My simple, laxative-free plan to stay “regular”
For the last two centuries, there has been a concept in natural medicine called “enterotoxicity.” It goes back even further in Ayurvedic medicine, in which it’s called “ama.”
The idea is that undigested and poorly digested foods that accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract create toxins that are released into the bloodstream. And these toxins can contribute to a variety of serious health conditions.
Constipation—a very common modern medical condition—is related to poor digestion and incomplete elimination of food and waste products. That’s why natural medicine considers constipation to be a risk factor for many chronic diseases.
Modern mainstream medical science routinely laughs at this idea. But a new study should make them chuckle a little less.
Studies link constipation to kidney disease and breast cancer
Researchers reviewed the medical records of millions of U.S. military veterans and found that constipation substantially increased the risk of chronic kidney disease…and even kidney failure.
I’ll give you the details on that study in a moment—along with an earlier study I co-authored that showed a link between constipation and breast cancer.
But first, let’s look at how our digestive systems help keep us healthy—and how academic-government mainstream medicine refuses to see the link between proper digestion and deadly disease.
And then I’ll share with you my simple, natural ways to improve your digestion…and keep your bowels moving.
The perils of interrupting the delicate balance of the digestive system
Digestion involves three steps. First, your stomach and upper small intestines create fluids that dissolve or break down the food you eat. Then, your lower small intestines extract energy and nutrients from the food.
Finally, the large intestine (colon) removes any remaining water in the food and returns it to the blood. (There is also “enterohepatic circulation,” which is designed to return certain metabolites to the body’s general circulation through the liver.)
It stands to reason that improperly digested food can accumulate in your GI tract—where it can be acted upon by the microbial flora (microbiome) to produce toxic metabolites that are absorbed back into your body. That is the theory behind enterotoxity and ama.
The link between constipation and breast cancer
While I was a research investigator at the National Cancer Institute, a distinguished epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco developed a hypothesis supported by clinical observations—that women with constipation have higher rates of breast cancer.
His studies indicated that toxins that accumulate in the GI tract of constipated people are absorbed back into the blood. These toxins are then concentrated in fluids in different tissues, ranging from cerumen (ear wax) to breast fluid. And he hypothesized that these toxic fluids could cause breast cancer.
But his observations were on small groups of women, so he asked me to study the question using the huge database from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
We found a strong correlation between the frequency of bowel movements and the risk of breast cancer. In fact, constipated women with the least frequent bowel movements had double the risk of breast cancer than those who weren’t constipated.
And that made constipation as big a risk factor as almost any other known cause of breast cancer.
Our article was published in 1989 in the American Journal of Public Health.1 It should have led to more serious investigations about how women can prevent breast cancer by improving digestion and nutrition for “regularity.”
Instead, we were visited by the NCI senior division director and advised that in the future, we should research “serious” topics…such as finding “biomarkers” for breast cancer (which 30 years later have yet to be found).
How constipation can lead to kidney failure
Fast forward to 2016, when researchers found that constipation also increases the risk of kidney disease.2 They reviewed the medical records of 3.5 million U.S. military veterans. Those with constipation were ranked by severity, according to how often they used laxatives.
Over seven years, there were 360,541 cases of chronic kidney disease and 7,677 cases of kidney failure in the study participants—whether they were constipated or not. This is in keeping with other findings that suggest that chronic kidney disease affects more than 10% of the population.
But here’s the interesting part…
The researchers found that the people with constipation had a 13% higher risk of kidney disease…and a 9% increased risk of kidney failure. Kidney function also deteriorated more rapidly in people with more severe constipation.
The researchers suggested that changes in the microbiome associated with constipation could be responsible. Likewise, toxins produced in the GI tract that are absorbed back into the blood can harm the kidneys (which filter the blood).
It must also be considered that the laxatives the constipated people took have side effects that may be damaging to tissues—including the kidneys.
My all-natural, laxative-free constipation cure
So now we have two studies linking enterotoxicity to chronic, deadly diseases. It’s high time that the NCI and others take the concept of enterotoxicity seriously.
But while we sit around and wait for that to happen—or, more likely, not happen—there are simple, natural steps you can take to help prevent constipation.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water (refer back to July 2015 issue for tips on drinking water safety). And consider including aspal (also known as rooibos or red bush) to help your body stay hydrated at the cellular level. This also aids in digestion…and helps stop constipation. You can find aspal in powdered extracts that can be mixed into water or any other beverage.
- Try peppermint, ginger, verbena, rose hip, or linden teas. I have personal experience with the digestive benefits of these teas. They’ve been used to help keep my family “regular” for at least five generations.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Their natural fiber keeps everything flowing smoothly through your digestive system. Ripe bananas, papaya, and prunes are particularly good if you’re constipated.
- Stay active. Constipation commonly strikes older people because they become too sedentary. Try to get at least half an hour of moderate exercise—like swimming, walking, gardening, or doing housework—every day.
- Get your thyroid checked. Low thyroid function can affect bowel function.
- Ditch the opioid painkillers. These drugs drastically slow down the movements of your GI tract. My Arthritis Relief & Reversal Protocol gives an in-depth explanation of the scientifically demonstrated ways you can relieve pain— without the deadly side effects of opioid pain pills. (To learn more about this protocol or to enroll, click here or call 866-747-9421 and ask for order code EOV3T201.)
- Toss out the laxatives. Ironically, taking laxatives regularly can actually lead to constipation—because your body builds up tolerance to them.
- Be careful with antacids. The ones that contain aluminum are thought to contribute to constipation (and potentially other diseases like cancer and dementia). Instead, fight heartburn naturally with aspal powder (dissolved in mineral water for an added digestive boost).
Peppermint or ginger tea or capsules have also been shown in studies to help reduce heartburn. And good old bicarbonate of soda tablets or powder (available at most drug stores) are another tried-and-true option.
- Avoid antidepressants. These drugs interfere with nerve transmissions that should normally stimulate the bowels to move. Last month, I revealed my 8-step plan to beat depression naturally. If you missed it, log onto www.drmicozzi.com and search for “depression.”
- Stay away from anticholinergic drugs. Constipation is one of the side effects of popular allergy drugs like Benadryl, along with the anti-nausea drug Dramamine and the sleep aid Sominex.
- Don’t take iron or calcium supplements. As you know, I advise against taking these supplements in all cases. On page 4, I discuss two of the newest reasons why you shouldn’t take calcium. And here’s another: Both calcium and iron supplements can cause constipation.
Ultimately, don’t let the relentless advertising about “regularity” influence you. Many people have regular bowel movements once or twice a day. Others may have them two or three times per week.
As long as you’re consistent, and don’t have discomfort or experience significant changes, don’t worry too much about how often you go. But if you do experience constipation frequently, take it seriously…and take steps to “eliminate” it.
1“Bowel function and breast cancer in US women.” Am J Public Health. 1989 January; 79(1): 73–75.
2“Constipation and Incident CKD.” JASN November 10, 2016.