Chronic constipation is a health issue for millions of people. It can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, and over time, negatively impact the health outcomes of every bodily system. Research is demonstrating the important impact of a healthy microbiome, and gut transit time is an important factor in reducing gut inflammation and removing toxins that influence the gut microbiome.
Reaching for laxatives to move your bowels, however, is not the best option. Long-term use of laxatives may lead to losing bowel muscle and nerve response, resulting in dependence. Laxatives may also result in rebound constipation, which also causes gas to be trapped in the intestines.
More serious issues have been reported, involving the ingredients of some laxatives. Polyethylene glycol, for example, is a chemical found in MiraLax, a popular laxative, has been questioned regarding its association with neurologic disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. Polyethylene falls into a class of medications called osmotic laxatives, and works by causing water to be retained with the stool, which increases the amount of bowel movements by softening them, making them easier to pass.
Polyethylene glycol, however, may be a toxin that can lead to the risk of developing autism, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease among other serious health issues. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, it is an extremely toxic substance.
Laxatives simply chase symptoms without providing a solution to the root cause of chronic constipation. Natural solutions are recommended to help address the issues causing the problem.
Address Leaky Gut Syndrome:
Chronic constipation may lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome, or vice versa. Excess toxins in the colon may negatively affect the gut microbiome as well as physically affect the gut lining. Once the gut lining is impaired, toxins are given the opportunity to leak into the bloodstream and result in systemic inflammation. Reducing this inflammation and promoting the healing of these junctures in the gut lining are important to overall health. Gut inflammation may cause constipation, so it’s a viscous loop that must be addressed.
L-glutamine is an essential amino acid that your body utilizes to produce proteins and repair cells. Research has proven its positive effects at sealing the tight junctions of the gut and helping to promote healing of the gut lining, which are crucial for reversing the effects of leaky gut.
Rebalance and Repopulate Good Bacteria:
The beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and cultured foods as well as probiotics may help ease constipation.The probiotic strain HOWARU bifidobacterium lactis HN019, for example, is backed by clinical evidence demonstrating its ability to speed gut transit time and improve various bowel disorders, such as constipation. Probiotic strains such as HOWARU also have been studied and proven to ward off gut pathogens, reduce inflammation and boost immune function.
Drink Plenty of Filtered Water:
Water is related to constipation since it is a symptom of a dehydrated colon. Staying hydrated means less water is taken from the colon, which keeps your stools soft and easier to eliminate. Avoid drinking from plastic water bottles, as these plastics leach into the water and are known endocrine disruptors. Hormone dysregulation can wreak havoc on every bodily system, including the digestive tract. A study from the University of Vienna showed that every participant who drank from plastic bottles and used plastic utensils had microplastics in their stool. Find a water filter that removes microbes, metals and fluoride and drink from glass containers, if possible.
Moving matters to your bowel movements. Exercising regularly helps increase gut transit time and blood flow throughout your system. Long-term inactivity is a risk factor for decreased gastrointestinal motility, which leads to constipation and nutrient malabsorption, weight gain, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. Aerobic exercise increases peristalsis, the muscular movement responsible for moving waste out of your system. Studies have found a strong positive correlation between vigorous, regular exercise and regular bowel movements.
Various yoga poses can also aid in digestive upset, bloating and constipation, increasing blood flow to the digestive tract.
Address Nutrient Deficiencies:
Chronic constipation may result in nutrient deficiencies. At the same time, nutrient deficiencies may cause constipation. Common nutrient deficiencies that may help with constipation include B12, magnesium and vitamin D. These deficiencies may also alter immune function, which is strongly connected to gut health.
Open Detox Pathways:
Studies show that daily intake of sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts and radish seeds improves bowel habits by enhancing and activating the Nrf2 pathway, helping to rid the body of toxins and reduce oxidative stress.
Support the Liver:
Your liver works together with your colon to remove waste from your system. The liver is the body’s processing center, sorting out nutrients and other substances beneficial for the body while also removing waste that isn’t needed mixed with bile, which is sent back into the intestines and eliminated through bowel movements. When your liver isn’t functioning properly, toxins build up and nutrients and hormones aren’t effectively utilized.
Change Your Diet:
Fecal impactions are the result of too little fiber as well as too much mucous-producing, acidic and inflammatory foods common in the standard American diet. These foods include like meat, dairy and sugar. Food additives, preservatives and nitrates also affect the colon walls, producing layers of mucous and build-up on the colon wall. High acid foods may contribute to inflammation and ulcers, wreaking havoc on gut health and resulting in other conditions, such as chronic constipation.
Eating more fruits, vegetables and increasing fiber intake helps reduce inflammation, speed gut transit time and bulk stools for optimal elimination. Keep in mind that the average transit time is about 30-40 hours for someone who is not constipated. Women are more susceptible to constipation due to longer transit time through their colons, so a high fiber diet is doubly important for women. High fiber foods include broccoli, bran, apples, avocados and lentils. Kefir and kombucha provide additional gut-flora enhancing probiotics that increase gut transit time.
Reducing stress, getting an ample amount of sleep, avoiding overuse of antibiotics, removing toxins from your environment (cleaning supplies, perfumes/dyes, pesticides) all can help improve your digestive health. Gut health equates to a healthy microbiome and digestive balance. So, there is truth to the saying “go” with the flow.