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Is constipation a problem for you or someone you love?
It’s a common symptom, especially among Americans. Many are struggling with compromised gut health. The colon is the final length of the gut where imperfections will often make themselves known. While most reach for various fibers and medications, I’d like to share with you alternatives that I’ve been studying for years, solutions that address the cause and that are more effective than the usual protocol.
I’ve personally had a myriad of gut problems, including constipation. My youngest child and my husband have also had bouts of constipation. I’ve searched for solutions, having real guinea pigs, so to speak, on whom to trial natural treatments.
During my gut-healing journey I have worked with some excellent practitioners, a few of whom have contributed to my knowledge in this arena. I’ve waited a long time to write this post, until I had a full quiver to share with you. However, this post is not intended to be exhaustive. If you have an experience or a doctor’s insights that you’d like to contribute below in the Comments section I certainly welcome that. The goal is to be helpful and to offer hard to find information.
Those of you who struggle with this problem, or have in the past, you will know what I mean when I say, pooping is a great feeling! Aw, to poop freely. It’s so funny, but so true. There is nothing, just nothing, like your body working and performing this function properly. I invite you to read on and may you experience the healing I have.
There are various solutions and approaches! What works for you will depend partially on how badly entrenched your problem is. If you have had constipation for years, your solution may be multi-fold, and take longer to solve, as you implement one remedy at a time and watch for results. For you, motility may be an issue. For someone who has struggled with constipation for a lesser period of time, and for most kids, the solution may be much simpler.
Most people will need to implement more than one change listed below. Some of the solutions take more effort than others. I am NOT going to tell you to eat prunes. It’s not that easy. But these solutions do work, and for most people prunes do not! So take a deep breath and be willing to do a little work. It’s worth it to achieve this level of wellness.
(Those who struggle with constipation are reabsorbing toxins into their systems, and exposing themselves to many health risks. Get those bowels moving to prevent further complications!)
By the way, this is a long post. No apologies: there’s a lot to share. This post is not for the casual reader. It’s for those who need details!
REMEDIES FOR CONSTIPATION
1. Food Intolerance
I have written on this topic before and can’t emphasize enough its importance. If there is one food group in your diet that your body can’t digest well, it may be sabotaging your entire digestive process. Find this food; eliminate it; and voila! The gateway opens up and your intestines and colon begin performing as they are supposed to! It’s that easy. To find out your primary and secondary food intolerances, you need to order the evaluation in the mail- $150. I do not benefit financially, or in any other way, if you choose this route. But I SO hope you’ll make this choice. It has made a HUGE difference in my wellness journey, with the surprise benefit of my bowels becoming perfect! This doctor can do the evaluation through the mail. Call and request a food evaluation, if you’re interested. Here’s more information on the food evaluation in general.
2. Constitutional Hydrotherapy
This simple treatment stimulates blood flow and the elimination of toxins. With one evening home treatment, it is common to have a perfect bowel movement the next morning. Three weeks of treatment, 5 days a week, yields overall and lasting improvement. Firmly entrenched constipation of the worst kind will need dietary changes as well, which are almost always necessary and certainly ideal. This method involves hot and cold towels, a wool blanket and ideally a helper, although there is a way to do hydrotherapy alone. Here are more complete instructions. (I recommend watching a good movie during the process; the cold towels are pretty extreme when they’re first applied, and a movie is the perfect distraction and incentive to keep up with the nightly commitment.)
3. Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation
Having the right balance of certain vitamins and minerals is key for the body to function properly. We need vitamins and minerals with their co-factors. Here are the ones I’ve found to directly correlate with the body’s ability to expel toxins through the gut: D3, K2, Magnesium, a B-complex, and trace soil minerals.
My favorite source for supplements provides a pill that is D3 + K2. I love the formulation and consider it foundational to my wellness and bowel “fluency”. While you can acquire K2 from foods (liver, egg yolks, cheese, and butter), I have found this supplement to work better for my body than taking a D3 supplement and eating foods with K2 alone. However, D3 supplementation is a personal choice based on blood work and your doctor’s insights. You may not need 5000 I.U. daily, as I do. I will say that my blood work did not show my need for D3; and yet I thrive with 5000 IU daily. Find your correct dosage. This supplement is key, in my opinion, to resolving constipation issues. (Ask your doctor to check serum 25OHD, 1,25D, and calcium levels, to make sure you aren’t taking too much D3, as well.)
Many sources recommend magnesium to be applied topically via a spray, for assimilation to occur. Here’s my favorite brand, which lasts for a long time. I spray it on thin-skinned areas morning and evening: upper chest, belly, calves (for those with Restless Leg Syndrome), inner thighs. This brand is not sticky. However, thyroid expert Dr. Izabella Wentz Pharm.D., FASCP recommends internal/oral magnesium capsules when constipation is present, and I have found this brand, that she recommends, to work well. 1-4 capsules can be used, starting with less (taken before bed) and increasing the dosage as needed.
Mineral deficiencies are common and supplementing with a soil mineral is an easy solution, one that the body craves. Making up for these imbalances allows the body to utilize the nutrition it needs to function properly. 5-7 drops of this supplement in one’s daily water helps to provide the minerals that were once rich in our soils. Specific vitamins and minerals often deficient in those with constipation include selenium, Vitamin C, zinc and copper. Trace minerals not only contain these nutrients, they also contain amino acids needed for the repair of the gut. (Here is a whole food Vitamin C that assimilates well. I discuss Vitamin C in particular more, below.)
A good B-complex, one that contains folate, not folic acid, helps the body to detoxify properly. Choline, specifically, is part of the B vitamin family and has been linked to motility. (Egg yolks also contain choline.) Overall healing and wellness are supported through B vitamins.
Hypothyroidism is a frequent cause of constipation. Discuss with your doctor not only the supplementation of selenium, magnesium, zinc and copper, but also iodine (which is controversial, but has helped me tremendously). Eliminating wheat is recommended, as well as soy. Thyroid and adrenal supplements have been key to my wellness, also great supplements to discuss with your practitioner.
4. Prebiotics and Resistant Starch
While probiotics and their benefits have been well-touted, prebiotics are just beginning to get the publicity they deserve. It’s great to supplement with living flora; but what does the flora, being a living entity, require for proliferation? Do probiotics eat?
Yes, probiotics eat prebiotics.
There are foods in the human diet that contain prebiotics. Resistant starch is a prebiotic which feeds the good flora in our bodies, promoting a healthier digestive tract. Resistant starch is easy to include in one’s diet and directly affects the colon’s motility! By adding in a daily dose or two of resistant starch, you may notice an immediate difference in your bowels! Read more about which foods contain resistant starch, and find recipes, here.
Consuming sources of resistant starch on a daily basis took me from having pretty good daily bowel movements to having great and ideal ones. I love this easy remedy and hope you’ll try it (in addition to other dietary changes).
5. Consume Gelatin
Glutathione, an antioxidant needed in intestinal cells, is often deficient in those with constipation issues. Two components of glutathione are cysteine and glycine. N-Acetyl L-Cysteine provides cysteine (500-900 mg. daily). (See its additional health benefits here.) Daily consumption of grass-fed gelatin provides glycine. (source) Chris Kresser adds,
Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements. (source)
Add cysteine and glycine to your diet to heal your gut lining.
Jogging, rebounding and trampoline jumping– Unlike walking or biking, forms of exercise that make us bounce tone the colon and increase detoxification by stimulating the lymphatic system. I bought a rebounder several months ago and love it. It’s a great investment, very gentle, even if you’re not a fitness guru, (which I am not!), and great for the kids in your life, too. Daily jumping, starting with just 3 minutes and working your way up, will make a difference. For someone with extreme, long-term constipation, jumping will not be enough, although it may be helpful. On an emotional level, I recommend a larger outdoor trampoline for those with good outdoor weather, who get bored with monotony, or who have kids with whom to jump- way more fun! (Or watch a movie while you rebound.)
SHORT TERM SOLUTIONS
If you have badly entrenched constipation and you need immediate relief, there are a two methods that are helpful, but relatively uncomfortable:
7. Aloe Lite
This supplement is just aloe in a small gelatin capsule. The first time I used this supplement I thought I had food poisoning. I took one pill in the morning and by evening I started having intestinal spasms of sorts. I got sweaty, sat on the toilet and waited. Eventually the flood gates opened and I felt totally better, all cleaned out. This dramatic process was uncomfortable because I was backed up. I continued to use the product, timing it to when it was the most convenient to have a bowel movement. I’d take one pill at night to go in the morning. The intestinal discomfort still occurred but MUCH more mildly, just a wave of discomfort and then I’d go. For those who need relief and aren’t ready to implement the ideas listed above, this pill works! And it’s natural. But it’s not solving the cause of the problem, which is why it should be a temporary fix.
We have used this method liberally in our home. But I have yet to meet anyone whose problem is solved by using enemas. Again, in my experience this solution is temporary. My husband did nightly coffee enemas for many months; and while they gave him relief, they did not give insight into the cause of his constipation or solve the problem. He was dependent on the process.
The primary solutions listed above are needed to get at the root of the issue. I do believe having an enema kit in one’s home is an excellent idea. It helped us to avoid appendicitis and it’s an excellent tool for circumventing illness or expediting the healing process. If used for too long enemas disturb the equilibrium of gut flora. Adding probiotics to enema water helps to restore flora to the region. Always be sure to clean your enema bag and tubes well with hydrogen peroxide or bleach. This is necessary to avoid mold.
There are, of course, other methods that have helped people who suffer from constipation. I’ll mention a few of these briefly:
- Eat a diet high in (grass-fed) animal fats. Bile is produced when fat is eaten; and bile has a laxative effect.
- Adding fiber to a high-fat diet can be helpful for some.
- Pathogen overgrowth can cause alternating constipation and diarrhea. If you suspect gut dysbiosis consider herbal treatments to regain gut flora balance.
- Vitamin A is also important. This can be gained from cod liver oil or organ meats. Grass-fed liver pills are an easy option, for those who find these foods intolerable. Dandelion root and leaves are also excellent sources of Vitamin A and dandelion has laxative effects.
- Vitamin C is often helpful. Start with up to 4 grams; and taper down to 1 gram daily.
- Taurine can be helpful- 500 mg. for children and up to 4000 mg. for adults, spaced throughout the day. Taurine, an amino acid, is a major component of bile.