What Causes Constipation?
Constipation can be caused from a variety of things. Some as simple as holding in a bowel movement because you are busy or potty shy in public, and others as serious as hypothyroidism. Here’s the list of what can cause constipation:
- Holding it
- Change in diet
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum
- Changes in your usual diet or activities
- Colon cancer
- Eating a lot of dairy products
- Eating disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Not being active
- Not enough water or fiber in your diet
- Overuse of laxatives
- Pregnancy (For specific help on pregnancy health see our Vibrant Pregnancy Starter Kit)
- Problems with the nerves and muscles in the digestive system
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement, which some people do because of hemorrhoids
- Some medications (especially strong pain drugs such as narcotics, antidepressants, or iron pills)
- IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome)
- Underactive thyroid aka hypothyroidism
Don’t Use Miralax!
So there is this really interesting book called It’s No Accident. It explains that potty training problems are often not bad behavior but instead a chronic constipation problem. I honestly never in my life thought I’d be so intrigued by a book about poop. And I highly recommend it for the education on potty problems and how the body works… However, and this is a BIG however, I don’t recommend following the books advice for treatment. Please skip the Miralax, as recommended by both this book and many doctors. Instead, seek out natural alternatives for laxatives.
- Miralax is not approved for children.
- Miralax is only supposed to be used in adults for seven days.
- Children are often prescribed this drug and take it for months or even years.
- A growing number of parents are reporting psychiatric or behavioral problems.
I really can’t put enough exclamation marks on drink up. Water is a HUGE factor in constipation. Not only that, but foods that help loosen the bowel also add more water to the bowel so you will need some extra water while figuring out the root cause and overcoming the problem.
Dehydration is a common problem in American culture. We are busy and forget to drink. Also, if you have a SAD (Standard American Diet) the processed foods are probably messing up your electrolyte balance because of the high salt content.
NOTE: If your diet is low in processed foods then you may have the opposite problem. Salt is just as important as water. Both can be over consumed, both can be under consumed. It is about finding balance and consuming the right amount for your body, activity level, and stress levels.
Push The Poop Button
All jokes aside… there really is an acupressure point that when pressed can help you poop. It is located three finger widths directly below the belly button. Use firm pressure but not hard and slowly increase pressure. If it’s painful back off. This quick tip can give you the relief you are after in as quick as 5 seconds, or may take several minutes. Remember to relax and breathe steady during the process.
Try Constipation Cookies
There are lots of foods that can loosen up the bowels. Luckily, many of them can be combined to make some pretty tasty cookies. Click here to get our constipation cookie recipe.
Side note: When adding lots of healthy foods with a natural laxative effect pay close attention to your water intake. You will need extra water and possibly salt to avoid dehydration and for electrolyte balance.
Eat Some Good Bacteria
We are discovering that the health of the gut effects far more than ever before thought. So much so, that the gut can be referred to as the second brain. If the gut isn’t healthy it not only impacts our poop, but also our hormones, stress levels, and more which in turn also affect whether or not we suffer from constipation. So first step to improving gut health, add probiotics and fermented foods to your diet. This should give you both quick relief, and long-term relief as your gut gets stronger and healthier. I love these probiotics, and use this fermented foods cook book for most of my fermentation recipes.
You’ve Got to Move it, Move it!
I always laugh at my dog and her potty habits. Her name is Nita. She is a pretty well-behaved dog, she never has accidents in the house, and lives to please. And she is one heck of a fast runner. She tops out at about 19 miles per hour. But why am I telling you this? Well, there is something that happens without fail when we take her for a run. Can you guess what it is?
She has to stop along the way and poop. Every. Single. Time.
Exercising, dancing, running, moving in any and all its forms massages the guts and helps move things along. So get moving and see if it works for you.
Ditch the SAD Diet
Not enough can be said about how food effects performance. Sugar in a gas tank ruins the guts of a car. Sugar, white flour, and processed foods make things awfully sluggish for the human body in a similar way. So let go of the Standard American Diet. Load up on veggies for breakfast. Add some awesome whole grains and switch to raw honey. Make sure that your diet is rich in fiber. Sip on some homemade bone broth. Your guts will love you for it.
Take a Bath
Add a cup or two of epsom salt to a nice steamy tub and slip in. If you have chlorinated water add 1/2 cup of baking soda as well. It neutralizes the chlorine and helps the body detox while allowing you to maximize the benefits of the epsom salt.
So, why epsom salt? Epsom salt is essentially magnesium. Magnesium is used in most chemical processes in the body. In turn it helps the bowels function properly as well as improving mood and helping you sleep, among other things. This is our post about low magnesium levels. I use this epsom salt.
No time for a bath? I use this magnesium supplement.
Grease Up That Belly
Contrary to old advice, fat is actually great for constipation. I recommend eating extra coconut oil, butter, lard, or ghee. For lack of a less visual way to explain it… slippery in, equals slippery out. Nothing can get stuck in a gut that has been greased with healthy fats.
Side note: The only exception here is if you have an allergy to the fat you choose. Eating butter with a dairy allergy could cause constipation instead of help it. If you think this is a contributing factor choose a different fat.
Test Your Thyroid and Hormones
Still struggling? Although these tips can help manage most constipation problems, it may not do enough if you have hypothyroidism or hormonal imbalance. Seeing a naturopathic doctor and getting a complete thyroid panel and testing your hormones can help you get to the route of the issue. In this case, you will for sure want to treat the cause, not just the symptom. Also, check out our article on how to balance hormones naturally.
Take a slow deep breath. Now another. Do some yoga. Take a bath. Find a quiet place and meditate. Say no to extra responsibilities. Let it all go. Stress and worry are your bodies worst enemies. Stop the negative self talk. Pick up some handy affirmations and learn to relax. Less stress means better everything, including poop.
Foods That Have a Laxative Effect
I’m not going to elaborate or explain why each of these foods helps with constipation but they sure do help things get moving!
- Soaked flax seeds
- Prune juice
- Coconut oil
- Apple cider vinegar
Additionally, having a diet rich in fibrous foods is helpful. Fibrous foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Raw fruit
And these supplements are also helpful: