Constipation happens when you pass a stool less than 3 times a week.
When you are digesting your food well then your stool should be soft enough and long enough to form a curled up ‘snake’ in the toilet. You should ideally pass a stool once to twice a day and it should be mid brown in colour. If you pass a stool less than three times a week and/or are difficult to pass, then this is known as constipation. Alongside this people can experience bloating, flatulence, low back pain and fatigue and sometimes anxiety.
What contributes to constipation?
- Processed diets – involving sugar, alcohol, unhealthy fats, low fibre and low vegetable intake. Also, a lack of water is an important factor.
- Stress – stress hormones affect digestive functioning and increase muscle tension.
- Sedentary lifestyle – exercise increases blood flow and strengthens muscles in the digestive tract so reduced movement can contribute to the problem.
- Medications – constipation can be a side effect of some medications including antidepressants, iron supplements, anticonvulsants, diuretics. Overuse of laxatives can also mean the muscles in the colon can lose function.
- Poor gut bacteria balance – good bacteria help to regulate bowel function. A bacterial or yeast overgrowth can lead to constipation.
- Low thyroid function – thyroid is the master metabolic gland so if thyroid hormone production is sub-optimal then the digestive system can be sluggish.
- Older age – reduced appetite can mean a diet is low in fibre and important nutrients like magnesium which can slow down digestion. Also, low stomach acid and poor production of digestive enzymes can slow down transit time and contribute to constipation.
- Medical conditions – constipation can also be associated with certain medical conditions.
Things you can do:
- Eat a wholefoods diet high in fibre – fibre helps to bulk the stool and also sweeps the food through the digestive tract. Foods high in fibre include beans and lentils, oats, green beans, broccoli, root vegetables, raspberries, flaxseeds, chia seeds, nuts. Prunes and figs can also be helpful. 30g a day is the recommended adult amount.
- Drink more water – fluid is essential for a well-formed stool. Aim for 2 litres a day. Warm drinks can sometimes be more helpful than cold ones.
- Exercise daily – to get the digestive system ready for the day and it improves the muscles in the digestive tract.
- Reduce stress.
What can Functional Medicine do to support?
- Functional testing to find more about the possible root causes of your constipation; bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, parasites, good bacterial balance, digestive enzyme production.
- Food plans that are high in fibre and support bowel elimination.
- Supplements to address imbalances in the gut and also to optimise gut health and bowel elimination.
- Investigate hormonal imbalances that could be the root cause of constipation and use foods and supplements to support regaining balance.
5 Pillars of Functional Medicine
Constipation and Functional Medicine
Do you suffer from constipation and have tried all the usual approaches?
Functional Medicine can help you, simply book an online consultation or arrange a free 15 minute discovery call and ﬁnd out how we can help.