You haven’t used the bathroom in days. When you have been able to go, it has felt incomplete. Your abdomen feels distended and uncomfortable.
Wanting to solve your problem, you head to the internet and search, “how to solve constipation” or “what to do if you can’t go number 2.” (I like rhymes 😉 so personally I would use the second search term. I also have the potty humor of a 4 year old which is why this blog is the perfect one for me to write).
After your google search you are disappointed. You get everything from the academic, “constipation is a transient state whereby defecation is incomplete, unsatisfactory or impossible and is characterized by blah , blah, blah.” To the natural health expert, who had constipation once when they were 18 and has one solution, “the only solution you need is fiber. Fiber, fiber, fiber. We don’t get enough fiber. Our ancestors got way more fiber. Eat more fiber.” Then, of course, there is the outlandish and downright stupid: “Take a black tourmaline stone and rub it in a counterclockwise direction over your 1st chakra. You are constipated because the energy in this chakra is blocked. You also might want to get a digital rectal exam.” Hahahaha . I kid, I kid.
Now that I have had a little fun, let me give you a very quick framework in which to triage your constipation issue. This has worked phenomenally well in my clinical practice over the years.
I call it the 6-F Model Of Constipation: Flow, Fluid, Fiber, Fat, Flora, and Fire
Movement is critical; it is one of the best ways to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic arms of the nervous system. Remember, sympathetic is fight or flight and parasympathetic is rest and digest. Too much sympathetic, and the muscular walls of your intestine will be locked up like a vice grip. When that happens the slow steady rhythmic pushing of contents through the intestines and colon, called peristalsis, is stopped or slowed. Slow rhythmic movements like walking are best. They lower stress hormones, aid movement of the colon through gravity and mechanical jostling of the viscera (fancy word for intestines and other organs), and balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.
Make sure you move on a regular basis, I suggest between 5 and 10K steps daily.
Just like water is needed to flush your toilet, rinse debris out of your sink into the garbage compacter and cleanse the huge spoonful of peanut butter you just had, so too, is it required for the movement of feces through the colon and gut. You can’t be dehydrated and expect to go to the bathroom without difficulty. Make sure you are getting plenty of fluid, hopefully from a good quality mineral water.
The common recommendation of at least eight 8-oz servings of pure water (not coke, alcohol or coffee) is a good rule of thumb here.
Yes, fiber provides bulk and also fuel for the bacteria living in your gut. These bacteria release compounds that can impede mucus secretion by the colon (the “bad” bacteria) or increase it (the good bacteria). Fiber though, also needs water. This is why water comes first in the 6F model of constipation. Fiber without water will bind you up further. That would be useful for diarrhea or lose stools but not for constipation. If you use fiber for constipation, it must come along with plenty of water.
Here is a very good quality fiber supplement that we sell at Metabolic Effect. CLICK HERE.
When you eat fat the body will release bile, which is an emulsifier. Both the “slippery” nature of fat and the bile acids help move contents along and through the GI tract.
Try 1 avocado per day to start. This gives plenty of fat and fiber, and is tasty and healthy too.
The bacteria in your digestive tract are called many things including your gut “bugs”, microbiome, and flora. They do all kinds of wonderful things for you like: making vitamins and minerals, balancing your immune system, regulating digestive secretions, and so much more. You want to have a wide diversity of bacteria in your gut. If you have been on many antibiotics in the past and/or live the standard American lifestyle of pizza, burgers, booze and soda than I can pretty much guarantee your gut bugs suck.
Take a good quality probiotic daily. Choose one with a large diversity of bacteria in adequate numbers. I have had greatest success with HSO’s by Garden of Life.
When you eat, there is a coordinated action of digestive function from the mouth all the way to the anus. The saliva you swallow from chewing has a role in producing digestive secretions of the stomach, like hydrochloric acid and pepsin. These produce the right PH so when the stomach contents make it to the duodenum (upper small intestines), other enzymes are signaled to be released from the pancreas (i.e. proteases, lipases, amylases, etc). By the way, those who get good effect from drinking coffee are benefiting from the bitters in the coffee, which stimulate peristalsis. This is another type of “fire” effect.
This is a very coordinated processes and anything that goes wrong presents problems further downstream mucking up your bacterial colonies, digestive secretions, immune balance and peristalsis.
Take a good quality digestive enzyme with the first bite of each meal. Preferably one that has HCL in it. Here is the one we sell at Metabolic Effect. CLICK HERE.
There you go……….I have seen attending to these issues solve constipation in upwards of 80% of individuals. Those of you for whom these approaches don’t work, there are certainly other natural approaches that can be used. Some of my favorites include magnesium and vitamin C in escalating doses until the bowels move.
Remember, the reliance on laxatives could make you reliant on them. Use those high force measures few and far between.
I hope this is helpful. May the feces be with you (a little of my 4-year old humor for you 😉