You’re probably familiar with the phrase, ”Poop or get off of the toilet.”
This is fine advice for a serial procrastinator but if you’re constipated this is the last thing you want to hear. In fact constipation is really no joking matter as it can lead to serious health issues if not resolved including skin issues, fecal impaction, hemorrhoids and even prolapse of your colon. Not to mention malnourishment, toxemia and all of the dysfunction that will happen over time in your entire system.
Of course common knowledge tells us that you need more Magnesium or that you are dehydrated if you are constipated. Both strong possibilities and for some simply increasing your water intake and supplementing with quality Magnesium may resolve the issue fairly quickly. But there are still many who suffer despite trying these common solutions, so what then?
A Different Kind of Muscle Tone
Everyone is familiar with muscle tone as it relates to skeletal muscle but there’s a different kind of muscle tone that can mean the difference between a comfortable and easy bowel movement and let’s just call it a less than comfortable experience.
Your colon and intestinal tract are made up of what are called smooth muscles which are primarily controlled automatically via the autonomic nervous system (ANS). You know the ANS as the “fight or flight” and “rest, digest and repair” part of your nervous system. The fight or flight side is the sympathetic side and it’s the part that’s primarily activated if you see a bear in the woods. While the parasympathetic side is the side that is more activated when you are relaxing, digesting, meditating or sleeping.
Your colon is a highly parasympathetically innervated organ which means that if you’re trying to poop in the woods and you see a bear….you won’t poop. This is because your body has shifted into a sympathetic state causing what is called sympathetic atonic constipation. In other words your colon is not getting the signal to poop because frankly there are more important things to do like run for your life.
That’s just a dramatic example of the body being in an acutely sympathetic state. But if you are experiencing constipation, this atonic form could be what is going on and it is due to an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system either system wide or locally. There may be a number of causes for this atonic constipation but here are just a few:
- Wrong diet pushing you into an imbalance in your ANS
- Wrong micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids) pushing you into an imbalance in your ANS
- Spinal subluxation driving too much sympathetic input to your colon
- Neurotransmitter imbalance towards excessive excitatory neurotransmitters
- High mental/emotional stress level
- Food sensitivities
- Magnesium deficiency
If this sympathetic atonic constipation doesn’t quite fit your symptoms then you may be experiencing what is called parasympathetic spastic constipation. This form of dysfunction may also result in fluctuations between constipation and diarrhea for some and is often given the label of IBS or IBD. Effectively the smooth muscle of the colon is either “over-contracting” or has contracted to the point that it effectively locks up. With spastic colon there are essentially the same underlying causes as far as the ANS that need to be balanced except for magnesium deficiency, which will worsen spastic constipation . In this case, calcium, not magnesium will result in normal bowel movements.
In addition to balancing the autonomic nervous system there are other potential contributors to constipation that should be explored for complete resolution. Here are a few more of those:
- Heavy metals
- Prostaglandin imbalance (here’s a great article by Mary Enig for those of us nerds)
- Pathogens (parasites, bacteria, fungus/candida, SIBO)
- Leak gut
- Energetic and emotional issues
Getting Things Moving Again
So where should you start? In order to improve bowel motility you should start with the proper Metabolic Type® diet to balance your ANS with the right foods and micronutrients. The reason we think this is so important is because the system works at optimizing cellular energy production 100% of the time when followed properly. It’s this cellular energy that is required for healing and balancing any symptoms that you may have. Also your diet can have a direct influence on balance in your autonomic nervous system with the proper diet for your type. Certain foods and nutrients stimulate the sympathetic division while other foods stimulate the parasympathetic division.
Additionally, you should optimize your hydration especially first thing in the morning and explore the other possibilities that were listed above with specific lab testing. Some small things that can make a big difference are using a squatty potty to position yourself properly, walk daily and limit sitting, do yoga or a rebounder and do breathing exercises to stimulate a parasympathetic response. Over time the more of the right things that you implement the easier it will be to have normal health bowel movements and feel much more comfortable in your skin.