Updated: Jan 17
👉🏻FLUIDS: As a provider I catch myself failing time again to ask “how much water do you drink?” When someone is constipated. Mostly because you just assume “well, duh, they must have tried that” but then I think about myself. Without fail, I NEVER drink enough water and I 100% lean towards constipation. So let me ask you, do you drink enough water? A common mistake constipated people make is to increase fiber intake without first increasing fluid intake. Which is a recipe for worsening constipation. 🚨Rule of thumb: aim for half of your body weight in fl. oz. per day (ex: If you weigh 150 lbs. aim for 75 fluid ounces per day).
👉🏻FIBER: Now that we addressed the water intake, let’s address the fiber intake. The average American gets around 15 g of fiber per day. American Heart Association suggests intake should be 25-30 g of fiber per day. Trust me, that isn’t enough. 🚨Rule of thumb: Aim for 30-50 g of dietary fiber per day.
👉🏻Stress: If you’re a constipated person you 100% know what I mean to have anxiety around your morning routine and schedule. If you don’t poop in that one hour morning window, you’re probably not pooping at all that day. It’s tragic. Let’s say you wake up late or have to catch an early morning flight, SOMETHING, ANYTHING disrupts your morning routine and you are sh*t out of luck, pun intended. 🚨Rule of thumb: keep your morning ritual and wake up time the same, even on weekends!
Tid Bits: 1.Start your morning with 8 oz. of luke warm water 2.The squatty potty is your friend. 3.Keep fresh ginger or ginger tea in your house, it’s a great prokinetic or motility agent. 4.Have ready to go cut up veggies in the fridge at all times to increase fiber. If it is chopped up and ready, you’ll snack on it, trust me. 5.Trial ashwagandha for calming stress and supporting your constipation.
👉🏻Stomach acid - When your stomach acid production is low it can contribute to your constipation. Usually I think of a person who tells me they struggle to digest heavy protein/meat meals. They say the food just sits in their stomach causing fullness and it moves thru slowly. I talk about this A LOT in my ebook- the causes, consequences and how to address it (link in profile).
🚨Pro Tip: Try the baking soda test at home. Mix 1/4 tsp of fresh baking soda into 8 oz of room temp water prior to eating breakfast. Note how long it takes you to start getting burpy. If its under 5 minutes your stomach acid levels are fine. If it takes over this amount you might want to start diving a bit deeper into this topic.
👉🏻Food sensitivities - so many foods can cause symptoms and constipation can be how the sensitivity presents. Most of us have heard of gluten and dairy being big offenders but any food can really be problematic. The most common offenders are: gluten, dairy, corn, soy, shellfish, and eggs. Since I don’t have the space via IG post, note that I do lead you through how to uncover food sensitivities and an elimination diet in the ebook as well! It took me MANY years to figure out which foods = not having a bowel movement the next day. Best advice: trust the process and be patient.
🚨Pro Tip: Keeping a food journal is not only helpful for you but for your providers to start seeing trends. Mark when you have a bowel movement or not. Note: It can take 72 hours to mount responses from foods so that means even if you eat gluten 2 times a week max every 3 days, that literally means you could be constipated 24/7. Food for thought.
👉🏻Medication - I’m going to leave this one broad but even just going on the internet and seeing the side effects of your medications is a decent starting point. Then you need to asses did it get worse around the same time that you started it. At this point I would advise you bring it up to the practitioner that started you on it for discussion on any possible alternative option!
🚨Pro Tip: Supplements can constipate you too- don’t rule them out as a part of the cause.
👉🏻Hypothyroidism: A low functioning thyroid should be ruled out in cases of chronic constipation. It is notorious for being a contributor, as well as a contributor to things like SIBO. Most traditional practitioners won’t run a full thyroid panel on you unless your TSH and T4 levels are off. Which means you are missing A LOT of the picture. It’s like seeing the tip of the iceberg but not actually the giant thing under the water you’re about to crash into.
🚨Pro Tip: Full thyroid panel includes: TSH, T4, T3, RT3, TPO and thyroglobulin antibodies
👉🏻GI Infections: I highly encourage you, if feasible in your lifestyle, to work with a functional medicine provider (http://www.ifm.org) to have a comprehensive stool test and SIBO test done.
🗝Main infections that cause constipation: METHANE SIBO, dysbiotic flora (imbalance of the good and the bad bacteria), candida (yeast) overgrowth Pro Tip: most of us can’t just take a probiotic, eat some veggies and call it a day and these infections will go away. You need to start in the REMOVAL phase. Remove - parasites, yeast, bacteria, SAD diet amongst other things.
👉🏻Brain/Nerve Function: As a gut health expert I naturally like to look at the gut first in most cases but as many of you already know, the gut and brain are in constant communication. Sometimes a gut health issue is really stemming from the BRAIN! Don’t rule it out.
🚨Pro Tip: Just like muscles, neurons need a workout to stay strong. Since the Vagus nerve goes through most of our organs, strengthening it may improve constipation.
🗝Gargle: Gargle vigorously, until your eyes tear; work up to 2-3x/day. 🗝Sing/Chant loudly: Spend some time singing/chanting as loudly as you can. 🗝Gag Reflex: Use a tongue depressor to gently press on the back of the tongue causing a gag reflex.
Katie Morra MS, RD, LDN, IFMCP is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and Registered Dietitian specializing in gut health, the microbiome, and nutrition. Her functional medicine nutrition practice is based in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Katie focuses on the root causes of inflammation, autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth, food sensitivities and leaky gut, amongst other chronic disease states.