequate or stuck Qi, it becomes difficult to move bowels.
If chronic constipation or other digestive challenges are holding you back, consider scheduling a free consultation to talk about how lifestyle changes and Acupuncture may help.