Let’s be honest. Few things are as important to our sense of happiness and well-being as a good bowel movement. Bowel movements may be an uncomfortable topic, but it says a lot about how well the body is functioning.

Constipation is exceedingly common in developed countries, leading to frequent self-medication, and one third of cases leading to a doctor’s appointment.  Appropriate management requires an evaluation for causes of constipation, which include underlying intestinal lesions, a pseudo-obstruction, or a systemic disorder such as hypothyroidism or diabetes mellitus. 

Treatment for chronic constipation depends on whether there is a normal or slowed colonic transit (the time it takes for food to get to the other side) or if there is defecatory dysfunction (the nerves of your gut are affected, pelvic floor dysfunction, etc.). For the sake of the article, we will focus on the factors that influence transit time. Before diving into the treatment options for constipation, let’s look at some of the factors that can lead to constipation. 

Fluid intake – The large intestine absorbs excess water so not drinking enough fluids can harden stool and make it difficult to go. Fluids that are excellent at keeping you hydrated include: water, herbal tea, naturally sweetened juices, and water-dense fruits such as grapes and melon. Consumption of alcohol can lead to both dehydration and reduced peristalsis (the movement of intestines that cause a bowel movement).

Medications – Antibiotics, antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, antidepressants, some blood pressure medications, can cause both diarrhea and constipation by altering intestinal microflora and changing GI physiology. This list is not all inclusive. Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist for additional information about the effects of medication.

Medical history – Have your healthcare provider check for underlying an food allergy or sensitivity, Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, low thyroid function, celiac disease, which can all contribute to alternating bowel movements, frequency, and appearance of stool. Significant changes in the frequency of bowel movements or in the appearance of the feces can indicate a problem, particularly when these changes accompany other symptoms such as abdominal pain/cramps, nausea, bloating, gas, fatigue, weight loss, bloody stools, anemia, muscle cramps, mood fluctuations.

Hormones –  Increases in GI symptoms happen around the time of menses and early menopause due to changes in ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Buildup of the hormone progesterone can cause constipation. Progesterone is responsible for growth and thickening of uterine walls and it peaks right around ovulation. Diarrhea can happen when prostaglandins (fatty acids responsible for inflammation) begin to relax smooth muscle tissues in the uterus as menstruation begins.

Age – As we get older, the contractions of the muscles in the intestines slow down which can cause the food to move slowly through the colon causing constipation.

Activity –  Exercise helps constipation by lowering the transit time it takes for the food to move through the intestines via stimulating the contractions of muscles in the intestines. Stay active to stay regular!

Diet – High fiber foods found in veggies, fruits, and legumes (beans, lentils) make it easier for feces to pass through the intestines. On the contrary, processed foods devoid of nutrients and fiber, such as processed grains, red meat, milk, cheese, fried foods, alcohol, may all cause constipation. The best foods to relieve constipation include dried prunes, apples, figs, spinach, kale, and other greens, citrus fruits, etc.  Also add probiotic foods to your diet: unsweetened yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut for optimal bowel movement daily.

Social factors – Traveling for a vacation or a job can be exciting but can also wreak havoc on your GI system. Both diarrhea and constipation can result from not being in the comfort of your own bathroom, psychologically speaking. Jet lag, stress, and changes in lifestyle and diet can affect bowel movement.  

Seven tips and tricks to ensure success!

After waking, relax for a few moments. Don’t think about the hectic day ahead and do not start reading the news. The anal sphincter is a muscle that responds to tension, so keep it relaxed. Think relaxing thoughts.

2. Drink a tall glass of warm water, preferably with a teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. This awakens the digestive system and stimulates peristalsis in the intestines.

3. If you still need an assist, practice deep breathing by visualizing breath filling your abdomen and exhale visualizing breath going out and downward as you relax and release.

Eat dietary fiber and use bulk-forming laxatives. High fiber foods such as fresh veggies, legumes, and fruits should be eaten daily. Aim for 25-35 grams of fiber daily. Bulk-forming laxatives such as psyllium husk (Metamucil) contain natural polysaccharides or cellulose derivatives that exert their laxative effect by absorbing water in the colon and increasing fecal mass.  Make sure to drink copious amounts of water when taking bulk-forming laxatives because large amounts of fiber can cause bloating, cramping, flatulence, and even increased constipation with minimal water intake, so start with small amounts and slowly increase fiber intake according to tolerance and efficacy.

Osmotic Laxatives: For those who do not respond to fiber intake and/or are intolerant, there are other types of laxatives that can be used. Hyperosmotic agents such as polyethylene glycol (MiraLax) can be used in improving stool consistency and frequency. Milk of Magnesia or magnesium citrate both act by drawing water into the bowel from nearby tissues (intestinal lumen) thereby softening the stool. Some of these laxatives can cause electrolyte imbalances as they draw out nutrients and other contents with the water, which increases thirst and dehydration.

Stimulants such as bisacodyl (Ex-lax, Dulcolax, castor oil, senna) should only be used short-term. Stimulants increase muscle contractions (peristalsis) to move contents along, facilitating a shorter colonic transit time.

Stay relaxed and let it all out! By trying to keep your bowel movements consistent from day-to-day, you will feel much better overall by eliminating the unpleasant symptoms you may have. If you find that you are experiencing a change in bowel movements, keep track of how often and the symptoms you are having so that you can make your doctor aware. Share any concerns you have with your physician so that you can work together to alleviate discomfort and rule out underlying causes of GI distress.

Acid reflux happens when your stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, which is a burning sensation in your chest. Other reflux symptoms may include a sour or regurgitated food taste in the back of your mouth, difficulty swallowing, coughing or wheezing and chest pain.

Natural Remedies

Luckily, there are various lifestyle and diet changes that can help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. Here are a few:

  • Avoid lying down for three hours after a meal.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid pressure on your abdomen.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Chew gum that isn’t peppermint or spearmint flavored.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Don’t overeat, and eat slowly.
  • Raise the head of your bed four to six inches to reduce reflux symptoms while sleeping.

In addition, you can incorporate the following foods into your diet to help manage reflux symptoms.

Vegetables

Vegetables are naturally low in fat and sugar, and they help reduce stomach acid. Some good options include green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, leafy greens, potatoes and cucumbers.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is an excellent source of fiber. It can absorb acid in the stomach and reduce symptoms of reflux.

Noncitrus fruits

Noncitrus fruits, including melons, bananas, apples and pears, are less likely to trigger reflux symptoms than acidic fruits.

Healthy fats

Sources of healthy fats include avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil. Reduce your intake of saturated fats and trans fats and replace them with these healthier unsaturated fats.

Want to learn more about remedies for heartburn? Schedule a consultation with us today!

Sleep is crucial to our health. During sleep, our bodies are able to go through a process of repair and renewal that can help treat everything from chronic conditions to weight management. However, according to the American Sleep Association, one in every three adults experiences occasional insomnia, while another one in 10 has chronic insomnia.

While the exact sleep requirements vary person to person, most of us need at least seven hours a night for both a healthy body and a healthy mind. Studies show that lack of sleep can actually shorten your life expectancy and increase the risk of serious health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

There are many effective natural sleep aids that can help improve the quality and duration of your sleep. By opting for a natural solution, you can also forgo the unwanted side effects of conventional sleep medications. Here are five effective all-natural sleep aids.

Magnesium

Magnesium has sleep-promoting and stress-reducing abilities, so it is no wonder that a magnesium deficiency can result in poor sleep. Studies show that taking around 400 mg of magnesium supplements before bed can help with insomnia and promote a good night’s sleep. Also opt to eat magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach and pumpkin seeds.

Exercise

Exercising at the appropriate time of day (and not too close to bedtime) can exponentially help you get a good night’s rest. Physical activity helps regulate the body?s natural circadian rhythm, which in turn promotes sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise also improves insomnia by lowering symptoms of anxiety and depression (which are conditions linked to sleep disruption). It is best to aim for 30 minutes of daily exercise in the morning or afternoon.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are extracted directly from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree. These oils have a wide variety of health benefits, one of which includes sleep improvement. They assist with stress relief, allowing you to wind down and rest better after smelling them.

Lavender

Lavender is well-known for its relaxing properties. It is a natural sedative, and plays a significant role in calming your nervous system. In recent years, doctors have even used lavender to help alleviate the symptoms of and even treat certain neurological disorders. Its scent is instantly calming, so it’s not uncommon to see lavender essential oils, shampoos, lotions, candles and bedtime teas sold as a solution to restless nights.

Like magnesium, lavender binds to your GABA receptors to reduce nerve activity and bring about sleep. Specifically, lavender promotes deep, reparative sleep. Aromatherapy with lavender essential oils, as well as lavender tea, have been proven effective in helping the mind and body unwind.

Chamomile

Chamomile is rich in apigenin, an antioxidant with calming effects. Antioxidants remove toxins and fight off illness. Antioxidants alone can make you feel drowsy, because they use a lot of energy to expel toxins from your system. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea can decrease levels of anxiety, induce drowsiness and promote undisturbed sleep. Incorporate a cup of chamomile tea into your bedtime routine.

Questions? Schedule a free consultation with us today!

Do you suffer from recurring migraines? You are not alone. Studies show that more than 38 million people suffer from regular migraines in the U.S. Attacks range from uncomfortable to downright debilitating, and they can significantly disrupt your day-to-day life.

Although many people who suffer from migraines are prescribed medication, there are also many natural treatments that can effectively relieve the pain.

Drink more water.

Surprisingly, one of the main causes of headaches is dehydration. More specifically, studies demonstrate that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension-type migraines. In addition, dehydration negatively affects concentration and causes irritability, which can make symptoms worse.

Symptoms can be alleviated within 30 minutes by simply drinking more water. Aim to drink about 8 glasses of water a day, and sip water consistently (even if you are not thirsty). This, combined with eating water-rich foods such watermelon and strawberries, will help eradicate dehydration headaches.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation negatively affects your health in many ways, and can lead to health issues such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For many people, lack of sleep also leads to migraines. One study found that headaches frequency increased for those who got less than six hours of sleep per night.

However, be sure to not get too much sleep, which has also been shown to trigger headaches. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night for the best results.

Take a yoga class.

Yoga focuses on breathing and meditation techniques, as well as body postures and stretching to promote health and well-being. This practice is thought to improve anxiety, release tension in migraine-trigger areas and improve vascular health. Studies show that yoga may also relieve the frequency, duration and intensity of migraines.

Although there is not enough evidence to recommend yoga as a primary treatment for migraines, the positive effects of yoga support overall health. It may be worth considering as a complementary therapy.

Limit your consumption of alcohol.

Alcohol can trigger migraines for those who experience frequent headaches. It has also been shown to cause tension and cluster headaches in many.

Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it expands blood vessels and allows blood to flow more freely. Headaches are a common side effect of vasodilators like blood pressure medications.

In addition, alcohol can cause the body to lose fluid and electrolytes through frequent urination. This results in dehydration and can lead to headaches. To avoid your chances of getting a migraine, it is best to limit alcohol consumption.

Add magnesium to your diet.

Magnesium deficiency is linked to headaches and migraines, especially menstrual-related migraines. You can get magnesium from many foods, including:

  • almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • peanut butter
  • oatmeal
  • eggs
  • milk

Migraines can be painful, but you don’t have to suffer through them. The right lifestyle choices can put you on the path to a more healthy and pain-free life. Questions? Schedule a free consultation with us today!

Stomach pain is never fun. There are dozens of reasons why you might get a tummy ache. Most causes aren’t serious and the symptoms pass quickly. Some common causes include infection, abnormal growths, inflammation, obstruction (blockage) and intestinal disorders.

Other common causes of abdominal pain include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)
  • Acid Reflux
  • Vomiting
  • Stress

Generally, there’s no need to look further than your kitchen for a solution.

Ginger

For centuries, people have turned to ginger to cure everything from pain to nausea. Studies have shown that ginger is a very effective treatment for an upset stomach. Ginger is available in many forms, including ginger chews and supplements. Other people prefer their ginger in beverage form. Try an all-natural ginger ale or chop up some fresh ginger root and make some tea.

Peppermint

Peppermint is a common remedy for nausea and an upset stomach. The menthol in its leaves acts as a natural pain reliever. Here are some peppermint forms to consider taking next time you are experiencing some stomach discomfort:

  • Drink a cup of peppermint tea.
  • Smell some peppermint extract.
  • Suck on a mint.
  • Chew on some peppermint leaves.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea acts as an anti-inflammatory, which helps ease the pain of an upset stomach. Its anti-inflammatory properties help your stomach muscles relax, which reduces the discomfort of cramping and stomach spasms.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has a lot of uses, including neutralizing an upset stomach. The acids in apple cider vinegar may help decrease starch digestion, allowing the starch to get to the intestines and keep the bacteria in the gut healthy. Many people take a spoonful each day as a preventive measure. If it’s too strong, try mixing a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a cup of water and a teaspoon of honey.

Try these natural remedies the next time your stomach pangs set in. Questions? Schedule a free consultation with us today!