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Why Is It Important to Find the Root Cause of Constipation?

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

Your poo habits can provide you with some very valuable information. Yes, I know this subject is still a little uncomfortable for some, but it’s just something you will have to get used to talking about. Your bowel motions can tell you a lot about the balance of bacteria in your gut, whether your body is detoxifying toxins properly, or how you are absorbing nutrients!

So, what does it mean when we have constipation?

Constipation is unfortunately a very common digestive complaint. And let’s face it, if you’ve ever experienced constipation you know just how uncomfortable and sometimes painful it can be.

If you aren’t moving your bowels at least once a day, toxins and hormone metabolites can build up in the gut and re-circulate. Unfortunately, this is bad news, as this causes a disruption in the body’s rhythm causing a whole host of imbalances. It can also worsen other digestive symptoms such as bloating, reflux, nausea and flatulence.

Therefore, there is a need to identify the root cause of constipation, in order to restore health. Constipation is not as simple as increasing water intake or fibre, the root causes can be chemical, metabolic, microbial, emotional or physical. Here is a brief discussion about the common causes of constipation and how to eliminate them.

What is constipation?

Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements or experiencing a difficulty in emptying the bowels. Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.

Most of us consume three meals each day, sometimes more or less. The body will absorb what it needs from those meals and then excrete the rest. When your gut is functioning normally, you should have at least one bowel movement a day, up to three times a day.

Also, the form of stools correlates to the intestinal transit time indicating the efficiency of bowel movements. If you suffer from constipation, stools are likely to take longer to pass through the colon providing enough time for the intestine to reabsorb water. This can make the stools harder and even more different to pass.

If not treated properly, constipation may contribute to the risk of more serious disorders including hemorrhoids (piles), anal fissures, fecal impaction, and colorectal cancer. This marks the importance of making efforts to restore healthy bowel movements.

The use of laxatives

Though the use of medications like laxatives can provide relief from an acute episode of constipation, it won’t help to improve regular bowel movements.

Laxatives also come with a whole host of side effects including:

  • Weight loss/ weight gain
  • Colon cancer
  • Damage or infection to colon or digestive system
  • Struggle between constipation/diarrhea
  • Reduction of digestive enzymes
  • Electrolyte imbalance/dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Ph imbalance

Laxatives are therefore a band aid solution to constipation and often result in more negative long-term effects. It is important to identify the cause of constipation so that the impact of this condition on your digestive health, immunity, and overall wellbeing can be avoided.

The risk of toxic reabsorption due to stagnant bowels

Patients who suffer from chronic constipation tend to develop stagnant bowels, which puts them at risk of toxic reabsorption.
This means the incomplete and infrequent elimination of toxins from the body through defecation can lead to their reabsorption into the body resulting in a state called autotoxemia.
In normal individuals, toxins produced in the colon comprise the by-products of the metabolism of amino acids. Also, methylmercury formed in the liver during the detoxification of mercury, and ammonia from other cells and tissues also end up in the colon.
Healthy bowel movements can help in the excretion of these toxic products from the body in an efficient manner.
However, when the stools stay in the colon for longer due to constipation, these toxic chemicals and water are absorbed back into the blood resulting in autotoxemia. The build-up of toxins in the body can lead to damage to healthy tissues resulting in metabolic dysfunctions, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and much more.

What are the common causes of constipation and how to avoid them?

Chronic conditions

Constipation can be a symptom of a pre-existing illness like irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, or inflammatory bowel disease. Timely diagnosis and treatment of these diseases are critical to avoiding constipation and restoring healthy bowel movements.

Deficiency of nutrients

Deficiency of nutrients like magnesium may worsen constipation. Magnesium citrate works to replenish the loss of this nutrient and is a gentle and supportive laxative without any side effects. Buffered vitamin C is also an important nutrient.
Serotonin is the main neurotransmitter produced in the gut, which is responsible for intestinal motility. Approximately 90% of serotonin is synthesized in the gut and an insufficient production of this neurotransmitter can contribute to constipation! Serotonin can be increased through diet by consuming foods high in the precursor l-tryptophan. These foods include: bananas, beef, beans, fish, legumes, lentils, oats, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables…
Triphala is an Ayurveda herbal supplement that is often used as a bowel tonic and helps with elimination.

Intestinal dysbiosis

Intestinal dysbiosis typically occurs as a result of microbial imbalance and maladaptation in the intestine due to the impaired microbiota.
It occurs when the gut flora becomes unbalanced due to which the ability of your digestive system to break down, assimilate, and absorb foods is affected.
It is possible to avoid intestine dysbiosis and resulting constipation by improving your intake of probiotics. Probiotics help to create diverse gut flora and relieve constipation. Fermented foods and drinks contain live and active cultures which can support intestinal health and motility.

Insufficient dietary fibers

Dietary fibres increase the bulk of the stools while also making them softer. Hence, it is advisable to include foods rich in fibres such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to relieve constipation.
A diet rich in fibres can also create a slightly acidic pH that can encourage the growth of healthy bacteria like L. acidophilus. The higher levels of acidophilus in your colon would improve your gut flora and reduce constipation.
In a study it was found that individuals with chronic constipation who consumed 25g of fibre per day for 2 months resulted in increased stool frequency and decreased laxative use. Prunes and kiwi fruit are known to be effective.

Supporting stomach acid levels

Often individuals with chronic constipation also have low stomach acid levels. This is because stomach acid plays a huge role in triggering the entire digestive system to function optimally. Digestive enzymes can also be beneficial to help support this imbalance.

Food sensitivities

Patients who suffer from sensitivities to certain foods like gluten or dairy tend to develop digestive issues like constipation often alternating with diarrhea.
If you suffer from recurrent digestive complaints, you can make efforts to identify the possible foods responsible for triggering the hypersensitive response and avoid these foods in order to restore healthy bowel movements.


SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can cause the “bad” bacteria in the bowels to break down lactulose to produce methane and hydrogen. It is the release of methane in the gut that is primarily linked to a higher tendency of patients with SIBO to develop constipation. Bone broth is helpful with gut disorders such as leaky gut and SIBO as its effective in reducing the overgrowth of bacteria but most importantly it helps to restore gut lining integrity and nutrient support.

Sitting positions

Perhaps the last thing you’d think about… but how you sit on the toilet matters. In many cultures, the toilet is much lower to the ground than our western world. Squatting down lower to the ground is not only good for your back but it also helps to open the colon for easier bowel movements.
I would recommend using a squatty potty to ensure you always have the best possible sitting position. If you’ve heard about them? Watch this video!

Poor sleep and stress

Studies have linked poor sleep habits and mental stress to a higher risk of digestive issues including constipation.
Lack of proper sleep can lead to hormonal disruptions due to which the bowel movements may get affected.
Similarly, mental stress can also affect the breakdown of foods in the intestine due to which you may have hard stools that are difficult to pass.
Patients who suffer from chronic constipation should ensure they get undisturbed sleep of at least 8 hours every night. They can also practice stress-relieving methods like yoga and meditation to avoid the impact of poor emotional health on their digestive functions.

Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance

Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can contribute to constipation by making the stools harder. Drinking 2L of water every day is considered an effective way to prevent water retention and soften the stools in order to avoid constipation.

Lack of movement

Lack of physical activities can make the bowel movements sluggish. Regular exercise can promote bowel movements and provide relief from constipation. Going for regular walks can help initiate a bowel movement.
Another option is a bowel massage shortly before going to the bathroom.

Side effects of medications

Some medications such as anticholinergic drugs, antidepressants, and antiepileptic medications are known to cause constipation, especially when used over a longer duration.
If you are using these medications, you can consult your doctor to know the safer alternatives so that you can avoid these side effects.

Psychological reasons

Holding on to sh*t, unable to release unexpressed emotions such as anger or grief. Indeed, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are associated with constipation.


Constipation is seen as such a simple condition, often the recommendations start and end with consume more water and increase fibre intake. Those are great recommendations, however often they aren’t the primary cause of chronic constipation. It is possible to restore healthy bowel movements by making appropriate changes in your diet and lifestyle. Healthy bowel movements can improve your digestive functions, chronic disease management, nutrient uptake, overall detoxification, metabolic function and general health.

2 Responses

  1. I love this article and I did use these methods to help with my life long constipation and also for one of my children who had serious constipation from the moment he ate anything besides my breast milk. In particular, we have used probiotics, vitamin c and magnesium which have been great!
    I don’t know if this is correct, but once I addressed my and my sons iodine deficiency, it seemed to be the biggest game changer for our constipation. I am not sure of the science on this, if there is any, but it was the thing that really “cured” our constipation. (I do note I have elevated anti-bodies to my thyroid, so this may be connected).

    1. Hello Natalie, thank you! I’m happy to hear that you loved the article! Excellent point.
      Iodine is a trace mineral and an essential component of the thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate the metabolic activities of most cells and thus play a vital role! When we are deficient in iodine this leads to insufficient production of these hormones. This can result in a condition such as hypothyroidism, which causes metabolism to slow down throughout the body, the frequency of bowel movements may also decrease. Unexplained constipation or having bowel movements significantly less often then normal can be a subtle sign of changes in metabolism due to an under-active thyroid (and iodine deficiency)! Our bodies are so very interconnected! Thank you for sharing.

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