Causes & Remedies for Common Digestive Problems – cont.
Part III – Constipation & Diarrhea
This is the concluding part of a brief three-part overview of how to deal with some common intestinal symptoms and dysfunctions. I also provide some simple home remedies that may help to correct these digestive problems. Fortunately, many health concerns improve in time with your body’s own natural healing powers, or with the use of natural remedies, but these are not intended to be long-term solutions. If you don’t see improvement within two or three weeks, be sure to call your doctor. If your problem worsens, call the doctor immediately, and be seen and tested as appropriate.
Causes: These include lack of fluids and fiber in the diet, overeating, stress, low function of the thyroid, excess alcohol or caffeine (which can cause a laxative dependency), yeast overgrowth, and other bad bugs. Constipation involves slowing of the peristaltic activity of the intestines and/or loss of tone in the abdominal muscles, resulting in sluggish bowel function.
Remedies: Chew your food well. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water (ideally between meals), lemon water, or herbal tea. Get enough exercise. Eat more salads, vegetables, and fruits. If you suspect yeast, parasites or microbes, emphasize vegetables rather than fruit, due to the natural sweetness of the fruit, which can encourage yeast or bacterial overgrowth.
As supplements, you can add more fiber, such as psyllium seed husks, as well as ground flax seeds and flaxseed oil. A magnesium supplement and/or increased levels of vitamin C can help loosen the bowels. Probiotics may also help. On a temporary basis, you can use laxative herbal teas or capsules such as aloe vera, cascara sagrada, senna leaf, fennel seeds, or other herbs. However, these remedies are best started on a weekend when you can stay at home. Natural laxatives, such as cascara sagrada, can cause some cramping or an immediate need for a bowel movement at some undefined point after taking them. This can also occur with higher intake of magnesium.
Assessment: Constipation may seem routine to many, but it is a concern that can lead to major health problems. When the body doesn’t clear its waste materials on a regular basis, toxins can build up in the system. This common problem can often be corrected with diet, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies. However, if constipation continues, see your physician or a natural medicine practitioner to evaluate and treat the underlying cause(s).
Causes: Spoiled food, toxins, or water contaminated with unfamiliar or harmful germs (bacteria, viruses, or parasites), food allergies/sensitivities, or internalized stress. Any of these factors can that stimulate increased peristaltic activity. When food moves through the digestive tract too rapidly, there is less ability to digest and assimilate what you eat. This can also be the digestive tract’s attempt to rid the body of toxins or microbes, so in some cases, diarrhea is the body’s intelligence at work. Exposure to bad bugs tends to be more frequent than most of us realize, for example from food when you eat out or from drinking water containing microscopic germs, such as Cryptosporidium.
Remedies: Medicines that slow down intestinal activity are commonly used for acute and chronic diarrhea; just be sure that you are not suppressing an infection your body is trying to clear. Probiotics often help calm diarrhea because the healthy bacteria counters infections. Other natural remedies that can help clear problem microbes include grapefruit seed extract, garlic, ginger, plant tannins, and oil of oregano (in caps).
Assessment: If diarrhea persists, get checked out for parasites and pathogenic bacteria. If the problem is ongoing/chronic, consider asking for antibody testing. This approach is currently the state-of-the-art in testing for GI problems, using a simple blood test. Antibodies are tiny proteins in the blood that show if your body has “fought off” a particular germ. For example, antibody testing is widely used to indicate if someone has had the measles or had an infection with H. pylori bacteria. Your doctor can request any of a number of antibody tests that include: Microflora competence – checks for yeast and several different types of bacteria, and IgA testing for parasites – checks for twelve different kinds of parasites, including giardia and amoebas.
In conclusion, it is good to know that digestive problems like those discussed in this series can also be caused by food allergies, reactions and sensitivities. I have written about this in detail in my book The False Fat Diet and will be posting articles addressing this important topic.