From Dr. Mercola:
For most people, the topic of bowel movements is private and the actual mechanics of how stool is produced is rarely thought about. Unless, of course, you begin to experience constipation.
According to research presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting 2015, at least 15 percent of the general population experiences chronic constipation.
This is equal to approximately 63 million people in the United States. The study1 demonstrated a statistically significant link between people who suffer from chronic constipation and from other health problems, including colorectal cancer and gastric cancer.
Researchers approached this study not expecting to find anything surprising. The link between diverticulitis and chronic constipation has been well documented.
However, the links found in this study between chronic constipation, gastric cancer, rectal cancer, and ischemic colitis were not expected.2
How Is Stool Formed?
Stool is the end result of digestion, which starts in your mouth. Imagine your body as a large solid cylinder, which has a tube running from the top to the bottom of the container.
The inside of the cylinder is inside your body and the tube that runs from top to bottom is actually outside the body. This is a description of your digestive system that runs from your mouth to your anus, but never opens directly to the inside of your body.
In other words, while your digestive system is technically “inside” your body, it contains digestive juices and bacteria that should only live outside your body.
Your digestive tract plays a critical role in your overall health. Digestion starts in your mouth as you chew food and the food mixes with saliva.
Digestion ends in the large intestines, after your body has extracted nutrients and water, leaving only the waste products it can’t use. The nutrients absorbed contain energy, which you know as calories.
How many calories you eat and, more importantly, the quality and source of those calories are important factors in determining your overall health and wellness.
Another factor that impacts your overall health, and the risk of developing constipation, is the amount and type of bacteria living in your gut. These microbes are responsible for the breakdown of food, how the calories or energy are processed, and can increase or decrease your risk of allergies,3 obesity, and more.
Researchers have also determined that while your gut responds to stress reactions from your brain, your brain also receives signals from your gut that can trigger feelings of sadness.4
In other words, your digestive tract or gut is fundamentally related to more than just constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain or loss. And, because of this interrelationship with the health of the rest of your body, it should not be surprising that your gut health will affect how you look, feel, and act.
Who Gets Constipated and Why?
Some of the common causes of constipation include laxative abuse, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ignoring the urge to go. If you consistently ignore the urge to have