Modern living make us all susceptible to falling prey to constipation at one point or another and more often than not, it occurs when we are least expecting it. Being constipated during travel time is the perfect example.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is the term used to define a period between bowel movements that exceeds "the normal" duration of time for your body. For most people, "normal" equates to 3 days or more. Some people have bowel movements three times a day, others may go once a day, and some people may only experience a bowel movement a few times each week (1).
What Causes Constipation?
It is important to note that we cannot pinpoint one single cause of constipation, but rather we can consider a culmination of conditions that come together as contributors which allow for constipation to take hold in the body. Some common contributing factors include: water intake or lack thereof, existing medical conditions, food choices, pregnancy, exercise regimen or not, stress, holding in one's poop, and medication intake. These are all common triggers for constipation (1).
What are the Most Common Symptoms of Constipation?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, common symptoms of constipation may include the following (2):
- Stools that are difficult or painful to pass
- A feeling that you have not had a bowel movement at all
- Fewer than three bowel movements in a week
- Stools that are hard, dry or lumpy
7 unexpected consequences of being constipated
Because all of our bodily systems are deeply interconnected and work in unison, the effects of constipation can have consequences and be experienced in various other parts of our bodies and can thus affect our health in several ways. Thus a variety of offshoot health symptoms can affect you outside of your gut.
Some surprising signs of constipation may include but are not limited to the following:
If you find your scale tipping in the wrong direction and the pattern of your bowel movements to be out of whack, it is very possible that constipation may be the culprit. The good news here is that the weight gain is usually not permanent, and with a series of lifestyle changes, bowel movements can become regular and allow your scale should return to your normal within a short time.
Feelings of nausea can result from being constipated. Our health depends on our bowel movements to help get rid of toxins. If we are backed up and do not have regular bowel movements, this can lead to a build-up and reabsorption of toxins throughout the body. This build up and reabsorption can contribute to nausea.
Studies show that it is not uncommon to experience headaches with constipation. The belief is that headaches may occur as a result of the tension that arises from the stress of being constipated or by one of the primary causes of constipation such as dehydration, pregnancy (due to hormonal changes) or pre-existing medical conditions (6).
Being constipated slows down the function of your digestive system. This action can slow or delay food from exiting the stomach and reaching the intestines, generating feelings of nausea and even triggering vomiting (5).
Aside from triggering abdominal pain, bloating and gas, digestive problems like bowel obstructions and constipation may manifest themselves in your oral health, your breath in particular. When our intestine is backed up by a blockage of stool, it can cause our breath to smell like faeces and potentially even cause us to vomit faeces in severe cases.
Studies show that people who experience constipation may also experience acne triggered by an unhealthy gut microbiome which can manifest itself in the form of various skin conditions. When we fail to pass those toxins from our body in a timely fashion, the reabsorption of these toxins can trigger a nasty round of acne outbreaks if there is no relief.
Constipation can cause fatigue (7) that sometimes doesn't improve, no matter how much sleep or rest you manage to get if the root cause of the problem (constipation) is not relieved. Other variables may trigger constipation but also contribute to symptoms of fatigue, such as dehydration, opioid medications, stress, or even a chronic medical condition.
How to Naturally Relieve and Prevent Constipation
Good news! There are natural ways to relieve and prevent constipation.
You no longer have to feel obliged to popping a pill or consuming extreme teas or chalky powders for relief.
Preferred methods for relieving constipation include:
- Boosting your fiber intake through the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and legumes (1-2 servings per day)
- Adding a probiotic supplement or fermented foods to encourage the production of healthy bacteria in your intestines
- Increasing your magnesium intake to promote intestinal motility (get things moving)
- Increasing your water intake to help keep things moving (i.e., 12-15 cups of water today for constipation)
- Drinking warm fluids
Herbal Bitters for Constipation: Adding in the helpers
Herbal bitters are excellent for helping to really kick-start digestion and relieve constipation and the symptoms that can accompany this digestive affliction. One of the most effective ways to manage or prevent constipation is to treat the liver.
Bitters trigger the liver to release bile. Bile helps to stimulate the production of enzymes in the small intestine and that is necessary for supporting a healthy bowel movement.
Bitter herbs such as artichoke, milk thistle, dandelion, and boldo leaf are all digestion and liver stimulating herbs plants. Most importantly, when it comes to constipation, they stimulate bile production and help to get bowel movements back on track.
These are the main ingredients that make up A.Vogel's Boldocynara liquid tincture as a digestive aid. Let's look at each one in some more detail:
Dandelion to increase the rate of digestion
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) not only stimulates the production of bile but one research study revealed that the use of dandelion root helped to increase stomach contractions and to propel food forward into the GI tract at a quicker rate. Stomach contents were also shown to empty into the small intestine at a faster rate.
Milk Thistle to relieve indigestion that accompanies constipation
The liver plays a vital role in the function of the digestive system. It releases bile into the small intestine, which helps to digest fat. Additionally, it detoxifies those chemicals in our body, which can be harmful toxins (3). Milk thistle is a potent herb for the liver that contributes to its regeneration and detoxification. The unique side effect of consuming this herb is useful for optimal liver function. Milk thistle helps to relieve us of nausea, bloating, gas and indigestion (4).
Artichoke leaf extract helps to provide relief from symptoms of indigestion such as the bloating, nausea and heartburn that often accompanies constipation. Artichoke also helps to stimulate liver secretions which helps to accelerate the digestive process.
Boldo leaf has a history of being a herbal treatment for ailments including digestive disorders and constipation. Boldo is an effective stimulant for the stomach and intestines and can help to get sluggish bowels moving again (7). Much like dandelion, boldo acts as a diuretic and helps to draw water into the intestines.
What Happens if You Don't Relieve Constipation?
Chronic constipation, especially when left untreated or unattended to, can lead to cascading health problems such as haemorrhoids or swollen veins around the anus, anal fissures, impaction, or even rectal prolapse, a condition where the intestine protrudes from the anus (1).
One should seek the help of a medical practitioner when constipation becomes chronic and long lived, despite attempts to remedy it.
In closing, symptoms of constipation can vary with each episode. You can encounter a blend of both common and surprising warning signs that your digestive tract is slowing down. You can take preventive and natural measures to keep your system healthy and functioning optimally. Herbal bitters are a fantastic option for you if your goal is to manage your digestive health naturally. Boldocynara specifically improves digestion as a whole and will help regulate bowel movements as it helps to increase the secretion of bile as it supports the liver. It's a wonderful and effective remedy.
1. WebMD. What is Constipation?
2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms and Causes of Constipation.
3. Clevelandclinic.org. The structure and function of the digestive system.
4. (2018). Food Hangovers-Fact, not Fiction: Healing herbs to cope with the aftermath. Alive: Canada's Natural Health & Wellness Magazines.
5. Widenmark, E (2015). Signs and Symptoms of Constipation. Arthritis-health.
6. Park, M. N., Choi, M. G., & You, S. J. (2015). The relationship between primary headache and constipation in children and adolescents. Korean journal of Pediatrics, 58(2), 60–63. doi:10.3345/kjp.2015.58.2.60
8. Mayo Clinic . Constipation.
10. 13 Potential Health Benefits of Dandelion: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dandelion-benefits