What is constipation?
The average person eats three meals a day and possibly snacks in-between, which should ideally produce between 1 and 3 bowel movements each day.
Constipation is a digestive disorder, in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels. It is usually caused by the slow movement of the stool through the a sluggish colon, which itself can be caused by a number of other underlying factors (see further below).
Strictly speaking, constipation is defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements per week. Extreme constipation is defined as less than 1 bowel movement per week. However, everyone’s bowel habits vary.
Acute vs chronic constipation
It is important to make a distinction between acute constipation (recent onset, which could indicate an underlying illness or health issue) and chronic constipation (recurrent or of long duration).
Knowing what is “normal” for you in terms of your bowel habits will be key to identifying the type of constipation you have and, of course, consulting your doctor if you are concerned.
Causes of constipation
The role of the large intestine
The large intestine consists of the colon and the rectum. Its main functions are:
the formation and excretion of feces, the absorption of water and minerals, the production of vitamins B1, B2, B12 and vitamin K by beneficial bacteria in the colon. They also help to prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Cells of the colon secrete mucous, which lubricates and protects the walls. Inflammation or irritation of the intestinal wall causes the release of large amounts of mucous, as well as water and electrolytes. In this case, mucous can be seen in the stools and there may also be diarrhoea.
On the other hand, if feces remain in the colon for too long, causing constipation, large amounts of toxins can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream; a process that is known as auto-intoxication or self-poisoning.
Possible causes of constipation
There are many possible causes of constipation, including the use (especially overuse) of medications such as antibiotics, poor diet, digestive problems (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome), dehydration, a weak digestive system, a low fiber diet, abuse of laxatives, stress, lack of sleep and exercise, parasites, hormonal disorders and illness.
Symptoms of constipation will vary from person to person, particularly depending on whether the constipation is chronic or acute. However, generally speaking, there is normally hardened feces, straining and a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement.
As well as the most obvious signs of constipation, it is also important to look out for the symptoms of being overloaded with toxins. For example, many people who get headaches find that they are more painful and frequent when they are constipated.
The symptoms of toxicity can be categorised by body system. However, it will never be the case that toxins are only affecting one of your systems; they are all integrated. But by looking at your symptoms, you can check to see which parts of your body are most likely to be burdened most.
Constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal bloating, nausea, coated tongue, bad breath (halitosis), indigestion, gas (burping or flatulence), body odour, overheating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and being either underweight or overweight can all be signs of a toxic digestive system and liver. Constipation will often alternate with diarrhea, particularly as part of IBS.
Risks of constipation
Retaining the toxins we are supposed to regularly eliminate through bowel movements is one of the most common ways that we pollute our bodies. If you regularly get constipated, some faecal matter is likely to get trapped on the walls of your bowels and get left behind when you do eventually have a bowel motion. These deposits can be perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, leading to infections.
It can be helpful to remove deposits and debris from the colon at regular intervals, in particular where there is a back-up in the digestive system (constipation), and especially where sticky and even hardened deposits are in the pockets along the wall of the bowel.
As mentioned above, the longer stool is left to remain in the colon, the greater amount of toxins will be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. The longer the bowel wall remains in contact with toxins, the more time bacteria in the colon have to transform substances in the stool into a more toxic state.
Toxins that seep through the bowel wall often end up in tiny lymphatic vessels; eventually clogging the entire lymphatic system with toxins. The more regular your bowel movements, the better able your body is at removing toxins.
Help with constipation
Colon cleansing (whether in the form of professional colonic irrigation, home enemas for constipation or colon cleansing supplements) can be of great help in loosening these deposits, making sure that they are removed from the colon thoroughly and supporting overall digestive health.
One advantage of regularly visiting a colonic hydro-therapist is that they will be able to provide a progress report on the state of your colon, monitor the progress of re-hydration and advise on the presence of any harmful parasites, Candida albicans and yeasts, which may be present in parts of the colon or along its length.
Self-administered enemas are one of the simplest and easiest ways to keep your colon toned and free of toxins and in the privacy of your own home. You can regularly (and cheaply) flush out toxins from your system so that they do not re-enter your bloodstream.
Foods for constipation
The digestive system needs roughage (fiber) in order to push food through and out of the body. Eating a diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes can help you to avoid or ease constipation, particularly if they have a high fiber content.
A fiber supplement can also be helpful. A good combination of soluble and insoluble fiber (see below) can "sweep" your colon like a broom, keeping it clear of toxic waste matter. Also try to avoid too much tea, which can be constipating due to its tannin content.
Fiber is either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber is particularly good for slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and binding with toxins in the gut. Insoluble fiber increases the weight, bulk and softness of the stool.