Sunday, January 11, 2015

Constipation: An Epidemic with Deeper Issues and Effects

Constipation is the most common digestive complaint in the United States and affects women three times more than men. Chronic constipation is a serious health issue that can not only cause pain but also contribute to other health conditions including headaches, migraines, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. To understand the deeper issues associated with constipation let us take a closer look at the digestive system and how it works.

When food is initially eaten it passes down the esophagus and into the stomach. The stomach has a thick mucus layer that produces digestive juices and protects the stomach lining from irritation. As we age this layer produces less gastric acid which means it will take longer for us to digest the same meals we ate when we were younger. (YES it is normal for us to produce less stomach acid as we age, NOT MORE as many people that have been incorrectly diagnosed with acid reflux and GERD believe.) Ideally food will only stay in the stomach for about 30-45 minutes before passing through the next stop in the digestive system, however due to less acid being produced sometimes food can take hours to empty the stomach which can cause lack of appetite, belching, and other reflux-like symptoms due to food putrefying within the stomach. In this case a natural supplement such as Gastro Plus can assist with increasing acid production in the stomach. In some folks this mucus layer can also thin due to nutrient deficiencies and poor diet which can lead to stomach pain after a meal or after eating certain foods. This mucus layer and the acid it produces can be regrown and healed when our body has the proper nerve function from the spine to direct healing and the proper nutrition from a natural supplement such as Gastro Guard that can assist in the healing process.

From the stomach, food will pass into the small intestine where further breakdown and all of our nutrient absorption takes place. The small intestine also has a protective layer secreted by the beneficial bacteria in our gut to protect the intestinal lining from irritation. If the pH of the intestine is too low (acidic) it can lead to an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria such as yeast and gas producing bacteria. For probiotic support of these beneficial bacteria you can try Ultrabiotic or our children's line of Pedia Biotic. If this delicate balance of bacteria and pH is altered it can cause abdominal pain or gas, nutritional deficiencies, gut inflammation, allergies, auto immune diseases, and also alter mood due to hormone disruption. In addition, when our hormone balance is altered we can have delayed motility of the intestine due to hormone deficiencies such as progesterone deficiency. Dietary habits (fiber from fruits and vegetables mainly) also have a direct impact on how food moves through the intestine and  how much cholesterol we absorb from our food.

Once nutrients have been absorbed, the food will pass into the large intestine where the body will attempt to conserve water and salt from fecal matter before being passed through to the last stop on your digestive train... the toilet. Dietary habits play a huge factor in how fecal matter moves through the system which is why it is so important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily. If our large intestine has altered nerve function from nerve irritation in the lumbar spine this can also contribute to the time fecal matter spends in the intestine. When waste does not pass through the digestive system in a timely manner fecal matter can become hard and can stick to the wall of the intestine and cause further digestive issues. This stagnant waste can also build up toxins that can be reabsorbed into the body to cause chronic headaches, weight gain, and fatigue.

So what can you do to keep your digestive system health?

1) Drink plenty of water. This will keep your joints and muscle hydrated and assist in letting things slide on through the digestive system without issue.

2) Eat at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Vegetables are the most important as they provide the alkalizing benefits to keep your beneficial bacteria strong and the most nutrients out of any food you can eat!

3) If you are having issues with constipation or having a bowel movement less than once a day, it is time to talk to your doctor. Most doctors will discuss changing your dietary habits to get the most benefits and healing properties out of your food. If changing your diet doesn't yield the results you need it would be a wise idea to get your nervous system and your hormone balance checked for issues. AlignLife offers free consultations in the office or via phone to discuss your health concerns and non invasive salivary hormone testing to check for underlying issues.

4) If you've been dealing with stomach or abdominal pain or have been diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD and aren't getting results with your current treatment, give AlignLife a call to setup a free health consultation to discuss your specific case and get advice on natural treatment options that would be available to you.

To schedule an appointment at our Peoria AlignLife office on Sheridan Rd, call 309-689-6200 or visit our website online If you don't live in Peoria but would like to find an AlignLife near you, visit and select "Find A Clinic".