pic of a man with constipation
Do you need help with constipation?


What is constipation?

Normally your bowels should move at least once per day. A bowel movement should be fairly easy to pass, without straining. The stool should be well-formed. Really, after each meal, your bowels are prompted to move.  So 2-3 bowel movements per day are reflective of truly healthy bowels. Less frequent bowel movements are caused by multiple factors. Food sensitivities, overgrowth of unhealthy organisms in the gut, dehydration and even stress are some possible reasons for irregular bowel movements.

How Do Naturopathic Doctors Treat Constipation?

Our naturopathic doctors will do an in-depth initial assessment to determine the root cause of constipation for you and therefore the appropriate treatment. Some common causes of constipation include:

  • Dehydration. Getting your 8 glasses of water per day is critical if you are prone to problems with constipation.
  • Food allergies or sensitivities. If something that you are eating inflames your gut, it doesn’t function normally. Our naturopaths can test for food sensitivities to determine which foods are causing problems.
  • Dysbiosis. This means that there is an overgrowth of some type of bacteria or yeast in your gut that is not healthy. There is also a lack of beneficial bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. Our ND’s will either test for this or go ahead and advise you on an appropriate plan to correct the situation.
  • Stress. Stress activates your sympathetic nervous system. This is the fight or flight part of the nervous system. When this is activated, resources are directed to other areas and away from your digestive tract. Digestion suffers as a result. The parasympathetic nervous system kicks in when you are relaxed. This part of the nervous system helps you digest your food, relax and sleep.
  • Poor flow of bile. Bile normally empties from your gallbladder into your small intestine. Bile stimulates the movement of your digestive tract. Herbal medicines help stimulate the production and flow of bile.

How Can Massage Therapy Help Bowel Movements?

While it might not seem obvious that massage therapy can help constipation, it can. If stress is the cause of the problem, massage therapy helps relax muscles and invokes parasympathetic nervous system activity. The parasympathetic nervous system helps with digestion. The rhythmic contractions of the muscles that propel food and stool through your digestive tract are dependent on your parasympathetic system. Abdominal massage can be very effective in treatment for bowel issues.

What Does the Research Say About Massage Therapy for Constipation?

  • Since 1999 studies have demonstrated that abdominal massage stimulates peristalsis, decreases colonic transit time, increases the frequency of bowel movements in constipated patients and decreases the feelings of discomfort and pain that accompany it.
  • One study showed that abdominal massage increased the number of bowel movements, stool weight, and stool consistency, decreased the mean scores for straining and decreased the inability to completely empty the bowels.
  • Both lifestyle advice and abdominal massage were perceived to be beneficial in relieving symptoms of constipation for people with Parkinson’s.

Massage Therapy for Constipation Research

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Oct;15(4):436-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.07.007. Epub 2010 Aug 25.
The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation.
Sinclair M1.

Gastroenterol Nurs. 2018 Sep/Oct;41(5):396-402. doi: 10.1097/SGA.0000000000000343.
The Effect of Abdominal Massage on Constipation in the Elderly Residing in Rest Homes.
Çevik K1, Çetinkaya A, Yiğit Gökbel K, Menekşe B, Saza S, Tıkız C.

Parkinsons Dis. 2016;2016:4842090. doi: 10.1155/2016/4842090. Epub 2016 Dec 8.
Abdominal Massage for the Relief of Constipation in People with Parkinson’s: A Qualitative Study.
McClurg D1, Walker K1, Aitchison P1, Jamieson K1, Dickinson L2, Paul L3, Hagen S1, Cunnington AL4.

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