It’s time to have that awkward conversation… Bowel irregularity is unfortunately super common in industrialized countries. Much of this has to do with the SAD (Standard American Diet), which is high in processed foods and sugar, and low in fiber.
It can also be as simple as low water intake. Very few of us get in half our body weight in ounces of water daily.
Perhaps lack of movement is the culprit. The more exercise you get, the more toned your core muscles become and the better your bowels tend to move.
Perhaps it’s an inconsistent schedule. If you tend to have a BM (bowel movement) in the morning, going to bed and waking up at different hours may be enough to throw off your system. Eating at sporadic times may do it too, and travel tends to throw off both eating and sleeping patterns, which can contribute.
It might be a side effect of some of the meds or supplements you’re on. If you’re on opiates to kill pain (morphine, oxycodone, vicodin, percoset), constipation is a very common side effect. Some sedatives can cause constipation too. Iron is one of the most common supplements to have this effect.
It might be due to hypothyroidism, which is freakishly common these days.
Constipation can also be secondary to other conditions; if these simple changes don’t help you, then it’s worth getting a full workup to rule out other causes.
Healthy bowels move at least once daily, and they are longish, darker brown, easy to pass, and should sink. Any less often, less substantial, or degree of straining constitutes constipation. Sinking versus floating has more to do with how well you are absorbing fat; floating stools tend to have a higher fat content. Other symptoms that tend to come with constipation are gas and bloating (usually relieved by having a BM), a coated tongue, bad breath, and a sense of incomplete evacuation.
WHY REGULARITY MATTERS
According to naturopathic theory, your body should be capable of healing itself, as long as the appropriate conditions are met:
- You have the appropriate “building blocks” (i.e. micronutrients and macronutrients)
- Your body has a strong “vital force” (which means taking good care of yourself, getting enough rest, and minimizing stress), and
- You are able to eliminate “obstacles to cure”, including toxic waste buildup.
There are four main routes by which your body excretes toxic waste products: your breath, your sweat, your bowels, and your bladder. Think of these as the “front door.” If the front door is blocked, your body may seek to dump its trash out a “window,” leading to phlegm accumulation, skin eruptions, joint pain, and a myriad of other symptoms. Sometimes toxic accumulation can be even more serious, predisposing you to allergies and autoimmunity, as well.
Your colon is not the only route of elimination, but it’s a major one! Often, getting the bowels moving is a big key to turning health around.