Welcome back to part 2 of my constipation series! If you missed part 1, click HERE to go read that blog first, as I like to start with the basics before diving into more complex root causes. Today we’re talking about root causes of constipation that perhaps you had never considered. So…let’s do this!
See, we have millions of bacteria in our digestive tract and these help with digestion overall. If you don’t have enough beneficial bacteria to calm the inflammation and ‘move things along,’ then constipation happens. Many turn to probiotics to help with this, but oftentimes that can make things worse. Why? Well, imagine you are making a cake. If you don’t measure, and put way too much flour in, what happens? You’ve got a messed up cake. Same thing with our guts. If you’re putting too much of one thing in, or not enough of another…you’ve got a messed up gut. So if you’re dealing with chronic constipation, and you want to take a probiotic, make sure you’re opting for one with heavy Bifidobacterium strain to get things moving.
If you read my previous blog on this, you know food testing is not my favorite first choice (you can read that HERE). That being said, I know that food sensitivities absolutely exist and with them, you aren’t able to properly digest certain foods. But, I’m a fan of an elimination diet more than anything. If you’re not familiar with elimination diets, it’s essentially cutting out certain foods, and strategically reintroducing them one at a time, and monitoring reactions. Curious what the top two triggers are? Gluten and dairy. So if you haven’t tried eliminating them already, you may want to give it a go.
Hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s
One of my instructors has the phrase “sluggish thyroid, sluggish everything,” which is so true. Poor thyroid function slows down bodily functions in general, which of course makes sense that it would also slow transit time, leading to constipation. If you haven’t had your thyroid checked and you suspect something is off, I highly recommend a full panel (TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, TPO and TG antibodies). If you’re on thyroid meds, you want to make sure you’re on the optimal dose for your body (not just a standard T4 medication which is given to nearly everyone). And, if you do have thyroid issues and are on the correct meds, then I would work through the items listed in my first blog post above for constipation.
SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and was actually something I dealt with (and still do have relapses) for years. It sounds like exactly what it is- an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines. In addition to harming the small intestines, SIBO can lead to poor digestion, allergies, leaky gut and more. There are two types of SIBO- methane and hydrogen dominant. For those with methane dominant SIBO, it’s very, very common to deal with constipation (and diarrhea for those with hydrogen). This is NOT an easy one to test for as many tests are shown to have false negatives. But, you can certainly look at a comprehensive stool test and other symptoms to see if it may be an issue for you. If you suspect this is your issue for chronic constipation, you’ll definitely need to work with a practitioner as it’s too complicated to navigate alone.
And finally, we come to stress. Yes, stress. It can absolutely create chaos in the bowels and lead to constipation. It’s often a contributor to SIBO as well, so you can see how that becomes a cycle. If you’re dealing with chronic stress, trauma, are a go-go-go person, or never seem to take time for yourself, then you have to address this. Stress alone can completely change the composition of the gut, and studies show that transit time in the small intestine slows down just due to stress. If you’re the person that never relaxes (yeah, I’m talking to you), then you have to make it a priority. Not only are you going to continue with the chronic constipation, but you’re also headed towards other health issues.
That’s it, we’ve come to the end of the 2-part series! As you can see, constipation (or any health issues for that matter) never has just one root cause; there are often many. Start with the basics in my first blog, and if you’re doing all those things correctly, it’s time to explore these more complex options. If you need help navigating this, I offer complementary 20 minute consults that you can set up HERE.