By: Dr. Hilary Chambers, ND

If our bowels are functioning normally, we should be having at least one well-formed, easy to pass, painless bowel movement per day where we feel we have fully evacuated the bowel. Missing a day, or having incomplete, difficult to pass, hard or pelleted stools means that you are experiencing constipation.

Why is constipation of concern?

Regular elimination is part of our detoxification system. When the liver detoxifies hormones, carcinogens, and other wastes, they are excreted from the liver into bile. Bile is then added to the digestive tract and excreted from the body via the bowels. When we’re constipated, the stool sits in the digestive tract for longer than it should, and these toxins and hormones can be re-absorbed into the body. Over time, this leads to a build up of wastes causing hormone imbalances (PMS, mood swings, irregular periods), acne, bloating, gas, bowel cancer, and an overburdened detoxification system in the liver.

What causes constipation?

Many things can cause the bowels to slow down, including:

  1. Food Intolerances
  2. Low fibre diet
  3. Low water intake
  4. Stress
  5. Bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, or yeast overgrowth
  6. Inadequate digestion in the upper GI tract (low stomach acid, low digestive enzymes)
  7. High progesterone
  8. Under-active thyroid / hypothyroidism
  9. Structural issues of the bowel
  10. Laxative use / dependence
  11. IBS, IBD, diverticulitis, polyps, hemorrhoids, and other bowel conditions

How is constipation treated?

The most important thing for treating constipation is determining why it is occurring because then we can address and treat the cause. Lab testing to look into food intolerances and hormone levels might be useful for directing your treatment. Your Naturopathic Doctor will address diet, water, and lifestyle factors, and then use supplements to regulate bowel function for both acute situations and for the long term.

The goal is to re-teach your bowels how to function in a healthy way, so that you’re not dependent on supplements or dietary additives (like Metamucil), and you’re able to have daily, easy-to-pass, full and complete bowel movements without giving it a second thought

What about using laxatives?

Laxatives can cause something called “laxative dependence” meaning your migrating motor cortex in the bowel becomes sluggish, and you begin to rely on laxatives to have a bowel movement. Dependence happens if you’re regularly using ex-lax, ducolax, senna (including senna-containing tea – please be careful with detox or weight loss teas!), suppositories, enemas, or receiving regular colonic treatments.

If you suffer from constipation as a result of laxative over-use, we can re-train the bowel using certain herbs, a scheduled method of eating, and other supplements. Occasional laxative use is not going to cause a dependency, but it’s important that you’re able to achieve full and complete bowel movements at least once daily in order to maintain healthy digestive and detoxification systems to keep you feeling your best.

Book an appointment with Dr. Chambers to address the underlying cause of constipation, and start having healthy bowel movements daily.

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