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Change Your Gut Flora, Cure Your Constipation

The connection between gut flora and your ability to poop regularly and normally without straining can never be underestimated. In fact, I believe gut flora to be at the heart of all constipation

I have previously spoke about the disastrous effects on your gut flora from the unnecessary use of antibiotics here, but antibiotic use is just one piece of an out of control war on gut flora that turns your digestive system upside down and solidifies the existence of constipation in your body. In fact, your gut flora just could be the very thing that, once balanced, gets your bowels pooping like you’re born to do!

This ‘war on gut flora’ is not a conscious one.

Misplaced abuse of the microbial world in our guts is commonly an indirect and ignorant one. I haven’t met someone who went out to intentionally destroy their gut flora to make their health worse.

The human gut is made up of around 100 trillion bacterial cells (10 times as many cells that exist in the human body and has an estimated surface area of a tennis court (200 m2). As this incredible intestinal tract is very rich in molecules that can be used as nutrients by microbes, it lends itself perfectly to become a warm and cosy home for microbe colonization.

The number of bacterial species present in the human gut have had varied estimates between different studies, but it has been generally accepted that it contains around 500 to 1,000 different and unique species, whilst other research indicates the human gut is housed by up to a staggering 35,000 bacterial species. Whatever it is, the average adult carries around 2-2.5 kg of gut flora in their gut.

The whole length of the digestive tract is coated with a bacterial layer which provides you with a natural barrier against virus’, undigested food, parasites, toxins, and other dangerous invaders. The colonization of these microbes in your digestive tract began before you had even left the body of your mother.

Upon passing through the birth canal, you had already come into contact with a very complex microbial world. The quality of microbes in your mother’s body at that time, which was greatly influenced by her own overall health and nutrition, determined the quality of gut flora you started your life with.

Many children who suffer from constipation or other gut related conditions don’t have some birth defect or mutation; they simply were not given the proper microbes for their digestive system that they biologically needed and which should’ve been supplied to them from their parents, particularly the mother.

Of course, this is not the mother’s fault. In no way am I pointing the finger at the mother in a chastising way.

Like I said before, I’ve never met anyone who went out of their way to destroy the health of their gut-flora.

No one.

Someone housing gut flora that is being damaged has no idea it is happening and probably has no idea that there is such thing as gut flora in the first place!… let alone the importance of it.

But the fact that the quality of your gut flora’s foundations hinged highly on the quality of the microbes you encountered in the earliest stages of your life could shed an interesting light on constipation.

I believe that many people experiencing constipation have been, in a way, set up to have it.

What do I mean?

I mean it’s possible you have been unknowingly set up in two ways…

#1: If your first interactions with microbes took place with microbe populations that were ill-balanced, lacking beneficial microbial strains, and even swamped with pathogenic microbes, your gut flora no doubt inherited this and consequently either showed immediate symptoms of digestive stress, or, as in many cases, left the digestive system in a state of perpetual susceptibility to forming troublesome digestive symptoms later on in life (like constipation!).

#2: The lack of proper health understanding, the proliferation of harmful dietary misinformation, the continual increasing of environmental toxins, and the accumulation of abnormal and dangerous levels of stress that all exist in our modern world only adds fuel to the fire and creates a support structure for constipation. The negative effects from these aforementioned traits of our modern world are greatly beyond the scope of our control when we are not even aware of them.

Constipation and modern civilization are joined at the hip.

It’s not hard to see the Western paranoia when it comes to anything bacterial. Personal and food hygiene is normal, but our society has become one where sanitizing and other cleaning products, which themselves often contain dangerous chemical compounds, have taken stronghold over every place in our lives to the point where these products have become a multi-billion dollar industry.

This obsession and overuse of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaning products can even create abnormalities in gene expression which increase risk factors for immune-hypersensitivity disorders and diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease which constipation is a known symptom of.

The relationship between gut flora and constipation is not some ‘woo-woo’ talk.

In fact, many scientific have shown the direct link.

In 2003, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted over a 4 week period where patients experiencing chronic constipation symptoms were given a probiotic beverage every day. After two weeks, 89% of the probiotic-consuming group showed vast improvement of the symptoms whilst 56% of the placebo group showed positive effects of the probiotic consumption as well.

A recent study from 2012 that included 20 women with constipation who were given probiotic treatment over a four week period found bowel movement frequency more than doubled with no side effects at all.

These are the kind of powerful results that can occur when you treat underlying causes and not symptoms.

Instead of supporting the mainstream cultural idea that we must go against, fight, and conquer the microbial world we must learn how to live with it.

It’s ironic that our culture holds this germophobic attitude in the first place. Culturing, or fermentation, is the ability to understand, use, and augment microbes for our own good. No wonder our culture, that is so against the microbial world and which is suffering from gut flora related conditions such as constipation, is full of foods that have been canned, pasteurized, and embalmed to kill off the bacterial world in them! It is no surprise that nations that have cultured foods as a central part of their cuisine, such as France with its wine and cheese, and Japan with its pickles and miso, are recognized as nations that have culture and extremely good health compared to the US.

Replacing and re-balancing gut flora is a hallmark of any good treatment program for curing constipation and that is why it is a central focus of my Cure Your Constipation protocol.

For now, adding probiotics through fermented foods into the diet, eliminating toxins from your diet, reducing your stress levels, and even becoming less of a chronic hand washer will go a long way in helping your gut flora get back to its natural job; getting you to poop effortlessly!

Best in health,

Kristopher Cleary

 

Do you suspect you have damaged gut-flora that is causing your constipation? Have you been trying to treat your damaged gut with probiotics? Do you have a question, comment or thought you’d like to share?… Leave it below in the comments section!

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15 Responses to Change Your Gut Flora, Cure Your Constipation

  1. Aly #

    Thank you Kris :-)
    The first time I noticed an improvement was with “body ecology’s super vitality greens” (it is fermented).
    That turned me on to making cultured veg. I have come across recipes that use different methods to get the good bacteria into the saurkrout.
    What have you found to work the best for the topic (bowel health) at hand? Just adding salt,miso, kelp, whey, or a specific starter sold by a company….?

    I’ve also bought and used a number of probiotic capsules. Would taking more at a time help if one does not notice any improvement?

    • Kristopher Cleary #

      Hi Aly,

      I have personally found that adding whey (along with a little salt which promote the lactic acid bacteria in competition with bad bacteria) quickens up the fermentation process and also seems to give the sauerkraut an extra ‘punch’ which may be caused by more condensed or powerful probiotics in the ‘kraut. If one does not have whey on hand then just the standard ‘cabbage and salt’ ‘kraut recipe is totally fine.

      When you’re using whey you naturally need to reduce the amount of salt used. Here’s a quick little recipe which includes whey:

      2 large cabbages.

      2 teaspoons of sea salt. Use less salt if you have a good raw milk ‘kefir’ whey.

      1 cup filtered water.

      1 cup of liquid whey.

      (Optionally, other vegetables in season. I have also used hot peppers, carrots, beets, beetroot, caraway seeds, a wide variety of fresh herbs, radish, curry powder, ginger and garlic, all with great success)

      METHOD:

      Shred the cabbage (and other vegetables if you’re using them) in a food processor or simply slice up with a knife. Put the shredded cabbage (and other veges if you have them) in a large container (preferably glass or ceramic) with the salt, water and whey. Pound them with a pestle or wooden mallet for 10 minutes – long enough to release the juices.

      Press the mash down. The liquids should just about cover the top of the mash. Put a large plate into the bucket that fits nicely and seals the top, and a heavy weight on top of it. Within a few hours, liquids should cover the top of the shredded mixture (if it did not cover to start with). If there is not enough cabbage juice, add cold filtered water (if you more whey add a little to the water).

      Leave to ferment at room temperature for 3 – 5 days. Within 1 day the smell should start to change, and within 3 days the mixture should have a delicious aroma. After 2-3 days of lacto-fermentation, vegetables start to soften and some of their components break down. As lactic acid-producing bacteria proliferate, the food becomes more acidic and easily digestible. Micronutrients such as choline are formed, the entire medium is preserved, and new flavours and aromas develop.

      Transfer to capped jars. Leave 2-3 cm / 1 inch at the top as they can bubble and leak. However, try not to expose it too much to the air, as making sauerkraut is an anaerobic process.

      If you have a respectable brand of probiotics, you can try adding some probiotic capsules and gradually increasing the dose. In fact, generally speaking, I feel that probiotic supplements are necessary, but probiotic foods that you can tolerate like sauerkraut, sour cream, etc are EXCELLENT sources of beneficial bacteria that will help you no end! Remember, it will take some time for your gut flora to adapt, shift, and change. The gut is it’s own world down there, with different species all living together. At the moment, your current state of gut flora, even though it’s ‘imbalanced’, has a certain organization strategy which is holding it all together. Some species are relying on the over-grown or under-grown state of other species. Over time, with consistent attention, you’ll see the composition of this overall gut flora change for the better.

      Best in health,

      Kristopher

  2. Aly #

    Kris, maybe you know the answer to somethings I’ve searching for answers too?
    Xylitol….while it kills bacteria in the mouth, does it kill bacteria in the intestines too? I love xylitol but it does give me loose stools. This got me thinking about what it may be doing to the gut flora? Have you come across any studies on this? Does it harm our flora? Do I need to part ways with my beloved xylitol?

    The other info I’ve been looking for is the best way to restore flora in a “shorter” amount of time. I thought maybe a doing excluivly fermented foods and raw to rare meats for a couple of days would really get things better established. Shoot one round of antibiotics can do some damage so maybe some powerful foods and suppliments can have the same power?

    Do water enemas or colonics really wash out our flora?

    • Kristopher Cleary #

      Aly,

      Xylitol…. When someone’s gut health is very strong, xylitol is often touted as a safe choice sweetener option (a ‘once a week’ type of usage). However, I don’t recommend it for people who are overcoming constipation and other symptoms of destroyed gut health. If it helps your oral health then it’s ok if you keep using it, however just don’t swallow it.

      Xylitol also has bacterial destroying (anti-biotic) properties which is what obviously helps the oral health situation. But, like I said before, it can be very harmful for a gut already suffering. There’s a study here that demonstrates xylitols antibiotic qualities.

      Water enemas and colonics do not wash away good gut flora to any considerable amount, if any at all!! If they do, it’s in such minute amounts that it does not matter one bit. But what enemas are good for is getting rid, or effectively weakening at the very least, parasites, pathogens, etc that are using your digestive tract as a home.

      Also remember that you can add good bacteria (probiotics) to enemas and colonics to introduce them directly to the colon as well!

      Maybe experiment with the fermented foods/raw-rare meats for a little while. But on the other hand, allow ‘time’ to work for you as well.

      Best in health,

      Kristopher

    • dp #

      Such an excellent question. I too have been wondering. I am not a surgeon nor do I play one one the Internet, but logic and personal experience leads me to believe that is true. A least for me. Same for sorbitol, maltitol, etc. Maybe that is why they warn it can have laxative properties. No problem, just take some probiotics and immodium with it. :)
      Seriously, this is only my opinion, which I think every post should start with. I got about 80% better when I removed them all from my diet. Almost 100% after removing it from my toothpaste,which is nearly impossible to find. Strange thing about the last part was how sickly sweet all sugary things tasted after about a week. That is when it all clicked for me.
      There are still so many questions about it and nobody ever has a straight answer. I found my answer. I wish it would not have taken 7 years of misery and mis diagnosis. Of course this only applies to my body.

  3. I tried taking probiotics last year (I was taking Phillips Colon Health probiotics) and it seemed to make things worse for me. I was really constipated though, and taking one pill a day. I thought it was helping at first, because I had loose stools for about 3 days (although they were loose, the amount was not substantial). Then I quit going at all. And I had horrible horrible stomach pain. My stomach felt really sore and cramped off and on all day. I didn’t relate the pain to the probiotics at first, and kept taking them for almost 3 weeks. Finally I quit taking them thinking they were causing my pain and about 2 days later the pain subsided. I was really impacted after this and it took laxatives to produce a BM. Do you think probiotics caused this? Was I taking the wrong kind? I read somewhere that if you are constipated not to take probiotcs. is this correct?

    • Kristopher Cleary #

      Hi Megan,

      Great to hear from you again!

      There are two things that come straight to mind:

      #1: How much did you start off with? It is quite common for people with constipation who are introducing probiotics to ensure they start of at a very low dose. Try opening the capsule with the probiotic powder in it and start off with a quarter of a probiotic capsule (added to cool water – not ‘hot’ water)… and gradually increase from there! If a quarter of a capsule causes issues, try an even smaller dose!

      #2: There may be an ingredient in the probiotic capsule that is causing a reaction for you. Maybe you have a sensitivity to this ingredient and you’ll just have to find another probiotic choice. The ingredient is probably located in the actual probiotic capsule that contains the probiotic powder. So just using powder inside the capsule without the capsule could work well.

      Let me know how it goes for you Megan!

      Best in health,

      Kristopher

  4. Olivia #

    Hi, I suffer from constipation, terrible bloating, and sometimes gas. I have decided to take up the diet you reccomend, however, I am not sure which probiotic to take. Ive never experimented with any supplements in capsul/pill form (except for stool softener! But I recently stopped) and don’t have any idea which propbiotics are harmful or beneficial. I was actually, come to think of it, advised by my doctor to take Culturelle, however I am almost positive it made me worse. Now, on a bowel cleanout, I take 8 (yes, 8!) miralax doses a day as prescribed by my doctor. The cleanout should’ve been done after 5 days, but i havent had complete liquid stool yet (the success indication) and im on day 11. I try to drink kombucha a couple times a week but I believe that’s not enough. What do you reccomend?

    • Kristopher Cleary #

      Hi Olivia =)

      Primarily, the probiotics I recommend getting are from real food; fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, etc). If you tolerate dairy, you can try getting some probiotics from yoghurt and kefir (both homemade).

      In terms of probiotic supplements, I consistently hear good things about Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics, and Garden Of Life – Primal Defense probiotics. Both can be bought over at iherb.com which are a great online supplement shop with the cheapest prices around. In fact, if you use this discount code: CEP820 , you can get up to $10 off on your purchase!

      Best in health,

      Kristopher

  5. ale #

    Don’t know where to start. … great informative articles….thank u thank u thank u…. I have recently (2 wks) have small bowel obstruction and resection was necesary…then four days later a intestinal lavage so definitely my gut is in shock…. taking four antibiotics including ciprofloxacin. I’m 30yrs old and wondering if u have an idea of the consequences short term long term of my two surgeries. I was having a bowel movement every four days even before the obstruction. …. ju

    • Hi Ale,

      I’m not a surgeon so I don’t feel comfortable making comments on the consequences of certain surgeries. However, I must say that given the right substances, the body is incredibly good at adapting to new circumstances, healing, and rejuvenating.

      The first thing I would do is ensure that you eliminate all sources of gluten from your diet. Particular properties in gluten can be very damaging to the gut lining even in people with fairly healthy digestive tracts – your digestive tract doesn’t need gluten passing through it at all.

      In fact I read this comment by someone by the name of Tuck on another health blog recently:

      “Great post. As someone who had a colon resection for diverticulitis (at 40), this is a particular interest of mine.

      The fiber hypothesis comes from Dr. Dennis Burkitt, who was practicing in Africa as the diseases of civilization began to emerge there. In “Diseases of Civilization, their Emergence and Prevention”, he details the spread of diverticulitis, along with other diseases of the gut, as the locals eat less fiberous foods and more wheat flour and sugar. He presumes that the lack of fiber was the cause, and the medical profession ran with the hypothesis for decades (and still does: who needs proof?).

      However, we know that wheat will adversely affect the lining of the gut, including the colon, and can also increase fecal volume. My doctors told me that I wasn’t eating enough fiber after my second acute attack. So I started eating more. Lots of whole wheat, and salad with seed oils. Several months later, as my diverticulitis continued to get worse, I had surgery.

      Two years later I stated reading Stephan Guyenet’s blog. Stopped eating seed oils. I stopped craving carbs, and, by accident, stopped eating wheat. After 16 years, all my symptoms of diverticulitis ceased in two days. As my gut started healing, ingesting even minute amounts of wheat would cause cramping at the site of my resection, and a reemergence of my diverticulitis symptoms.

      I have no doubt now that, at least in my case, diverticulitis was caused by wheat consumption, which was exacerbated by the inflammatory effect of seed oils. I know a few other individuals in the same situation who had the same effect. One colleague was saved from a colon resection after he told the hospital to put him on a gluten-free diet while he was in the hospital awaiting surgery. His symptoms resolved in days, and he walked out without needing the surgery.”

      So, a good diet full of natural foods – minus grains (some tolerate white rice ok), man made vegetable oils, refined sugar, etc – will be the most important part of your life long digestive health in my opinion.

      Best,

      Kristopher

      • ale #

        kristopher thanks for the information, my surgeon did sugest a blend soft diet at least for the first two months, avoid grain and fiber, lots of water and walking. all can vegegtables and vegetables to avoid grains and oatmeal… you dont happen to have an article talking about food selection to improve the digestive system? i know i need to follow my surgeons instructions but a little extra information never hurt anybody…thanks

        • Hi Ale,

          I don’t have a specific article about improving digestion overall, but it is in the works! Also, I’m writing a book that will be ready shortly that will lay down the whole process of healing the gut.

          But for now, the best things I can recommend are: eliminate grains, include a wide range of vegetables, consume bone broth daily, eliminate any processed foods, try to eat as organic as possible, and start to regulate your macro-nutrient ratios to my recommendations I explain in my post here: http://realconstipationremedies.com/getting-off-laxatives/. In your case, it might be a good idea to eliminate all dairy except for grassfed butter too.

          It’s great your surgeon suggested to stay away from fiber too!

          Email me at kriscleary@realconstipationremedies.com if you want to ask any questions privately.

          Best,

          Kristopher

  6. Therese #

    Hi, I’ve had chronic constipation for over 6 months now. After seeking medical help and an endoscopy and colonoscopy which saw no obstruction etc i believe myself its the long term use of antibiotics to treat acne that has caused it. Im just wondering what probiotic do you best recommend that works best? Ive tried ones from the pharmacy for 4 months but i saw no difference. Please help. Thank you.

    • Kristopher Cleary #

      Therese,

      Yes, I hear MANY reports of people suffering from constipation after taking antibiotics for acne e.g. Accutane. In majority of the cases the acne symptoms go away while on the antibiotics but then the acne returns just as worse, or even more worse, after the antibiotics are stopped.

      Personally I recommend obtaining probiotics from food sources – homemade sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, sour cream, etc. Those fermented dairy products should be made from raw dairy when possible.

      Apart from that I do like probiotic products such as Primal Defense, Dr Ohhira probiotics, and BioKult.

      Best,

      Kristopher

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