Are you one of the 65% of chronically constipated people who have never sought any help?
Lots of my clients come to me with constipation, sometimes it’s been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or sometimes it’s just something they have lived with in silence, with no formal diagnosis. Some people are too embarrassed to admit their problem, but more often it’s ignored as it has become normalised in their lives. Clients can go to the loo every three days, maybe once every week and because that is their normal, it can take years to seek advice. After dealing with the root cause of constipation, their whole world turns around once they start to go to the loo daily. Chronic constipation is common, according to Guts UK, 1 in 7 in the UK suffer, although this is likely to be an underestimation as 65% of people with chronic constipation do not see their GP about it and self-medicate with laxatives or fibre supplements. Just under half of those with chronic constipation say it’s been going on for over five years. It’s so common, but common does not mean normal, nor does it mean it’s okay.
Having healthy digestion and elimination (gold standard is twice a day – yes, twice!) is critical to your overall health. It’s our main, vital pathway to get waste out of the body. The liver flushes out toxins and moves them to the gut for removal. Your digestive system needs to be working efficiently or those toxins, that waste, can get reabsorbed back into your body. So, it makes sense that constipation has been linked to poor health, low energy and generally feeling…. well… crap.
Think of our guts like a free-flowing river. The water is clean and races through at a good speed. Constipation leads to slow movement and would be more like a stagnating pond, this is where bacteria that we don’t want in high numbers get a chance to feast and it can lead to bloating, dysbiosis, lack of appetite and even vomiting.
The best thing you can do to get that gut moving is to address your nutrition. This is usually the key driver. Yes, chronic stress and antibiotic overuse can create havoc in our gut, but it is a diet high in ultra processed foods (UPFs) and sugar that does the greatest job to promote constipation. If you’ve done my sugar-free challenge and noticed any difference in your regularity, then this is a sign you mustn’t ignore.
Try these tips to get moving:
Eat whole, real foods in their unprocessed forms as often as you can. This is easiest and healthiest first step to making yourself regular.
Increase your fibre - The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advise a recommended daily intake of 30g of dietary fibre. In the UK, we are closer to a maximum of 18g a day. Fibre is the indigestible part of plant foods. It acts like a brush inside the gut sweeping waste through and stimulating the guts evacuation mechanisms. With a diet including insoluble fibre, your stool will naturally be bulky and soft. Increasing fibre is most helpful for people with mild symptoms of constipation, if it’s chronic then speak to a health professional. Fibre rich foods include beans, pulses, vegetables, fruits, seeds lentils and whole grains.
Fluid intake – Water is another important component of a well-formed stool. Lack of fluid intake or drinking lots of astringent fluids like tea can cause stools to become dry and harder to pass. If you increase fibre you must also also increase your fluid intake/maintain your fluid intake to 2 litres per day as without adequate fluids, stools may harden and be difficult to pass.
Limit caffeine - too much caffeine and not enough water might cause dehydration and delay the passage of waste products through your digestive tract.
Exercise! This is a great tool to get you going because it can help move food contents, gas and stool along the gut.
Don’t ignore the urge to go! By constantly ignoring your body’s signals to go to the loo you risk no longer experiencing the urge for a bowel movement, which can worsen constipation. Particularly after a meal, we should make an effort to establish and maintain a regular schedule for bowel movements.
I know that you know this, but be honest with yourself - how many of these tips do you consistently do?
Still struggling to even with the tips?
There could be an underlying health condition that I can help address
Consider your thyroid.
With the UK prevalence of hypothyroidism at 2% and undiagnosed hypothyroidism at 6.4% for females (according to recent studies quoted by NICE). One of the main symptoms is constipation. See my blog on the thyroid for more information here.
Consider stool testing.
Healthy digestion and movement of stool is a carefully coordinated process that relies on each stage working effectively before food passes on to the next. A lack of stomach acid, low levels of digestive enzymes, or lack of bile can result in improperly digested food in the intestines. This can slow transit time and contribute to constipation. Stool testing can identify how well you digest as well as bacterial, yeast or parasitic causes, or any inflammatory causes.
Consider Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
This is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that shouldn’t be there which causes digestive distress. A 2022 review estimates that around 51.7-78% of those with IBS have SIBO. If you have discomfort and bloating immediately after eating and become very gassy (both north and south!) then this is worth ruling out with a simple breath test. Happy to talk you through this in a free call, link below.
Consider your hormones
An imbalance in the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone can both lead to constipation, this can be why it may be so much worse during the perimenopausal years. I work with women to balance their hormones to see results - easily monitored through testing.
How I can help with Nutritional Therapy
Using the functional medicine approach, I work to understand why you have constipation and to restore your natural bowel function naturally. You can expect from me:
A personalised nutrition plan rich in nourishing foods to assist your bowel function
Test recommendations and full interpretation either privately or through your GP
Personalised supplement protocol to support your digestive function
Regular consultations and coaching to support new choices
For February I am offering a comprehensive stool test (rrp £325) along with a one hour consultation for only £435. For this and to find out about my 12 week programmes, please contact me here and book a free 20 minute Reboot your Health call.
Note: as a Nutritional Therapist, I do not diagnose or prescribe, however I do use functional nutrition testing to help find the best way to support my client’s health.
My programmes are designed with people like you in mind. I see many clients with constipation and they all have different symptoms, family health histories, lifestyles, work and family life which may may have contributed to where they are. This is why a personalised nutrition and lifestyle rather than a 'one size fits all' gets such good results. Book your free Reboot your Health 20 minute call to discuss your health goals and if working with me would benefit you.