What it is
Why it’s dangerous
How to cure it
The average American is chronically constipated. If you don’t have regular bowel movements, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll get sick. And on top of that, it can be really uncomfortable.
Everyone should have at least one bowel movement per day. If our food takes too long to move through our system, then toxins will remain pent up in our body and there’s a greater risk that they’ll be reabsorbed back up into the body and/or damage your colon due to toxicity. Toxic build-up from constipation can be the trigger for many autoimmune diseases and other organ and gland dysfunction. Ideal transit time is between 12 and 24 hours.
Constipation is a symptom of gut dysfunction – it is not an illness in and of itself. Underlying causes of constipation include:
- Medications (particularly opioid painkillers)
- Magnesium deficiency
- Food sensitivities
- Insufficient fat or fiber in the diet
- Microbial imbalance (too much bad bacteria in the gut)
- Lack of exercise/minimal activity
Key Lifestyle Changes that will get your bowels moving:
1) Take a Magnesium Citrate supplement. Magnesium is what your body naturally uses to move stool along. Most Americans are magnesium deficient and often times chronic constipation is really chronic magnesium deficiency. Magnesium can be found in foods such as almonds, cashews, spinach, and seaweed. Take 400-800 mg of good quality magnesium citrate (e.g. Thorne, Metagenics) every night after dinner. If you don’t like to take pills, you can take 1 -2 tsp. magnesium powder (Natural Calm) before bed and dissolve it in water.
2) Take a daily Probiotic. Our guts are full of good and bad bacteria, or microbes. Sometimes we get constipated as a result of poor digestion or inflammation in the intestines. Good or beneficial bacteria help to calm inflammation and get things moving. Take a good multi-strain probiotic after dinner that has at least 1/3 (1/2 is better) of Bifidobacterium units (the large intestines are overwhelmingly populated by this type of bacteria).
3) Eat a lot of Healthy Fats. After being wrongly vilified for decades, fat is making a come back. And that’s because fat is actually good for you. It is good for your heart and helpful for body fat loss, among other things. The best lubrication for your GI tract is grease, not water. Fat helps to move stool along. Add healthy fats to your daily diet such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, salmon, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, eggs, etc.
4) Eat more Plant Foods. Fiber is only found in plants. There is no good substitute for food-based fiber in our diets. Insoluble fiber, such as flaxseed and leafy greens, moves your stool along for easy exit.
5) Drink more Water. You knew this one was coming! It’s important to drink plenty of water if you want to have regular bowel movements. Fiber helps form stool, but water allows soluble fiber to bulk up your stool. Ideally, you want to sip water throughout the day (rather than gulping it down occasionally). Drink water first thing in the morning – this is the time when we are most dehydrated. Then sip water throughout the day between meals.