Today I am going to be talking about one of my favourite subjects and that is poo or more to the point-lack of it!
Constipation is when it becomes difficult to pass a stool and it is often accompanied by pain.
Before I have my consultations, each client as part of the analysis process will be asked to fill in a Bristol stool chart diary that they will complete alongside the diet diary. It really helps to give me an idea of what is going on with your case and how I can help you.
Constipation can be very mild and only happen from time to time or it could be debilitating -however even very mild cases are the body’s way of communicating that something is not quite right and although from a doctors perspective it may not need treating, I would still recommend seeing a Nutritional therapist who can help address the issue. In general though it is referred to as constipation by medical professionals when you are opening your bowels less than three times a week.
Its super common and in the UK it’s estimated that around 1 in every 7 adults and up to 1 in every 3 children has constipation at any one time and the condition effects twice as many women.
So what causes it?
Well, it could be many many things and it really does require some detective work to help figure that out and get to the bottom of it for your individual case. Nutritional therapy has a great track record of supporting this condition. With Naturopathic nutritional therapy, I have a holistic approach taking many factors into consideration when analysing your case as it is not always just about diet. The cause may be obvious or we may need to do some laboratory testing to find out more.
There are different types of constipation. Primary constipation can be divided into three subtypes which are:
1.Normal-transit constipation (This is the most common form. It is when stools go through the colon at a normal rate and the frequency may be normal but people feel constipated and report problems when they actually pass the stool)
2.Slow-transit constipation (This is where the muscles of the intestine and large bowel stop working properly which results in slow movement of contents through the bowel down to the rectum with an infrequent urge to go to the toilet)
3. Pelvic floor dysfunction (Which is caused by poor coordination of the pelvic floor and anal sphincter)
It is important to initially always see a doctor to receive a possible diagnosis and to rule out various causes. Certain diseases are associated with constipation which I’m not going to go into today but I just need to make that clear so that you know if you have symptoms of constipation, your first point of call is the doctor so that they can run the necessary tests. If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, blood in the stool, anaemia, significant abdominal pain or you have a family history of colon cancer or IBD then I suggest you mention this when arranging an appointment to try and be seen sooner.
Once you have done this then a Nutritional Therapist can support you alongside any treatment that your doctor has recommended or if no cause could be found then this therapy can help investigate this further and provide the appropriate support.
As I said before there are so many potential reasons why you could be experiencing constipation and there is normally more than one cause and the causes are often interconnected however just to give you an idea of what I would be looking at it could be related to:
-An imbalance in the gut bacteria
-Stress, anxiety or depression (because chronic stress can cause the body to get stuck in the ‘fight to flight’ mode which overrides the digestive system)
-Disturbed eating behaviour (for example because of eating disorders or sustained periods of erratic eating)
-Low stomach acid
-Pregnancy and postpartum
-Impairment of the liver
-Alterations in bile acids
-Poor vagal tone (meaning the level of parasympathetic activity and the body’s ability to successfully respond to stressors. The vagus nerve plays a key role in heart rate, breathing rate, digestion and detoxification. When you have strong vagal tone it promotes gastric juices, stomach acid and digestive enzymes, good movement through the intestines, a healthy microbiome and good regulation of the tight junctions so that’s just what we want)
From a Naturopathic perspective we want to keep waste and toxins moving out of the body and the bowel is one of the key routes of elimination so if it’s not working properly, these toxins build up in the body creating further stress and inflammation-that’s why even if you notice mild symptoms it is important to address constipation as soon as possible to prevent this from happening.