That’s the beauty of a blog. We can talk about really personal and embarrassing issues in the privacy of your own home 😉 So let’s get right into it.
Did you know that sluggish bowels are a common contributor to weight gain, as well as to joint pain, gas and bloating, eczema, fatigue, and even colon cancer? Still think your constipation is just an annoyance? In fact, I have had many clients who hit plateaus with their weight loss and they were doing “everything right”….or so they thought. Once the constipation issue was addressed, the weight loss resumed.
Now you may be wondering what is considered sluggish or constipated? Technically speaking, you are constipated if you have less than one bowel movement daily. To take it further (and here’s where we get a little graphic, so the squeamish should leave the room), your bowel movements should be well-formed and you should be eliminating at least 10 inches of feces daily (okay, take a deep breath. We’re gonna get through this). Think about an infant, whose system is new and essentially untainted by years of poor diet and stress. Compared to an adult, it’s very efficient. An infant has a bowel movement after virtually every meal. The bottom line is if you aren’t eliminating properly, everything on up the line is disrupted. This includes digestion, nutrient absorption, and fat metabolism. Just think about this: the longer waste sits in your colon, the greater the opportunity for toxins to be absorbed back into your body. This is probably the most disruptive element of constipation.
So what causes sluggish bowels? Here is a short list of the most common contributing factors:
- 1. Dehydration
- 2. Lack of fiber
- 3. Fatty acid deficiency
- 4. Magnesium deficiency
- 5. Chronic stress
- 6. Underactive thyroid
It is important to know that in order to have a bowel movement, you must have at least these two things: 1) something to move and; 2) the urge or reflex to move it. The ‘something to move’ component is addressed by eating enough to create mass and, more importantly, eating enough fiber. The ‘urge to move’ component is referred to as peristalsis and it consists of a series of involuntary muscle contractions that begins at the top of the gastrointestinal tract and continues all the way down, sort of like a slow-moving wave with some breaks along the way. Both components are essential and interdependent. All of the common causes listed above influence one or both components of a bowel movement. Without either one, you get constipation.
Now that we’ve addressed the importance of regularity and the causes of irregularity, what do we do about it? The great news is the cures are right there in the causes. Here are some simple guidelines, in order of priority:
- 1. Drink at least ½ ounce of filtered water per pound of body weight daily, mostly between meals.
- 2. Eat at least 20 grams of fiber daily, mostly from vegetables and fruit—If you can’t manage to eat that much produce in a day, then fiber supplements are a decent substitute. You just need to find one that works for you.
- 3. Get your essential fatty acids (EFA’s—primarily omega-3’s) daily—best sources are cod liver, fish oil and flax seed oil.
- 4. If items 1-3 have been addressed, take at least 350mg of magnesium citrate or malate at night to stimulate peristalsis.
- 5. Develop a practice of stress management such as conscious breathing, gentle yoga, journaling—if you don’t have outlets for negative thoughts and emotions, the body holds on…..to everything.
- 6. If you suspect hypothyroidism, see your physician.
Well, there you have it—bowel regularity 101! I hope this helps you to get things moving