Is constipation normal?

Everyone who comes to see me in my clinic is asked about their bowels.

The thing is that it is not a strange question but one of the most logical things for me, as a naturopath, to ask people.

In fact, I think it should be one of the first questions ever asked of patients, whether I am seeing you for physical or mental problems.

The normal course of food travelling from the mouth to the anus should be around 12 to 36 hours and not any longer.

Unfortunately, the western diet is full of excess sugar, salt and fats, with insufficient roughage, which leads to food remaining in the intestines far longer than 36 hours, and even sometimes for weeks.

You may even think you are having roughage but unless it is the right kind of plant-based fibre, it may be blocking up your intestines rather than creating transition of food through your gut.

Digestion begins in the mouth, with protein digestion getting underway in the stomach. Movement in both these areas is primarily the result of gravity, even though the digestion is sorted differently in different parts of the stomach.

Once food passes into the intestines it is pushed along the gut by a process called peristalsis where the muscles of the alimentary canal squeeze and release in order to move the food along.

Peristalsis is driven chemically, as when the body connects enzymes and coenzymes in food and digestive juices, the gut gets a message the digestion is progressing, so the peristalsis can also progress.

If the body does not recognise the food because it is burnt, animal-based or lacks basic essential nutrients, the peristalsis becomes slow and may even grind to a stop.

What is also important to remember is that there is a whole host of bacteria that live within us, particularly in the gut, which is referred to as the human microbiome.

If the gut has the wrong mix of bacteria, of which there are millions, digestion is very poor, which adds to constipation.

It is not normal to continually take laxatives in order to move the bowel, but it is a billion-dollar industry, so many health practitioners simply prescribe them to patients without getting the patient to change their eating and lifestyle habits.

The gut is an active organ, not passive, so if you keep taking its natural functions away by constantly prescribing laxatives, it becomes lazy, which results in constipation, including chronic constipation.

Like any organ, the gut must constantly be put through its paces or it loses its ability to do its job.

As human beings, it is important for us to eat as near to nature as possible, which is a plant-based wholefood diet.

When you eat a plant-based wholefood diet, transition of food along the gut naturally moves to 12-36-hour cycles of elimination, ensuring that toxins do not remain in the gut and seep through the gut wall into the blood stream.

Of course, constipation is sometimes the result of an obstructive bowel disorder or medications. However, even in these cases, changes to diet and lifestyle can improve the transition of food and waste along the gut.

Constipation is not natural or normal so if it has become chronic, you would be wise to enlist the help of a plant-based medical nutritionist so you can retrain your gut to regularly evacuate waste every day of your life. You will feel more comfortable and it will improve your health dramatically.

To get help in overcoming constipation naturally, call my clinic to book your naturopathy appointment on 02 8021 6429.

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