Constipation

Constipation is well-treated using naturopathic medicine.

Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements weekly and/or having hard, dry stools that cause pain or straining.

Causes of constipation include “dryness” (e.g., dehydration); slow passage of stool through the colon (e.g., inattention to bowel habits, insufficient dietary fiber, irritable bowel syndrome) resulting in hardening and drying of the stool; frequent use or abuse of laxatives; lack of physical activity; pregnancy; certain illness (e.g., hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease); and use of certain medications (e.g., medications used in treatment of pain, high blood pressure, depression).

In rare cases, constipation may signal the presence of a more serious medical condition, for example colorectal cancer, a hormonal disturbances or autoimmune disease. In children, constipation may indicate a congenital condition called Hirschsprung’s disease that results from missing nerve cells in the colon.

Although constipation is rarely a serious condition, it may result in complications including development of hemorrhoids or fissures, fecal impaction or rectal prolapse.

Seek professional healthcare if you have chronic (lasting longer than three weeks) constipation; if your symptoms are severe; or are concerned your symptoms suggest a more serious underlying health condition, including:

  • Constipation persisting despite corrective changes in diet or exercise
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Rectal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Constipation that alternates with diarrhea
  • Thin, pencil-like stools
  • Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms of Constipation

If you experience two or more of the following signs or symptoms, you likely have constipation:

  • Pass fewer than three stools weekly
  • Pass hard stools
  • Require excessive straining to pass stool
  • Have a sensation of rectal blockage
  • Have a feeling of incomplete evacuation after having a bowel movement
  • Need to use manual techniques to have a bowel movement (e.g., finger evacuation, manipulation of your lower abdomen)

Treatment of Constipation at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, the goals of constipation treatment are to resolve constipation, reduce pain intensity of constipation episodes, identify causes of constipation to prevent recurrence and manage associated health conditions and side effects of conventional medications.

Conventional treatment for constipation may include use of laxatives, which may have short- or long-term side effects.

For this reason, you may choose to try natural treatment to possibly avoid use of conventional medications, or together with conventional medications in order to decrease dosages of conventional medications required to manage your constipation symptoms.

Naturopathic treatment of any chronic health concern must be recognized as a process that involves:

  • Identifying specific treatment goals
  • Development by your naturopathic doctor, of a thorough understanding of all factors affecting your health, including physical, psychological, emotional and lifestyle factors
  • Development of a comprehensive treatment plan
  • Implementation and maintenance of that plan through periodic monitoring and adjustment

At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, a typical approach to treating constipation may be to:

  • Identify and address underlying factors in your lifestyle (e.g., poor diet, inadequate fluid intake, sedentary lifestyle, stress) or general health (e.g., use of certain medications, pregnancy) that may be contributing to development of constipation
  • Correct nutritional deficiencies that may be contributing to constipation
  • Stimulate regular bowel movements using gentle, natural laxatives (e.g., botanical [herbal] medicines) or Bowen Therapy
  • Decrease your dependence on laxative medications and prevent recurrence by “re-training” your digestive system using botanical (herbal) medicines

Where appropriate, a number of therapeutic options are available, to be used alone, or more often in a complementary fashion, including:

Treatments provided by naturopathic doctors and registered massage therapists are covered by most extended healthcare plans.

References

Constipation [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2010 Jan 18]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/constipation/DS00063.

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