Let’s talk about constipation
That’s right we are taking the conversation down to toilet levels! Most people seem to find talking about their bathroom antics a touch on the embarrassing side. In consultations people often try to skirt around the issue, truth is your ability to empty your bowels says a lot about what’s going on inside your body and that’s information you should be sharing!
If you’re your having anything less than one bowel movement per day you are constipated. An optimally functioning body should have a bowel movement after each major meal, that’s three times a day.
Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It can mean that you are not passing your stools regularly or you’re unable to completely empty your bowel. It can cause your stools to be hard and lumpy as well as unusually large or small.
In an optimally functioning body the large bowel draws water and nutrients into the body from the food you eat and drink. As the digested food passes through the bowel (colon) the waste matter or stool gradually forms. Stool is stored in your rectum until it is ready to pass out of your body. The muscles in your bowel help to push the stools into your rectum for elimination.
What can happen to your body when you’re constipated
Your body uses your stool as an elimination vehicle for food that it cannot process such as fibre etc along with excess hormones and toxins e.g estrogen. Your body breaks the hormones down and transfers them to the stool for excretion. However, constipation slows the transition time down which allows for enzymes to rebuild the hormones and transport them back into the bloodstream, effectively recycling them. In the case of estrogen this can lead to estrogen dominance which is associated with allergies, weight gain, fibroids and fatigue. (1,2,3,4,5,6)
Toxins reabsorbed into the bloodstream via the constipated colon now need to find a new exit from the body and the easiest way for them to leave is via the skin, this can result in conditions such as acne and oily/ greasy hair. (7)
The increased toxic load in your body can lead to inflammation. Inflammation impairs the immune system leaving your body vulnerable to infections and autoimmune conditions e.g UTIs (8)
Intestinal flora (the friendly bacteria in your gut) is responsible for the removal of cell debris, viruses, bacteria and cancerous cells. (8) Constipation affects the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut which can lead to an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria (9) this can result in Small intestinal overgrowth (SIBO) (10,11) and weight gain (12,13).
You may find yourself extremely gassy. This is because constipation slows the transit time of nutrients through your digestive tract which, can increase carbohydrate fermentation increasing the body’s hydrogen sulphide production (eggy / smelly farts).
Constipation results in hard stools which increase bladder pressure adding pressure to veins around the anus increasing the risk of haemorrhoids. This can also weaken connective tissue around the anus leading to rectal prolapse – where the last part of your colon detaches internally slipping out of your rectum. Hard stools can cause anal fissures – small tears in the anal skin. (14,15,16,17)
Constipation can lead to faecal impaction (a bowel obstruction caused by solid faecal blockage) liquid stool will sometimes bypass the impacted stool triggering incontinence often mistaken for diarrhea. (18,19)
With the potential of so many things possibly affecting your bowel movements it’s no wonder that anxiety and depression often follow suit. Both of which are often seen in relation to digestive disorders with the lack of flow playing on your mental state often resulting in a worsening of your symptoms. (20,21,22)
Constipation is something that you should pay close attention to. It is a tell tale symptom of other issues within your body and something that you should work on rectifying as soon as you can. As you have read, constipation can be the result of a multitude of other issues, therefore it is best that you work with a health professional to work out the root cause of your constipation.