Constipation Relief

Constipation is a common digestive problem characterized by infrequent or difficult bowel movements. It occurs when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, resulting in the stool becoming hard and dry, which can make it painful and challenging to pass. Some common symptoms of constipation include:

Constipation relief
  1. Infrequent bowel movements: Typically, having fewer than three bowel movements per week is considered a sign of constipation.
  2. Difficulty passing stool: When you do have a bowel movement, it may be hard, dry, and require straining.
  3. Abdominal discomfort: Constipation can cause abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating.
  4. Feeling of incomplete evacuation: You may feel like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels after a bowel movement.

Most people experience constipation at some point. However, for some it’s a recurring and uncomfortable problem that hinders quality of life. Women often suffer from constipation compared to men.

Causes of constipation

Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors, and it often results from a combination of these factors. Here are some of the most common causes observed in my practice:

Low fiber intake

A diet that lacks sufficient fiber can contribute to constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it move through the digestive tract more easily. Insufficient fiber intake can result from a diet that is low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans/legumes.

Inadequate fluid intake

Staying well-hydrated with water is essential for softening and moving stool through the intestines. Dehydration can lead to dry and hard stool, making it difficult to pass.

Lack of physical activity

Regular physical activity helps stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract, promoting bowel movements. A sedentary lifestyle can slow down the digestive process and lead to constipation. Many patients say how their bowels are better when they exercise, this is immediate proof that physical activity helps support bowel function.

Medications

Some medications can have constipation as a side effect. This includes certain pain relievers (e.g., opioids), antacids containing aluminum or calcium, some antidepressants, and certain antispasmodic drugs. If you’re taking a medication that causes constipation as a side effect, doubling up on fiber rich foods is essential for intestinal and digestive health.

Ignoring the urge

Suppressing the urge to have a bowel movement can contribute to constipation over time. It’s important to respond to your body’s signals for a bowel movement promptly. When you hold in your stool, it becomes dry and even more difficult to pass. If you’re in public, carry poop spray to mask any odor that will cause embarrassment.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions and disorders can lead to chronic constipation. These may include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypothyroidism, diabetes, neurological disorders, and pelvic floor dysfunction. It’s important to treat the medical condition that’s causing constipation in addition to treating the constipation. This will create long-term relief instead of symptom relief only.

Aging

As people age, the muscles in the digestive tract may weaken, which can slow down the movement of stool through the intestines and lead to constipation.

Psychological factors

Stress, anxiety, and other emotional factors can influence bowel habits and contribute to constipation in some individuals. As with other medical conditions causing constipation, it’s important to treat the underlying factor and not only constipation symptoms.

Why Regular Bowel Movements are Important for Health

Constipation and health

Bowel movements are of paramount importance to our overall health and well-being. They serve as a natural mechanism for the body to eliminate waste and toxins from the digestive system, ensuring that harmful substances do not accumulate within our bodies. Regular, healthy bowel movements help prevent conditions like constipation, which can lead to discomfort, pain, and complications such as hemorrhoids and bleeding.

Consistent bowel movements support colon health by reducing the risk of digestive disorders like diverticulitis and colorectal cancer. Adequate bowel movements also contribute to a balanced gut microbiome, which has implications for our immune function, digestion, and even mental health.

Beyond physical health, the regularity and comfort associated with proper bowel movements promote a sense of overall well-being and comfort, allowing us to go about our daily lives without the discomfort or distraction that can arise from digestive issues. Paying attention to the frequency and quality of bowel movements is crucial in maintaining health and ensuring that digestive system functions optimally.

What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber, commonly referred to as just “fiber,” is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. Unlike other carbohydrates such as sugars and starches, fiber cannot be broken down by the digestive enzymes in the human body. Instead, it passes through the digestive tract largely intact, providing a range of health benefits.

Fiber is categorized into two main types:

  1. Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This type of fiber can help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar, and promote a feeling of fullness. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oats, barley, legumes (like beans and lentils), fruits (such as apples and oranges), and certain vegetables (like carrots and Brussels sprouts).
  2. Insoluble Fiber: Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and remains relatively unchanged as it passes through the digestive system. Its primary role is to add bulk to stool, which helps prevent constipation and promotes regular bowel movements. Whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and many vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Fiber-rich foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. In addition to promoting digestive health, fiber offers various other benefits, including weight management, heart health, and the support of a balanced gut microbiome. A diet that includes a variety of fiber-rich foods can help maintain overall well-being in addition to relieving and preventing constipation

Soluble fiber for constipation

Beans for constipation

Foods that are good sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Oats: Oatmeal and oat bran are particularly high in soluble fiber
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and peas are rich in soluble fiber
  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, citrus fruits, and berries contain soluble fiber in their pulp
  • Vegetables: Carrots, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and broccoli have soluble fiber
  • Barley: This whole grain is a good source of soluble fiber
  • Psyllium Husk: Often used as a dietary supplement, psyllium husk is extremely high in soluble fiber

Insoluble fiber for constipation

Foods that are good sources of insoluble fiber include:

  • Whole Grains: Foods like whole wheat, whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta contain significant amounts of insoluble fiber
  • Vegetables: Many vegetables, such as celery, cucumbers, and green beans, are rich in insoluble fiber.
  • Fruits: The skins of certain fruits, like apples and grapes, are good sources of insoluble fiber
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, and flaxseeds are examples of nuts and seeds that contain insoluble fiber

It’s important to note that while insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, it complements soluble fiber in promoting overall digestive health. If dietary fiber doesn’t help with constipation or they’re difficult to digest, natural supplementation will be added to your treatment plan.

Foods that have no fiber

Fiber is a component found in plant-based foods, so animal-derived foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products generally contain little to no dietary fiber. Additionally, highly processed foods, which often undergo significant refinement and removal of natural fiber, tend to be low in fiber. Here are some examples of foods that are typically low in fiber or have no fiber:

hamburger and fries, constipation
  1. Meat and Animal Products: Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are low in fiber.
  2. Processed and Refined Grains: Foods made from refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, and most commercial breakfast cereals, have had their natural fiber removed during processing and are low in fiber.
  3. Processed Snack Foods: Chips, crackers, cookies, and other processed snack foods are often low in fiber due to their refined ingredients.
  4. Fruit Juices: Many fruit juices, especially those that are not 100% pure fruit juice, may have little to no fiber. The juicing process often removes the fiber content.
  5. Sweets and Desserts: Candies, chocolates, cakes, and other sugary desserts tend to be low in fiber because they are primarily composed of sugar and refined flour.
  6. Fats and Oils: Fats and oils, including olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter, do not contain any dietary fiber.
  7. Dairy Alternatives: Plant-based milk alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk are usually low in fiber, particularly if they are not fortified with added fiber.

It’s essential to complement these with foods that are rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, to ensure you get the necessary nutrients and maintain good digestive health to avoid constipation.

Acupuncture and Constipation

While most people seek acupuncture for pain management, acupuncture can also be used for constipation and other digestive issues. Acupuncture is a safe and natural form of treatment that works well with other forms of therapy including the use of natural supplements and prescription medication.

Acupuncture can stimulate certain points associated with the digestive system and overall body balance. It can help regulate the function of the gastrointestinal system, promote relaxation, and reduce stress, which can be a contributing factor to digestive issues, including constipation. While acupuncture alone is an effective treatment, additional therapies, including dietary therapy will be added to your treatment plan.

Conclusion

Constipation is a common digestive issue that can significantly impact quality of life. It is characterized by infrequent and difficult-to-pass bowel movements, often resulting from a variety of factors such as dietary choices, lack of physical activity, and certain medical conditions. Recognizing the importance of regular and healthy bowel movements for overall well-being is essential including stress. Increased fiber intake, adequate hydration, and the inclusion of whole foods, play a crucial role in preventing and managing constipation. Additionally, maintaining a physically active lifestyle and addressing underlying medical conditions can contribute to better digestive health.

If you suffer from chronic constipation, using laxatives regularly, and not sure what to do next, acupuncture can help. For a consultation or to schedule your first appointment, book online today.

1 thought on “Constipation Relief”

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