Updated: Jan 20
Author: Dr. Misharo Fraser, ND
Poop, it’s a very private matter for most, and a topic many people are not comfortable talking about. Bowel movements can look different, literally and figuratively, in each individual. In perfect circumstances, waste travels through the digestive tract in a regular and often predictable manner. “Normal” bowel movements can range from one movement a day to once a week; the latter is not ideal. When waste takes too long to travel through the large intestine, this is known as constipation. People dealing with constipation may complain of painful, hard, pebble-like stools and having less than 3 movements a week. Frequently, accompanied by a host of symptoms ranging from general tiredness, bloating, and even headache.
Almost everyone experiences constipation at one point or another. Although more prevalent in certain populations like the elderly and low-income individuals. Think about why that might be. Why do we have a hard time, pun intended, speaking about it? Because constipation is often overlooked and poorly managed by western medicine. It is the number one GI disorder in the United States, yet many doctors are stumped regarding treatment options. The very treatments prescribed are often leading to worsening symptoms.
Western diet, low in fiber, fluid, and healthy nutrients while high in bad fats, is the leading cause of constipation. It is quite simple when fiber and fluids are low, the large intestine is not stimulated regularly enough to produce a bowel movement. Other factors, such as stress, inactivity, mental health, and medications can contribute to constipation. Yes, that's right, constipation is often “multifactorial.” Meaning it depends on many things, including diet habits, exercise, medications, mood, and much more. A coincidence? These are topics neglected in our disease-based model of medicine.
Constipation, for the most part, is harmless. But there are certain things to look out for. If left untreated for too long it can lead to other issues or be a symptom of something more serious. Please seek help if you experience sudden changes in bowel habits.
So what’s the solution?
Traditionally, doctors prescribe laxatives, drugs, or surgery for constipation relief. These methods have harmful side effects and will only temporarily relieve symptoms. The key is making lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes to consider include staying hydrated, eating fiber-rich foods (not all fiber created equal), getting plenty of physical activity, and encouraging regular toilet habits like sitting on the toilet after meals.
What should I avoid eating or drinking if I’m constipated?
To help prevent or relieve constipation, avoid foods low in fiber and high in saturated fats. Examples: fast food, prepared foods, such as some frozen meals and snack foods, highly processed foods, too much dairy, or red meat to name a few.
What should I eat if I’m constipated?
This is not a one-size-fits-all cure. Schedule an appointment with me today.