Constipation is a problem experienced by about 25% of the population and affects all ages. Although not generally considered a serious condition, it can cause great discomfort and have long-term consequences far beyond that.
What Does It Matter if You're Constipated?
Constipation is a much more significant problem than it may first appear. Being constipated is not just about having fewer bowel movements, abdominal pain, straining, or any of the other possible associated symptoms. More importantly for long-term health, it’s a serious dysfunction in your entire digestive and elimination process.
Constipation is a symptom of slow transit time (not unlike traffic). When the colon is backed up, then the small intestine is backed up. And when the intestines are backed up, the stomach has a delay in gastric emptying. This is why some people with constipation also experience heartburn and reflux.
This of course affects digestion and therefore can contribute to the malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to a wide spectrum of health problems. At the other end of gastrointestinal tract it also causes a delay in the removal of waste from the body, not just from the colon.
How Does Constipation Slow the Removal of Wastes from the Entire Body?
The liver is responsible for removing a majority of toxins (including pollutants, hormones, drugs, heavy metals, and even cholesterol) from the blood stream. Much of this waste is then dumped into the gastrointestinal tract (GI) for final disposal.
If the GI tract is slowed in it’s transit time, then these toxins are not removed in a timely manner and may even be reabsorbed. This is akin to setting the garbage out at the curb but not having it picked up for several weeks. It’s not good for the neighborhood, so to speak.
What Qualifies as Constipation?
There are several ways of defining constipation. However, the two major issues are the frequency of bowel movements and their firmness. Optimal GI function requires having a bowel movement at least once per day. Bowels movements that are difficult to pass, very firm, or small rabbit like pellets also qualify as constipation. Other symptoms may include bloating, distension, abdominal pain, or a sense of incomplete emptying.
If you don’t have these symptoms but you rely on extra fiber (such as Metamucil), a stool softener, laxative, or some other method to prevent these symptoms then you have constipation.
What Causes Constipation?
Most chronic constipation is due to either food allergies or hypothyroidism, or a combination of both. Very few people are truly deficient in fiber, even though taking excess fiber may ultimately relieve the condition. Many medications also can cause constipation. Neurological and physiological causes also exist, but are relatively uncommon.
How Is Constipation Treated?
Short-term treatments for relieving constipation include fiber, water, exercise, flax oil, magnesium (such as Milk of Magnesia), laxatives, and even enemas and suppositories. A long-term need for extra fiber, magnesium or laxatives to relieve constipation indicates that the underlying cause has not been addressed.
How Do I Remove the Cause of My Constipation?
To permanently resolve chronic constipation the source of the problem must be discovered. This generally requires a thorough screening for both hypothyroidism and food allergies, two conditions that are often misdiagnosed.
Food allergies are well known in the medial literature to cause constipation. A list of medical references is available at the online version of this newsletter located on the website.
If you suffer from constipation or any of the symptoms mentioned in this article please make an appointment at the IBS Treatment Center at 206-264-1111.
Constipation Case Studies
Case #1: 42 year old female with one bowel movement every 3 days. This patient had required laxatives for the previous 10 years in order to stay regular. She also experienced heartburn and was taking medication for high blood pressure After ELISA blood testing for food allergies and removing eggs and dairy from her diet she was able to discontinue all laxatives and her constipation and heartburn both completely resolved. Her blood pressure also dropped and she was able to discontinue her medication.
Case #2: 59 year old female with constipation and bad abdominal cramping. This patient had one bowel movement every 4 days and required laxatives. All her life she had experienced small round hard stools and bad cramps. She was evaluated with the ELISA food allergy panel and discovered allergic to eggs and plums. She also was found to be hypothyroid even though she had been told that her thyroid was normal. After treating both of these conditions her pain disappeared and her symptoms resolved.
Case #3: 30 year old male patient with Celiac Disease. This patient had previously experience alternating constipation and diarrhea. After being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease) and removing wheat, barley, and rye from his diet his diarrhea resolved. However, his constipation became worse. Through the ELISA food allergy panel it was discovered that he was allergic to dairy. Upon the removal of dairy from his diet his bowel movements finally became regular.
Case #4: 6 month old baby with constipation, reflux and colic. This patient was breast feeding and bottle feeding. He was taken off of dairy formula and improved tremendously. However, his mother was also allergic to dairy and was passing on her antibodies in her breast milk. The baby was still reacting to her food allergy and his symptoms did not fully resolve until they were both off of dairy.
What’s New at FoodAllergySolutions.com
The IBS Treatment Center, Dr. Wangen's clinic for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, has the most informative site on the Internet about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Be sure to visit the site and recommend it to those who need it. Detailed information is now available on the cause and treatment of the following conditions:We also have the latest information on restaurants, books, lab testing for food allergies, and much more, including:
The web site continues to grow, so be sure to keep checking for new information.
- Restaurant listings, including web links and some menus, catering to people with food allergies
- Book reviews of the most popular books on food allergies.
- Archives of current and previous Food Allergy Solutions newsletters.
- Expanded information that takes you beyond the newsletters.
- Medical references demonstrating the link between food allergies and various conditions.
- Subscribing to this newsletter by email.
- Consultation and testing procedures for friends and family not able to make it to the clinic.
- Hypoallergenic protein powders and bars available for purchase.
Medical References for Constipation
J Pediatr. 1995 Jan;126(1):34-9.Chronic constipation as a symptom of cow milk allergy.
Iacono G, Carroccio A, Cavataio F, Montalto G, Cantarero MD, Notarbartolo A.Cattedra di Patologia Medica II, Universita di Palermo Ospedale Pediatrico G. Di Cristina, Italy.
Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1984 Jan 21;288(6412):236.Allergy to cow's milk presenting as chronic constipation.McGrath J.
Pol Merkuriusz Lek. 2003 Sep;15(87):226-30.[The assessment of the influence of IgE-mediated food allergy on colonic transit time in children with chronic constipation][Article in Polish]Romanczuk W, Samojedny A.
Am Fam Physician. 2003 Sep 15;68(6):1016.Cow's milk protein intolerance and childhood constipation.Mora W.
Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2001 Dec;12(6):339-42.Cow's milk protein intolerance and chronic constipation in children.Daher S, Tahan S, Sole D, Naspitz CK, Da Silva Patricio FR, Neto UF, De Morais MB.Divisions of Allergy, Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, UNIFESP - EPM, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2001 Jul;40(7):399-402.Allergic constipation: association with infantile milk allergy.Vanderhoof JA, Perry D, Hanner TL, Young RJ.University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University, Children's Hospital, Omaha 68198-5160, USA.
J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2000 Feb;30(2):224.Constipation and intolerance to cow's milk.Stricker T, Braegger CP.Gastroenterology and Nutrition, University Children's Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.
N Engl J Med. 1999 Mar 18;340(11):891-2.Cow's milk and chronic constipation in children.Shah N, Lindley K, Milla P.N Engl J Med. 1998 Oct 15;339(16):1100-4.Intolerance of cow's milk and chronic constipation in children.Iacono G, Cavataio F, Montalto G, Florena A, Tumminello M, Soresi M, Notarbartolo A, Carroccio A.Divisione di Pediatria, Ospedale G. Di Cristina, Palermo, Italy.
J Pediatr. 2003 Jul;143(1):39-47.A consistent pattern of minor immunodeficiency and subtle enteropathy in children with multiple food allergy.Latcham F, Merino F, Lang A, Garvey J, Thomson MA, Walker-Smith JA, Davies SE, Phillips AD, Murch SH.Centre for Paediatric Gastroenterology and Department of Dietetics and Histopathology, Royal Free and University College School of Medicine, London, United Kingdom.
Pediatrics. 2003 Jun;111(6 Pt 3):1609-16.Clinical aspects of gastrointestinal food allergy in childhood.Sicherer SH.Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Division of Allergy and Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029-6574, USA.
J Med Assoc Thai. 2003 Feb;86(2):116-23.Gastrointestinal manifestations of cow's milk protein allergy during the first year of life.Yimyaem P, Chongsrisawat V, Vivatvakin B, Wisedopas N.Gastroenterology Division, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.
Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 Dec;89(6 Suppl 1):65-8.Gastrointestinal manifestations of cow's milk allergy.Magazzu G, Scoglio R.Department of Paediatrics, Paediatric Gastroenterology Unit, University of Messina, Messina, Italy.
Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002 Jun;2(3):217-25.Cow's milk allergy in infancy.Heine RG, Elsayed S, Hosking CS, Hill DJ.Department of Allergy, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia. email@example.com
Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2001;12 Suppl 14:43-6.Gastrointestinal allergy: clinical symptoms and immunological mechanisms.Strobel S, Hourihane JO.Immunobiology Unit, Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, UK.
Allerg Immunol (Paris). 2000 Dec;32(10):378-80.[Infant food allergy: digestive manifestations][Article in French]de Boissieu D, Dupont C.Hopital Saint-Vincent-de-Paul-82, avenue Denfert-Rochereau-75014 Paris.
Practitioner. 2000 Feb;244(1607):63-8.A six-year old suffering from constipation.Brown S, Kerrigan P, Waterston T.
Allergy. 2000 Jun;55(6):574-9.Evidence of very delayed clinical reactions to cow's milk in cow's milk-intolerant patients.Carroccio A, Montalto G, Custro N, Notarbartolo A, Cavataio F, D'Amico D, Alabrese D, Iacono G.Internal Medicine, University Hospital of Palermo, Italy.
Clin Exp Allergy. 1998 Jul;28(7):817-23.Persistent cow's milk protein intolerance in infants: the changing faces of the same disease.Iacono G, Cavataio F, Montalto G, Soresi M, Notarbartolo A, Carroccio A.II Divisione di Pediatria, Ospedale Di Cristina, Universita di Palermo, Italy.
Pediatr Med Chir. 1996 Mar-Apr;18(2):131-9.[The most common gastrointestinal problems in pediatric practice][Article in Italian]Zoppi G.Cattedra e Divisione di Pediatria-Ospedale Civile Maggiore di Verona, Italia.
Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1983 Nov 26;287(6405):1593.Allergy to cows' milk presenting as chronic constipation.Chin KC, Tarlow MJ, Allfree AJ.Top
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Dr. Stephen WangenStephen Wangen
IBS Treatment Center and Center for Food Allergies
1229 Madison St., Suite 1220 • Seattle WA 98104 • 206-264-1111
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