Constipation can be defined as the passing of hard or infrequent stools. Due to individual perception of what is deemed “normal”, this condition often goes undiagnosed. In general terms, if you are experiencing two or more of the following symptoms you may be suffering from constipation:
- Hard or lumpy stools
- Less than three to four stools per week
- Feeling of incomplete evacuation / retained stool content
- Feeling of obstruction inside the anus
Many factors can contribute to constipation including inactivity, anxiety, lack of fibre in the diet, dehydration, poor diet and lifestyle choices, imbalance of intestinal flora and stress. Other causes may be certain medications such as codeine and some antacids, some nutritional supplements including certain iron and calcium supplements, poor gastrointestinal smooth muscle tone, anatomical obstruction, ingestion of allergens causing gut dysbiosis and other medical conditions including hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis and colorectal cancer.
Signs and symptoms of constipation are varied and can present as secondary symptoms including headaches, skin conditions, irritability, abdominal discomfort and bloating, pain in the rectum or lower torso, disturbed sleep and haemorrhoids.
Constipation can affect people of any age, race or gender, however, children, elderly people and pregnant women tend to experience higher rates of this condition.
Constipation, if left untreated, can lead to inflammation and chronic disease due to the release of waste toxins in the colon back into the blood stream and reabsorption of these toxins by the body. This in turn puts additional stress on the liver for detoxification and affects all other organs of the body.
The bowel may become impacted with faeces (faecal impaction) which can cause pain and discomfort and require medical intervention. Laxatives are often used as an acute treatment to soften the stool to enable a bowel motion. It should be noted that dependence on laxatives can cause the bowel to become lazy which then requires retraining at a later stage. If you find yourself using laxatives frequently, consider seeing a Naturopath to support you in implementing dietary and lifestyle changes to regulate your bowel pattern naturally.
Constipation is often quite simple to treat and can usually be treated naturally via dietary and lifestyle modifications. By simply increasing your daily water consumption and fibre intake may be all that is needed to alleviate this condition. Some simple lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, keeping a routine sleep pattern and stress management can all help to reduce constipation and keep your bowel pattern regular.
Some individuals may find they need additional support, this is where herbal medicine can be very effective in treating constipation. Herbal medicine can provide targeted liver support and stimulate peristalsis in the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract. Peristalsis is the contraction of the smooth muscle that occurs in wave-like motions through the gastrointestinal tract. Peristalsis is responsible for moving food product and waste product through the gut and facilitating its excretion through the bowels and rectum.
Exercise and stress management are important factors in the treatment of constipation. Exercise enhances metabolic processes in the body, improving bowel transit time and regular excretion of waste.
Stress management is also important in the treatment of constipation. If the body is producing elevated levels of stress hormones, blood is being directed away from the digestive system which results in impaired digestion often leading to slower transit time, reduced defaecation and stagnation.
If you think you or your child may be suffering from constipation and you’d like to treat this problem naturally, reach out to our Naturopath, Belle, who can provide lasting relief from this condition and the accompanying symptoms. Contact our clinic on 02 8406 0679 or Belle directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.