Constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Constipation is a symptom that strongly affects the quality of life of many people: it is estimated that 10% of Italians suffer chronically from it, of which 8 out of 10 are women. If you exclude constipation as a symptom of an intestinal disorder or caused by medication, it can be considered as the most common symptom in those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
After excluding disorders that can be at the basis of secondary constipation, those who suffer from it are often abandoned by their doctor. I happen to read and hear very often that once irritable bowel syndrome has been diagnosed the physician must reassure the patient that they will not die of this disease and that they must adapt to living with it.
Personally I am not of this belief.
Constipation is in itself an adaptation of the colon which, for various reasons, "decides" to retain the feces for longer times than normal, thus reducing the expulsive movements that should move the material to the rectum from where it is expelled in the event of defecation. The reasons why constipation occurs are largely psychological and may date back to childhood or personal events that have led to a significant change in toilette habits.
Those who suffer from constipation may have the following symptoms: coated tongue, decreased appetite, bloating and flatulence, nausea, reduced attention span, depression, restlessness, headaches, insomnia and irritability, or ... they may not have any of these symptoms. This may seem very strange, especially to those who do not suffer from constipation at all, but what is frequently noted is that there are also those who apparently adjust well to their constipation, to the point where increasing the frequency of bowel movements may cause organizational problems to their day, causing strange sensations of bowel movements to which they are not accustomed.
It is calculated that the average constipated person begins to worry about their problem by requesting the help of a specialist after 17 years of affliction, a fine resistance, right? In fact, constipation is a problem that can lead to problems such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectocele, rectal prolapse, etc, requiring the patient to contact a surgeon. But behind it there is a long history of “do it yourself" attempts to resolve the long standing problem with many different methods; attempts that often lead to the surgeon. However, I would not directly blame the patient because I know that these attempts are often caused by having experienced a lack of faith in the solutions provided by official medicine.
Furthermore, constipation could be the cause of the problem whenever there is an allergy, dermatitis, recurring migraine, cystitis, vaginitis, prostatitis, back pain, dyspepsia, discovering that the root of many problems in areas other than the intestinal apparatus perhaps could be dysbiosis (alteration of normal flora bacteria) caused by stagnant feces. Dysbiosis is the result of constipation, along with a poor diet and poor digestion and it is, essentially, the disruption of the "micro biota" balance (the group of bacteria present in the colon), now considered an actual organ on its own in the body.
To have an idea of the importance of the micro biota it is suffice to say that it exceeds by far the amount of cells in the entire body, being composed of more than 100,000 billion cells.
The micro biota participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, regulates the secretion of hormones, pH and H ions, as well as the production of anti-bacterial composites. There are factors that influence the activity of the intestinal micro biota, both positive and negative, among them we can mention tolerance to the immune system, colonisation of the intestinal epithelium, the synthesis of enzymes to utilize available nutrients, resistance to stress, dietary patterns, antibiotic therapy, genetic make-up and chronic diseases. From this we understand that the correct restoration of the intestinal material is of particular importance for a good health condition.
For some years now we have heard about the intestine as being a "second brain" and it is not hard to believe, because the intestinal tract is certainly the body’s quintessential psycho-somatic organ. Scientifically we speak about brain-gut axis, and increasingly more nervous and biochemical connections are discovered between unconscious areas of the brain and the intestinal tract, in addition to the fact that there are numerous reflex systems of independent adjustment residing in the intestinal wall.
It is likely that certain behavioural attitudes in response to acute or chronic stress can cause spasms of the descending portion of the colon (the condition of an irritable colon is well-known). It could probably be the transmission of a chronic state of anxiety, for instance, the somatic translation of the attitude "I'll put up with it and go forward" in a conflict situation that cannot be resolved. If we reflect on it, we could all have one. But the reaction to stress is not the same for each individual and what is reflected from the mind to the body may have entirely personal implications. So it is understandable that there is no universal remedy that will solve the problem for everybody.
Any attempts that are usually made to resolve constipation are often doomed to failure due to the fact that we rarely get good feedback from the intestine. I always tell my patients that the brain is about eight metres away from the colon. By this I mean that the sensations that come to us from the belly are approximate and therefore the reactions that the individual may have in respect to intestinal disorders can be completely wrong. In fact, the intestine is an independent organ that we cannot control with our will but that responds very well to the impulses of our unconscious. It is as if we decided to control facial reddening when we are embarrassed or sweat when we are hot or nervous.
The remedies that everyone can find to try to solve constipation are endless, simply because the market is by far quicker than medical science in proposing solutions to its prospective clients. Moreover, behind the choice of a product for constipation there is rarely a rational decision. So in the face of a wide and imaginative selection of offers, it is difficult to decide on the right product. The result is an inadequate treatment that causes chronic constipation that drags on for many years with serious repercussions on physical and mental health.
What it would take at this point is a good psychologist or a good doctor, or better, both. In short, there is, as they say, so much to deal with. It would be appropriate to invent a figure who summarizes expertise in the physical-organic field and one who is knowledgeable about how our body reacts to various tones of the cloudy world of the psyche. It is definitely not easy to get out of this impasse and I think the hardest thing to say to the patient is that the solution cannot be immediate, which is often not accepted by the patient who is in search of a remedy to help evacuate the very same day.
Unfortunately, it is one thing is to find a remedy that helps one evacuate by taking it regularly every day, and quite another to rehabilitate the gut stimuli and normal movements without the need to take medications or supplements. Then, almost always, the complete solution of the problem is done in stages and over a rather long period of time, when it is possible to create some kind of positive conditioning, accompanying the body to respond to stimuli induced in a natural way through diet and if that is not enough, with a program structured on the use of natural supplements, chosen based on their effectiveness adapted to each individual.
A doctor who practices Colon Hydrotherapy is in a privileged position compared to other colleagues who deal with assessing the functionality of the colon. In fact Colon Hydrotherapy, unlike other instrumental examinations, is performed with the intestine filled with its normal content. Therefore the operator, from the behaviour of the colon in the various phases of filling and evacuation, draws important information that is useful in making decisions for the subsequent treatment and for monitoring step by step the progress of the treatment.
Relying on a medical practitioner of Colon Hydrotherapy can therefore be an interesting solution to solve the problem of constipation in a rational manner. I warn you, to avoid creating excessive expectations, that the therapy itself is not a quick fix, but can be a valuable tool with several advantages: an immediate well-being, even if momentary, rehabilitation of bowel movements, resolving dysbiosis which complicates the clinical situation, identification of psychosomatic connections at the base of the problem and raising awareness on the part of the patient. A greater awareness of the patient is the key to carrying forward the work on changing their habits of both diet and lifestyle.
Colon Hydrotherapy literally places doctor and patient side by side. Each strategy is motivated and discussed together so the patient is no longer alone in managing their own ailments but, supported by an expert, who is able to understand precisely what happens inside their intestines.