At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we’re interested in the entire digestive process – which begins before you even take a bite of food, and doesn’t end until your body has assimilated the nutrients and eliminated the waste. But what happens if something stops this process before it’s finished? Anyone who suffers from constipation knows that it can be both painful and frustrating when the body won’t release its waste. If you’ve tried the over-the-counter remedies and nothing seems to work, maybe it’s time for a different approach. In this eye-opening new video from IPEtv, Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute, shares 5 surprising causes of constipation, and what you can do to treat them.
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Here is a transcript of this week’s video:
This isn’t always a topic people feel comfortable talking about, but it’s important when it comes to good health! You may consider yourself a healthy eater, but for some reason you get constipated. No matter what you try, nothing seems to work, and you are left feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Pooping every day is healthy. It’s a sign that your body is doing what it’s meant to do. If you’re finding yourself constipated, it might be time to investigate why. Here are five reasons why you might be irregular:
1. Not Enough Healthy Dietary Fat
Healthy dietary fats – such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, high quality butter or dairy, and high quality fish – keeps our joints and organs lubricated, including our colon. Unlike fried foods and saturated fats which can actually create constipation, healthy dietary fat is a natural laxative that keeps everything flowing smoothly.
Additionally, healthy dietary fats are a necessary part of essential nutrition. If you’re skipping the healthy fats because you’re worried about calories, it may be time to rethink the benefits of healthy dietary fat. Healthy fat promotes our most natural weight and metabolism.
2. Not Enough Fiber
When we eat fiber, it keeps us feeling full and satisfied, which means we don’t eat too much and our digestion can flow more freely. Lower in our digestive tract, fiber bulks up stools to move downward in the alimentary canal. Fiber is like a scrub brush for our intestines, preventing conditions like diverticulitis. It gets the sludge off the intestinal walls and stimulates muscle contractions to keep everything moving smoothly.
Additionally, fiber rich foods transport more water to our bodies so we stay hydrated. This water softens stools, making them easier to pass. Some forms of fiber also act as prebiotics, which feed healthy bacteria in your gut so they can multiply. Include more veggies and salads in your diet and you might discover that constipation is a thing of the past.
3. Not Enough Magnesium
Magnesium helps keep our smooth muscles toned, including our digestive tract. It works to balance out the constipating effects of calcium and iron. It is responsible for regulating heart rhythm and blood pressure. When our organs are constricted, this can make moving food through more difficult.
Magnesium keeps us feeling relaxed but alert. It gets depleted in our bodies when we drink too much alcohol or overly processed foods (hence the jittery feeling that makes people just want to consume more later), or take medications for diabetes, cancer or other autoimmune conditions. Stress also depletes magnesium, as does a poor quality diet. When we feel relaxed and alert, we are less likely to reach for substances that deplete, dehydrate, and stimulate us, such as coffee, nicotine, refined sugar, and alcohol.
Some magnesium rich foods include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans and lentils, avocados, and dark chocolate.
4. Not Enough Movement
Movement helps keep our postural muscles toned, as well as the smooth muscles responsible for peristalsis. Peristalsis is the wave-like motion that moves food through our digestive tract. When we move freely with our voluntary muscles, in non-compulsive exercise, we stimulate our smooth muscles to also move internally. Keeping all the core muscles toned keeps the muscles of defecation toned as well.
We typically sweat during movement, releasing toxins through our skin, which makes it easier on our livers and digestive organs to release waste. Movement forces our lungs to expand and contract, which tonifies our abdominal and postural muscles as well. And it helps keeps our metabolism revved so that we can digest more effectively.
5. Emotional Holding
Here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating we understand that thoughts and emotions have a profound impact on metabolism. So when we’re holding emotions, we hold them in our bodies. This can mean our voluntary and involuntary muscles stay contracted, making it more difficult for food to pass through our bodies.
The field of Dynamic Eating Psychology teaches us that our symptoms are messengers. We can often learn important lessons about our personal and emotional world based on physical symptoms in our bodies. When we resist feeling our emotions, we force our body to hold the pain, and we can often experience symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches in place of that unresolved heartbreak or loneliness.
For many people who experience constipation, there’s an emotional component of not being able to let go. Sometimes it can look like we are being uptight. Or, there can sometimes be an element of keeping a secret that’s making us feel toxic. If you’ve tried the dietary fixes, but still experience constipation, you may want to look into ways of expressing emotions and letting go of the past. Tapping into your feelings and fully processing them just might be the answer to keeping you regular.
And at the very least, a healthy emotional metabolism will always translate into a happier life.
I hope this was helpful.