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1 in 7 people are constipated and more women are affected than men and elderly people over 65 are also some of the most common  sufferers.

Doctors define constipation as difficulty opening the bowels, needing to strain to open the bowels and passing pellet like stools. Constipation can also cause your stools to be unusually hard, lumpy, large, or small. Some people who are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience  bloating and the sensation of a full bowel. 

Constipation is a known risk factor for developing colon cancer and diverticular disease.


The clinical definition of constipation is having any two of the following symptoms for at least 12 weeks of a year.

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Lumpy or hard stool
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation
  • Sensation of anorectal blockage/obstruction
  • Fewer than three bowel movements per week

Other symptoms that can occur as a result of constipation include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Coated tongue
  • Bad breath
  • Flatulence
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Skin outbreaks

Contributory factors

Constipation itself is not a disease, it is a symptom of an underlying condition.

Poor diet – Over consumption of sugary and refined foods, a lack of fibre and not drinking enough water can all contribute to constipation. A Smart Nutrition Consultation would give you practical suggestions and meals ideas to make key changes in your diet which will help to alleviate constipation and improve your overall health.

Stress – Being busy can make us wait to go to the bathroom and this delaying of a bowel movement is one of the most common reasons that people become constipated. In addition a stressful schedule can lead us to irregular eating patterns, eating on the run and making less healthy food choices, all of which contribute to constipation. A more direct affect of stress is its impact on the nervous system. Normal bowel movements are a result of complicated nervous system signals. Too much stress can cause an interruption of these signals that will affect. If you have a particularly stressful lifestyle this could be a major factor in your constipation. An Adrenal Stress Test  can be a really useful way of pinpointing the critical imbalances in stress hormones, which a qualified nutritional therapist can then work with you to resolve.

Gut flora imbalances and poor digestive health  – Digestive function and gut bacteria levels can have an impact on your transit time – the time it take for food to travel through the body . Friendly bacteria in the gut do many things including manufacturing vitamins, digesting food and improve elimination. When we have a good supply of friendly bacteria in our intestines we are much more regular. However, antibiotics, stress, certain medications and a poor diet can all lead to gut flora imbalances which may predispose us to constipation. Changes in friendly bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using Click here to buy a comprehensive digestive stool test. Smart Nutrition could  then use the results to help optimise your digestion and restore regular bowel habits.

SIBO – Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth – This condition is due to more bacteria being present in the small intestines than there should be, this can cause bloating and if the bacteria present are producing the gas methane this is know tho slow down the transit time which can cause constipation. There is more information about SIBO hereand you can buy a SIBO breath test here. . 

Low thyroid function – Constipation is a problem that can be particularly troublesome for people with hypothyroidism – an under active thyroid. Hypothyroidism slows down many of the body’s systems, including digestion and elimination, so chronic constipation can result. Some of the other symptoms of a low thyroid include tiredness, cold hands and feet, weight gain, depression. If you think hypothyroidism may be a factor in your constipation you might want to consider A Thyroid Test. Smart Nutrition could then use these test results to put together a specific diet and supplement plan for you to boost thyroid functioning and eliminate constipation.

Food intolerances – Food intolerances are one of the most common causes of constipation. Food intolerance or food sensitivity is a negative reaction to a food. It can be caused by the absence of specific chemicals or enzymes needed to digest a food substance, or to the body’s responses to certain food constituents (chemicals) either natural or artificial. The immune system response in food intolerance is much slower than in an allergy so it can be difficult to identify the offending foods. A Food Intolerance Test  can provide an excellent solution to this problem, readily identifying trigger foods.

Poor toilet habits – Modern life is so busy, many people just don’t take the time to go to the toilet properly. When we constantly ignore the need to pass a bowel movement, too much water can be absorbed from the stool and it can become dry and impacted leading to constipation. Restoring a healthy bowel habit requires a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes, both of which Smart Nutrition can help you with.

Medications – Certain medications such as painkillers, antacids, iron sulphate, anticonvulsants and anti-depressants can cause constipation as one of their side effects. However, with the proper dietary advice from a nutritional therapist, it is usually possible to minimise these effects. In addition a Smart Nutrition may also be able to help you deal with the underlying problem so that you can minimise your use of these drugs.