It is estimated that up to 20% of the population suffer with chronic constipation.
Constipation is characterised by hard, dry and difficult to pass stools, and/or having less than 3 bowel movements per week. I would add that it also includes the sensation that you haven't completely emptied.
While it is uncomfortable (and for most quite painful) to be constipated, if it is a chronic problem, it can lead to other health problems such as ulceration of the colon, diverticulitis, and intestinal obstruction.
While there are many causes of constipation, the ones Naturopaths are well equipped to address are: insufficient fibre intake, insufficient fluid intake, IBS, hypothyroidism, anxiety, lack of exercise, gut dysbiosis.
So here are my top 6 tips to staying regular...
1. Stay Hydrated
My advice for water intake varies from person to person depending on various factors like age, exercise levels etc, but generally somewhere between 1-2 Litres /day is sufficient for most of us. If you are dehydrated you may feel....tired, dizzy, have foggy thinking, have mood swings, experience muscle cramps or back/joint aches, dull, dry skin, constipation, concentrated (dark) urine, headache, scant and infrequent urination
2. Eat more Fibre
When adding fibre to your diet, do it gradually, and be sure to drink plenty of water along with it, otherwise the extra fibre will not pass through your colon easily, and may in fact aggravate your constipation.
The best fibres for constipation are: flaxseed meal, papaya, blueberries, dark green leafy veggies, green beans, celery, cucumbers, nuts. Your Naturopath can help you work out
how much of these foods is best for your individual needs.
3. Other foods to consider:
Kiwi fruit, globe artichoke, fermented veggies, kefir, flaxseed oil, olive oil, figs, prunes, apples.
4. Position yourself
When you're in a squatting position, the muscles around your rectum and pubic bones relax, therefore encouraging complete emptying without straining. Squatting without support can be challenging, so I recommend the PROPPR - an elegant, Australian designed footrest to get you in the squat position for an easier and more complete bowel movement (the proppr.com or 1300092879)
5. Get moving
Walking, yoga, pilates, swimming, jogging, tennis etc are all excellent bowel muscle stimulators.
While I discourage the use of laxatives, stool softeners from the chemist can be helpful in the short term until dietary and lifestyle changes start to kick in. Naturopathically, I would consider using Magnesium (not all forms help constipation), certain enzyme formulas, some strains of probiotics, liver and gall bladder herbal medicines, and I would also address any emotional issues that may be making someone 'feel stuck' as well as specific treatments plans for anxiety or hypothyroidism if they are the causes.
So try implementing some of the basics and if you don't notice improvements within 2 weeks or so, call Christine to make an appointment for an individual assessment and a specific plan to 'get you going'