Self Help for Constipation

Constipation can vary from being an irritating problem that flares up from time to time, to a debilitating chronic condition causing abdominal pain and other complications.

Physically, constipation can be caused by all sorts of things including a lack of fluid and healthy fats and oils, a diet lacking in fibre, medication and food intolerances. 

Mentally and emotionally it can be triggered by stress, inability to let go of things such as the events from the past, and unwillingness to take in new life, new things, change. 

If there is a lot of faecal compaction the laxatives will only soften the newer stool; the compacted stool will remain. The best way to move stool is to bulk it out with insoluble fibre. This will create a larger stool to push everything through, without absorbing water which would make the stool very hard, difficult and painful to pass. Good sources of insoluble fibre are flax seeds soaked in water, or porridge oats. Both will form a “gloopiness” which is known as mucilage. This is an oily lubricant which will help assist the intestinal tract.

Both reflexology and acupuncture would be beneficial for constipation as both will offer space and time to deeply relax which will switch on the “rest and digest” and break the cycle of “fight or flight”.

Below are some self help tips you can try if you’re are suffering with constipation. These can be tried alongside the general advice of increasing water intake, increasing fibre intake, increasing healthy fats and oils and reducing white refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, caffiene, alcohol and stress.

Look up the following acupuncture points using the internet and gently massage these twice a day for 2 minutes. Do both left and right sides. San Jiao 6 (lower arm) and Gall Bladder 34 (lower leg below the knee).

Ask a friend or family member to gently massage the lower half of the soles of your feet. This general guidance will cover the small and large intestine reflexes. Here is a foot map as a general guide.

Ear points for the intestines (large circle) and rectum (smaller circle) can be gently massaged. Please see the diagram here. Add gentle pressure using finger and thumb, rotate and release. Do this no more than once to begin with, covering the whole area. Then wait as the body digests the action. Note that over stimulation can create feelings of nausia and dizziness, so “less is more” in this case. If any point is sensitive, this is a good indication of imbalance. Treat both ears.

When using the toilet, use a stool to raise up your feet so that you are replicating the squatting position, which is the best position to pass stools. For more information see Squatty Potty.

Ask a friend or family member to massage your abdomen in a clockwise direction. You could also include hips and lower back. Essential oils could also be used. A recommended book would be The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Woomwood. As I’m not a qualified aromatherapist I won’t make suggestions here.

Take a table of flax seeds, cover in water, and soak. Once softened add more water and a small amount of good honey and drink. Do this twice a day. If this is completely undesirable then an alternative option would be to make up porridge using organic oats and water (no milk or sugar). Sweeten lightly with good honey.

Deep breathing exercises. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Lung and Large Intestine channels are paired; the Lung is the Yin breathing in our essential life Qi, and the Large Intestine is letting go of waste, and the old. Spend a few minutes focusing on taking deep breaths, through the nose and into the belly, and then release. 

As with all self-help information, use at your own risk and do not substitite for prescribed medication or consultation with your GP/medical practitioner.

Prebiotics and probiotics

Do you know the difference between pre and probiotics? If not read on to discover more.

Probiotics are commonly known as good bacteria and are widely available in supplement form, and they can also be found in some yoghurt. On the other hand, prebiotics are fibres that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria that are already present in your gut. [1]

Many of the beneficial bacteria in our lower intestine feast on fibre which we can’t digest ourselves and so passes through the stomach and small intestine to be dealt with by the bacteria in our large intestine (gut). So eating a diet which is high in fibre is hugely beneficial to our gut health, because the fibre is the food for your good bacteria.

ID-10099484But do we need to take a probiotic supplement? Lots of research has been done on this and while there is mixed results from the findings, many people are agreeing that taking a probiotic supplement can help with the treatment of Travellers Diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems, to upper respiratory tract infections, allergies, various skin disorders, diabetes, weight loss to infantile colic.[1]

Another good time to be taking a probiotic supplement is during and after periods of antibiotic use. Antibiotics are good at killing all the bacteria, good and bad, so it is important that we put good bacteria back into our bodies to maintain a healthy gut. My mother suffered with oral thrush during courses of antibiotics for years until she discovered probiotics.

Additionally, stress can take its toll on the good bacteria of the gut.

The topic of pre and probiotics can get very complex as there are many different species of bacteria and some species can be beneficial for specific health concerns. For example, research at the University of Aberdeen has shown that eating a bowl of oats every day can clearly change the proportions of different types of bacteria in the gut, and their research has shown that some of the species that particularly increases when people eat more oats can be very good for us. These bacteria produce chemicals which are good for our hearts and for our gut lining. [2]

So my personal recommendation would be to take probiotic supplements during periods of ill health and stress, or to combat particular health concerns. But during times when health is good then eat a diet with lots of fibre including oats, and indigestible carbohydrates (oligosaccharides, dietary fibre and resistant starch). Examples of these are onions, garlic, beans and lentils, cashews, and cooked potatoes that have been cooled.

probioboost

For a good, high quality supplement see Pro Bio Boost supplement from Neal’s Yard Remedies. This is suitable for vegetarians, and contains Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifido Blend 3 Strain and Inulin (a type of prebiotic/indigestible carbohydrate derived from plants). No GMO and no synthetic binders or fillers.

Alternatively, the Organic Fibre Blend Cleanse help to maintain a healthy digestion with a cleansing blend of apple, flax seed and chia seed. Contains psyllium husk and Bacillus coagulans to help promote the natural health of your gut.

 

[1] Monash University https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/food-as-medicine/1/steps/82004

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4s0XkHq0HxZhjd5V2lQ2LRm/do-probiotics-do-any-good

Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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