Prevent Constipation Nation!
Constipation affects 1 in 4 Canadians across all age categories. Most of us have experienced constipation either acutely or chronically. Some of the telltale signs of constipation include infrequent bowel movements, straining to defecate, abdominal discomfort, and feeling like your rectum is blocked.
If this sounds like something you want to prevent, or remedy, then read on! If not… I really don’t know what else to say except "right on ya’" for your high tolerance for discomfort!
To assess whether you may have chronic constipation, you can use the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation’s guideline.
If you have experienced 2 or more of the following symptoms within the last 3 months:
You are straining for more than 1 of 4 bowel movements
You have hard stool more than 25% of the time
You experience incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
You have less than 3 bowel movements a week
The most common cause of chronic constipation is not listening to when nature calls. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as dehydration, a diet lacking fiber, physical inactivity, and changes in routine (inconsistent eating, and sleeping patterns) play a big role. Other causes can be the use of medications (such as painkillers, antidepressants, and blood pressure medication), the overuse of laxatives, impaired vagal nerve function, or other medical conditions (hypothyroid, IBS, IBD, spinal cord injuries, and colon cancer).
Constipation, especially when chronic impairs the integrity of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and can lead to conditions like hemorrhoids, and rectal prolapse.
However, it isn’t limited to local effects. It also reduces the quality of daily life through loss of work productivity, activity impairment/ absenteeism, and psychological distress.
GI issues also alter the gut microbiome which directly impacts the neurochemistry of our brains via the gut-brain connection. This may explain neurocognitive changes.
Not only this, but chronic constipation also means that a major route of systemic detoxification is blocked!
Foundations for optimal bowel function:
Are you listening to when nature calls? We’ve often trained ourselves to ignore the signals as nature can call during “inconvenient” times, so we need to retrain ourselves in order to regulate normal bowel habits and let that natural peristalsis do its thing!
A diet that includes plenty of water, and fiber! The addition of vegetables and fruit target BOTH of these goals, but this should be done in addition to increasing your water intake. For some, eliminating dairy and gluten can reduce the mucus promoting and binding actions that can make the passage of bowels difficult.
Some foods are natural laxatives like papayas, prunes, and psyllium husks should not be used as the sole mechanism to alleviate your symptoms. You can add them into your lifestyle for a more sustainable approach.
A regular eating, and sleep routine can set your body up to follow its internal rhythm.
The vagus nerve activates the nervous network of the gut, which is responsible for the secretions, motility and proper gut function. To help stimulate the vagus nerve you can:
Gargle your water (for a few glasses throughout the day you can gargle each mouthful)
Be proud, and sing out-loud - while cleaning, driving, and cooking
Try stress reducing techniques. Check out Margot’s 3 favourite meditation apps for some helpful resources!
For more information on bowel movements in general you can get the low-down by visiting Sarah's We’ve Got Some Sh*t to Talk to you About…Literally.
It is important to rule out the root causes while applying gut optimizing lifestyle habits.Consulting with your healthcare provider can help you uncover underlying causes so you can build upon the foundations and move freely once more!