Constipation Can Have Emotional Basis

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

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

As I have said in an earlier issue:

The average patient is seriously confused about how many bowel movements they should have per day. Most think they are doing great if they have one a day. This is, however, not compatible with optimal bowel health. One should have at least two to three bowel movements per day.

If one has less than that, there are many options. The most common one I recommend is to make sure that you are getting at least one quart of pure water for every 50 pounds of body weight.

Next would be to take magnesium (citrate, glycinate, and maalate are some excellent ones). The only side effect is loose stools; so increase the dose until you get to two or three per day, unless you have loose stools. The only problem here is that this is a short term solution as constant use of magnesium will upset your calcium/magnesium ratio and cause other problems.

One can also use Aloe. I would avoid any preparations with cascara. Even though it is an herb, it functions more like a drug and can cause the bowels to worsen over the long run. If all else fails, one can try biofeedback which will probably work for many other things aside from the constipation.

A high potency probiotic should also be useful. I plan on distributing one of the most potent ones in the world in the fall. Alternatively there are many good ones on the market now. We currently use Flora Source.

However, even using all of the above measures, constipation can remain a challenging problem. If the above measures fail, I would suggest high levels of vegetable fiber, somewhere on the order of 20 pounds per week of vegetables. This is most easily implemented with the vegetable juicing program.

Related Articles:

Biofeedback Can Help Constipation and Other Thoughts Regarding Constipation

How to Enhance Your Health With Juicing Vegetables

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