Updated: May 22
What actually does it mean to be constipated? I feel that this concerns many women (including myself) and I want you to know that if you don't have at least 1 bowl movement per day: you are being constipated! Besides the discomfort of having an extended belly, maybe cramping or pain in our abdomen and feeling bloated, constipation is actually much more than that....
The longer our food and waste products are sitting in our colon, the more bacterial degradation products are produced.
Our body (or rather our liver) is recycling the hormones that have been used and they get evacuated into our feces. So our poop doesn't only contain the food we ingested but also toxins we consumed or absorbed via our skin, recycled hormones etc.
When we are constipated, these toxins and hormones are sitting in our colon and re-enter our blood stream; this is not only toxic but also confuses our endocrine glands as to produce new hormones or not.
What causes constipation?
Poor hydration: most of my clients drink way too little quality water. Your bowels need water to form a stool. Juices, soda, tea, and coffee are dehydrating.
Lack of fiber: it could be that you are consuming too little fiber in your diet
Magnesium deficiency: a lack of magnesium can also cause constipation. (see my recent post on magnesium)
Medication such as antacids, antidepressants, some blood pressure medicines, cold medicines (like the antihistamines), calcium and iron supplements can cause constipation.
Blood sugar issues and excess cortisol from stress can cause constipation.
An under-active thyroid can also slow your metabolism and digestion, making your bowel sluggish and leading to longer transit time of stools and weaker muscle contractions.
Food intolerances: if you are consuming foods that you are sensitive to (dairy and gluten are the most common), that can cause constipation. Read more about this here.
Poor microbiome: a lack of the lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, soil and spore-based bacteria can cause constipation.
IBS: People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome often fluctuate between constipation and loose stool.
Low stomach acid and insufficient bile output: Stomach acid initiates a set of chemical processes that break down our food down to prepare it for absorption. The bile emulsifies the fats which are key in moving things along. Low stomach acid and/or bile can cause food stagnation. Read more here
Emotional triggers: Past trauma and “holding onto things,” or the lack of being able to let go of something can definitely cause constipation.
What to do against constipation?
Eat plenty of leafy greens and other vegetables
Flaxseeds or chia seeds: they are a known cure for constipation because of their natural oils and mucilaginous content, which adds bulk to your stool, helping speed up its transit time through the bowel. Eat them raw, ground and added to dishes like breakfast bowls and healthy smoothies. If that does not help, take 2 TBSP of whole flaxseed (not ground) in a big glass of filtered water before bed. The seeds will plump up and due to their slimy nature, they will evacuate things nicely.
Ginger: when I get constipated I'm making ginger tea! Ginger promotes bowel movements.
Take magnesium citrate - it will pull water into your intestines and promote bowl movements (that's a good one for traveling too)
Incorporate fermented foods or drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and or add a high quality probiotic with bifidobacteria.
Focus on anti-inflammatory foods
Aloe vera: is a natural stimulant laxative that increases peristaltic motion. You can consume it as gel or juice before meals or in form of capsules.
Yoga: child’s pose, plow pose, butterfly pose and sitting with a half-spinal twist, can help stimulate movement in your bowel and relieve excess spasm and wind.
Acupressure points: place your fingers a thumb-width from your belly-button on both sides and push in deep. Hold for 3 minutes.
And last but not least and definitely the best remedy I've found so far: castor oil packs! Check out my video on how to do them here.