Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chronic constipation in women

Looking After Our Colon

I find it odd that most doctors don't know about the effect constipation has on a body, never mind a female body and what it can mean. 

Time and time again I hear my patients say their GPs think it's ok for them to not have a BM for 5-7 days. That's its normal for their system and not to worry. Ok I agree with the not to worry part, but eeeeek it's NOT normal or ok to eliminate only once a week. 

We need to eliminate once a day minimum, two is great and if you get a bonus round in the afternoon - excellent! Most illness begins in the colon, and the colon is one of the most critical organs in the body. 

As the colon becomes a stagnant cesspool, failing to move the poisons from food waste out of out of the body on a regular basis, the toxins back up.
It is estimated that there are 36 different poisons that come from the colon, and as these accumulate in the bowel over a period of weeks, months or often years, they spread into your liver, gall bladder and other organs; into your blood; into your tissues and finally into your cells.

The colon is the starting place for most disease in the body, including cancer (and not just colon cancer, but many if not all cancers). The colon is the sewage system or “septic tank of the body” where; if it is not properly cared for, a large volume of toxins (or poisons) accumulate until it becomes a foul cesspool of toxins, bad bacteria and mucous.

Contributing Factors
Hormones can also affect bowel movements. For example, too little thyroid hormone, and too much parathyroid hormone (which raises calcium levels in the blood) can cause constipation.

At the time of a woman’s menstrual periods, estrogen and progesterone levels are high and may cause constipation, some women experience worse constipation after pregnancy due to hormone imbalances. Constipation tends to be more pronounced during pregnancy, and causes may include the pressure of the baby on the bowel, as well as the production of high levels of estrogen and progesterone.

Other causes may include:
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not exercising regularly
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Colon diseases
  • Suppressing the normal urge to go to the toilet

Levels of Progesterone
The levels of progesterone in a woman’s body rise and fall dramatically with her monthly cycles. At ovulation, the production of progesterone rapidly rises from 2-3mg per day to an average of 22mg per day, peaking as high as 30mg per day a week or so after ovulation.

After ten or twelve days, if fertilization does not occur, ovarian production of progesterone falls significantly. It is this sudden decline in progesterone levels (as well as estrogen levels) that trigger a period (menstruation), and another menstrual cycle will begin.

If pregnancy occurs, progesterone production increases and the shedding of the lining of the uterus are prevented, preserving the developing embryo. As pregnancy progresses, progesterone production is taken over by the placenta and its secretion increases gradually to levels of 300-400mg per day during the third trimester.

One of the major effects of progesterone during pregnancy is to cause relaxation of ‘smooth muscles.’ Levels of progesterone in the last trimester can reach 350-400 mg per day. Organs that contain smooth muscle are the blood vessels, the uterus, and the bowel. Progesterone decreases the strength and the frequency of bowel contractions that are necessary to move food, fluids, and wastes through the bowel. The slower the motility of the bowel, the greater the opportunity for absorption of fluid and foods.

Unfortunately, by the end, if the remaining waste becomes very dehydrated, the stool becomes compact and hard, making it more uncomfortable to pass, sometimes getting to the point where a woman will not have a bowel movement for 5 or more days. This is constipation and it can be very uncomfortable.
More than 50% of all pregnant women suffer some degree of constipation. ‘Nature’s way’ of getting the mother to absorb the most food and fluid from her diet she possibly can to help nourish her baby and maintain the pregnancy.

Now add this to someone taking 300mg heme iron and 560mg potassium tabs, and you've got someone manufacturing cement in their bowels. 

Heme or animal based iron, is very harsh and constipating on the system and as a prescription, never has accompanying vitamins that help the body absorb the iron into the system. This is meant to come from the diet, but who wants to eat, if you can't eliminate for a week at a time? Quality of life goes out to window for good lab results. There has to be a better way than keeping them on that prescription and adding in constant enemas and harsh treatments to regulate BMs. Plus adding in these treatments makes the bowels even lazier to eliminate on a regular bases, becoming a lose-lose situation.

A better solution would be to change to a non-heme iron (plant based, less likely to constipate), low, frequent doses and make sure your supplement has Vitamin C, B12 and Folic acid as a complete absorption package. You may not get the 300mg of iron in one shot, but if it's less and frequent and has ingredients to aid absorption you might be better off. 

Douglas Labs has a great product called Ferro-C, and I prescribe it to all of my anemics. They are doing really well on it, iron stores are increasing and they're comfortable and eliminating. Remember, it takes a long time to deplete your iron stores and it will take a while to build them back up, with prescriptions or with supplements.