Many clients come to us complaining of digestive issues, particularly constipation. The most common recommendations given to overcome constipation is to increase fiber and water intake. However, this often does not take care of the problem. In fact, it can raise another set of issues; gas and bloating.
Constipation occurs primarily because of decreased peristalsis; the muscular contractions of the intestines that promotes movement of food through the GI tract.
Common issues with peristalsis
- decreased bulk in stool (lack of magnesium and fiber)
- sympathetic nervous system overload (fight-or-flight response)
For optimal colon health and regular bowel movement, you will need to address the balance sympathetic and parasympathetic drive, exercise, gut flora and magnesium levels.
Sympathetic nervous system overdrive
There are two major parts of the nervous system. The parasympathetic, which is activated when we relax, is known as the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system. It stimulates blood flow to the digestive system, brain, extremities and sexual organs. The other part, the sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. It is activated when our body perceives stress. It reduces blood flow to the extremities, brain and digestive organs in preparation for a perceived survival situation. Sympathetic overdrive will reduce blood flow to the digestive system, reducing peristalsis. Slow, controlled breathing and Acupuncture are effective ways for “resetting” the nervous system and reducing stress. Book an appointment with our therapists to learn more about how acupuncture can help.
Having optimal abdominal tone (namely the transverse abdominus, the body natural girdle) will provide support for the colon, liver, stomach to function optimally. This will prevent drooping of the organs abnormal pressure on the digestive tract and other organs. Book a complimentary consultations with our Exercise Coaches to see how we can improve your abdominal tone.
Gut flora or probiotics are the beneficial bacteria in human intestines, required to make various vitamins, and interfere with pathogenic bacteria. It also helps produce organic acids that help to stimulate peristalsis and to keep the pH of the intestines in check.
Magnesium helps peristalsis by allowing relaxation of the smooth muscle tissue in the intestines. In chronic long-term constipation, you may need to start with as much as 800 mg of magnesium per day in divided doses to get the intestines moving. A well-absorbed form of magnesium is crucial; amino acid chelated forms like magnesium taurate, citrate, malate and glycinate are some of the best supplemental forms of magnesium. Read more about magnesium here.
Healthy bowel movements are at least twice a day. If you are not on the regular and would like to change that, book an appointment with our Biosignature Practitioners and get down to the cause of the issue with our Naturopathic Doctors by running appropriate lab tests.
Did these tips work for you? What do you do for digestive distress? Share with us below!