A healthy bowel is essential for a healthy life. You can never really achieve optimal health if you have a sluggish or lazy bowel. Most people eat at least three times a day, therefore it is important to have at least one bowel movement each day. Having less frequent bowel movements is a sign that your liver and your metabolism in general are not functioning at an optimum level. It also means you will be reabsorbing toxins back into your bloodstream that your body is supposed to be eliminating.

No one feels well when they’re constipated. Apart from bloating and abdominal discomfort, constipation can be a trigger for headaches, irritability and depression, inability to think clearly and concentrate, and it can slow your metabolism, making weight loss impossible. The good news is there is plenty you can do to correct your bowel habits, and feel a whole lot better in the process.

A normal, healthy stool is a medium brown colour, and a soft log shape. It should hold together in the bowl and not fall apart. The stool should not be small, hard or difficult to pass. It should also not smell overly strong. Bile has a deodorising effect on the stool and people with gallbladder disease usually do not secrete enough bile into their intestines. Therefore they are more prone to having overly offensive smelling stools. Taking an ox bile supplement can help remedy this.

Constipation strains your liver and gallbladder

After you have digested the food in your intestines and broken it down into its building blocks, most of the nutrients get absorbed into your bloodstream via a vein called the hepatic portal vein. This vein travels directly to your liver. If you are having regular, thorough bowel movements, the waste in your intestines will be eliminated from your body. However, in a constipated person, the waste remains in the intestines for a much longer period of time, and consequently some of that waste gets reabsorbed back into the bloodstream, and travels straight to your liver.

Constipation also worsens the common hormone imbalance in women known as estrogen dominance and relative progesterone deficiency. Women are supposed to break down large quantities of estrogen each day in their liver, and excrete it in bowel motions. Constipated women reabsorb much of that estrogen and it ends up recirculating back to the liver. This can produce unpleasant symptoms such as PMS, menstrual cramps, heavy periods and tender breasts, but it can also raise the risk of breast or uterine cancer in the future.

Strategies to get your gut moving

Some people can easily and quickly resolve their constipation just by drinking more water and following a healthy diet. Unfortunately for others the solution is not so simple. A great range of conditions and factors can cause constipation and sometimes fixing the problem is as difficult as solving a murder mystery. Women are more likely to suffer with constipation than men and it is more common in people over the age of 65.

Here are some methods that help most people overcome constipation. Hopefully you’ll find something that works for you:

  • Drink approximately 8 to 10 glasses of water or herbal tea each day. Coffee and tea do not count. Tea can make constipation worse because of the tannins it contains.
  • Have a blood test to check if you have an under active thyroid. This is an incredibly common cause of constipation in women. Have a blood test for the hormone called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). Your blood level should be between 0.3 and 2.5 IU/L. For more information see our book Your Thyroid Problems Solved. We have found there are an enormous amount of women who fall into the grey zone, where their thyroid is not perfect but not yet bad enough for their doctor to pay attention and offer any solutions. This condition is known as subclinical hypothyroidism and it can have a very negative effect on your health and quality of life.
  • Make sure you are eating a large volume of fresh vegetables each day. Some can be cooked and some should be raw. Aim for approximately 5 fists full of vegetables each day and one or two pieces of fruit.
  • Make sure your liver is producing adequate bile. Bile has a deodorizing effect on the stool but the bile salts within it also have a gentle laxative effect on the bowel. Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Your gallbladder secretes bile every time you consume a meal that contains some fat. People with a sluggish liver or fatty liver typically do not make enough bile.
  • Find out if you have a hidden food sensitivity. This is a very common yet under appreciated cause of constipation. The most common culprits are gluten, dairy products, soy, corn, eggs and nuts. It is best to see a naturopath or nutritionist who can help you uncover which foods may be upsetting your digestion. The removal of a problematic food can produce a dramatic improvement in bowel function.
  • You might have an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast, fungi and Candida in your bowel. This can cause constipation, bloating, flatulence, indigestion and nausea. There are some brilliant herbal products that act as a powerful anti-microbial in the bowel, such as those found in Bacto Clear capsules.
  • Add a gentle source of fiber to your diet such as psyllium, chia seeds, freshly ground flax seeds or slippery elm. This fiber can be added to smoothies, sprinkled over salad with your lunch or sprinkled over chopped fruit. Fibertone powder may help you. A typical dose of Fibertone is one teaspoon twice daily, but some people need more or less.
  • Exercise is important because it stimulates intestinal contractions, called peristalsis. Getting some kind of movement each day is very important, even if it’s just a walk.
  • Take a gut formula. Ultimate Gut Health powder combines nourishing amino acids, soothing fibers and a bacteria-balancing probiotic to improve repair the gut and improve overall gut health.

See Heal Your Gut an A to Z Guide for more information on improving your gut health.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.