Lynda: Did you know that sales of laxatives supersede that of most medications with the exception of Aspirin? $700 million is spent every year on laxatives and other medications to treat chronic constipation.
Constipation is a huge problem with many people suffering and self medicating with laxatives and harsh natural senna based products. There are many problems with long term laxative use such as:
- more pills are needed to do the job over time
- electrolyte imbalance which can affect heart and colon health
- severe dehydration which leads to weakness and tremor
- organ damage such as lazy bowels, bowel infections, kidney and or liver damage
Most people avoid professional support because they are embarrassed or ashamed but I say take your shame and throw it out the window because guess what? You are not alone. In fact there is a big tribe of constipated folk out there. I used to be one of them.
Discussing pooping patterns along with poop colour, texture and smell with patients is my proud passion. This cut to the chase, intimate approach allows me to take the embarrassment out of a common problem and is also a big part of my Sherlock Holmes detective work. You see, the body has symptoms and signs, such as constipation and digestive complaints to gently or loudly poke us when something is not functioning optimally. I strongly encourage you to start looking at your poop daily and take note of how often you go during the week. Notice any patterns and any obvious changes to colour, smell and texture.
Constipation can be any or all of these:
- Incomplete emptying of the bowels. You may poop daily but often you feel dissatisfied, as if there is more that can be evacuated;
- Hard, dry stools (poo) which need excessive strain to pass;
- Infrequent or unsuccessful evacuation of the colon; and
- Constipation is often accompanied by other digestive symptoms such as abdominal cramping, excessive wind or bloating.
We instinctively know that we need to poo and feel uncomfortable when we don’t go for days but do we REALLY know WHY pooping regularly is essential? Let me shed some light.
Why is pooping is so important?
Pooping is our body’s natural way of removing waste, toxins and hormones. The skin, kidneys, lymphatic system, lungs and bronchioles are also elimination organs but it is the bowel that is the most abused and neglected.
What is normal?
There is no “normal” poop pattern, only averages. Studies have shown that people poop anywhere between three times a day to three times a week. I believe that while not always possible, it is important to encourage a nice, healthy poop daily.
Well I’ll let you come to your own conclusion after you read the consequences of not pooping regularly. In addition to this, I see many people who confess to going every second or third day or even once a week. I have yet to meet someone who is comfortable with this infrequent pooping scenario. These guys generally feel “uneasy”, “banked up”, “full” and “toxic” and often present with a myriad of mild to chronic inflammatory conditions.
What happens when the bowels don’t cooperate?
- TOXICITY – We recycle our waste and hormone by products which leads to toxic build-up in the bowel. An unclean bowel leads to unclean circulating blood and as a result unclean tissues (organs). This weakens the health of our organs and as a result they do not function as well as they are designed to.
- DIVERTICULITIS – When too much pressure is used from straining to get poop out we can develop bowel pockets, where the lining of the colon bulges and food and contents collect there. These pockets are called diverticula and can be a house for fermenting, rotting food and other contents.
- PATHOGEN GROWTH – Rotting of food in the bowel and the development of diverticula can stimulate the growth of dangerous pathogens such as parasites, bacteria and fungus.
- LEAKY GUT – Toxins can weaken the bowel wall and cause a leaky gut. As the name states the intestinal lining becomes “leaky” allowing undigested food, proteins, toxins, cholesterol and fats to pass through into the bloodstream and lymph where they go on to affect the health of other organs, especially those that are weak.
- POOR ENERGY – Toxicity leads to poor oxygen delivery in the body. Without oxygen, our energy levels are depleted. An exhausted body does not remove toxins well.
All of the above often lead to chronic inflammatory conditions such as acne, eczema, anxiety, depression, weight gain, weight loss, autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, PCOS, thyroid disorders, pathological changes in breasts, infertility, miscarriages, bladder infections, sinus problems and heart irregularities.
In a nutshell toxicity can aggravate pre-existing conditions or cause pathological change in tissues (organs). On a more noticeable and at times socially awkward note, chronic constipation contributes to body odour, bad breath, insomnia, bad dreams, itching and nausea.
Why Do We Constipate?
Constipation has many causes, some of which are:
- Diet – change in diet, water intake or not enough fibre/roughage;
- Sedentary lifestyle – lack of daily movement slows your metabolic processes down including digestion;
- High levels of stress, emotional trauma or suppression;
- Anatomical dysfunction – disorders or malfunction of the colon, rectum, anal sphincter, central or peripheral nervous system;
- Neglect – some neglect the urge to go out of habit;
- Anaemia – a body low in iron does not have enough energy and does not eliminate well;
- Ageing – structural/anatomical, lifestyle, diet etc
- Pregnancy and after birth (Up to three months post): the pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes and slows down the movement of food through the intestines. This allows more time for nutrients to reach baby but tends to affect mum’s bowel movement regularity. There is also less space in the bowels from the ever expanding uterus;
- Menstruation – digestive disturbance can occur at different hormonal phases in the menstrual cycle (luteal, follicular). Common emotional symptoms experienced during this time can add to this.
- Certain medications – antidepressants, antihypertensives, analgesics, antipsychotics and iron supplements. (I recommend iron diglycinate, a form of iron that is less likely to constipate) and
- Other – the presence of a virus, appendicitis, food poisoning, organic or systemic disease.
Now that you understand the big impact that irregular bowel movements have on health will you let your embarrassment and shame stop you from exploring solutions? Remember we all poop, it’s a natural bodily function and most of us experience snags in regularity at different times in our lives. Sometimes constipation can be resolved quickly, while at other times further investigation and a long term, repair approach is needed.
I encourage you to be bold, be brave and avoid neglecting the bowel, which when kept clean and healthy ensures we experience delicious health… long term. For tips and tricks to get the bowels moving read 13 Ways To Have a Great Poo, Every time.