An introduction to constipation and bloating
Constipation is a common digestive complaint, especially as we get older. However, in many cases, people don’t actually realise they are constipated, or consider that other symptoms could be related to this underlying problem.
Preferably you want your bowels to open daily; if you go any longer than this without visiting the loo, it could suggest that your gut is a little sluggish. A sluggish bowel can give rise to whole number of uncomfortable and even embarrassing symptoms such as pain, bloating or flatulence.
What is constipation?
Constipation occurs as food waste moves too slowly through the digestive system, meaning we aren’t visiting the loo as much as we should be, and we can become quite bunged up as a result.
Constipation can often become a bit of a viscous cycle. As our bowel slows, the stools within our gut can become dryer and more compact, making them even harder to pass. As a result of this, we can also have additional symptoms, such as discomfort as the bowel becomes full, flatulence as the natural bacteria in our gut ferments the stale waste material, and also bloating, firstly as result of a fuller abdomen, but also as more gas is produced as the fermentation process gets underway.
Constipation can happen for a number of different reasons; it is often more likely as we get older, as a result of changing hormones, for example during pregnancy or in cases of PMS, or depending on our diet.
How can constipation cause bloating?
If you bowels are opening much less frequently than once a day, bloating is very likely to be apparent for a number of different reasons:
- The physical build up – As waste moves slowly throughout our system we can easily become bloated and bunged up
- Flatulence as a result of fermentation – As waste moves throughout our system it is subject to fermentation by bacteria naturally residing in our gut. If it stays there too long this means extra fermentation and excess gas (a by-product of this process)
- An imbalance in gut bacteria – There is some reason to believe that an imbalance in your gut bacteria to start with, could give rise to excess bloating. It is possible that certain strains of bacteria can also affect the contractions of the gut too, potentially slowing them down
- A stressed liver may also be a factor – Bloating may occur at different areas of the abdomen but liver health is something to consider too if constipation an issue for you. Your liver processes the toxins in our bodies, so excess waste lying around means more toxins to be processed. Also, bile (produced by the liver) is important for stimulating peristalsis, the unique wave-like contractions of the gut. So if the gut isn’t moving properly, it is possible that the liver could be stressed, which in turn, can contribute to more bloating!
What can I try at home to help manage constipation?
There are some simple steps you can take at home to try and manage bloating as a result of constipation.
- Drink water! – It is absolutely vital you drink enough water in order to help keep your gut moving along nicely. Aim for at least 1.5l of plain, still water daily
- Exercise – Taking part in regular, gentle exercise is also thought to be important to help support your bowel. The physical movements during exercise can gently massage the gut and spur it back into action!
- Get enough sleep – When we sleep our bodies are in ‘rest and digest’ mode – quite literally. This means our digestive system is getting some attention and is busy working away. If your gut is working optimally, you may expect to wake up needing to go to the loo, however, if your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, your toilet habits could be too!
How can natural remedies help?
There are some natural remedies which can help give your bowels a little helping hand:
- Linoforce Granules 12 years plus – our natural remedy for occasional constipation, and contains a combination of linseed, senna and frangula. This combination is suitable for short-term use.
Can my doctor help?
In severe cases of constipation, if you are experiencing pain, or if home and herbal remedies aren’t doing the trick, it might be time to visit your doctor or pharmacist, they can prescribe laxatives if need be.