Constipation is not a particularly pleasant condition. Most people have experienced occasional difficulties with their bowels, perhaps because of an underlying short term illness, dehydration, or a poor diet. Constipation that goes away quickly is not harmful, however chronic or recurring constipation can be a serious problem.

Causes of Bowel Problems

Irregular or difficult bowel problems can be caused by diabetes, thyroid problems, haemorrhoids and a range of gut problems. If you are constipated and the symptoms are accompanied by nausea or vomiting, pain in your stomach, fever or serious aches and pains, consult your doctor immediately.

The Dangers of Being Constipated

Being chronically constipated can lead to a build up of pressure in your colon, which causes thin pockets to form in the walls of the colon. If small stools or particles of food get caught in those pouches, then the pouches may become infected. This is known as diverticulitis and can be fatal if the pockets burst, releasing the infection into other parts of your body.

Chronic constipation can also cause painful haemorrhoids and increases your risk of experiencing a rectal prolapse; a condition where you strain so hard to produce a bowel movement that part of your rectum is forced out through your anus.

Dietary Causes of Irregular Bowels

Contrary to popular belief, eating wheat can contribute to constipated feelings. Wheat does contain fibber, but it also contains several allergens, as well as opioids which impair the muscular contractions in your gut, slowing down the rate at which waste passes through your intestines and colon. Dairy products can also contribute to difficult bowel movements, especially if you are lactose intolerant. Some people can tolerate milk, but for those who cannot, digestive problems are more common than you might think. The same is true for oats, rye and other grains. Humans simply were not designed to eat grains in the quantity that we consume them today.

The biggest culprit, however, is processed food. Ready meals and convenient snack foods can contain many artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives. They are usually processed in a way that removes many valuable nutrients. It should come as no surprise that our bodies have difficulty digesting these nutrient and fibber-free foods. A diet low in fibber can increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Eating lots of fibber and drinking lots of water, keeps your bowels regular and also reduces your risk of developing colon cancer.

Preventing Bowel Problems

Some simple dietary changes would go a long way towards preventing constipation. The paleo diet involves eating only foods that a cave man would have eaten. This means staying away from grains, since intensive agriculture was not available to cave men and also avoiding dairy and processed foods. Instead, you would eat lots of meat and vegetables. Green, leafy vegetables are a great source of fibber and lack the toxins and allergens found in grains. Adapting to the paleo diet can be challenging, but once you are used to it, your gut will recover and regular bowel movements should be the norm.