Constipation is a major problem, laxatives account for about 1% of prescriptions and 700 different over-the-counter remedies.  That’s a lot of science devoted to helping our bodies do what they should be able to do on their own. Why are so many people having trouble going to the bathroom? Stress, diet, lack of exercise, dehydration, medication? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Those are all symptoms of a problem I’ll call lack-of-wellness. If you’re stressed out, eating junk, sitting in one spot 23 hours a day, a soft drink in one hand, and a bottle of prescription pill bottles in another (or any combination of), you’re not well and your body isn’t going to function very well. You should be able to push out waste, fully and completely, without problem. If that’s not happening, you need to take inventory of your life, identify where you’re not well, and immediately start a course of action aimed toward improvement.
Taking a harsh laxative should not be part of the plan. What should be? Activities and habits that will decrease your stress levels and activate your body. Here are three, holistic approaches to getting not only your digestion in order, but also your whole body.
1. Chiropractic Adjustments
Restoring balance within the body is a focus of chiropractic medicine. An imbalanced body is an improperly functioning body, and “improperly functioning” can describe any system operating at sub-par capacity. If you’re constipated, your body is running at sub-par performance, and an adjustment may help.
The Palmer College of Chiropractic reported an instance of an 8-year-old boy who had been experiencing chronic constipation since birth. Laxatives, high fluid intake, and high fiber intake had not provided relief. An examination revealed he had a misalignment in his spine. Adjustment procedures were performed, along with abdominal massage. After the very first session, the patient experienced improvement in bowel function. He received two sessions a week for the next four weeks, at which point it was reported that normal bowel function had returned entirely. In a follow-up thirteen years later, the boy, now a man, still had normal bowel function. 
Reflexology is similar to acupressure or acupuncture, except the focus is placed solely on the feet, no pun intended. The feet are believed to contain points that can be stimulated to tap into the body’s systems. Reflexologists claim that reflexology can be beneficial in the alleviating many health problems and conditions, including constipation. At the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College in London, nineteen females with constipation were recruited for six weeks of reflexology sessions. An astounding ninety-four percent of them reported an improvement in constipation symptoms, as well as their general health, mental health and vitality. 
3. Spinal Magnetic Stimulation
A magnetic stimulator is a device with electromagnets that have fluctuating magnetic strength. A changing electrical current makes them fluctuate very fast to produce a pulsing electromagnetic field. When the electromagnetic field is applied to the body, it’s thought to stimulate and activate cells. Magnetic stimulation has been used therapeutically on points all over the body, including the brain. Some research has shown that it can help stimulate the intestinal system when constipation is a problem.
In 2012, the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association published a study that examined the feasibility of spinal magnetic stimulation (SMS) to help manage constipation in elderly patients. Nineteen constipated patients over 65 received twelve 20-minute stimulation sessions. At the end of the twelve-day period, nearly all reported significant improvement in colonic transit time, frequency of bowel movements, and time needed to use the restroom. This is positive news and shows that SMS intervention may benefit elderly patients with severe constipation. 
Increase Your Wellness
According to the Division of Gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic, constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal disorders in Western society. It’s a problem that tends to worsen with age (though it does not have to) and really leads to a quality of life decline.  Conversely, many people who regularly receive chiropractic adjustments, visit with a reflexologist, and even participate in magnetic stimulation will tell you that these activities increase their wellness and enhance their quality of life. Combining wellness therapies with a well balanced diet and regular exercise is a near guaranteed way to not only overcoming constipation, but also the blah, sluggish anchor on life that it produces.
Have you tried any of the holistic techniques listed (or not listed) above? If so, please leave a comment and share with us how it impacted your life.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
- Rodrigues-Fisher L, Bourguignon C, Good BV. Dietary fiber nursing intervention: prevention of constipation in older adults. Clin Nurs Res. 1993 Nov;2(4):464-77.
- Quist DM, Duray SM. Resolution of symptoms of chronic constipation in an 8-year-old male after chiropractic treatment. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2007 Jan;30(1):65-8.
- Woodward S, Norton C, Barriball KL. A pilot study of the effectiveness of reflexology in treating idiopathic constipation in women. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010 Feb;16(1):41-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.06.002.
- Wang CP, Tsai PY. Efficacy of spinal magnetic stimulation in elderly persons with chronic constipation. J Chin Med Assoc. 2012 Mar;75(3):127-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jcma.2012.02.004. Epub 2012 Mar 9.
- Gallegos-Orozco JF, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Sterler SM, Stoa JM. Chronic constipation in the elderly. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan;107(1):18-25; quiz 26. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.349. Epub 2011 Oct 11.