Psychological well-being is known to be intertwined with gastrointestinal health, and new research suggests that women with chronic constipation are more likely to be anxious or depressed than women who don't have bowel problems.
In a study of 34 women with chronic constipation, UK investigators linked emotional distress with changes in the nerve pathway that helps control gut function.
They say the findings suggest a specific path through which psychological factors directly influence the digestive system.
Women with chronic constipation were more likely than healthy women to report anxiety, depression and feeling less "feminine." They also found it harder to form close relationships.
Moreover, the investigators found that the poorer a patient's psychological well-being was, the lower her rectal blood flow. As for healthy women, there was no link between blood flow and psychological factors -- which, the researchers point out, was partly due to the fact that there was little variance in these measures among healthy women.
The investigators demonstrated a direct demonstrable link between certain aspects of central brain activity -- anxiety, depression, feeling 'unfeminine' -- and gut dysfunction.
These findings also echo existing evidence that patients with chronic constipation have higher rates of depression and anxiety, according to the researchers.
Other research showed that psychological therapy improves both emotional health and bowel function in patients with chronic constipation. Specifically, a behavioral therapy called biofeedback was shown to improve activity in nerve pathways to the gut.
Gut August 2001;49:209-213
As I have said in an earlier issue:
The average patient is seriously confused about how manybowel movements they should have per day. Most think theyare doing great if they have one a day. This is, however,not compatible with optimal bowel health. One should haveat least two to three bowel movements per day.
If one has less than that, there are many options. The mostcommon one I recommend is to make sure that you are gettingat least one quart of pure water for every 50 pounds ofbody weight.
Next would be to take magnesium (citrate, glycinate, andmaalate are some excellent ones). The only side effect isloose stools; so increase the dose until you get to twoor three per day, unless you have loose stools. The onlyproblem here is that this is a short term solution as constantuse of magnesium will upset your calcium/magnesium ratioand cause other problems.
One can also use Aloe. I would avoid any preparations withcascara. Even though it is an herb, it functions more likea drug and can cause the bowels to worsen over the longrun. If all else fails, one can try biofeedback which willprobably work for many other things aside from the constipation.
A high potency probiotic should also be useful. I plan ondistributing one of the most potent ones in the world inthe fall. Alternatively there are many good ones on themarket now. We currently use Flora Source.
However, even using all of the above measures, constipationcan remain a challenging problem. If the above measuresfail, I would suggest high levels of vegetable fiber, somewhereon the order of 20 pounds per week of vegetables. This ismost easily implemented with the vegetablejuicing program.