I have been living with (and without) constipation for 3 years. The severity of my constipation was almost impressive at times. I can recall the sales associate in the supplement aisle recommending senna or aloe or fermented probiotics and when I’d return with no relief whatsoever, her jaw would drop in disbelief. Then there was the time I did a geology contract in a very remote area (AKA no washrooms), and I did not have a bowel movement the entire stretch of the shift. You heard me – 14 days.
But I can’t be all that mad at it. My digestive distress gave me my appetite for holistic nutrition and health coaching, and the drive I needed to get to the root cause and heal my convoluted gut. I am certain my journey will help many of you who are laxative-dependent or suffering on only a couple of bowel movements a week.
Let’s get at this!
Gut-health is complex af. There are a number of rabbit holes to be explored and I have ventured down each and every one of them. In my GUTRIGHT Program, I will take you through each of the following factors in order to regain a happy, well-functioning digestive system:
This may seem basic but if basic works, count your praises! Take a look at your diet and make sure that you are getting enough of the following:
Fibre is EVERYTHING. This plant structure moves through your digestive tract unabsorbed and drags a bunch of toxins and waste along with it. By adding bulk to your stool, it stimulates the peristalsis muscles to move things along. In the case of soluble fibre, it also absorbs water, adding moisture to dry and hard stool.
Healthy fats help to lubricate. They also play a role in activating your gastrocolic reflex – a physiological reflex that communicates to your bowels to move things along and make room as you eat food.
Amongst many things, magnesium plays the role of relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. It also draws water into the intestines, acting as our natural laxative.
Once I made sure I was up to snuff on these, I moved on to the more challenging…
2. FOOD SENSITIVITIES
This is a big one. If we eat foods that we are sensitive to, it causes inflammation in the gut and a range of digestive distress. There are food sensitivity tests out there (i.e., IgG blood test) but they are pretty controversial. I personally gained zero information from that high-ticket item. The best diagnostic tool here is an elimination diet where you remove the most common food culprits for 3 weeks, and then reintroduce them one-by-one to uncover trigger foods. For me, the elimination diet revealed dairy as the biggest offender, followed by soy.
While exposing the foods that prompt a response from your immune system is crucial, we can’t forget about the trillions of microorganisms living inside our digestive tract. How will they respond to food?
There is an enormous ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, parasites and more living and working for you in your gut. Based on the balance of various species in your microbiome, they may take the food you are eating and do good with it, or they may do harm. You can choose to have your microbiome analyzed, or you can simply focus on adding in beneficial foods like pro- and prebiotics and eliminating certain microbiome-destructive habits. See this blog post if you want to get started right away.
I periodically have my microbiome analyzed and you would be surprised at the foods that end up on my “avoid” list! It includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chickpeas, cucumber, lentils, mustard greens, tomatoes and watermelon. Who woulda thought?
Finally, and not to be overlooked, is the impact that your nervous system has on your gut (and vice versa):
4. MIND - BODY
If you are stressed all day long, do you think that your body is going to be prioritizing digestion? Nope. When I learned to activate my Parasympathetic Nervous System – the opposite of our stress response – it had a dramatic impact on my bowel function. By cutting caffeine and adding in meditation and breathing exercises I was able to let go in my mind, to consequentially let go in my intestines.
If you are tired of relying on laxatives to poop, I’m with you. Or maybe you are sick of waking up every morning, praying for a BM (bowel movement). Or maybe you just want to know what the heck you can eat that won’t leave you backed up? I HEAR YOU. Check out my GUTRIGHT Program and I will take you down these rabbit holes to find your root cause and finally experience normal, happy digestion.