Constipation is on the riseDigestive Health
By pH health care professionals
Many of us are living in a sedentary world. We spend prolonged periods sitting in front of a computer screen at work or at home. Add in the ever-increasing stress, poor dietary choices, lack of fiber, inadequate fluid intake and lack of exercise, and you have the perfect storm for constipation.
Unsurprisingly, an article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found an increased number of emergency room visits for constipation between 2006-2011. To understand why this problem seems to be on the rise, let’s take a look at what constipation is and what you can do.
What is constipation?
Constipation generally refers to bowel movements that are infrequent and hard to pass. Many times, people compare stool to their own standard. But this may not be enough to find out the optimal number and type of bowel movements. BMs affect quality of life, especially when waste accumulates, leading to sensations of fullness, sluggishness, headaches, mood issues, abdominal discomfort and/or even pain. The Bristol stool chart is a useful tool to assess formation of your stools.
Generally, one to two soft BMs per day is ideal. Although doctors may accept two to three days of no BMs as a natural variation, it may be an indicator that something is backing up. The amount of BMs may be related to volume and type of food and water intake. The goal is to have adequate absorption of essential nutrients and to get rid of waste in a timely manner.
New insights on constipation
You’ve heard about fiber, but fiber alone may not remedy the constipation. Exercise may help to stimulate circulation and intestinal function. And you should also factor in your bacterial balance in your gut. Here’s what you should know:
- Antibiotics can affect digestion. Have you ever noticed that you had sluggish BMs or increased constipation after taking antibiotics? In other cases, they can cause loose stools and diarrhea. There’s a good reason for that. Healthy gut bacteria get killed and undesirable bacteria start to flourish. This causes an imbalance of bacteria, which can have short-term and long-term effects on your health.
- Probiotics may help. In a study published in The Netherlands Journal of Medicine, certain bacteria patterns were shown not only to be associated with increased health risks and higher weight, but were also associated with higher rates of constipation. Addition of healthy gut bacteria caused improvement in BMs. You can get probiotics in supplement form or in food products such as kefir and kombucha.
- Human microbiome transplant shows promise.Microbiome is a term that refers to the diversity of gut bacteria. Although it sounds very unappealing to transfer bacterial colonies from a healthy person into the colon of an unhealthy person, it has been successfully done and has also improved several gut diseases, including Clostridium difficile infections and chronic conditions such as colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Testing that could benefit everyone
- GI Effects panel: This new stool test detects unhealthy bacteria, overall bacterial balance, the degree of inflammation and problems with food absorption.
- Intracellular magnesium: The American diet is frequently associated with certain mineral deficiencies such as magnesium or potassium. Low magnesium intake has been associated with an increase in constipation. Supplementing with magnesium may help with chronic constipation. Note that it’s known to be a laxative, so don’t take more than is recommended. You can test to determine how much you have and how much you need.
- Preventive colonoscopy: Although it is not the most appealing medical exam, it makes total sense to have yourself checked out, especially over the age of 50. This can detect polyps or tumors in their early stages. Severe constipation or alterations of BMs can be an early warning sign.
- Thyroid testing: Impaired thyroid function is not only related to weight gain, general sluggishness, leg swelling and low energy, but is also related to constipation. Test your thyroid every two to five years, depending on your doctor’s recommendation.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.
What if it's related to medication you are taking?