As published in the Dec 2003 – Jan 2004 issue of Vitality Magazine
What are you holding onto? Is it money? A long lost relationship? Painful abuse memories? Unwavering attitudes on how things should be? Or, perhaps, your own truth.
Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements, passage of hard stools, and the difficulty in passing stools. Constipation is often associated with one or more of the following: poor digestion, bloating, gas, hemorrhoids, excessive mucus, fatigue, weight gain, poor concentration, headaches, skin problems, poor memory, body odor, bad breath and often, the feeling of depression.
There are valid physiological reasons why people get constipated, such as lack of exercise, poor diets, pregnancy, illness and others. A root cause of chronic constipation however may be imbedded in the mind.
Our thoughts and emotions materialize into physical matter. The body mind relationship has a direct effect on our state of health as well as our ability to heal. Long periods of unexpressed anger, grief and other stressful emotions affect our weakest organs. As long as your mind is holding onto attitudes, ideas and beliefs that no longer serve you, your body too, may continue to hold on to its waste.
When the colon is clean, due to regular and complete bowel movements, we experience increased energy and a feeling of well being. One patient told me that her moods could be predicted entirely by her bowel movements. When her bowels move, the world is sunny bright and beautiful, and when they don’t, everything is bleak.
Myths about constipation have led to serious abuse of laxatives. Laxatives usually are not necessary and can be habit forming and damaging. The colon begins to rely on laxatives to bring on bowel movements and ceases to function. Over time, most laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon and interfere with the colon’s natural ability to contract.
For the same reason, regular use of enemas can also lead to a loss of normal bowel function. The necessary components for regular bowel movements include a diet rich in fiber, plenty of liquids, regular exercise, and a healthy emotional state.
Most authorities on the subject believe that the number one cause of constipation is the consumption of refined and processed foods. A healthy diet combined with plenty of liquid intake represents a quick and simple solution for people suffering with occasional or mild constipation.
The typical North American diet, compared to third world countries, contains less dietary fiber. This can lead to illness. Conditions that are relatively rare in countries where people eat a diet high in natural fiber are common here.
To overcome constipation, eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Apples, pears, plums and bananas top the list of laxative fruits. Let’s not forget the powerful laxative effect of prunes. Use more peas, beans and lentils. Eat whole grain cereals and breads instead of white flour products. Liquids like water and juice add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. Eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids per day is recommended for a healthy stool formation.
Consumption of high fiber foods and plenty of water can help but may not be the total solution for those suffering with chronic constipation. I have seen patients who exercise regularly, eat a vegetarian diet, drink plenty of water and are still constipated. Conversely, I have also seen patients whose diets consist of fast foods and virtually no fruits and vegetables that do not suffer from constipation.
The primary functions of the large intestine, or the colon, are to store food residues and to absorb water. Approximately 5 gallons of fluid is dumped into the large intestine every day. Most of the liquid gets reabsorbed to prevent us from becoming dehydrated. The contractions mix the contents of the large intestine back and forth but do not move them forward. As a result of this pattern of motility, food residues remain in the colon on average of 30 hours.
A second type of motility that occurs in the large intestine is the high amplitude propagating contraction (HAPC). These strong contractions occur 6-8 times per day in healthy people. They begin in the first part of the large intestine and stop just above the rectum. These contractions move the contents of the large intestine ahead of them, often triggering the urge to have a bowel movement. When these contractions fail to occur, food residues can’t move downstream and ‘slow transit constipation’ results. This type of constipation can stem from inactivity, prolonged illness, pregnancy, dependence on prescription drugs and laxatives.
The function of the rectum and pelvic floor muscles are to prevent incontinence and allow defecation to occur. The elasticity of the rectum allows it to store food residues prior to a bowel movement and funnel food residues towards the anus during a bowel movement. The sensory nerves surrounding the rectum detect the filling of the rectum and send a signal to our brain telling us it is time to have a bowel movement. In some people this sensation is diminished or lost. One such patient came to me a year ago.
Tania, a 47 year-old woman had used chemical laxatives on a daily basis since the age of 16 and herbal laxatives since 24. Her bowels had stopped functioning on their own and when the laxatives generated a bowel movement, ‘the signal’ was extremely weak. The initial consultation revealed that the onset of her constipation corresponded with the separation of her parents, moving to a different province, and the break up with her first boyfriend all within weeks of each other. She was unaware that the emotional trauma experienced 31 years prior was still affecting her health.
As I started treating her with homeopathy, I asked her to reduce her daily intake of the herbal laxative by one half. With her constitutional homeopathic remedy (one that corresponded with her physical, mental and emotional states) Tania was feeling better on many levels. By her second visit (5 weeks later) she was sleeping deeper, felt more relaxed, happier and more motivated. She estimated that the signal to have a bowel movement was 25% stronger. As her progress continued on the homeopathic remedies, Tania started experiencing some of the unexpressed grief and anger from her teenage years.
Three months into the treatment, I asked Tania if she was ready to eliminate the herbal laxatives altogether, and she did. She did not have a bowel movement for a week. I asked her to be patient and explained that because her bowels were so dependent on the laxative, they were not used to functioning on their own. At this time I increased the dose of her homeopathic remedy. Within 3 weeks, Tania started having bowel movement twice a week. During her last visit with me, 9 months since the beginning of treatment, Tania reported that she was having regular bowel movements (every other day) and feeling much improved.
Research indicates that negative emotions and stress are linked to the physical body via the nervous system and influence immune function and organ and tissue vitality. In her book ‘Molecules of Emotion’, Neuroscientist Candace Pert explains that our emotions exist in concrete biological forms known as peptides (tiny bits of protein that consist of strings of amino acids). Her research shows that emotions are made with chemicals in the brain and body cells. These chemicals bind to specific receptor sites on the cells in order to transmit information. Nerve impulses traveling across cell membranes pick up changes and produce corresponding changes in mood and physiological activity. Therefore, depending on our emotional state (happy, angry or sad) different peptides are released and different messages are sent throughout the body. Receptor sites for these molecules of emotions are also found on immune cells, the system responsible for our health and well being. This explains how emotions can affect our health.
The link between emotions and health is apparent without any scientific proof. If you’ve ever had a headache after a stressful day, a sick feeling in your stomach before an interview, or felt anxiety before an exam, you have first hand experience with the undeniable connection between feelings and their ability to produce physical ailments. Similarly, a long history of suppressed feelings of anger, hatred, grief or anxiety, and the genetic predisposition to bowel disorders, may result in chronic constipation.
Pay attention to what you are holding onto. A holistic doctor I know tells his constipated patients to throw out something they have not used in 5 years; something that was once important to them. He says it sometimes works in getting the bowels to move.
A common cause of constipation is Candidiasis; an overgrowth of candida albicans in the bowel. When a person’s immune system is compromised because of antibiotics and other drugs, poor diets, illness or stress, candida (otherwise harmless fungal yeast) can quickly proliferate causing a multitude of health problems. When candida proliferates, they block the sites of the bowel where the enzymes necessary for the breakdown of food inhabit. This results in poor digestion, food sensitivities/allergies, bloating and gas, and altered bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhea. Often these complications are collectively diagnosed as IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The quickest elimination of candida from the bowels is combining the candida diet (restricts refined flour, sugars and other harmful foods) with probiotic supplements and constitutional homeopathic treatment.
The causes and expressions of constipation are different for each individual, thus its cure must be individualized and unique. Regular exercise may work for one individual while eating prunes at 3:00 p.m. each day, for another. Optimum health and proper elimination of the bowels depends on the delicate balance between mind, body and the environment. Homeopathy recognizes the strong connection between these components and aims to treat the whole individual. Homeopathy has the unique ability to heal all aspects of an individual (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) at the same time. It can stimulate unconscious issues and bring them to the conscious mind, to process and release.
 Outside Link – Constipation Article (no longer available)
 Outside Link – Large Intestine
 Link Tobe, John H., Constipation; It’s Causes Control and Treatment, Provoker Press, St. Catharines, Ontario, 1979.
Tamara Der-Ohanian, DSHM, is a Homeopathic Physician practicing in Toronto. She can be reached at (416) 385-1001, or visit her web site at www.tamarader-ohanian.com
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