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Constipation can range from infrequent bowel motions to just feeling as if you haven’t completely emptied the bowels. This is not a symptom to ignore as regularly evacuating the bowels is important to ensure that toxins are eliminated from the body. Constipation can lead to bad breath, hemorrhoids, bloating, wind, skin rashes or acne and often means poor absorption of nutrients; it can also be a sign that the body’s digestive processes or liver function is sluggish. Natural treatments for constipation include herbs such as Senna, Dandelion root and Rhubarb as well as fibre supplements, Magnesium and diet changes. If constipation is a symptom of a food intolerance (such as gluten), underactive thyroid, Depression or sluggish liver function is it important to treat the cause as well as encourage movement of the bowels. When constipation is chronic it is important to thoroughly investigate to ensure that there isn’t a serious underlying pathology such as diverticular disease or intestinal obstruction.

Some common causes of constipation range from the more simple such as poor fibre intake & lack of exercise to medication use, anxiety, hypothyroidism or an imbalance of bowel bacteria.

There are several ways to address the symptoms of constipation, some include:

  1. Incorporating fibre into the diet has many benefits. It provides bulk to the stool encouraging movement through the intestines; it assists with balancing the pH of the digestive system and binds & removes toxins from the digestive system. Other benefits of fibre include assisting with blood sugar regulation, binding cholesterol & excreting it from the body (assisting to decrease high cholesterol levels) as well as promoting a sense of fullness & satisfaction. Dietary sources of fibre include Psyllium husks, Slippery elm, Flaxseeds, green leafy vegetables & whole grains.
  2. Herbal Laxatives: Herbs such as Cascara and Senna are often used to stimulate a bowel motion as they ‘irritate’ the bowel wall; these are not, however, recommended for long term use.
  3. Ensuring adequate intake of water: At least 2L per day is important to prevent dehydration, however if there is increased sweating (e.g exercise or manual labour) or coffee or tea intake it is important to further increase intake.
  4. Abdominal massage: promoting peristalsis (movement of matter through the intestines) is important when the digestive system is sluggish. Massaging an essential oil blend into the abdomen in a clock-wise direction will assist to relieve flatulence & bloating as well as encouraging the bowels to move. 
  5. Probiotics: The balance of favourable & unfavourable bacteria in the bowel can be disrupted by the use of medications (e.g. antibiotics or the oral contraceptive pill), high stress levels, a diet high in sugar, alcohol or yeast or a depleted immune system. Replacing ‘bad’ bowel bacteria with ‘good’ bowel bacteria is the first step to decreasing symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, cramping & constipation. Removing factors which contributed to this imbalance in the first place is also very important.

Often it is beneficial to give the body a rest from over-indulgence & detoxify the gastrointestinal system as well as the rest of the body. Removing foods from the diet such as sugar, yeast, gluten, dairy & preservatives and replacing with whole foods such as green leafy vegetables, brown rice & lean meats such as fish will take a load of the digestive system & allow the body to heal. Ensuring that your detox program contains herbs & nutrients to repair & support the digestive system will aid normalization of the bowels as well as improve energy levels, support the skin & balance moods.

Updates - 24 October 2014

Peeters, B Benninga, M & Hennekam, B (2011), ‘Childhood constipation; an overview of genetic studies and associated syndromes’,  Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp: 73 – 88.

Emerging research shows that in some children with functional constipation (without structural changes to the body), genetic factors may be to blame.  Whilst much is still unknown about this area, scientists have identified a number of genes that may play a role. These have been found in every part of the body affecting defecation, showing just how complex the issue is. Family studies have also shown that those who had childhood constipation are more likely to see the same in their children. It’s an interesting thought, although much is still unknown, and further research is needed.


Vive Health Naturopaths recommend the following products for Constipation:

Products Suggested Dosage
1. Health Kultcha Motion Potion (100g, 250g, 600g) Take 1 heaped teaspoon daily in fruit juice away from food and medication/supplements.
Stir vigorously and drink immediately as mixture will thicken.
2. Colon Cleanse (125g) 1 tsp with 250 ml water before bed. When glass is empty, squeeze in half a lemon, stir and drink.
3. Ethical Nutrients Inner Health Plus (30 caps) OR

Ethical Nutrients Inner Health Plus Dairy Free (30 Caps)

1 cap or tsp before bed.
4. Lifestream Aloe Vera Juice (1.25L. 120VCaps) 25 ml x 2-3 daily.
5. Lifestream Bowel Biotics (200g) 1 heaped tsp in 250ml water x 1-2 daily.
6. Nutra Life Digestive Enzymes (60 Caps) 1 cap with each meal.
7. Blooms Herba-lax (100g, 200g, 100 Tabs) 1 tsp with 250 ml water before bed. OR 1-2 tabs with plenty of water before bed.
8. The Internal Plumber Digestion Formula (200g) Mix 2 teaspoons twice a day into 100ml of water/juice and stir well.  Drink at least 5 mins before a meal on an empty stomach.
9. Nutra Life Gut Relief Powder (125g) 1 scoop in 200ml water daily.
10. Thompson’s Slippery Elm 800mg (120 Tabs) 1 tab with a glass of water x 2-3 daily.
11. Quick Cleanse 7 and 15 Day Detox Follow kit instructions.
12. Riddells Creek Relaxing Massage Oil (200ml) Massage your abdomen in a clockwise direction.

NOTE: Consideration should always be given to individual requirements.  Please consider seeing a qualified practitioner before commencing a new treatment protocol or when combining supplements with pharmaceutical medication.

For more information on Constipation or to ask a Qualified Naturopath a question Click Here.

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