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Posts Tagged ‘constipation’

constipation causes

It doesn’t just make newborns and Grandpa grumpy—constipation is a serious digestive issue that can significantly impact your health. Conventional medicine defines constipation as having hard stools with a bowel movement fewer than three times per week, and severe constipation as less than once a week. In functional medicine, however, good elimination is having one to three healthy bowel movements per day. Although harsh laxatives can override constipation, it’s best to address the underlying causes for lasting success.

Why constipation is hard on the body

Regular bowel movements are the body’s way of eliminating toxins, metabolized hormones, and waste from your body. When you’re constipated these compounds sit idle in the intestines and are absorbed back into the bloodstream for circulation. This can sap energy, make you more cranky, hinder the ability of your body to function optimally, and increase health risks such as for heart disease.

Fecal matter sitting immobile in the digestive tract promotes an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast. This creates inflammation in the gut and other digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating, pain, allergies, and food sensitivities. Yeast overgrowths also promote itchy skin, vaginal yeast infections, fungal infections, and more.

Constipation is also uncomfortable, if not painful. It makes people feel heavy and bloated, sometimes causing abdominal cramps, hemorrhoids, or anal fissures.

Nutrition and constipation

For some people, the cause of constipation is pretty straightforward and easy to address. They simply need to eat a whole foods diet rich in fiber and stay sufficiently hydrated. For people used to eating a diet heavy in fast foods, consuming plenty of vegetables and fruit can significantly improve bowel function.

Nutritional support, such as with essential fatty acids, vitamin D, and quality vitamins and minerals, can also promote healthy bowel function.

Probiotics are another powerful tool. Many people suffer from an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can contribute to constipation. Often boosting beneficial bacteria with probiotics or fermented and cultured foods can support healthy elimination.

Food intolerances, leaky gut, and constipation

Sometimes the root cause of constipation requires more sleuthing. The best place to start is with gut health and hidden sources of inflammation, as constipation can be a symptom of inflammation in the gut. Finding an undiagnosed food intolerance, such as to gluten, dairy, corn, or egg, is all it takes to relieve constipation for some. For instance, many people have found eliminating gluten from their diet significantly improves gut health and bowel function. After removing inflammatory foods from your diet, you may also need to dampen gut inflammation and repair a leaky gut with the support of clinical nutrition.

Hypothyroidism and constipation

Constipation is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism, which slows down the body’s metabolism. Because conventional lab ranges to diagnose hypothyroidism are so broad, many people with low thyroid function are misdiagnosed. If you have thyroid symptoms, you should screen for hypothyroidism from a functional blood chemistry perspective, which includes evaluating for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism today and requires autoimmune management.

Brain health and constipation

The digestive tract has a nervous system much like the brain’s, and the gut and the brain are very intimately connected. Many people suffer from an imbalance in neurotransmitters, chemicals that relay messages between neurons. These imbalances can not only affect mood, memory, and well-being, but also digestive functions and can play a role in constipation. Whenever a gut issue becomes chronic, one should take steps to investigate and support brain health.

Ask my office for support and advice in dealing with constipation.

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Do you meet the criteria for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and can’t find relief? Do you look pregnant thanks to a bloated belly? Are chronic diarrhea or constipation your constant companions? If so, you may be a victim of stubborn gut bacteria, also known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

While a long list of symptoms accompany SIBO, its trademark symptoms are a chronically bloated, distended belly; gas, which can cause flatulence, belching, or both; and a tendency toward chronic diarrhea, constipation, or both.

SIBO symptoms

  • Excess gas, flatulence, belching
  • Abdominal bloating from gas
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or both
  • Nausea or heartburn
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Leaky gut
  • Fatigue
  • Malabsorption symptoms (anemia or fatty stools)
  • Rosacea
  • Neurologic and muscular diseases

How SIBO causes bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea

The entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract contains bacteria, both good and bad. The small intestine contains bacteria different from that of the large intestine. In the case of SIBO, the small intestine contains too much bacteria, and these bacteria more closely resemble the bacteria of the colon. These bacteria consume sugars and carbohydrates, producing large amounts of gas. Not only does this gas cause bloating, belching, and flatulence, it is also behind chronic cases of constipation and diarrhea (depending on the type of gas produced).

SIBO causes leaky gut

In addition to producing gas, the bacteria create byproducts that irritate and damage the lining of the GI tract. This damage causes intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” a condition in which the lining of the intestine becomes damaged and overly porous, allowing undigested foods, infectious bacteria, and other pathogens into the bloodstream. This creates inflammation in the GI tract and throughout the body. And because the bacteria digest foods normally meant for the intestine to absorb, nutrient deficiencies and malabsorption are common side effects with SIBO.

SIBO linked with restless leg syndrome and other neurological conditions

In addition to causing gastric complaints, SIBO is linked with neurological and cognitive symptoms. One of the best known is a condition called restless leg syndrome.

How to manage SIBO

Diagnosing SIBO involves a hydrogen breath test, which has the patient ingesting sugar solutions and giving breath samples over a period of several hours. Although experts debate its validity, clinicians report hydrogen breath test results often correspond with symptoms. Standard medical treatment of SIBO, which includes expensive antibiotics, has a good success rate, but patients can relapse if they do not take preventive measures after treatment. Anecdotal reports show success using herbal antibiotics, although there are no published studies. A medical fast using a nutrition drink for two to three weeks shows a good success rate, as it starves the bacteria. But because no eating is allowed during the fast, many find it too challenging a remedy.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Gut and Psychology Diet, which are widely touted online, also aim to starve the bacteria by eliminating foods the bacteria need to survive: all grains, most legumes, all sugars and sweeteners excluding honey, and starchy vegetables. Both diets require strict adherence for a full year after the resolution of symptoms. In real terms, this could mean being on the diet for up to four years.

The good thing about these two diets is that they are virtually identical to diets used to manage autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation, and can thus address far more than SIBO.

For more information, visit www.siboinfo.com.

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