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Spring Cleaning for Constipation

Part 1. 3 Things to Address

It's the beginning of Spring and it's a great time to do a cleanse or detox, starting fresh with the new season. Sometimes it seems as though we have lingering discomforts like bloating, constant cravings or symptoms that travel with us from season to season that is difficult to get rid of.

When I was researching the number of people struggling with digestive discomfort, the statistics were pretty mind-blowing when I was going through the numbers. Digestive disease, which encompasses Constipation, IBS, and the other common struggles is very prevalent amongst the population and affects 60 to 70 million and in 2004, it cost $141 billion in healthcare. (1)

More Specifically, 63 million people suffer from chronic constipation and 5.3 million of those individuals are taking prescription medication for their constipation. (1) So where did we go wrong in our gut health and how can we truly take sincere steps to heal one of the most crucial powerhouses of health?

In this post we are going to focus on addressing constipation, because if you struggle with this, then you know it does not travel alone. It is often coupled with bloating, poor digestion, gassiness, and if chronic, constipation ultimately affects our ability to think clearly and manage our emotions and mood on a chemical level.

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, leading to millions of doctor visits each year. (2) What's even more astounding and what most don't know is that you can have daily bowel movements and still be constipated. Constipation has been considered a nutrient deficiency disease, and that nutrient being fiber. But what else could be the cause when the western medicine recommendation of taking fiber supplements for years is no longer working for you? Exercise and movement, mindset and stress, environmental stress, improper sources of fiber, poor quality of sleep, unhealthy gut flora, or maybe just a poor plan to address constipation all together leading to discouragement and a repeat of old habits. All of these are very valid causes for chronic constipation, but where can we start to truly address the root cause of why you, personally may be experiencing it?

First, we will unbox the 3 areas in which the inner work must be done: 1. Evaluate your stress and emotional well-being. Before making major overhauls to your diet or piling on the Metamucil, the most important areas to address is what is causing you the most stress and how you are managing it. Stress creates tension in the stomach and decreases the amount of movement of matter through the intestines. If your stress is unmanaged, then your sleep quality may be poor as well. Poor sleep also does not lead to productive brain function.

Q: What is stressing you out and what is one change that you can make to decrease or manage this stress better? 2. Get real with how or if you are actually digesting your food. Constipation in itself can be very uncomfortable and if our bowels aren't moving efficiently, eating more food creates a negative emotion and poor digestion habits. If you are not properly breaking down your food, nutrients are not distributed and absorbed throughout the body. A very useful way of tracking your bowel transit time is to eat some beets and noting when your stool turns pink (2). An ideal target time for this would be less than 24-36 hours to be considered a healthy transit time. If you are experiencing gassiness, bloating, sluggishness, brain fog or increased depression or anxiety, how you are digesting food is not optimal, and this alone can lead to chronic constipation.

Q: Have you been experiencing the signs of poor digestion listed above? 3. Now you can take a look at your diet. You may have thought that this would be the first thing that we address and that this may be the most important area. But from experience and with more research evolving, a healthy diet is only one piece of the puzzle. Everyone knows that they need to eat healthily, but you can eat healthily and still experience constipation if the first two above areas are not addressed. For this simple reason, you can have a top-notch diet and still not absorb the nutrients from your food because you're A) Chemically imbalanced due to stress which affects the rate of digestion, and B) you aren't breaking down food well enough to distribute nutrients to your cells. Q: Is what you're eating serving your energy needs or emotional needs? Look for Part 2 of this article to take action steps toward your constipation! Resources: 1. 2. Greger, Michael M.D. How Not to Die. 2015 3. Waller, Pip. Deeply Holistic. 2018

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