Friday, 14 October 2016 11:10

5 Surprising Side Effects of Not Pooping!

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We all poop but we hardly ever talk about it. When was the last time you sat down and talked to a friend—or even your doctor—about what your poop looks like? If you're like most people, the answer is never.

That silence hasn't just left us in the dark about our toilet-time activities, but constipation is something that you and I should really talk about.

After all, 63 million Americans report having sluggish bowels. Chronic constipation affects 15-30% of Canadians and is commonly found in young children and the elderly, occurring more frequently in females than in males. So odds are that you - or somebody you know and care about - may be having problems in the poop department!

In addition, constipation isn’t merely a painful inconvenience. It can affect many areas of your health and wellbeing, sometimes in very unexpected ways.

Find out five of the top, unexpected side effects of constipation, and how you can take measures today to get your bowels back in good working order!

First, What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Constipation?

There is a broad disparity in what is considered to be ‘normal’ in terms of bowel habits.

As a very general rule, constipation is classified as having less than three bowel movements per week. Other warning signs can include:

Straining to pass a bowel movement,

Feelings of incomplete defecation (i.e. feeling like you may need to go a bit more, even once you’ve finished),

Having small, dry and/or hard stools,

Experiencing a feeling of ‘fullness’ in your rectum.

(If you notice any of the above symptoms or a change from your usual bowel habits, it’s always best to get this checked out.)

This is clearly an unpleasant situation to deal with in the bathroom, but did you know that constipation could be affecting your life and health in other ways as well?

1. Constipation Can Trigger Headaches (Or Is At Least Associated With Them)

Headaches can be caused by many things, and specialists have now included constipation to the list of possible underlying factors.

Why? The first probable reason is stress. Being able to poop properly is an essential human function that’s very easy to take for granted...until it’s taken away from you.

The pain, inconvenience, worry and pressure of being constipated - and feeling your insides continue to fill up, obstruct and bloat - can truly cause a lot of stress. This anxiety, can in turn, trigger tension headaches.

Also, a very frequent cause of constipation is dehydration. Your bowels need an adequate supply of water to produce soft stools. When you’re not drinking enough water, fecal matter can become dry and compacted, creating the hard ‘rabbit pellets’ of poop that are common with constipation.

In this instance, while constipation does not directly cause headaches, the related dehydration can. So by drinking more water, you may get a double relief from constipation and headaches!

Finally, there is some confirmation that headaches may be induced from toxin buildup during constipation. Your bowels are a key channel for your body to eliminate toxic materials; if this waste is idle for longer than it should, it may be reabsorbed back into the body and trigger headaches.

2. Constipation Can Cause Breakouts!

Experts recognize the link between what happens in our gut and what shows up on our skin.

Essentially, constipation can be a sign that your inner eco-system of gut flora is a little strained. And when our friendly flora isn’t in tip-top shape,  it can reveal more than just constipation. Eventually, your skin can suffer too.

Skin conditions such as puffiness, acne, dark circles under the eyes and even rashes can be set off from internal gut issues.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and is involved in some function of elimination. So, toxins that enter the body through unhealthy foods, or accumulate during constipation, can cause zits and other blemishes.

As a result, if your body can’t get rid of toxins through the normal route (i.e. the bowels), it may break out via your skin instead!

3. Constipation Can Make You Lose Your Appetite

It is common for many people with constipation to lose their appetite.

But please let it be known that this is not an effective weight-loss strategy! (Besides, constipation often causes a bloated and distended abdomen, which probably doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the goals of dieting!)

The type of appetite loss that goes along with chronic constipation is not an enjoyable form of hunger suppression. Rather, it is a persistent dissatisfaction that makes eating food feel like a total ‘turn off’ and real effort. Kinda like that weak, ‘off-food’ feeling you get after being sick - it’s not an energizing experience!

You see, the digestive system is a finely-tuned, well-honed machine of interrelated parts that is continually feeding messages back to the brain and your organs. Every time you eat a meal, special nerves that line the inside of your stomach are stretched, which triggers something called a mass movement.

A mass movement?! “What Is THAT?”

Well, have you ever noticed that, often, you feel the urge to poo within half an hour of eating a big meal? That is the magic of a mass movement in action! As you eat, nerves in your stomach stretch and neuronal signals are transmitted to your bowels to say,

“Hey down there! We’ve got another load coming through - it’s time to move things along.”

Your intestines are intended to react by propelling food further through your digestive tract, hence the need to visit the toilet.

With constipation, this feedback loop is interrupted. Instead of clearing space, your brain and stomach get signals that things are backed up. Just like any production line, it’s unproductive to keep adding more into the mix until congestion has cleared.

In other words, your body can shut down the urge to eat (i.e. put more in) until it’s taken care of the other side of the equation (i.e. what’s going out). 

4. Constipation Can Give You Hemorrhoids (Ouch!)

Constipation is characterized by a straining feeling when you attempt a bowel movement.

Just like any muscle that is trying to carry a workload that is heavier than its capacity, there’s going to be some wear and tear.

The span of our intestines is covered by smooth muscle fibers that push food and waste along our digestive tract. When these muscles are put under pressure (such as during prolonged constipation), they also exert additional force on the veins which line the rectum.

During constipation, these veins can be extended beyond their normal ability, so that they are no longer able to hold their shape. From time to time, they no longer can stay within the internal cavity and stick out from the anus.  This can be painful, indeed!

5. Can Constipation Give You Bad Breath?

According to one study, yes!

This study explains that almost one-quarter of bad breath may be credited to constipation! Other reports point out that people with constipation frequently notice a bad taste in the mouth or persistent episodes of bad breath.

The reasons for this link are not fully understood. However, one hypothesis is that constipation may lead to the propagation of toxic gut bacteria, which produce stinking gasses. Kinda weird to think of these gasses floating up into your mouth, right?

Ways To Treat Constipation

As you can make out, there are many things that can cause constipation. As with any multifactor health issue, there are many aspects which can help.

Once you’ve ruled out any underlying medical issues or food intolerances, here are some diet and lifestyle approaches that can be very helpful at treating constipation:

Don’t Hold On:  Don't ‘put off’ going once you feel the urge.

Exercising Regularly: Physical activity drives blood flow to the entire digestive tract and can also encourage a bowel movement.

Lower Your Stress Levels: Stress and your emotional condition as a very real influence on digestion. If you think about it, we even recognize this such as feeling ‘butterflies in your tummy’ and being ‘sick to the stomach’. Chronic stress can produce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and disagreeable digestive disorders such as constipation. Meditation, yoga, massage, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, aromatherapy, and homeopathy are great stress reducing tools.

Dial Up Your Fiber Intake: It is believed that our ancestors ate up to 100g of fiber per day, whereas the average modern human consumes less than 14g daily. Increase your daily intake with high-fiber foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, chia, (soaked and activated) quinoa and brown rice, organic prunes, soaked legumes and fresh produce. Just start bit by bit, though, as the bowel often doesn’t like an abrupt change in fiber intake!

Stay Well Hydrated: Hydration is one of the influential factors as to how soft your stool will be.

Mind Your Medications: Certain antidepressants and NSAID medications can set off constipation. In fact, some supplements can, too! (Particularly iron and calcium carbonate.) It can be useful to check if any pills you currently take may be contributing to the problem.

Take a Probiotic and Eat More Fermented Foods.  One study found that levels of the good bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria were considerably higher in people who didn’t experience constipation. Therefore, you can top up your levels of good bacteria with a high-quality probiotic supplement and a regular hit of fermented foods!

Constipation shouldn’t be a taboo subject; it affects a lot of people and can seriously impact your health.

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 20 October 2016 11:36
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