Today we have a treat – a guest article from New York Times Best Selling author, Brenda Watson.
If you’re having trouble with constipation, this common form of digestive distress could be a major contributor to your acne. Brenda is going to share with us her expert advice on how to get things moving naturally.
Constipation is much more common in Western cultures than elsewhere due to our sedentary lifestyles and consumption of processed foods. Fiber (indigestible complex plant carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) is removed from most processed foods because it decreases shelf life. A high intake of dietary fiber:
- Increases transit time of stools
- Decreases absorption of toxins from stools
- Bulks and softens stools, increasing frequency and quantity of bowel movements
Indigenous cultures that have a high intake of dietary fiber invariably enjoy superior intestinal health and are virtually free of the diseases of modern civilization.
The Signs and Symptoms
With constipation, a wide variety of symptoms may be experienced. These could include:
- Abdominal discomfort/fullness
- Rectal discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Lower back pain
- General feeling of malaise
When bowel transit time is slow, waste is not properly eliminated from the body. It will consequently decay or ferment, producing poisonous chemicals. As toxins are reabsorbed into the body, the risk of developing colon diseases and other health problems increases.
Toxins created in the constipated bowel damage digestive enzymes in the intestinal wall and cause digestive problems and nutrient deficiencies. The walls of the colon can weaken and herniate, giving rise to diverticulosis.
Besides diverticulosis, the excessive bowel transit time associated with constipation can contribute to such bowel disorders as irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. It also creates conditions favorable to the overgrowth of bad or putrefactive bacteria that can have health-damaging effects on the body.
Studies suggest that constipation may indirectly cause estrogen to be reabsorbed. With slow transit times, a low fiber diet and low concentrations of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, there will be resorption of estrogen. Elevated estrogen can give rise to many female problems, including breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.
The Standard Medical Treatment
Because lack of dietary fiber in the diet is thought to be the most common cause of constipation, many doctors recommend the use of fiber supplements, as well as the addition of more high-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) to the diet. Bran, prunes, figs and apricots are particularly high in fiber. If you follow this protocol, add bran to your diet slowly, because adding bran to a diet too rapidly can cause gas and bloating.
Additional fiber may also be obtained through the use of “bulk” laxatives. However, it is important to note that laxative abuse is actually a cause of constipation. Habitual use interferes with the normal defecation reflex. Also, it can lead to the loss of potassium and calcium, causing muscle cramps, insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue. Other adverse effects can include nausea, malabsorption and diarrhea.
In addition to recommending the addition of more dietary fiber (in the form of food or dietary supplement) and possibly a form of laxative, many doctors will recommend lifestyle changes to help combat constipation. these may include increased water intake, exercise, and establishment of regular bowel habits.
This later suggestion involves heeding the defecation urge, taking time out each day (preferably after meals) to allow nature to take her course. If medications are suspected to be the cause of the constipation, these may be discontinued or switched by your doctor. If a disease process such as hypothyroidism, diverticulitis, malignant tumor, polyps or inflammatory bowel condition is identified, appropriate treatment of that condition will be initiated.
Drugs and surgery are the major tools of the medical doctor, so some form of these will likely be employed regardless of the cause of the constipation when and if it is established. If your constipation problem is due to parasites, candidiasis or food sensitivities, the traditional medical doctor is unlikely to discover this, as these conditions generally lie outside of their area of interest.
An Optional Approach
If you suffer from persistent constipation, and your standard medical doctor has ruled out other causes, you may wish to consult a progressive practitioner who might order testing to rule out the following:
- Food allergies – ELISA test
- Parasites, Candida, or dysbiosis test – Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis
- Thyroid test – self-monitoring or blood test
Please note: The following is suggested in cases of extreme constipation when a person has not had a bowel elimination for 3 to 7 days or more: Do not take any fiber! Try one of the following to encourage elimination before starting a constipation program:
- Try a colon cleanse product. Look for one containing herbs, like cape aloe or rhubarb (that will gently stimulate peristalsis), as well as magnesium oxide to bring water to the bowel. Start with one capsule before bed, and increase by one capsule each night until bowel elimination occurs. Drink plenty of water during the day.
- Do a vitamin “C” flush”.
- Colon hydrotherapy can be used to help clean out the colon before starting a digestive care program.
Brenda Watson, C.N.C., is a New York Times bestselling author, PBS health educator and digestive care expert, and is considered one of the foremost authorities today on natural digestive health and the gut connection to total-body health.