Lets talk about Gut Health - Constipation

Constipation is a condition that most people have experienced at one time or another.  For most people, it’s a short-term problem - but, for some people it is a chronic condition, affecting mostly women and the elderly.

Constipation can occur on its own or as a side-effect of another condition.  It is defined by disturbances in normal bowel function which may include:

●     Going to the toilet less often
●     A feeling that you are “blocked up”
●     Feeling that you still need to pass stool after you have been to the toilet

The causes of constipation
The causes of constipation are many and varied. They can be grouped into either primary causes or secondary causes. Primary causes of constipation normally arise as a result of problems with the colon or with the defecation process itself. 

Primary causes of constipation include:
●     Normal transit. 
In this case it may feel like you have constipation because your stool may be hard or you feel that you are struggling to go to the toilet but the stool moves through the colon at a normal rate.
●     Slow transit. 
As the term suggests, the stool passes through the colon more slowly, resulting in infrequent visits to the toilet, sometimes only once a week.
●     Evacuation disorders
In this case, you may find that you spend a lot of time on the toilet, struggling to pass stool.

Secondary causes of constipation can include certain medical conditions, lifestyle factors or be a side-effect of medications. Secondary causes of constipation include:

●     Side effect of some medication
●     Metabolic conditions such as hypothyroidism
●     Psychiatric disorders including depression and eating disorders
●     IBS
●     Overuse of laxatives
●     Low fibre diet
●     Lack of regular exercise
●     Not drinking enough water
●     Stress
●     Pregnancy

Food sensitivities

Studies have shown that food sensitivities may be related to increased gut permeability, which allows particles and allergens to pass more easily through the gut lining, resulting in an allergic response, causing symptoms of food allergy or intolerance.

It’s important to remember that food sensitivities are a great stressor on the body. Chronic stress impacts the gut microbiome, which in turn may impact gut permeability. Stressors can include both mental and physical factors - however, the knock-on effects can be cyclical.

On the other hand, as the gut and brain are so closely linked, having food sensitivities or other physical stressors can also cause mental stress

Stomach acid

Stomach acid is another important influencer of digestive health. As discussed above, bacterial growth in the small and large intestine has a great impact on overall digestive health - and, the microbiome is significantly impacted by stomach acid. Stomach acid is also important for activating and encouraging the release of several digestive enzymes and fluids. 

Stomach acid is also responsible for assisting with the metabolism and absorption of certain micronutrients. These include:
●     Iron
●     Zinc
●     Magnesium
●     Vitamin C
●     B vitamins, including vitamin B12 (folic acid)

It’s safe to say that the acidic stomach environment plays a large role in determining the health of our body and digestive system - and, if not balanced, can also contribute to chronic illness, digestive disorders and issues that are viewed as ‘common’ such as chronic constipation.

Gut / Mental Health Link

Now, we’ve briefly touched on the link between physical and mental health above when discussing stress. 

The gut-brain axis allows communication for the gut and brain to update one-another on their health status. If the gut is doing poorly - through dysbiosis, digestive disorders, intestinal permeability, etc. - the brain is updated on this and mental health is impacted, as well.

On the other hand, when the brain is not in the best state - such as through chronic stress, psychological disorders, or even just general nervousness - gut health becomes impacted, as well. If you’ve heard the term “nervous tummy” - well, that’s a real thing!

Staying healthy and staying regular

As you can see, the mind and body really are one holistic being which we call the human body. So, always support your mind and always support your gut in order to keep your digestive system happy and your bowel movements regular!

*Please not that i am not a registered dietitian and this is off the back of my own research and experience. Should you have any questions or thoughts please contact your GP or medical professional.

No comments:

Post a Comment