Our bodies have a way of telling us when things are not quite right. Often it is just a whisper – a murmur, just a gentle reminder. At other times the alarm bell is loud and clear. One of the most obvious signs is when our routine daily waste removal habits change.
The human digestive tract is designed to transit your food from mouth to rectum in around 12 – 24 hours. Any less than this, your body may not absorb the nutrients and water it needs from your foods. Any longer than this, then the waste products start to back up at the warm internal temperature of 37 degrees. This can create more metabolic waste and uncomfortable symptoms including bloating and flatulence as the fermentation process continues. This back up can also contribute to symptoms in other parts of the body like foggy brain, tiredness and skin breakouts. Welcome to the “number two blues” – constipation.
Bowel issues can range from a mild inconvenience – straining to move a knobbly hard bowel movement (poo), right through to a major medical problem that causes severe pain, physical and emotional discomfort. Medically speaking you should be concerned if you have less than three stools per week and definitely off to see your Dr if you pass less than one stool each week. Most of us at some point in our lives have gone through periods of having sluggish bowels and can relate to these symptoms, even it is just that annoyance of our regular bowel motion going on holiday while we go on holiday too… the disappearance of our bowel motion when we are away from our home environment is a common complaint!
There are many causes for the number two blues. Often these can be related to eating a diet low in fibre, not enough fruit and veggies. Common medications including painkillers, anti-depressants and some natural supplements like iron and calcium can cause this reaction in some people. Hormonal changes especially high levels of oestrogen and progesterone during pregnancy and after childbirth, chronic diseases and many conditions of the bowel are also usual suspects. A sluggish and underactive thyroid can also be a cause. Even undiagnosed food allergies and intolerances can manifest themselves and make themselves known to you disguised as a slow digestion and sluggish bowels. The simplest reason can simply be lack of water! Lucky that is an easy fix.
You should seek medical care if changes in your bowel habits come on very suddenly, or if there are any other worrying symptoms such as severe pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting or bleeding or unexpected loss of weight. You should also seek the care of a qualified medical professional if your problems have lasted more than a few weeks.
How to help yourself
Increasing the water you consume is very important to help soften the stools and allow them to pass through your body. Aim for at least 2 litres each day (herbal teas count), and remember caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you – so ease up on these types of liquids even though they may temporarily may help mask the symptoms.
Bulk up the fibre: The best way of adding fibre to your diet is to increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables, particularly raw foods – not cooked to a mush. Be creative with ways to include much more raw fruit and vegetables, smoothies are a great way, as is adding a handful of greens or a small raw salad on the side of your lunch and dinner. Prunes and prune juice, apricot juice, Kiwi fruits and in particular kiwi fruit seeds are also commonly used for the home management of bowel regularity. Adding a few tablespoons of soaked chia or linseed to the smoothie or cereal can bump up the soluble and insoluble fibre needed to form healthy stools, and move it out of the body.
Adding probiotic foods like Saukraut, kombucha, Kefir and probiotic yoghurt add some beneficial bacteria back into your digestive system which can help get things back to normal. Probiotics can help the environment within the large intestine, so that normal healthy bowel motions occur.
Be aware of the food you just consumed, as it may be a certain food causing the issue for you. Wheat/ Gluten intolerance is one to be aware of for example. Trialling an elimination diet is an effective way to observe symptoms. Grains and processed foods can create inflammation, so reducing the consumption can be helpful for supporting the health of the digestive tract.
Don’t delay or hold on when you feel the urge to go – go when you feel the need to allow your bowel to empty when it wants to. Try not to strain, push too hard or force as this can cause haemorrhoids and fissures – which add to the general pain and discomfort. Creating regularity around when you ‘go’ can be useful too – for example, at a certain time, say 7a.m each day, just sit on the loo, if you feel the need to go or not. Setting some routine around your bowel motions can be a helpful method to gain regularity.
Natural health options include Magnesium which can support fluid balance in the large intestine so you don’t ‘dry out’. Vitamin C can also loosen up your stools (for some people) if you take around 1000mg – 2000mg per day. (Note Vitamin C can cause bowel irritation for some, so try different forms of vitamin C to work out which one suits you best). People who lead sedentary lives are frequently more troubled with sluggish bowels, so get yourself back into a routine of regular exercise.
Slippery Elm is another soothing fibre you can try adding to your daily smoothie to help move the waste products through a little quicker. Stronger natural health options for the real emergency blockage in the pipes are products that contain Senna – which can be used in the short term to help get things moving again. Acupuncture, meditation, massage, exercise and yoga can also help relax the muscles that support the intestines which could help you become more regular.
TAPS No: PP9674
BioBalance Sennax is a potent fruit-based supplement that supports a healthy “daily” digestive system. It contains senna leaf, known for helping a slow-moving bowel get back its regularity in a natural, gentle and effective way. Buy it now from our secure online shop. You may also be interested in BioBalance Liposomal Magnesium, Liposomal Vitamin C and Pure Slippery Elm Powder.
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Are there any particular foods that you've noticed can cause a sluggish bowel?
Alternatively, are there any foods you find helpful for relieving a blockage?