By Jane Keep, London, UK.
As a little girl I was regularly constipated. It was painful and uncomfortable. On and off through my life I continued to have bouts of constipation, although this is very rare nowadays.
When I was constipated, I could feel the strain and tension this put on my whole body, not just my bowels and their opening (or not)! I felt sluggish, lethargic, at times restless and my skin and hair were dull.
It’s odd when you consider it – if someone asked me to store my garbage bin in my bedroom I’d shriek with horror. Or if someone asked me to have a bath in water amongst the contents of my food recycle bin I’d cringe with disgust, yet, constipation is holding onto waste material that is no longer natural for the body to hold onto. If we would not have our garbage in our bedroom, then why would we want to hold onto waste in our body longer than is natural? We can shower, bathe and be clean on the outside, but if we are holding onto waste on the inside, our health will still be affected despite the outer appearances.
Constipation is a common condition, affecting people of all ages. Simply defined it means that we are not passing stools regularly, or that we are unable to completely empty our bowel. Other symptoms can include stomach aches, cramps, feeling bloated, nauseous, sick, and a loss of appetite.1
It is difficult to put statistics onto constipation, but “it’s estimated that around one in every seven adults and up to one in every three children in the UK has constipation at any one time. The condition affects twice as many women as men and is also more common in older adults and during pregnancy”.2 The figures are probably a lot higher as it is possible that constipation is just accepted as a ‘normal’ consequence of daily living nowadays and not mentioned to doctors or medical practitioners.
There are a number of lifestyle factors that can contribute to constipation including lack of exercise and dietary fibre, dehydration, inadequate rest and sleep and ignoring or overriding the body’s natural urge to pass stools. In addition, there can be medical conditions like anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions as well as side effects of medications that contribute to constipation.
As well as the way we live, the way we are in the world also has a role to play here – as constipation is also the consequence of holding on to our hurts and literally not letting go of things in our life that no longer serve us.
In modern times there are many ‘remedies’ for constipation, such as diets high in fibre, laxatives, suppositories, and enemas. There are people who have lived on laxatives all their lives because of constipation – yet they are still stuck in a cycle of constipation, as the underlying issues have not been addressed.
If we are willing to address these issues, listening to our body will support us, as will becoming aware of whether there are any patterns to our constipation; are there any times of day, the week, or the year when it becomes more prevalent? Does it come on after a difficult experience or really stressful time? Does it come on when we have been too busy to take care of our basic physiological needs?
But the question still remains… why do we choose to hold onto waste longer than is natural? Why are we not ‘letting go’? More so, perhaps there is a simple question to be asked at these times: What am I holding onto? What do I not want to let go of? It may well be that whilst there are physical factors to constipation, the way we are in life, our ability to ‘let go’ literally could be a key underlying factor in many, if not all, causes of constipation and one that is worthy of deeper consideration. Clues to this may also be whether we dwell on things from the past, undealt with resentments for example, or do we hold onto material possessions that are ‘past their sell by date’ and no longer serve us – do we hold onto clutter in our daily lives? Do we bury issues or hurts so deeply, and in that hold onto them more than we consciously realise?
Constipation is possibly one of the most unsexy topics of conversation to have(!) yet, it is much needed. If we spoke with one another honestly about these so called common ailments – and found a place of honesty about whether we are holding on, or not letting go, or burying our issues, or not allowing our life to flow in some way… we may just find that it is not medication, fibre, enemas etc that we need to free us up – but, a different way of being in the world, with a new relationship with ourselves of understanding, allowing, and letting go. I know the more honest I have become, and the more I take care of myself and my daily living choices, the more I can see if I am holding onto something, not letting go, or not in the natural, true flow of life – at which point I can deepen my understanding, make changes and new choices in my life to allow things to flow again.
Constipation may not be sexy – but we do need to let go!