It is incredible how many people are constipated these days. I remember reading a couple years ago in a book that the Emergency Room had changed their definition of constipation to not having a bowel movement in over 3 days because they were having far too many people coming in with constipation (Chek,2004). That's scary to think about that.
First thing that is important to understand is that you should be having at least 1 bowel movement every single day! If you have a healthy digestive tract at least once per day is the minimum (Lipski, 2005). If you're going longer than this, or your stool is compact and hard to pass this means you're constipated. What qualifies as "compact"? Your stool should be similar to the firmness of cookie dough or tooth paste.
Given that you're still reading this article I'm guessing you're having problems with constipation. It's been my experience most people don't invest their down time investigating constipation just for the fun of it. The great news for you is that for most people fixing up constipation isn't too difficult. I've never worked with a person who was constipated that didn't start having healthy bowel movements within 3-6 months. Typically for most within 2-4 weeks they start to get rid of their constipation with a few easy changes to their nutrition and lifestyle.
If you are chronically or frequently constipated there are a number of reasons that you may want to get your bowel movements working properly. I have seen my clients who struggle with constipation experience some of the following changes through making nutrition and lifestyle changes: flatter stomach, disappearance bloating and stomach cramping, losing 2-4 pounds, acne and other skin conditions gone, energy levels sky rocketing, and a host of other great side effect.
If that isn't enough to get your feeling really motivated about getting your bowel movements on track you can look at the fact that 1 in 14 women and 1 in 15 men will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime (Colon Cancer Canada, ND). And this number is and has been on the rise for several years. Hopefully that fact makes these lifestyle and nutrition changes seem a lot easier to make.
First thing you are going to want to test is how long it takes food to start to go from your mouth to the toilet bowl. This will give you an idea of how backed up you are. This test is incredibly complicated and expensive... okay I lied it's actually only going to cost you a couple bucks. All you have to do is go to your grocery store and purchase some beets (real beats unprocessed, not canned).
Okay now for the complicated test. Cook the beets however you like, bake them, boil them, whatever floats your boat. Eat the beets for lunch with whatever you normally would have. Then.......wait and see how long it takes until you have a bowel movement where you can see red in your stool. The beets will leave a stain of red in your stool and this will tell you how long it took to get from your mouth out the back door so to speak. Okay maybe the test isn't that complicated, but I'm simple guy I like simple tests.
With my clients ideally I would like them to start seeing the beets 12-24 hours after they ate them. If it falls in this time frame your bowel movements are moving through you at a good pace. You will probably see the beets for 1-2 more bowel movements after the initial one, don't' worry this is normal. If you don't see them for over 24 hours you are defiantly backed up.
Why are you constipated? Well everyone is different and there could be a number of different reasons why. First it might be a good idea to talk to your physician to make sure that there are no mechanical problems. If your physician gives you the all clear, I can tell you from my own experience working with people there are a few incredibly common reasons why you're probably backed up.
1. Dehydration: This is the most common cause in my experience working with my clients. Most people tell me I drink plenty of fluids this can't be the problem. Stop and read all of this to make sure you are not dehydrated. First you should be drinking Â½ an ounce for every pound of body weight. I weigh around 150 pounds so the minimum water I should consume in a day is 75 ounces or around 2.5 litters.
Now when I say water I mean water.......not beverages that contain water. I don't mean coke, sprite, juice, flavoured water, alcohol, coffee, tea, etc. I mean WATER. Caffeine also dehydrates you. Take out all coffee, teas, energy drinks, pop, etc. Even if it is "decaf" most of them still actually contain caffeine, just less of it than normal. So take them out of your diet. If you aren't going to take these out of your diet understand this is probably a huge factor if not the cause of your constipation. If you won't take them out of your diet at least increase water 250ml or a cup for every cup of those beverages you drink in addition to the Â½ ounce for every pound of body weight mentioned above.
2. Processed Food: Most people this day and age have no idea what they are putting into their mouth. When was the last time you actually read all the ingredients on the label of any of the food you ate? Start reading the ingredients and pay attention to how many ingredients you can find that are some chemical you've never heard of! I could get someone with a PHD in biochemistry and they wouldn't know what the hell was in most of the food at our grocery stores.
The thing is your intestines and liver don't' have a clue what the hell that "food" is either. This often times causes issues with people getting backed up. Start reading the labels of all the food you put in your mouth. If you don't recognize an ingredient that's listed don't put it into your body! Find an alternative food that you can actually read all the ingredients listed.
Okay there you go, you have the two biggest causes of constipation. If you aren't doing those two things right now, start working on them. Once you've been getting enough water for 4 weeks in a row and once you haven't eaten any food with ingredients you don't recognize for 4 weeks see how your bowel movements improve.
You can re-check your transit time using the really "expensive" and "complicated" test we went through above. If you're still not getting a healthy transit time or your stool is still compact and hard to pass then give me a call at (613) 818-5334 or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free consultation because you could have other more complicated barriers such as food intolerances, parasites, or fungal issues that are possibly related to your constipation.
Chek, P., 2004. "How to Eat Move and Be Healthy." C.H.E.K Institute, San Diego, CA.
Lipski, E., 2005. "Digestive Wellness." McGraw-Hill Companies, New York, NY.
Colon Cancer Canada, (ND). "Fast Facts on Colorectal Cancer." Retrieved from http://www.coloncancercanada.ca/fastfacts_coloncancer.php.
Paul Graham is Nutritionist and Holistic Lifestyle Coach who is certified in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. He works with clients on restoring vitality back to their body by coaching them on strategic nutrition and lifestyle changes they can make to reach peak health.
He works with a variety of clients located all over the world through distance coaching. His clients often have different health concerns such as: digestion, skin conditions, sleep issues, chronic fatigue, trouble with weight loss, and pre & post menopause symptoms. If you're looking for more information you can check him out online at [http://www.peaknutritionandhealth.com/] or follow his blog at http://peaknutritionandhealth.tumblr.com/.