Constipation is medically defined as infrequent bowel movements and also and frequent but incomplete movements. Constipation can commonly be seen with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and certain medications.
Constipation is very very common and due to the many years I’ve practiced abdominal massage and treated gut health I’ve seen many clients with this issue. As a young person I struggled with constipation and have a family history of bowel cancer.
Constipation can be the result of a number of combined factors including lifestyle, stress, habits, diet, muscular tension and physical inactivity. When I first see clients with this issue I ask them a number of questions – Are you rushing through your day?, Are you rushing particularly in the morning?, Are you too busy to allow time to go to the bathroom?
There needs to be time to allow the chain of actions within the body combined with correct movement and motility of the bowel and for almost every person I see their lives are so busy and often stressed they just don’t allow the time and tell themselves if I need to go I’ll go. I will often recommend that people initially try sitting on the toilet for 5, 10 even 15 minutes and focus on relaxing. You may be aware that men in particular will take a magazine or book into the toilet with them and sit and contemplate for a while and what most people miss is this actually can be a good thing.
Part of resolving constipation can be about making time and creating a daily habit at the same time, for example in the morning.
Constipation can also because of latent tension in the gut which means the movement of the gut is not correct and its not working well. I work on the body using abdominal massage and acupressure techniques to relax the tension in and around the abdomen. I also work on re-activating the muscles and helping the muscle tone in and around the area. Based on what I feel and the feedback the gut provides I will work with the spherical muscles around the bowel may need to be relaxed or activated depending on their state in order to support motility within the bowel.
There are times when constipation can relate to lower back pain. When there is tension caused by pain in the power back it can impact the bowel and cause tension within it. The biggest thing I’ve learnt over 20 years of practice is that everyone, every ‘body’ is different. There are clients who have had chronic constipation over a period of years and it’s become their normal. They don’t know anything different and their bodies have forgotten how to have regular normal bowel motions.
I was one of those people, when I was young I didn’t think or know I as constipated, I went to the bathroom every 3 or 4 days and I thought that was normal. As a teenager I resolved it and since then have always had regular bowel movements. Now on the odd day if I don’t go in the morning I feel sluggish and tired until I do. I now have awareness of my body that was missing before.
With chronic constipation the bowel becomes distended and can become dry and compacted. In this case it can be appropriate to use a combination of laxatives and high-quality fibre diet to get it moving and keep it moving for a period of time in order for it to regain muscle tone. Once this has been achieved it is then looking at the underlying causes of how the client got to that state to help ensure they don’t go back to it.
Diet can be a factor, incorporating fruit and more high-quality soluble fibre on a daily basis. Undertaking this practice has helped my clients retain regular bowel movements and in some cases I have also recommended them seeing a registered holistic nutritionist.
Other underlying factors behind constipation such as high stress levels which can impact hormones and cause the body to stay in a fight or flight state which in turn causes the body to produce higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline which overpower the ‘shyer’ hormones preventing them from doing their jobs.
I also talk with my clients about their lifestyle and during the massage I will work through the meridian lines of the body looking for any tension that can be relaxed in the abdomen, lower back and hips. I use a combination of abdominal massage and acupressure which can be gentle or deeper depending on client and their needs.
Following a session my clients tell me they feel more relaxed, they have more awareness of the muscles in their abdomen area and are in tune with when their bodies are in a good state of health or out of balance. Constipation like many of the other things that I treat it’s about helping clients reconnect to their bodies. As humans we spend a lot of our time in our heads and are disconnected from their bodies and tend to only listen when there is pain or illness present and for many they don’t even listen to that.
Sometimes my clients find things change very quickly for them and for others it can be a number of sessions before they return to regular bowel motions, it is all dependent on the individual.