When bowel movements do not occur on a daily basis. Optimal bowel health is one to three movements per day. When this does not happen, the body is forced to take extra steps to manage the toxic load.
Common Contributors to Constipation
- Digestive dysfunction: Chronic indigestion/”heartburn”, bloating, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), colitis (colon inflammation), Leaky Gut Syndrome, GERD (acid reflux)
- Damage from prescription medications
- Inadequate digestive flora
- Magnesium deficiency
- Lack of exercise
- Resisting or delaying the urge to go
- Adequate beneficial fiber
Understanding the Basics
Forward-moving muscular contractions, called peristalsis, are the digestive system’s way of moving food through the digestive tract. Food is moved from the mouth through the various stages of processing until the nutrients pass from the small intestine into the blood stream and the unneeded waste materials are expelled out of the bowel.
The stomach has its own dedicated muscles which constantly push when food is present. But the muscles of the large intestine only contract two to three times in a day, which is why this is the optimum number of bowel releases.
Problems occur when the muscular system of the digestive tract does not get adequate nutrients, especially magnesium, to perform its normal functions. Processed foods, being void of nutrients and sugar intake further damage the process. Then the digestive “transit system” begins to slow down causing food to remain longer. Once food stagnates, it becomes toxic, creates inflammation, damages the interior mucosal linings of the digestive organs. The normal contractions of the large intestine are now missed and the now toxic waste matter collects, becoming compacted and difficult to move.
The results of this damaging inflammation may include: IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, dysbiosis (digestive system damage), GERD, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Colitis, Chronic Bowel Disease, Crohn’s disease and more.
Prescription medications: They hinder the body’s ability to absorb magnesium resulting in a deficiency. Since magnesium is the “fuel” of the muscular system, inability to absorb or obtain adequate amounts is a major contributor to potential digestive damage.
Stress: Under stressful conditions, muscular systems contract and can remain tight, minimizing their ability to release. Both actions are necessary to facilitate the “wave” motion that moves food through the digestive tract.
Magnesium, in fueling the muscular system, helps resolve the build-up of stress.
Digestive Flora: Beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract is responsible for breaking down food into a useable form, able to enter the blood stream. Without enough beneficial bacteria, food stagnates creating the issues mentioned above.
Water: Dehydration is a major contributor to bowel dysfunction in general, but is especially critical in making it possible for the body to eliminate waste materials. Lack of water causes waste material to become compacted, hard and more difficult to move.
Exercise: Helps maintain muscle tone which includes the muscular processes involved in digestion.
Allowing time and not resisting: When people do not respond to bowel promptings, the bowel muscles become strained and can be damaged, over time, reducing the ability for the bowels to apply the necessary pressure.
The Fiber Question
It has been estimated that only 5 percent of the population gets the recommended 25 to 35 grams of daily dietary fiber (2015 report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). The single biggest reason inadequate fiber intake is not eating enough vegetables. Fruit can be helpful if the skin or peel is eaten.
Food-based fiber options: Flax seed, lentils, spouted grains, apple or grapefruit pectin, acacia fiber, oat fiber, wheat bran, rice bran, chia, hemp seed powder. Fennel can be used to help manage gas. Most fiber needs can be maintained by including six to nine services of vegetables per day.
Bulk forming laxatives such as Metamucil (psyllium) work by pulling fluid from the intestines. Osmotic and saline laxatives (Miralax, Cephulac, Milk of Magnesia) attempt to draw more water into the intestines to soften the stool. The problem is that most people are dehydrated these options may not be able to work or, if the do, they can contribute to tissue damage by exacerbating existing dehydration issues so water gets pulled from other organs in the body by this process.
Laxative medications such as Senokot, Dulcolax and Correctol become the controller of the muscles lining the intestines forcing contraction and damaging the muscles ability to function naturally.
Psyllium: An inexpensive, insoluble fiber (Metamucil). It’s very strong in pulling water in and then forming bulk. For some people, the bulking action can create blockages, inflammation and damage to delicate mucosal linings. Side effects include: Gas, bloating, allergic responses (stuffy nose, itchy eyes, sneezing), clinging to the throat, difficulty swallowing. It is not recommended for ongoing use as this may damage the ability of the bowels to move on their own. Forcing the bowels to move due to bulking agents can mask other issues.
Megan is our product curator and store visionary. Personally vetting every product that comes through the door, she evaluates thousands of items each month with a focus on quality ingredients and value. Well-schooled in the supplements department and the editor of our in-store newsletters, she still insists her main job is raising three daughters! (Wichita, Kansas)