Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments So You Can Finally Find Relief

Constipation

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, everyone poops. As a functional medicine practitioner, I’ve had to get used to talking about #2 since it can tell you a lot about the state of your gut and overall health. Constipation in particular, is not just uncomfortable, it’s a major red flag from your body that something is off and needs to be addressed.

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What causes constipation?

Most people experience constipation from time-to-time when stool doesn’t effectively move through the digestive tract causing it to become hard and dry from sitting for too long.

The most common constipation causes include:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor diet
  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Certain medications
  • Underlying gut problems (IBS, dysbiosis)

In some extreme cases constipation causes can include blockages or nerve damage that can also inhibit your body’s ability to effectively eliminate stool leading to backup and constipation.

How is constipation treated?

Whether you find yourself constipated only every so often or struggle with chronic constipation, there are many natural tools and steps you can take to find relief once and for all. 

     1. Magnesium

Magnesium is known for its ability to clear you out fast. This mineral works to pull water to your intestines to help facilitate movement through your digestive tract. I recommend my supplement The Magnesium, as well as magnesium oxide and citrate that can be found in powdered form at your local health foods store.

     2. Drink more water

Water is necessary to keep your stool moving. Make sure you are staying hydrated by drinking water consistently throughout the day.

     3. Eat enough fiber

Fiber - specifically, insoluble fiber - is essential for healthy bowel movements. It encourages movement through your digestive system and adds weight to your stool while still keeping it soft, so it is easy to pass. Avocados, almonds, artichokes, and chia seeds are all clean sources of fiber that you can incorporate throughout your day. Just remember, adding in too much fiber too quickly can lead to bloating and gas, so start by adding in small amounts of fiber and and slowly work your way up.

     4. Exercise

Exercise increases muscle activity in your intestines. That’s why a sedentary lifestyle can be a risk factor for developing chronic constipation. Physical activity doesn’t have to be intense, walking and yoga are great low-impact options to start adding more regular movement into your day. 

     5. Start taking probiotics

If you struggle with chronic constipation, underlying gut problems like dysbiosis - an imbalance of good bacteria in your gut - can be to blame. The first step to restore this balance is by taking daily probiotic supplements and increasing your intake of probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. 

How to have healthier bowel movements

In order to have healthier bowel movements, you need to understand what makes a bowel movement healthy and unhealthy. From consistency to frequency, everything you need to know about your bowel movements can be found in my comprehensive stool guide

When to see a doctor

If you are struggling with constipation, diarrhea, irregular bowel movements, or something else that won’t go away, it’s important to find out what is going on beneath the surface in order to determine the first steps to take to overcome these issues. You most likely have experienced one or more of these issues at some point in your life, but if any of these have become chronic that’s your sign to seek out professional advice. 

In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I run labs like comprehensive microbiome stool tests to get to the root cause of your bowel problems and work with patients to determine any dietary changes necessary to get your bowel movements on the right track.

If you are ready to be free from constipation and find long-term relief, set up a telehealth consultation! As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.