Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints. (1) It has been estimated that at least 4.5 million people, two-thirds of them women, suffer from constipation that is frequent and problematic enough to require medical attention. (2) Constipation can also be a sign of hormonal imbalance or even a serious disease.
How Often Should You Go to the Bathroom?
You may have heard that for optimum health, you should have at least one bowel movement per day but there is no “normal” number of bowel movements. Most people have 0-4 bowel movements a week (3) but the frequency can range from three times a day to three times a week. You should discuss any changes to your usual pattern of elimination with your doctor, especially if you are constipated (meaning that you consistently have fewer than three bowel movements per week). Constipation is considered chronic if it lasts for three months or longer. (4)
When To See Your Doctor
You should contact a doctor if any change in bowel movements has persisted for more than a few days. Even minor changes, such as constipation or diarrhea, can indicate a health issue. IBS, IBD, thyroid problems, celiac disease, and cancer can all cause persistent bowel issues.
If more severe symptoms occur, consult a doctor immediately. These can include:
- Blood, mucus, or pus in stools
- Severe abdominal cramps or pain
- Severe diarrhea that lasts more than a day
- Dizziness or confusion
- Persistent nausea or vomiting (5)
How Does Constipation Affect Hormone Balance?
Typically beginning in your early to mid-30s, the ovaries begin to make more estrogen and less progesterone. This disruption of the ideal ratio between estrogen and progesterone triggers negative responses throughout your body and brain. The medical term for this phenomenon is “estrogen dominance” which means that the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in the body is disproportionately high.
To understand estrogen dominance, it’s important to first understand the role of progesterone, as well. Estrogen and progesterone operate like sides of a seesaw, shifting up and down during a woman’s monthly cycle. When progesterone gets low, that “side” of the seesaw hits the ground, and this effect causes negative symptoms to arise: poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, heavy periods, weight gain, uterine fibroids, irritability, and even rage.
When the progesterone side of the seesaw gets “stuck” on the ground, the estrogen side is “elevated,” relative to progesterone. It’s not (necessarily) that your estrogen is high — it’s that your progesterone level drops so low that estrogen effectively “dominates.”
A contributing factor is xenoestrogens (man-made environmental estrogens) found in hormone-injected meats and poultry, certain pesticides, petrochemicals, herbicides, plastics, fuels, car exhausts, and drugs, as well as phthalates, or plastic-softening chemicals, which enter the body and add to the estrogen load. Lifestyle choices are also at fault: the wrong foods, too little exercise, too little sleep, and too much stress can increase and accelerate estrogen load and dominance, as well as constipation.
Constipation worsens estrogen dominance because the body’s natural detoxification process is what prevents the reabsorption of estrogen-like toxins into the bloodstream. When this process of elimination is hindered, excess estrogen is not allowed to leave the body by being excreted in the feces and the result is hormonal imbalance.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance include:
- Weight Gain (especially abdominal weight)
- Fatigue Depression
- Low Libido (low sex drive)
- Mood Swings
- Hot Flashes
- Night Sweats
- Tender/Fibrocystic Breasts
- Bone Loss
- Irregular Bleeding
- Hair Loss
- Brain Fog
- Cold Hands and Feet (related to thyroid problems)
Disease risks from untreated estrogen dominance include:
- Breast, Uterine and Ovarian Cancers
- Heart Disease
- Blood Clots and Strokes
- Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease
Menopause and Constipation
Constipation affects women more than men and is more likely to occur at certain times, including pregnancy and in the days preceding menstruation. It becomes increasingly common after menopause due to a decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen also weakens the pelvic floor which makes it more difficult to have a bowel movement.
How to Relieve Constipation and Restore Hormone Balance
Maintaining optimal hormone balance is a critical first step to supporting good bowel function and healthy aging. At Dr. Randolph’s Wellness Store, we offer natural supplements that can help with a variety of problems. You can also call us for a teleconsultation to get a real-time view of your hormone balance. Our experts will recommend the supplements you need to achieve balance. Some of the supplements we recommend include:
Daily probiotics support bowel regularity. As we explained in a previous article, probiotics are important for your overall health because they introduce healthy gut bacteria that can balance your system. At Dr. Randolph’s Wellness Store we offer both Daily Probiotic DF and Max Probiotic DF. Max Probiotic is our more powerful daily supplement, but both support a healthy intestinal microecology, support your natural immune system response, help with lactose digestion, and support bowel regularity.
Curcumin is the active component (primary pharmacological agent) of turmeric that offers significant anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that curcumin may help treat inflammatory bowel disease and patients with Crohn's disease. (6)
Magnesium Citrate is a supplement that can relax your bowels and provide a laxative effect. It is an osmotic laxative, which means it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. The water helps soften and bulk up your stool, which makes it easier to pass.
In stressful situations, the body's adrenal glands release a hormone called epinephrine, which plays a role in the so-called fight-or-flight response. It causes the body to divert blood flow from the intestines toward vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and brain. As a result, intestinal movement slows down, and constipation can occur. (4)
L-theanine has been found to reduce stress by promoting relaxation without drowsiness, easing nervousness due to overwork and fatigue, and reducing nervous irritability.
Dr. Randolph’s Recommendations for Good Bowel Health
In addition to these supplements, you can promote good bowel health and also rid your body of excess estrogen by eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower - they contain a phytonutrient called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that helps reduce your estrogen load. Also recommended are citrus fruits with d-Limonene, and insoluble fiber, which acts as an estrogen binder. You can find more details and other examples of estrogen-reducing "belly blasting" foods in Dr. Randolph’s book, “From Belly Fat to Belly Flat”.
Invest in your hormone health and take the steps now that will help you feel younger and more energetic for years to come. We wish you well!
- 1. Sonnenberg A, Koch T. Epidemiology of constipation in the United States. Dis Colon Rectum. 1989;32:1-8.
- 2. Sandler R, Jordan M, Shelton B. Demographic and dietary determinants of constipation in the US population. Am J Public Health. 1990;80:185-9.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3823955/ (Estrogen)