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Symptoms
Causes
Food Allergies and Constipation
Baby Constipation Relief
Foods to Eat
Water
Exercise
Treating Constipation
Natural Remedies


Symptoms

If you are constipated, you probably have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A bowel movement only every other day or less
  • Feelings of incomplete evacuation
  • Feelings of abdominal bloating or fullness
  • Hard stools
  • Excessive straining
  • Stools of insufficient size
  • Difficulty or pain on passing stool
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Constipation Causes

Constipation is actually a symptom of an underlying disease or problem. If you have symptoms, consult with your physician.

Here are some possible causes of constipation.

  • Lack of fiber in your diet (eating refined, processed foods)
  • Food allergy or intolerance
  • Intestinal disorders, such as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or diverticulitis
  • Certain medications
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Underactive thyroid gland or other endocrine disorder
  • Digestive disorder (lack of stomach acid or digestive enzymes)
  • Poor muscle tone in abdominal or intestinal wall
  • Anemia
  • Chronic stress or anxiety
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes
  • Nerve disorder or damage
  • Pregnancy
  • Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's
  • Colon or rectal cancer
  • Collagen vascular diseases

Drugs that may lead to constipation include:

  • Opiates
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antacids containing calcium or aluminum
  • Iron supplements
  • Sucralfate
  • Calcium channel blockers.

As you can see, there are many possible causes of constipation, some of them potentially serious problems.

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Food Allergies and Constipation

Allergy has long been recognized as a source of constipation. An allergy is an immune reaction to one or more of the foods that you eat. It is not uncommon to experience constipation as one symptom or even the only symptom of a food allergy. However, you may even have constipation alternating with diarrhea when you have a food allergy.

For people with constipation, food allergy is one of the first causes that should be ruled out. The procedure involves a simple blood test. You may want to read more about this testing at Testing for Food Allergies.

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Baby Constipation Relief

Cow's milk allergies have been shown to cause infant or toddler constipation. For example, in one recent study of 65 constipated children under age 6 were split into 2 groups. One group was given cow's milk; the other was given soy milk. Those drinking soy milk had a marked improvement in their bowel function.

The researchers then switched the groups. The soy milk group was given cow's milk and their constipation returned. In contrast, the cow's milk group was switched to soy milk and their constipation diminished.

Not only did avoidance of cow's milk provide constipation relief, but the children's painful defecation and anal fissures also disappeared.

Relieving infant constipation is very important to your baby's health. Of the infant remedies, complete avoidance of cow's milk would be the first thing to try.

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Foods to Eat for Constipation

Fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, is linked with prevention of chronic constipation. Insoluble fiber from food acts like a sponge, pulling water into the stool and making it easier to pass.

Insoluble fiber comes mostly from:

  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat
  • Rye or other whole grains.

Wheat or oat bran may be added to your diet, up to a quarter of a cup or more per day. An easy way to add wheat bran to the diet is to put it in breakfast cereal or switch to high-bran cereals. However, if you have a wheat allergy, do not use wheat bran.

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Drink More Water

As you increase your fiber intake, you'll also want to drink lots of fluid along with the fiber -- at least 16 ounces of water per serving of fiber. Otherwise, the fiber may actually worsen the constipation.

Exercise for Constipation

Exercise may increase the muscular contractions of the intestine, thus promoting bowel movements. Exercise is also important for relieving stress, which contributes to constipation. Walking is an excellent way to get exercise. In general, increase your physical activity and decrease the amount of time that you are just sitting.

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Treating Constipation

The use of laxatives is not the preferred method of dealing with chronic constipation. The chronic use of laxatives will ultimately result in even poorer bowel tone and long-term dependence on the laxative. The best "laxative" is a healthy diet with plenty of fiber and adequate water.

However, chronic constipation may be the symptom of something more serious, such as a food allergy or hypothyroidism. Therefore, you should consult with our clinic or your physician if you have this condition. It's not something you should "learn to live with".

Your doctor will help you to find out the cause of the problem. You may need to get a food allergy test or thyroid test, or be evaluated for some other possible underlying cause.

Natural Treatments for Constipation

A number of natural treatments may be helpful:

Consult with our clinic or your physician about the natural treatment that is most appropriate for you.

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References

Gay LP. Gastrointestinal Allergy, J Missouri Med Assoc. 1932:29:7-10.

Santos J, et al. Release of mast cell mediators into the jejunum by cold pain stress in humans, Gastroenterology. Apr1998;114(4):640-8.

Giuseppe I, et al, Intolerance of Cow's Milk and Chronic Constipation in Children, NEJM, 1998; 339(18):1100-04


Dr. Stephen Wangen
Center for Food Allergies
Email: info@CenterForFoodAllergies.com
11300 Roosevelt Way NE Suite 100 Seattle, WA 98125 • 206-264-1111

Food Allergies • Food Intolerance • Gluten Intolerance • Wheat Allergy
Milk Allergy • Peanut Allergy • Lactose Intolerance • Allergy Testing
Elimination Diet • Allergy Products • Supplements