Common Causes of Constipation
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •February 16, 2023
If you struggle with constipation, there is relief. We just need to figure out what is causing YOUR constipation. Even if you’ve had constipation since what seems like forever, it does not always have to be that way.
Here are the top causes of constipation.
- Lack of movement – daily movement and exercise gets the blood flowing in the abdomen and helps with elimination. If you are sitting most of the day, the blood flow in the abdomen becomes very stagnant and the bowls slow down. Make sure you are moving daily. A 30 minutes brisk walk daily is excellent.
- Dehydration – this is such a simple but effective fix! Make sure you are drinking at least ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day (so if you weigh 140lbs, drink 70 ounces of water per day). Some people with constipation need a little more water to stay regular, up to 80-90 ounces per day.
- Lack of fiber – Fiber is so important! It helps simulate peristalsis to move food and waste through and out of the intestine. Fiber puts pressure on the intestine walls to simulate the stretch receptors that send messages to your brain telling it that it’s time to go. And fiber encourages growth of a variety of beneficial gut bacteria that also help these movements as well as to help better break down your food so that it can be eliminated easier. Aim for 40-50 grams of fiber per day. Fiber includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds (chia, flax), coconut , oat bran, beans, lentils. Fiber and prebiotic supplements can also be helpful. If fiber makes your constipation worse, this is a sign of dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth.
- Low digestive enzymes – Hydrochloric acid released from the stomach and bile released by the liver and gallbladder are needed to trigger intestinal movement and peristalsis. Signs that could you be low in stomach acid would be acid reflux, trouble digesting protein, or feeling full easily (like a rock in your stomach) soon after eating. Signs of low bile include gas, belching, bloating, and trouble digesting fat. Click here to read more about the importance of bile.
- Chronic stress and shallow breathing – when we are in stress mode (aka “fight or flight”), chemical messages are sent to the gut that slow it down and prevent movement of the colon. You also do not release the digestive enzymes you need to break down food well. Doing deep breathing exercises and having tools in your tool box to manage your stress will be a key part of your wellness plan if stress is contributing to your constipation.
- Hypothyroidism – a low functioning thyroid leads to a slow and sluggish gut. Ask your doctor to check your TSH. If the TSH is over 2.5, hypothyroidism could be contributing to constipation.
- Low magnesium – magnesium deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency. When we are magnesium deficient there tends to be more tension and spasm in our muscles and organs, including the gut. This tension makes it more difficult for waste to move through the intestine for elimination. Magnesium citrate helps relax the intestinal muscles and is a gentle non-habit forming laxative that can be used daily.
- Dysbiosis and microbiome imbalances – constipation can be caused by an imbalance or overgrowth of microorganism in the gut. The organism M. smithii makes methane gas and this gas slows down large intestine peristalsis. Candida, yeast and parasites can also cause more constipation. Stool and breath testing is available to help us identify what bugs in your gut might be contributing to your constipation. Click here to learn more about dysbiosis.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.