by Ali Holden
3 weeks ago
Welcome to our NEW blog series called Living Without…..Here we will explore many different named diseases and show you how to live without them – naturally.
As November 2017 is national ‘digestive health’ month, here is our contribution to healing our nations guts.
A staggering 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from ‘diagnosed’ constipation, and if that’s the official diagnosed number – the real number of people who are actually suffering from this horrible ailment is going to be very much higher.
As Naturopathic Nutritionists, we understand that poor digestion is the root cause of all disease, and at the heart of poor digestion, we often find an inability to poop.
Constipation leads to slow and incomplete digestion. This means that you don’t absorb nutrients properly which in turn, creates deficiencies that have an impact on your entire body/mind. Conditions such as allergies, immune disorders, cardiovascular disorders, inflammatory conditions and obesity can result from slow and incomplete digestion.
What causes constipation?
Poor diet, dehydration, stress, lack of movement and lifestyle choices directly affect your digestion and your body’s ability to absorb and use the nutrients available to you.
The list of constipation symptoms include:
- Excessive straining to pass the motion
- Hard, dry, pellet like stools that may be painful to pass
- Sitting on the toilet for much longer than usual
- The sensation afterwards that the bowel hasn’t fully emptied
And constipation can lead to:
- Bloated abdomen
- Abdominal cramps
- Poor skin
- Bad breath
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low energy
- Loss of appetite
- Weakened liver
- Gall stones
The list is endless…..but one thing is for sure, if you are not regularly eliminating toxins from your body, you are NOT going to feel good.
Natural cures for stubborn bowels
As with any multifactorial health issue, there are many factors which can help – and we’ll cover more ways that you can improve digestive health in future posts. For now, once you have ruled out any underlying medical issues or food intolerances, here are our top strategies that can be very effective at treating constipation – naturally.
Top 4 things to help get you moving
Constipation is one of the first signs of dehydration and should be taken seriously, especially nowadays as we are seeing ‘constipation clinics’ opening for children. We know we’re setting our little’uns up for a life time of misery and chronic disease.
Due to dehydration the bowel absorbs as much water as possible from the stool. This decreases the bowel transit time resulting in the stool becoming hardened and difficult to pass. This makes us sick because water soluble toxins are being reabsorbed along with the fluids, creating a situation where we are poisoning ourselves from the inside (auto-intoxification).
And if this wasn’t bad enough, most often the hardened stool irritates the lining of the colon leading to inflammation – this results in episodes of diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal pain and so on.
Because of this, proper hydration is simply the single most important remedy to constipation. Drinking more water. Yes, that old chestnut.
The average adult should drink around 4 pints (2 litres) of clean, still, room temperature water each day. Ideally, one pint of clean, warm water should be drunk 30 minutes before each main meal.
2. Slippery Elm
One of our all-time favourites for any issue concerning the digestive tract, the absolute ‘go to gal’, is slippery elm. Slippery elm has an affinity for healing all types of membranes, which is why it has been used by Native Americans for centuries as salves, poultices and teas to treat sore throats, cough, diarrhoea, constipation, wounds, boils, ulcers, burns and skin inflammation.
On contact with water, slippery elm powder becomes mucilaginous (slimy, gel-like) in texture, which accounts for the majority of its medicinal properties. It has demulcent (soothing) actions on all mucous membranes, especially those of the digestive tract, urinary and respiratory tract and also soothes the skin on contact. To boot, it has an astringent effect on membrane, tightening the surface of membranes which makes it excellent for conditions like allergies and leaky gut. It is also rich in nutrients, anti- inflammatory and anti-bacterial. An absolute God send for stomach ulcers/colitis etc. You can see why we love it so much.
Slippery Elm for digestive health
According to herbalists, ingesting slippery elm has the effect of stimulating the nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract. This is why it is thought to be effective for those suffering from constipation and diarrhoea. Plus, in the long term, it will improve the mucous membranes along the digestive tract which is great news as this will have a positive affect on attracting good gut flora, and I doubt you need a lesson in the importance of this.
Slippery Elm has no known side effects. But there are 2 things to be aware of when considering it as a therapeutic aid.
- Absorption. Because slippery elm coats the digestive tract it can slow down the absorption of other drugs, nutritional supplements or herbs you may be taking. Avoid this by taking slippery elm two hours before or after other medications or therapeutics.
- Pregnancy and Breast. Feeding: consult your herbalist before taking slippery elm.
How to use Slippery Elm Powder
Some like it hot:
- Slippery Elm Tea. Stir around 400mls of boiling water onto 2 heaped dessertspoons of organic slippery elm powder. Steep for 5 minutes before drinking.
- Alternatively – use a hand blender and whizz together 400mls of cold water and 2 heaped dessertspoons of slippery elm powder until smooth.
3. Soaked linseeds for constipation
We have found that this simple linseed recipe (together with good hydration, diet and exercise) is often enough to unblock the tracks and get things moving again. All you need is;
- 1 dessertspoon of whole organic linseeds (flaxseeds)
- 250 mls cold, filtered water
- Put one dessertspoon of the seeds into a mug and stir in the cold water
- Cover and leave overnight
- In morning, add a dash of boiling water to make it nice and warm
- Stir and drink the entire mugful, swallowing the seeds whole (you will not digest them, so they will pass right through and end up in the toilet!)
- Drink this first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so a clever idea is to have a conveyor belt of them!
- This drink provides a reassuring, hydrating message to the receptors in the gut. The seeds introduce lignans and more fibre, soothing whilst gently exfoliating and massaging the lining of the gut as they pass through.
When you start drinking this ‘thickened water’ plus the seeds each day, you will notice bulkier stools and improved bowels…this will have your entire digestive system, your liver and your gallbladder all doing a ‘happy dance’.
4. Best Foods to eat that help with constipation
When it comes to using food to help with constipation, it’s not just a matter of what you eat as much as how you eat….remembering to chew your food, stop overeating and avoid eating on the go. All these will have a massive impact on digestive health.
Here is a list of the best foods that help to keep you moving;
- Soaked Organic Nuts & Seeds
- Brazil Nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Organic Fruits
- Organic Vegetables
- Fermented vegetables such as kimchi & sauerkraut
- Brussel Sprouts
- Organic Beans & Legumes
- Kidney Beans
- Black beans
- Haricot Beans
- Organic Whole Grains
- Note: some people may chose to go grain free to allow complete digestive system healing to occur)
- Brown Rice
- Buck Wheat
Extras to relieve constipation – FAST
Adequate water consumption, managing stress, exercise and avoiding strong tea, coffee and alcohol are good supportive habits for treating constipation. Gluten, spicy and fried foods, plus, foods intolerable to the digestive system need to be strictly avoided for quick relief.
‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’. On a final note, make time to answer the call of nature. All too often our hectic schedules cause us to habitually ignore the ‘urge’…..causing the body to stop sending the signals to the brain.
P.S. Don’t be tempted to use laxatives, these only weaken the bowel creating chronic, long-term problems.
Disclaimer: this article is based on the opinion of Nutritional Therapists, Alison Holden or Lesley Pierce (unless otherwise noted). The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified therapist, your health care professional or your own intuition. It is not intended as medical advice, rather a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Alison Holden/Lesley Pierce and their community. Their goal is to inform you so you can make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your healthcare professional before using products based on this content.