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.

What is Stress?

We all talk about stress in our lives, but what actually is “stress” and what does it do to our bodies? How can we be more aware and what can we do to help ourselves?

This blog offers an introduction to the topic of stress.

Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is the important part of our nervous system which controls our vital bodily functions such as our heart beating and our breathing.stress

It is split into two divisions: Parasympathetic and Sympathetic. The two sides work in an integrated and complementary fashion. When one is stimulated the other one is suppressed.

When we face any type of stress, whether it’s fear, anxiety, danger or worry, our nervous system reacts in exactly the same way: it prepares to “fight or flight”. This is because it senses a threat and it works to keep us safe. So whether you are running across a road of speeding traffic, or whether you are anxious about a looming work deadline, the body will be reacting in exactly the same way.

The sympathetic division predominates. A release of adrenalin instructs the body to prepare for “fight or flight”.

Blood vessels supplying the heart, limbs, head and brain dilate enabling more blood and oxygen to reach these body parts in preparation for physical activity.

Blood pressure and heart rate rises, as does respiratory rate.

The brain and eyes are also on full alert, improving concentration and peripheral vision.

Sugar is released into the blood system for the anticipated need for additional energy. This happens in the liver.

In order to conserve energy, the blood vessels supplying the non-essential systems of the body constrict, suppressing the digestive and immune systems.

The stomach and small intestine become inhibited, delaying digestion, the onward movement of food, and the absorption of nutrients.

Once the perceived threat has gone, the body will revert back to normal and rebalance: homeostasis will be resumed.

But in our modern day life, the perceived threat might go on and on for days, weeks, months or even years. Anxiety and worries can take all sorts of forms, such as work/job worries, financial worries, health worries, deadlines, long working hours, relationships: the list is endless.

As you can imagine, the ability to relax will be difficult: the body being on constant high alert. Problems include difficulty sleeping, feeling run down, constantly catching colds and viruses due to the suppressed immune system. Good nutrition will also be compromised with the suppressed digestive system, causing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diarrhoea, constipation etc.

It’s so important that we get a balance in our lives: time for work and time to rest/relax. We need time to allow the parasympathetic nervous system to predominate, and then allow the body time to rebalance.

This is where reflexology and other holistic therapies can be so beneficial. A regular session booked into the diary will break the constant stress cycle, and give you and your body an hour to lie back and relax: me time.

Reflexology, in particular, can be very beneficial in providing profound relaxation because of the high concentration of nerve endings in the feet: the feet are great access points for the whole body.

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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