Defined as fewer than three stool movements per week, constipation can be uncomfortable or downright painful for anyone. Feeling stopped up, bloated, uneasy, full or as though everything isn’t passing when going to the bathroom can distract from your day and negligence can lead to worse health issues.
Constipation shouldn’t be taken lightly. When stool doesn’t pass fully through your digestive system it’s preventing new food and nutrients from fully entering digestive system.
If you regularly suffer from constipation, you’re not alone. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal problem in the United States, literally impacting nearly 20 percent of the population.
Even though constipation is an incredibly common condition, many still don’t know how important it is to obtain a proper diagnosis to treat their condition long-term.
When you’re suffering it’s easy to reach for fast relief through laxatives or stool softeners. But these quick fixes could cause you to overlook an underlying condition that may have future health consequences.
In this six-part series, we are looking what causes constipation in order to find you true constipation relief. In the first two parts, we looked at low hydrochloric acid and low bile blow.
In part three of this series, we are going to look at a condition called dysbiosis – a microbial imbalance in the gut. We will examine what causes dysbiosis, suspicious symptoms that may indicate dysbiosis, and constipation remedies when it’s caused by dysbiosis.
What Causes Constipation – Part 3: Dysbiosis
While nearly everyone experiences constipation at some point in their life, constipation becomes a problem when it happens for longer than 10 days or more and when it’s a chronic or recurring condition. How to get rid of constipation completely, depends on correctly identifying the underlying cause.
Dysbiosis refers to when there is a microbial imbalance somewhere in the body, which can be internal or external. In the case of constipation, dysbiosis is referring to an imbalance of your gut microbiota – or your gut flora.
Constipation caused by dysbiosis is most commonly caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) but it can occur anywhere in the intestinal tract where colonies making up your microbiota are thrown out of balance.
Your gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms. Comprised of over 1000 species of known bacteria, which together contain three million genes (150 times more than human genes), your gut microbiota can weigh up to four pounds!
When your gut microbiota is thrown off balance it can lead to a cascade of health problems. Constipation is a common indicator of an unbalanced microbiota that needs attention.
The Importance of Your Gut Microbiota
Your gut microbiota is so important to your overall health, that it is now considered an organ. Interestingly, babies are not born with a microbiota at birth. We acquire this organ as we grow. From the moment you are born, your gut microbiota begins to develop. Colonizing from the birthing process, breastfeeding, and through life exposures. By the age of three, your gut microbiota is similar to an adult’s but it continues to evolve throughout life.
Everyone has a unique microbiota composition but each are composed of similar elements and responsible for the same physiological functions. Some of the most important functions of your gut microbiota include:
- Aiding in food digestion, especially items your stomach or small intestine haven’t been able to fully breakdown
- Production of vitamins, in particular vitamins B and K
- Combat invading microorganisms
- Maintaining the integrity of your intestinal mucosa
- Acts as a barrier in the immune system
- A key factor in an overall smooth digestion process
When your gut microbiota is off balance, you can experience a myriad of uncomfortable and sometimes life impacting symptoms, such as:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms – belching, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, greasy stools, abdominal pain, indigestion, heartburn
- Lactose intolerance
- Mental fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Low libido
- Joint pain
- Sugar and alcohol cravings
- Weight gain
- Skin problems
- Yeast infections
- Poor nail health
- Iron deficiency
When your constipation is caused by dysbiosis – an unbalanced gut microbiota – not only are you directly uncomfortable due to the constipation but it’s probably causing other conditions. Additionally, dysbiosis can also contribute to nutritional deficiencies, even if you’re eating all the right things.
If you are experiencing constipation, it’s important to find out the underlying cause through a diagnosis. If your constipation is caused by dysbiosis, rebalancing your gut microbiota is the only way to truly treat your condition permanently.
Causes of Dysbiosis
- NSAIDS use (Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc.)
- Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates or low in nutritional quality
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Suppressed immune system
- Intestinal infections
- Parasite infections
- Hormone imbalance
- Exposure to different bacteria or viruses from overseas travel
- Environmental exposures such as mold, fungus or heavy metals
If you suspect your constipation is caused by gut microbiota imbalance, this should be taken seriously – make an appointment with your certified functional medicine doctor to accurately diagnose the cause of your constipation so it can be properly treated and relieve your symptoms once and for all.
Home Remedies for Constipation Caused by Dysbiosis
What helps constipation completely depends on the underlying cause. Keeping this in mind, here are several natural remedies for constipation caused by dysbiosis that you can incorporate into your habits immediately, including:
Eliminate sugar and simple carbohydrates (completely – at least for a period of time)
Stop drinking tap water because of the fluoride and chlorine damages the good microbes
Avoid antibiotics whenever possible
Don’t casually take medications such as Advil and Aspirin
Add gut healing foods to your diet such as bone broth, raw cultured dairy, fermented vegetables and variety of root vegetables
These changes are a great way to support a healthy gut microbiota but doesn’t replace the advice of a functional medicine doctor. Your doctor can help you incorporate new habits, foods, and supplements so as to fully heal your gut flora. If you experience long lasting or chronic constipation take care of it early, so you can prevent the myriad of illnesses that can occur when dysbiosis goes unchecked.
When to See Your Certified Functional Medicine Doctor for Constipation
Treating symptoms does not tackle the underlying cause of constipation. Taking stool softeners or laxatives may work temporarily but can leave you struggling with discomfort and other health consequences down the road. If your constipation that lasts longer than a couple of weeks, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a certified functional medicine doctor. We emphasize the fact that a functional medicine doctor should be certified because it means they’ve fully completed their training.
If diagnosed with dysbiosis, your doctor will walk you through the Four R Program – Remove, Restore, Repair, Renoculate. Here’s how this program treats dysbiosis:
Remove – First, it’s important to remove everything that’s contributing to your dysbiosis to give your gut flora a chance to heal. This includes sugar, simple carbs, alcohol, antibiotics, and anything else that may throw your microbiota out of balance. This step may require a proper gut flora restoration treatment — “Weed and Seed”
Restore – Through adding dietary changes and supplements, you can begin to restore your gut.
Repair – Through vitamins such as A,C, and E, zinc, fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine you can support your GI tract as it begins to repair itself. In my practice I use healing the gut treatment — “Heal and Seal”.
Renoculate – Probiotics and prebiotics will help your gastrointestinal tract rebuild it’s microbiota and return the needed balance for a healthy gut.
Constipation caused by dysbiosis is a serious health condition that can complicate other areas of your health. Your functional medicine doctor will work closely with you to identify the exact cause of your constipation and create a comprehensive treatment plan.
Click here to read more about treatment of dysbiosis on our blog.
Click here to view video about dysbiosis.