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Addressing Constipation for Detoxification

There are numerous ways our body gets rid of accumulated toxins such as via breath, tears, sweat, urine and stool. The main organs of the body involved in detoxification are the lungs, skin, kidneys, colon and liver. This week focuses on the colon.

If you are constipated, numerous toxins and metabolism hormones (such as oestrogen) do not leave the body, instead they recirculate and can cause havoc with your health (hypothyroidism; breast, cervical and endometrial cancer). The rule with oestrogen is to use it once and then eliminate it through urine or stool. Constipation is a condition in which evacuation is difficult or infrequent, due to dry, hardened stools. Ideally, we should be having a bowel movement at least once a day, although conventional medicine considers constipation to be 3 days without a bowel movement. If you are constipated, you are likely to feel tired, bloated and/or full quickly. You may lack energy and suffer from stomach pains.

Causes of constipation:

  • Dehydration - For some people, simply increasing their daily intake of water to about 2 litres a day can resolve constipation.

  • Lack of fibre - Fibre adds bulk and weight to stools.

  • Lack of exercise

  • Certain medications (check side effects)

  • Stress

  • An under active thyroid

  • Dysbiosis, SIBO, IBS or other gut related issue - often accompanied by pain, belching, bloating and/or acid reflux, in which case you need to see a healthcare practitioner.

Try including more of these foods in your diet to increase your fibre levels:

  • Prunes

  • Apples

  • Pears

  • Kiwis

  • Papaya

  • Figs

  • Artichokes

  • Sweet potato

  • Beans, peas, lentils (soaked overnight and then rinsed thoroughly, to remove lectins)

  • Chia seeds (considered a superfood due to high levels of good omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, minerals as well as being a complete protein source, great for vegans)

  • Flaxseeds (best to grind immediately before you eat to help make their nutrients available to the body)

  • Whole grains

  • Rye bread

  • Kefir

Constipation and SIBO

A number of my clients who suffer from SIBO also have chronic constipation, caused by the presence of methane producing flora in the gut, which cause slowing of gut transit time. In addition, if a person has an overgrowth of specific bacteria in the large intestine (such as clostridia) that exhale a paralytic gas, this can paralyze the muscle contraction system (known as peristalsis) responsible for moving fecal matter through the intestines. If that happens, fecal matter is going nowhere, no matter what you do. In this situation the only way to get the muscles contracting and pushing everything into the large intestine and out, is to get rid of the bacteria causing the problem. Fermented garlic brine is very good at addressing high levels of clostridia as is high fat fermented dairy such as sour cream, yoghurt and kefir.

Other tips to help your constipation include:

  • Castor oil creams or wraps that help get things moving through the intestines

  • Stopping all fermented foods that are Lactobacillus primary such as fermented vegetables

  • Taking a soil-based probiotic (Megaspore, Just Thrive) which are Bacillus orientated and will create colonies of organisms that will help keep things moving

  • Ginger

  • Kombucha

  • Drinking a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon and 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar added (increasing to 1 tbsp as tolerated) first thing in the morning and, if that does not help, last thing in the evening as well

  • Eliminating processed foods, sugar and foods that convert to sugar quickly such as refined carbs

  • Increasing your intake of fibre by including, in your diet, the foods mentioned above.

As a practitioner I am not a fan of big detox programmes a few times a year. It is better to be focusing on detox strategies more regularly. Detoxing heavy metals often leaves you feeling worse before you feel better. Likewise, when pathogens die off in a detox programme this results in a ‘Herxheimer reaction’ (an immune system reaction to the toxins (endotoxins) that are released when large amounts of pathogens are being killed off, and the body does not eliminate the toxins quickly enough), making you feel pretty awful. My advice is to start slowly, reducing your exposure to toxins and making sure your body is able to eliminate toxins through the channels of elimination such as your kidneys (drinking more water), colon (eating more fibre), skin (body brushing and sweating from exercise, saunas etc) and liver (strengthening your liver detox pathways).

Listen to your body when it whispers so you don’t have to hear it when it screams.

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