CONSTIPATION – a backed-up colon is a danger zone. What’s the straight poop?
“Oh yes, I’m regular. I have a bowel movement every 3-4 days, regularly,” she answers me.
[smacks his face, realizing that we are definitely NOT defining “regular” the same way]
Yes, this was a true response to my inquiry: “Are you regular?”
To you, this may be bordering on a comedy routine, but for me, it teaches me that a) many of us are definitely constipated b) we don’t all know what “regular” means and c) I missed a step in my teachings.
There are real dangers associated with constipation, so I’m going to take this opportunity and talk about POOP.
No matter how awkward to talk about, it’s too important to not address. We all need to understand:
- what is constipation
- what is true regularity
- why it’s important to have well-functioning elimination
- what deeper health issues constipation may indicate
- the risks of staying constipated
- most of all, how to fix it
Constipation comes in two forms: Primary and Secondary. Primary means it is the main problem, by itself. Secondary means it is a follow-on result of a primary, separate, problem (like a spinal injury, for instance). I’m going to focus on Primary Constipation, but a lot of what I’ll tell you often applies just as well to Secondary Constipation.
First of all, let’s define “normal” functioning regularity.
I’m putting that in quotation marks, because “normal” means “the usual, typical or average state or condition.” And…well…I think the majority of average people have a skewed view of this topic, and loads of them are constipated! Just watch a televised sporting event or TV show, and count how many commercials you’re presented for laxatives (also indigestion, Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc etc…oh boy, I’m in danger of stepping up onto my soap box here!).
So let’s say optimal instead of normal.
Simply put, you should be fully evacuating your bowels at least once to twice per day. That means producing, without straining, a golden brown/tan poop about the consistency of a ripe banana.
Harder than a soft banana? Constipated. Too infrequent? Constipated. Straining to get it out? Constipated.
(By the way, are you pooping more than 3 times a day? That may be an indicator of a different problem; I’ll tackle diarrhea in a later post.)
Here are only some of the risks associated with constipation:
- Foul gas
- Skin eruptions
- Anal fissures
- Dysbiosis (imbalance of the gut microflora)
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep disruption
- Varicose veins
- Pelvic organ prolapse (uterus, bladder, rectum)
- Cancer of colon, stomach, pancreas, liver
- Gall stones
- Cognitive decline
- Autoimmune disease (lupus, behcet’s disease, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, etc )
- Liver disease (hepatic toxicity)
- Endotoxicity (whole body toxicity)
- Overactivated cortisol response (“fight or flight”)
- Yeast infections
- SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
Some of these go both ways, meaning that while constipation may lead to them, they may conversely lead to constipation.
Now you can see the gravity of the situation. This goes way beyond an uncomfortable embarrassing situation that might be difficult to talk about; there are very serious ramifications to being constipated.
Why is it important to stay regular, anyway? What are the benefits?
Benefits of Staying Regular
- Toxins are moved out of your body the way they should be, on a daily basis, because your colon is a MAJOR player in your detoxification system. This affects your blood, lymph (immunity), brain (cognitive ability), skin, and more.
- Your blood doesn’t circulate through old fecal material. Yuck!
- Parasites have less of a place to cozy up.
- Circadian rhythms are tied up with elimination, so you sleep better when you’re regular.
- Cortisol (stress response hormone) is better managed. This is a far-reaching benefit, because spikier cortisol leads to
- stubborn weight gain, especially around the middle
- poor sleep
- anxiety and depression
- poor immunity
- and more.
- Reduces likelihood of intestinal yeast infections.
- More energy.
- Less bloat.
- Healthier rectal tissue (less likelihood of hemorrhoids and anal fissures).
- Clearer skin (gut-skin-brain axis works better).
- Less gas.
- Less likelihood of heartburn.
- Your clothing waistbands fit better.
- Avoiding all the dangers listed above!
For most people, it doesn’t matter “why” they are constipated; they just want relief NOW. I get that and I promise to give you both long-term and short term solutions. But…
In Functional Medicine, it is always important to discern the WHY even before fixing the WHAT.
In relation to constipation, this means searching out the underlying causes. I always come back to the Big Six: nutritional deficiency, microbial imbalance (like virus, bacteria, yeast, mold, parasite), toxic exposure, genetic variability, unresolved trauma, and allergies (both acute and delayed response). Go HERE for a thorough discussion of this. In my intake, I always ask deep questions about regularity, because it is an important marker of a person’s health status.
If we get you “un-constipated,” but never address the cause, who’s to say you won’t just get “plugged up” again in a short time? I don’t want to settle for anything less than a resolution, and neither should you. Don’t let all those TV commercials convince you that taking this or that is OK (even if it’s “normal” in today’s world), or that “managing it” is anything but a temporary band aid. Demand to know WHY the problem is here then be willing to work towards a lasting answer.
Nonetheless, I am always about solutions, and constipation demands one. I have lots of strategies which I’ll share. Many of these resources can be found in my RESOURCES and my online supplement store, SolutionsMethodHealth.com. If I don’t stock it, I’ve tried to link to a resource for you outside my world. (I also stock many supplements in my clinic which the manufacturers don’t allow me to sell online – ex: Potent C Guard Vitamin C powder, which is the only one I recommend for a C-Flush. Come in or call 949.661.9777 to order. We do ship.)
I have helped many people resolve their constipation, both chronic and acute, like these:
- the 75-year old who had been constipated since his appendix was removed at age 12;
- the young man constipated for 14 years since a TBI (traumatic brain injury);
- the young woman who noticed my window sign and stopped in by chance the day before she was to fly home to Paris. So constipated for a week, that even her emergency room trip the night before hadn’t relieved her.
…and many more. I helped them, and I’ll help you.
I’m going to mostly focus with what I call “emergency relief,” which addresses the result more than the cause, but which at least gets things moving. Not all of these tactics will be appropriate for every person, and here is where I need to state: “This is not medical advice. Anyone suffering from constipation should consult their healthcare provider first, before undertaking any of these strategies.”
For lasting relief, much of this still applies, so I’ve noted that, too.
I’ll divide them into DO, TAKE, and DON’T DO.
- Walk for 20-30 minutes 3 times today, and every day until you’re regular (see above). Then walk at least 20-30 minutes daily thereafter. Walking specifically (not running) is fantastic for resolving constipation.
- Buy and use a Squatty Potty for proper elimination posture on the toilet.
- Abdominal massage, especially with diluted lemon essential oil: follow the colon up from lower right quadrant (where the ileocecal valve is), across the top, and down on the left.
- Body work to reactivate the vagus nerve and “reset” your nervous system. A full Chiropractic adjustment is ideal, especially if it includes visceral manipulation of the abdomen and an adjustment of the ileocecal valve, which might be stuck open. CranioSacral Therapy, massage and acupuncture can also work well, to reactivate the vagus nerve and get you out of sympathetic nervous system dominance (“fight or flight”) which may be a contributing factor.
- Yoga for constipation.
- Intermittent fasting.
- Eat LOTS of vegetables (7 – 10 servings per day; strive for a diverse variety of 50 different types every month)
- Test for food allergies, both acute and delayed response (I use and recommend only Functional testing, which goes deeper than most).
- Drink a gallon of water in the next 72 hours. Then drink at least half your body weight pounds in ounces of water every day, out of glass or stainless steel, not plastic (ex: if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces).
- Do a magnesium load: take 125 mg every half hour until you poop. Magnesium citrate is the best of the many magnesium forms for this purpose.
- Do an Abscorbate Flush.
- Use an enema (for this purpose, a readily available prefilled saline Fleet’s Enema suffices; coffee enemas with appropriate equipment for constipation, but also deeper detox, are a classic tool that I also often recommend for a more comprehensive strategy).
- Sometimes…occasionally…for a specific time…not on a regular basis, a healthy laxative is warranted. Avoid anything with cascara sagrada or senna. THIS or THIS are the only ones I recommend.
- Ongoing, consider a healthy probiotic. These are not all created equal. For this purpose, I like THIS or THIS.
- Constipation is often a result of eating foods that your body is reacting to. Cut out all grains, sugar, and dairy for 30 days (and possibly forever).
- Don’t take any laxatives except the ones I recommended above. THIS POST goes into why more deeply.
- Don’t ignore. You are designed to function, and proper elimination is a very important part of that. The consequences of constipation can be grave.
There you go. That’s the straight poop on constipation.
If you need my help, reach out.
And please share this post with those who need to get this information – Let’s all be healthy and be truly regular, my friend!
Yours in health,
Dr. Wade Binley