In her weekly column, licensed nutritionist, Nonie De Long discusses the ways you can address constipation holistically...
I have a problem with constipation and there’s no point going around it, I’m just going to say it like that. My husband has a different way of saying it but I don’t want to offend.
Anyway, my doctor has me on a pain patch for my arthritis because the pills I took gave me ulcers and I can’t take them now. Constipation has always been a problem for me but now that I’m using the patch it’s gone from bad to horrible. So I’m taking a stool softener and Metamucil and I’ve tried lots of things but nothing seems to help much. Do you know of anything natural I can take that actually works to get more regular? Thank you!
I’ve had clients using the fentanyl patch, so I understand what you’re going through. And chronic constipation can take a toll on a person’s energy, appetite, and mood, and increase the risk of other health problems. So you’re right — it’s important to correct!
You’ll be happy to know there are natural things that do help. Add in one at at time until you feel you’ve got a combination that works for you. It can be very individual. Once you’ve got things moving along (ahem), you may not need the stool softener at all, but you should never discontinue a medication without consulting your physician for medical supervision.
The psyllium in Metamucil is not something I recommend for everyone, as it can actually be constipating if you don’t drink enough water. Dehydration is one of the primary causes of chronic constipation. It’s best to get your water intake up to two litres a day to ensure this isn’t a factor. This isn’t hard to do if you drink two cups on rising, then one full cup with every meal, then another every time you use the washroom and before bed. So this is your first strategy.
Next, I would suggest replacing the psyllium with the following morning superfood cereal recipe. It’s sugar-free, low carb, and is full of protein, fibre, and healthy fats to help nourish the body and address constipation. Add 3 cups of each of the following ingredients to a bowl and mix well.
To that, add 1.5 cups of fresh ground flax seeds, six Tbsp fresh ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp fresh ground clove spice (if you like it), and a good pinch of Himalayan sea salt. Stir and put the mixture in a large sealed container to store in a cool place. To prepare, add 1 cup of boiling water to ½ cup of the cereal, stir, and let sit for five minutes. This makes a slippery gruel or porridge that you will find pleasant tasting and very helpful for constipation. Stir in a sprinkle of a zero-calorie, natural sweetener like monk fruit, stevia, or truvia, and natural coconut or almond or cashew milk (not beverage). Or, you can top with fresh berries and homemade stevia sweetened yogurt for added benefit, if you like.
A holistic perspective on constipation is that the digestive organs (and often nervous system) aren’t functioning properly and need support. To address this I suggest removing sugar, wheat, and gluten from the diet for a period of two months to determine the degree to which these foods are contributing to the problem. They are very inflammatory and damage the bacteria and the walls of the intestines, often leading to chronic constipation. Rather than replacing them with gluten-free options, though, I would suggest replacing them with meat and veggies and a homemade bone broth, taken daily. Bone broth is extremely easy to make and healing to the entire digestive tract.
In such cases I also suggest a broad spectrum probiotic called Bio-K, taken daily. This will help address any bacterial imbalance in the small intestine, which can lead to malabsorption, arthritis, and constipation.
To this I would add whole flaxseed tea — 1 Tbsp of seeds steeped five minutes in hot water, taken after every meal. Flax seed is known in herbal medicine as a demulcent. Demulcents contain a special constituent called mucilage, which becomes slimy when it’s soaked in water. This slippery aspect makes it powerfully healing, as it creates a nourishing barrier over inflamed and ulcerated tissues. Flax is particularly soothing and healing for the intestinal mucosa and it’s incredibly nutritious.
And, when all dietary interventions fail for remedying a health problem, I reach for homeopathy. There are several remedies that will stop the tendency to constipation, but they have to be prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner.
Lastly, Suzy, I’m concerned that using this patch for arthritic pain is not dealing with the root cause of the issue and can have a myriad of negative impacts on your health, not the least of which is addiction. I would strongly recommend that you seek professional guidance from a functional medicine practitioner or orthomolecular nutritionist to help you address your ulcers and improve your arthritis pain naturally to reduce your reliance on pain medication.
Nonie De Long is a registered orthomolecular nutritionist with a clinic in Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she offers holistic, integrative health care for physical and mental-health issues. You can find Nonie online at hopenotdope.ca.