Health issue no one talks about - constipation


It’s a topic no one wants to talk about. But constipation affects as many as one in five people over thirty, and surprisingly, I’m seeing an increasing number of young children and babies with it too!

Fortunately though, it’s a common problem that can be easily remedied with a few tweaks to your lifestyle and diet. But first you have to know whether or not you are constipated.

So what’s normal?

Medically speaking, constipation is defined as less than three bowel movements per week. But from a Naturopathic perspective, you should ideally be using your bowels two to three times per day. Anything less than one bowel movement per day, and you should definitely read on for some natural remedies for constipation.

Why is it so important to be ‘regular’?

If you’re constipated, the toxins in your bowel are not being cleared effectively and can actually be reabsorbed back into your body. Daily bowel movements ensure these toxins – including hormones, pesticides, bacterial by-products and environmental chemicals – are cleared from your body quickly and effectively.

Other symptoms that can be associated with constipation include haemorrhoids, indigestions, nausea, reflux, bad breath, acne, headaches, high cholesterol and weight gain.

What causes constipation?

A poor diet is the most common cause of constipation. This is because people who have a high intake of processed foods and sugar usually lack the dietary fibre and resistant starch needed for good bowel health.

Fibre aids the digestive process by stretching the bowel walls and stimulating the muscular contraction that helps food more through the digestive tract. It also helps to hold water in stools, ensuring they can pass easily. If there is not enough fibre, water is absorbed from the colon back into the body, leading to constipation.

Other common reasons include:

  • Dehydration
  • Gender – constipation is far more likely in women than men.
  • Genetics – constipation often runs in families.
  • Hypothyroidism – constipation is one of the hidden symptoms of this condition, particularly in women over 40.
  • IBS – some sufferers may experience severe constipation.
  • Laxative abuse
  • Low stomach acid / lack of digestive enzymes
  • Dysbiosis – if good bacteria get out of balance, other organisms will colonise the intestines, causing a range of issues including constipation.
  • Hormonal problems – such as oestrogen dominance.
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Magnesium deficiency

Why laxatives are not a good option

Naturopaths prefer to find out the reason for your constipation, so that we can treat the cause, rather than use harmful and addictive laxatives. The problem with laxatives is that long-term use results in dependency, meaning your bowel stops functioning normally on its own.

Natural Remedies for Constipation

Instead, there are a range of natural remedies that offer relief for constipation sufferers which can help to retrain the bowel.

  • To clear the bowel initially, you may require a specific magnesium powder called Colon Cleanse, which works by pulling water into the bowel and clearing any build-up. Organic aloe vera juice may also help to clear your bowel initially.
  • Increase your fibre – ideally a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre. The best sources include psyllium husk, ground flaxseeds and chia seeds. Try sprinkling these on your breakfast or add to smoothies.
  • Increase the plant matter in your diet – you should ideally be eating 2-3 pieces of fruit, a large salad and veggies every day, plus a smattering of raw nuts and seeds. Remember to chew well, eat slowly and don’t drink with your meals.
  • Increase your water intake – drink a minimum of 2 litres daily.
  • Try squatting – westerners have grown up learning to sit on the toilet, but the most natural position for clearing your bowel is actually squatting, as is done in many eastern countries. In your home, you can get many of the same benefits of squatting by placing a stool near your toilet to raise your knees.
  • Exercise – early morning exercise, followed by a high-fibre breakfast, can be a great way to develop more regular bowel habits.
  • To encourage good bacteria, see our previous post on probiotics and fermented foods
  • Take a high-quality probiotic to ensure the flora in your gut is balanced. Probiotics are also useful in treating IBS, which can cause constipation.
  • Make sure you heed nature’s call – the longer you put off going to the toilet, the more water can be reabsorbed and the more likely you are to suffer from constipation. 

Are you feeling frustrated and drained by your health?

Click here to discover how to boost your gut health naturally, which can in turn help you to lose weight, regain energy, support your immunity and even help to ward off cancer.

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