Constipation can be a factor of many things. But throughout my years of coaching clients, I have found 6 major contributors to chronic or acute constipation.
Changes in fiber effects Constipation
Changes in our diet usually lead to a disruption in our GI system. Just think about the time you switched your dog’s food over. You gradually changed it over the course of a week in order to get his digestive system adapted to the new type food.
Yet we tend think of our digestive tracts as more of a garbage disposal than a delicate energy-extracting system – but that just isn’t the case. Our digestive tract is composed of a whole ecosystem of microorganisms, enzymes, and transporters. All of these components adapt to the food we eat and how much. They do this by upregulating and/or downregulating through genetic coding and protein synthesis (which isn’t exactly a FAST process). So if you suddenly decrease your vegetable and fiber intake over the course of a couple days (perhaps over a Holiday weekend), you can expect things to move a little slower as your enzymes and flora adapt to the new stimulus. The same goes for when you drastically INCREASE your fiber intake – God have mercy…
Changes in hydration effects Constipation
Your colon is responsible for excreting and recycling water through the food you eat back into your body. But if you are slightly dehydrated, the amount of water that needs to be recycled increases, so your colon does it’s best to provide the amount needed. As a result, the stool becomes hard and difficult to pass.
Poor food quality – this is a touchy subject. As soon as you start suggesting to people that the foods they love are wreaking havoc on their health, they tend to go through a phase of denial (I know I did!). That’s ok, but when we’re ready to move past it, that’s when we can start looking at the top inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and alcohol with an objective eye and start eliminating them to see if your digestion improves. I have a hunch it will 😉
Change in activity level effects Constipation
Have you ever sat at an airport all day – enough said.
Phase of your menstrual cycle can effect Constipation
This one is fascinating for most people. During the second half of our menstrual cycle, ladies, we have already ovulated and start producing a hormone called progesterone. Progesterone is associated with being GABA – the cool, calm and collected neurotransmitter. Unfortunately, our GI system gets the memo as well and can down regulate it’s motility in a hurry. The result? You may feel a bit more stopped up during the week we traditionally call ‘PMS’. The good thing is that as soon as your period starts (ie progesterone drops to nearly nill), the flood gates open and your digestive system is open for business.
Low Thyroid Hormones can effect Constipation
Your active T3 thyroid hormone is responsible for most metabolic functions in the body, including digestion. So if you are suffering from hypothyroidism (either from chronic dieting, over-exercising, being over-stressed, or perhaps struggling with Hashimoto’s (a common autoimmune condition affecting the health of the thyroid) then your digestion may also be running low. If you have a hunch that your thyroid is acting up, check out our previous post on “What labs to order from your Doctor” to see where your thyroid needs help.
Ultimately please remember that we don’t live in a black box where everything is neatly controlled. One thing leads to the other and causes another. So I’ve found it very helpful to look at your body like an interconnected web and see the big picture problem before diving deep into a symptom 🙂 Happy BMs to all!