Constipation is one of the most common ailments experienced by individuals, both young and old. The excessive retention of stool can be extremely uncomfortable, and a wide variety of remedies deal with the discomfort of poor elimination.
Many people consume more fiber or prunes, drink more water, or take a laxative such as magnesium to improve their daily stool elimination. But what they have not been told by their physicians is that constipation is a neurological problem.
The autonomic nervous system is a major part of the central nervous system that regulates our hormones, immune system, emotions, blood pressure, and organs, including the intestinal tract.
The autonomics can be injured with trauma to the head, emotional trauma, or inflammatory damage from the immune system.
The symptoms that occur from the autonomic damage may be either low blood pressure and oxygen delivery to the brain (headaches, neck tightness, poor concentration/focus, or fatigue) or a slowing of the intestine conveyor belt (i.e., intestinal tract).
When the intestinal tract slows, each segment of the intestine will develop particular symptoms. If the stomach does not push its contents forward efficiently, a person can experience heartburn, reflux, nausea, and bloating. Slow motility of the small intestine results in cramping and is referred to as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) if excessive.
Constipation is the direct result of the inadequacy of the nervous system to create the proper muscular contractions to propel the contents forward. In other words, constipation is, first and foremost, the result of the brain not working properly.
Symptom surveys performed after concussion injuries in soldiers and athletes reveal that anywhere from 50-70% experience some level of constipation within the first week after their injury (and heartburn occurs in about 30%).
Although changes in diet and the use of OTC laxative agents can be useful when the constipation is uncomfortable, you can also work on improving autonomic nervous system function with high doses of fish oil, olive oil (certified by the COOC), and the use of a prebiotic plant fiber called inulin to help balance your intestinal bacteria and lower inflammation.
With time, those dietary additions stand a good chance of putting your constipation into remission.