Q. Glen, I cant seem to have a regular Bowel movement! I am always constipated. Any suggestions?
A. Constipation may be more than simply uncomfortable. According to the , it may be a symptom of more serious health conditions, including the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.: colon cancer. It's important to take constipation seriously and treat it correctly.
The most common recommendations for constipation are to take laxatives and/or to increase fiber and water intake. Laxatives are for short-term relief only, as long-term use can become habit-forming. Turning to increased fiber and water is preferable, but studies have shown that this is often not effective for alleviating constipation and can sometimes create other problems, such as gas and bloating. So what can you do?
Constipation occurs primarily because of decreased peristalsis, the muscular movement of the intestines that promotes digested food through the GI tract. But what causes decreased peristalsis? Decreased bulk in the stool, for one thing. (That's what fiber and water are supposed to do - increase bulk.) But there are other factors that influence peristalsis.
Beneficial gut flora, also known as probiotics, are the helpful bacteria in human intestines that:
- Help digest foods.
- Manufacture vitamins, like biotin and .
- Interfere with disease-promoting bacteria.
- Prevent immune system changes that lead to allergies and auto-immunity.
- Help absorption of nutrients.
Gut flora can be wiped out in the intestines by a number of factors. Antibiotics, corticosteroids, H2 blockers, and oral contraceptives are known to deplete them. So do some lifestyle factors like high stress, increased intake of refined sugars and excessive alcohol intake. So, to keep a good supply we have to get them in adequate quantities through diet or supplements.
Yogurt contains beneficial flora in low amounts, but usually they are not human strains so they may or may not live in human intestines. Supplementing with a good human-strain probiotic product is far better to ensure you are getting enough. We need billions of these bacteria, so I recommend capsules or powders with at least a 15 billion bacteria count per daily dose.
Magnesium is also extremely important. It helps relax the smooth muscle tissue in intestines that is responsible for peristalsis, so it is absolutely critical for keeping bowels moving regularly. The best-absorbed forms are magnesium taurate, citrate, malate and bisglycinate. I recommend supplementing dietary intake with 400 to 800 mg per day.
A good protocol for constipation is to start by taking probiotics and magnesium. Probiotics can help with digestion of dietary fiber and so help people to tolerate it better. And magnesium starts to relax the intestinal muscles. Together with the increased fiber and water, we almost never need to turn to laxatives.
Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program. Please consult your physician !
Yours in Great Health!
Any questions? Ask Glen!