In the US, constipation is the most common digestive complaint. It is a topic many of us find difficult to discuss, but most of us – from a newborn to the elderly, experience at some point. It occurs when the muscle contractions are too slow and/or water absorption is too great, causing stool to become dry and hard.
Constipation is defined as having less than three bowel movements per week or for some as an irregular or hard to pass stool. If it lasts for several months, then it’s considered chronic. Chronic constipation has a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in medication with 2.5 million doctor visits per year. It can affect your job performance, recreational activities, and cause stress, anxiety and depression.
Additional symptoms include:
• Sense of incomplete bowel movement
• Swollen abdomen or abdominal pain
• Occasional diarrhea
• Low back pain
What Causes Constipation?
There are many factors or causes that lead to becoming constipated:
Subluxation: Digestion and elimination are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. When it becomes compromised by physical, chemical or emotional stress – poor function and elimination result.
Constipation in infants, children and adults is often the result of a spinal misalignment. The nervous system does not properly carry signals from the brain to various parts of the body. Nerves in the lower back (lumbar spine) control the colon or intestines. If a subluxation (spinal misalignment) exists, then inflammation can disrupt communication and function.
Lack of Exercise: A lack of exercise often means a lack of oxygen is going into the lungs, which results in the large intestine not receiving all the energy it needs to function properly – according to Chinese medicine.
Yin Deficiency: According to Chinese medicine, if the internal body temperature regulation system becomes unbalanced, a build-up of internal heat may result, which can cause the large intestine to dry out and lead to constipation. Adding fiber to this could worsen the problem because fiber is dry.
Poor Diet: Low in fiber rich food (vegetables, whole grains and fruit) or a high protein rich in meats, eggs and dairy products may lead to constipation. Irregular bowel movements may occur when consuming processed or ready to eat meals, which may contain less fiber and higher amounts of salt and sugar.
Lack of Fluids: As we get older, many of us do not drink enough water or other fluids with meals.
Excessive use of Laxatives: Your body becomes accustomed to “needing” a laxative to eliminate and therefore this dependency prevents you from having a normal bowel movement.
Holding Back: Some people wait until they get home – where they feel more comfortable having a bowel movement. This delay can result in constipation.
Symptom of a Disease: Constipation is not a condition – it is a symptom of a disease – such as hypothyroidism, diabetes or celiac disease.
Medication: The side effect of certain medications: such as certain antacids, allergy medications, pain killers, diuretics and anti-depressants – to name a few.
Pregnancy: Half of all pregnant women experience constipation due to their hormones, which relax the intestinal muscle and pressure on the intestines of the expanding uterus. In addition, iron supplements may contribute to constipation.
Are you Seeking Constipation Relief?
Acupuncture: If there is a weakness or blockage of energy flow (qi) in the colon and lung meridians, then Acupuncture helps to restore the natural balance of the body through the nervous system and energy channels in the body.
The large intestine meridian has acupuncture points used to treat constipation. In addition, other organs – stomach and liver have specific acupuncture points to reduce stress and improve bowel function. Many patients find constipation relief when sacral nerves are stimulated.
Chiropractic: Many people treat with a chiropractor for constipation. A chiropractor corrects subluxations with safe and non-invasive manipulation. This helps to remove the strain from the nervous system, allowing it to function properly and often resolves any elimination problem. A gentle chiropractic adjustment restores normal motion to the spine, providing normal nerve function of the intestinal system. Women find chiropractic care during their pregnancy beneficial for constipation relief, back pain and other symptoms associated with being pregnant.
Exercise: Many people ask, “Can exercise help with constipation?” The answer is YES! Incorporating 30-minutes of exercise most days or being physically active is a natural cure for constipation!
Diet: Fueling the body with healthy food and fluids help to lubricate the intestines, unblock stool and strengthen the flexibility of the colon and its ability to move stool. Work with a Certified Nutrition Specialist and/or Medical Doctor to determine if and how much high fiber foods you should incorporate into your diet. Recommendations may include: oatmeal and other whole grain cooked cereals, spinach, green beans, almonds, walnuts, apples, berries, etc.
Habit: Get into the habit of going to the bathroom at the same time each morning. The morning is the time when our colonic motor activity is the highest.
Anyone suffering with chronic constipation should consider a multidisciplinary approach. A chiropractor for constipation corrects structural imbalances. If you are not exercising – but would like to, work with a physical therapist and ask how can exercise help with constipation. An acupuncturist helps restore the natural balance within the body and a nutritionist can customize a healthy eating program.
As our Medical Director says… “The road to good health is paved with good intestines.” – Dr. Matthew Speesler