Poop…one of my favorite things to talk about. Why is that? Well, if you haven’t read my bio, I struggled with digestive issues for the better 2/3 of my life (and still have some struggles today). While years ago I would have preferred to avoid the topic of poop, today I have a good handle on things and want to help others going through similar issues. Because there are so many possible causes, I’m breaking this up into two separate blogs. Today, I’m talking basic root causes of constipation. Next week I’ll be back for part 2 🙂
First off, if you aren’t having an easy-to-pass, light to medium brown, with no noticeable food poops every single day…then you’re constipated. And let me tell you, this is a serious issue. Ideally, you should be going 1-3x a day, but for many, this is not the case. It is the MOST common digestive complaint in the US, and affects millions of people. Unfortunately, many just deal with the issue (myself included for years) thinking “no big deal.”
Constipation is in fact a big deal. A really big deal. One of my favorite analogies came from an instructor, who likened poop to trash. You have to take it out when it gets full, right? Well when you don’t poop, think about what happens to all of the ‘trash.’ It spills over, it smells, and bacteria begins to form. In the gut, bacteria actually begins to irritate your gut lining, and then reabsorb that trash. Ewww. You may be asking “what am I reabsorbing exactly?” Well, that’s all the toxins you were trying to get rid of- chemicals, heavy metals, excess estrogen, and more. So yes, not pooping daily is definitely an issue.
Common Causes of Constipation
One of the most common causes of constipation, is lack of water. Seems simple, and it is. Most people are chronically dehydrated (approximately 75% of Americans), and that lack of water doesn’t allow the bowels to move. The best thing you can do for your body is ensure that you’re drinking close to 1/2 your body weight in ounces, every single day.
Lack of fat
Even with the keto rage, the fear of fat still exists. I encounter clients on a regular basis with the old school mentality of “fat makes you fat.” I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t. In fact, those healthy fats help to make hormones, promote body fat loss, and are cardio-protective. I always advise getting some fats with every meal and snack. Of course though, quality is what matters. The best fats are oils such as avocado, olive, and MCT oil, wild caught salmon, nuts and seeds, eggs, and avocado.
Lack of fiber
Now, I’m not talking Metamucil here. I’m talking plant-based fiber that you naturally get from foods. Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is needed to help with bowel movements in order to form things up, and flush them out. If you aren’t ‘eating the rainbow’ on a daily basis, that’s your first step. Other great sources of fiber are nuts and seeds, and whole grains (true whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, not refined grains like bread).
One of my favorite supplements to talk about is magnesium. Like water and fiber, this mineral is highly deficient in our diet as well. In fact approximately 75% of the population is deficient in it, and that doesn’t take into account the remaining 25% who may have insufficient levels. Magnesium is considered the ‘relaxation’ mineral, as it can have a calming effect for many. That includes the bowels- it relaxes the sphincter and gets things moving.
My favorite food based sources are dark, leafy greens, pumpkin seeds and cacao. Unfortunately though, even eating those daily, it’s quite hard to keep levels up (thank you top soil erosion and other factors). So if you’re dealing with chronic constipation, you’ll likely need a supplement. Of course, like anything, not all supplements are created equal. Magnesium citrate is the best for stimulating the bowels, but it doesn’t do much for raising magnesium levels. Oftentimes I’ll have clients on something like magnesium glycinate or malate, and then take some citrate on top of it to get things moving.
If you’re dealing with constipation on the regular, and some of these concepts are new to you, then try them out. If you still don’t find yourself getting relief from them, then come back next week for part 2, where I dive into some additional, less thought about causes of constipation.