Constipation can be frustrating and downright uncomfortable. But, with the right knowledge and tools, constipation can be effectively managed and even prevented altogether.
Today’s blog post will cover everything you need to know about constipation. You will learn how to identify its symptoms and some contributing factors that might be causing it. Whether you are experiencing occasional constipation or have been struggling with chronic constipation for years, this blog post gives you the background information you need to start taking control of your bowels to get things moving!
What is constipation?
Constipation is a common problem that affects many people at some point in their lives. It occurs when bowel movements become difficult or infrequent, causing discomfort, and sometimes even pain.
As a gut health expert, I consider having anything less than one complete bowel movement per day to be constipation - "Complete" being the key word here. This is because it is still entirely possible to be constipated while having a daily bowel movement if your bowels are not fully emptying (I see this a lot in my private practice).
Signs & Symptoms of Constipation
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of constipation is important to prevent complications and to start taking action. It is important to note that some people may experience these symptoms occasionally without having constipation, while others may have constipation with fewer or milder symptoms. In some cases, people may not have any symptoms at all (or they may just not be aware of them).
The signs and symptoms of constipation can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:C
Infrequent bowel movements (less than one per day)
Difficulty passing stool or straining to “go”
Bowels that feel incomplete
Hard & dry stools (they may be crumbly or look like rabbit pellets)
Feeling bloated or uncomfortable
Transit time that is over 24 hours
Common Causes of Constipation
Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors. Understanding the causes of constipation can help you take preventative measures and make lifestyle changes to improve your bowel movements. Some main factors causing constipation among my clients include:
Poor diet: A diet low in fibre and high in processed foods can be a big contributor to sluggish bowel habits.
Lack of exercise: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a slower digestive system, making it harder to pass stools.
Dehydration: Not drinking enough water or fluids can lead to hard and dry stools, making them difficult to pass. Low levels of minerals and electrolytes can also be at play, particularly deficiencies in Potassium.
Sluggish bile flow: Bile is produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. In addition to helping with fat digestion, it also acts as the body’s natural laxative, so not having enough of it can certainly cause constipation!
Medications: Certain medications such as painkillers, antidepressants, and antacids can cause constipation.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Hypothyroidism, and Diabetes can lead to constipation.
Fortunately, there are several effective remedies that can help alleviate constipation and improve bowel movements. Here are some of my go-to tips to find relief:
Increase Fibre Intake: Adding more fibre to your diet is one of the most effective ways to relieve constipation. This can be done by consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (I recommend 6 cups per day). The fibre in these foods helps to add bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass.
Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and other fluids can also help relieve constipation. This helps to keep the stool soft and easy to pass. Half your body weight in ounces of water per day is ideal.
Get Moving: Physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements by increasing muscle contractions in the intestines. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of movement into your daily routine (note: high intensity exercise puts stress on the body and may make things worse; stick to the low impact stuff if your constipation is severe!)
Reduce Stress: When we are stressed, our body's "fight or flight" response is activated, which can slow down digestion and make it harder to pass stool. Mindfulness helps activate the body's "rest and digest" response, which can stimulate the digestive system and promote bowel movements.
Consider Taking a Probiotic: Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote digestive health by improving the balance of gut bacteria. They can help to increase the frequency of bowel movements and reduce the symptoms of constipation. You can take probiotic supplements or eat foods that are high in probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. One strain that has been well studied for constipation is Bifidobacterium HN019.
Increase Your Mineral Intake: Minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium are essential for proper bowel function. They help to relax the muscles in the intestinal wall and promote regular bowel movements. You can increase your mineral intake by eating foods that are high in these minerals, such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. Potassium is particularly helpful for the bowels and can be found in aloe vera juice, bananas, celery juice, coconut water.
Establish a Morning Routine: Establishing a regular morning routine can help to promote regular bowel movements. Try to wake up at the same time each day, drink a glass of warm water or herbal tea, and take a few minutes to relax and breathe deeply. You can also try doing some light exercise, such as yoga or stretching, to help stimulate your digestive system.
Support Digestive Health: Low stomach acid and sluggish bile flow can really slow the bowels down. Consider implementing some natural stomach acid supports (read more here), or add some foods that support bile flow to your diet, such as beets, radishes and bitter greens.
Constipation can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition, but it doesn't have to be a permanent part of your life. By making nutrition and lifestyle changes you can improve your digestive health and find relief from constipation. Working with a nutritionist can help you identify the root cause of your constipation and develop a personalized plan to address it.
Don't let constipation hold you back any longer– book a free discovery call with me today to get started on the path to relief.