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As we grow older, we are more likely to suffer from constipation and sluggish digestion.
And while the medical community acknowledges that constipation is a common problem—especially as we age—the solutions available are limited.
According to some reports, constipation affects over 50% of baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964. (1)
Unfortunately, when it comes to constipation, standard medical care has only a handful of remedies, many of which do not always work. Over the years, we at Body Ecology have learned about solutions that do work, and we will explain why these are so important.
Constipation Leads to Internal Toxicity
What happens when we are constipated?
Constipation can slow down the healthy function of the liver to cause toxins to build up in the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. Laxatives often prescribed to treat constipation can be addictive and may lose potency over time.
For starters, waste builds up in the colon. Besides feeling extremely uncomfortable, the toxins in stagnant waste can damage cells in the large intestine, leading to conditions like colon cancer.
Toxins can also be resorbed and—once again—circulated throughout the body. Over time, bulky waste matter can create pockets that become infected, which can lead to a painful case of diverticulitis.
Constipation slows down the liver, which must empty into the colon. If the colon itself is congested, this hinders the liver and prompts the body to place toxins into storage.
These toxins have been found to accumulate in places like the:
Solutions That Don’t Work
According to Dr. Harris H. McIlwain, board-certified in rheumatology and geriatric medicine, “As adults age, we tend to become more sedentary, eat and drink less, and take in much less fiber in our daily diet, all of which are habits that aggravate chronic constipation.”
For this reason, most constipation sufferers are told to:
- Increase fluid intake.
- Get regular physical exercise.
- Eat plenty of fiber.
A recent study published this past January in the Canadian Medical Association Journal explains that constipation as we age is becoming more of a problem. It admits that while opioid medications and iron pills can cause constipation, the main cause of the condition is still not well understood. (2)
According to researchers, several treatments do not heal constipation:
- Osmotic agents (like polyethylene glycol and lactulose), which increase the secretion of water in the colon. This can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
- Soluble fibers like psyllium husk; its use is not backed up by any strong evidence for its effectiveness.
- Herbal laxatives, like senna and cascara, because they become less effective over time and can be addictive.
- Increased fluid intake and exercise. However, researchers suggest that they “should be undertaken for other health benefits.”
Managing constipation is complex. Dr. McIlwain explains that problems escalate when we are constipated, and we start depending on laxatives. "Within days, this laxative habit can aggravate the cycle of chronic constipation and the need to take another laxative and then another."
In other words, laxatives can be physiologically addictive. As they lose potency, the need to take more and take them more often increases.
Lactulose, one of the osmotic agents that doctors prescribe to ease constipation, is a synthetic sugar that the body cannot digest. However, the bacteria in the gut can and do digest lactulose. One side effect of lactulose is bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
While herbal laxatives may seem like an attractive alternative, beware.
These herbs are powerful and frequently underestimated. Senna is used in Chinese medicine but only with extreme caution and care. This is because Chinese medical herbalists know that only certain constitutions can tolerate senna. And when used over the long-term, herbs like senna can deplete precious reserves of energy and fluid.
What Does Work
Constipation needs to be addressed in both the stomach and the colon.
Tip 1: REBUILD Your Stomach Acid
A number of events—ranging from stress to overuse of antacid medication to neurological decline—can affect our ability to produce enough stomach acid.
As we age, we naturally lose our digestive force. When the ability to breakdown food slows down or comes to a halt in the stomach or small intestine, this food ferments and leads to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.
We can only properly digest (and eliminate) food when we have:
- Plenty of stomach acid, or HCl
- Plenty of digestive enzymes
- A balanced inner ecosystem and healthy gut bacteria
Often, people need to support digestive enzyme levels through supplementation. Assist Dairy & Protein contains HCL to boost stomach acid.
Tip 2: SUPPORT Your Inner Ecosystem
The right gut bacteria not only help to resolve constipation but also help to remove toxins, including heavy metals like mercury.
Tip 3: STIMULATE with Acupressure
The January 2013 issue of Geriatrics & Gerontology International found that alternative therapies show “great promise,” suggesting that they are “relatively easy to use by the patient, and are likely to cause few adverse reactions.” (3)
At home, we can support our approach to addressing constipation with massage and by using the acupuncture point Stomach-25, or Tian Shu, which means “Heaven’s Pivot.”
To locate Stomach-25, place three fingers parallel and alongside the center of the bellybutton. The point is at the edge of the last finger, three fingers away from the center of the bellybutton.
In order to stimulate Stomach-25, use your favorite oil and gently massage the area. The best time for this massage is from 5am-9am, which is when the energy runs strongest through the Stomach and Large Intestine acupuncture channels.
- Using small counter-clockwise circles, massage the point directly for several minutes until the area feels warm.
- Next, massage the entire abdomen. Create a circle, moving from right to left.
- Continue this gentle circular massage until the area feels warm and your breath deepens.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Constipation may not be the most fun topic of conversation, but it is a fact of life - especially as you grow older. Constipation may affect more than 50% of baby boomers with limited proven medical remedies available.
If left untreated, constipation can lead to internal toxicity in the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. A number of suggested treatments will not heal constipation, including osmotic agents, soluble fibers, herbal laxatives, and increased fluid intake and exercise.
Constipation can be addressed by focusing on both stomach and colon health with these handy tips:
- REBUILD your stomach acid. Digestive force is naturally lost with age; in order to properly digest and eliminate, you need plenty of stomach acid and digestive enzymes and a balanced inner ecosystem. You can naturally support digestive enzyme levels with Assist Dairy & Protein to boost stomach acid.
- SUPPORT your inner ecosystem. Improving gut health with beneficial bacteria can relieve constipation and remove toxins from the body, including heavy metals. Contribute to a thriving inner ecosystem by eating cultured vegetables and drinking InnergyBiotic daily.
- STIMULATE with acupressure. You can use natural therapies like massage and acupressure to address constipation in the comfort of your own home. The acupuncture point Stomach-25 will ease digestion with few adverse reactions.
- W Bosshard, et al. The treatment of chronic constipation in elderly people: an update. Drugs Aging. 2004;21(14):911-30.
- D Gandell, et al. Treatment of constipation in older people. CMAJ. 2013 Jan 28. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 23359042
- Cherniack, E. P. Use of complementary and alternative medicine to treat constipation in the elderly. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. 2013. doi: 10.1111/ggi.12023