Constipation and depression have a history of coinciding with each other. Is it coincidence or is there an underlying reason? Constipation can be a painful and troublesome condition, but does it cause clinical depression? And on the other hand, can depression actually cause constipation? I hope to help lay these questions to rest for any one suffering from these two conditions.
We should first look at what the diagnosis for constipation consists of. Constipation is when the individual has two or fewer bowel movements within a week. If three days pass with no bowel movement, it could pose a serious health risk. The stool will continue to harden the longer itâs in the body, making it even more difficult to expel. Patients are also considered constipated if they experience hard stools, straining or incomplete evacuations 25% of the time they do have bowel movements.
Depression can be the result of numerous factors. Lifestyle changes, eating habits, loss of a loved one and health issues can play a huge role in depression cases. Depression can also be rather difficult to diagnose in many cases. Understanding the signs and symptoms of both of these conditions will help you to have a better understanding of what to look for, how to deal with them and how to prevent them.
How to tell if you may be Depressed
The two most obvious symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or hopelessness and a general loss of interest in daily activities that usually bring pleasure. Depression can be difficult to diagnose properly because it truly is a condition of extremes. It can cause weight gain or weight loss. It can cause insomnia or the sufferer may want to sleep all day. It can cause pain to move while at the same time causing restlessness. And yes, it can cause constipation or diarrhea.
Depression affects the bodyâs entire system, not just the emotional aspect. It causes the digestive system to function improperly. Headaches and bodily pain are commonplace. In a state of depression, the brain actually isnât functioning the way itâs supposed to. Itâs no wonder that depressed individuals feel as though the world is falling down around them. In a sense, it really is.
In the brain, there are two chemicals that affect your mood. Serotonin and norepinephrine. These two chemicals work as transmitters, sending signals from the brain to the nerves in the body. When there is a deficiency in these chemicals, the signals donât get sent and it throws everything off. Itâs interesting to note, that in most cases, the body can actually fix the problem itself. Unfortunately, it can take 1 to 3 years for that to happen and deeply depressed sufferers canât wait that long.
To replace the depleted serotonin and norepinephrine levels, patients are usually prescribed Antidepressants. One of the main side effects of Antidepressants is constipation.
Why constipation makes us feel depressed
While constipation in and of itself does not cause clinical depression, it can cause someone to feel depressed. The reason is again because of the chemicals in the brain. Constipation prohibits food nutrients from being absorbed by the body. These nutrients are needed for the brain to produce the right amount of serotonin and norepinephrine. When constipated for a long period, the lining of the small intestine can actually build up a layer of toxins that fully prevent any nutrients from being absorbed. Toxins that are normally expelled by the body through bowel movements now have nowhere to go but to be re-absorbed by the body, making matters even worse.
Women are prime targets for both conditions, especially while pregnant. The bodyâs hormones are going so berserk that depression is rarely not seen during or after pregnancy. Another stage in a womanâs life that brings on depression is menopause. Itâs been shown that estrogen provokes dramatic changes in the brainâs activity.
What can be done to prevent constipation and depression?
When youâre not feeling good, or feeling depressed about something, the most common thing people tend to do is head for some comfort food. Itâs usually heavy and unhealthy but totally delicious, right? Unfortunately, those foods, when eaten in large quantities, wreck havoc on an already delicate gastrointestinal situation. It makes it almost inevitable that when youâre depressed, youâll also end up constipated. Itâs a vicious circle that many get stuck in.
The chances of becoming constipated and/or depressed can be dramatically lowered by eating a healthy diet and following a regular exercise routine. Avoiding alcohol and drugs can save the body from many traumas, both mental and physical. Try to follow a regular sleep pattern. Most importantly, if you begin to feel depressed, or have thoughts of suicide, you need to seek help as soon as possible.
The Colon Cleansing & Constipation Resource Center
Most people experience constipation at some point in their life. They make a note to eat more fiber and expect everything to go back to normal in a day or two. Luckily, for the better percentage of those inflicted, this method works. Not so lucky are the ones who are battling something much more serious than the occasional bout of constipation.
Constipation is a condition that can be very difficult to find the originating cause. There are so many different causes, from medicines to lifestyle changes, that pin-pointing the true cause of the constipation can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
One potential cause that medical experts are looking very closely at is the relation of high blood sugar and constipation. What effect does blood sugar have on the digestive system? Are diabetics at higher risk for constipation?
As it turns out, diabetics are definitely more at risk of experiencing constipation. Nearly 60% of all diabetics also suffer from constipation. Abnormal blood sugar levels can negatively affect many of the bodyâs systems and functions. When blood sugar levels are elevated, the nerves in the intestines that control the length of time waste stays in the body can be seriously damaged. The nerves canât do their job properly and food waste begins to build up in the intestines. This doesnât happen over night, of course. This condition affects type 1 diabetics who have been using insulin for a number of years.
Another disastrous effect high blood sugar has on the gastrointestinal system is Gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is when nerves in the stomach are damaged to the point that they can no longer work properly. The stomach doesnât know when to send the food through the digestive tract. Up to 75% of diabetics also have Gastroparesis.
How Does High Blood Sugar Damage the Nerves of the Intestine?
High blood sugar damages the actual blood vessels that carry oxygen and essential nutrients to the nerves of the stomach and intestine, or the vagus nerves. With the necessary nutrients and oxygen severely reduced, or stopped from reaching the vagus nerves, the digestive system goes into a state of shock. The food waste backs up and it can cause terrible complications.
The difference between Gastroparesis and constipation is that with Gastroparesis, food waste gets stuck in or near the stomach, and in constipation the waste builds up in the small intestine. How can one tell a difference? Here are some of the symptoms of Gastroparesis:
- Vomiting of undigested food
- Bloating and loss of appetite
- Heartburn, acid reflux and nausea
- Weight loss and stomach spasms
Gastroparesis can be a chronic condition and in severe cases require surgery to remedy.
Constipation can be diagnosed in a patient exhibiting the following signs:
- No bowel movements for 3 consecutive days
- Hard stools 25% of the time during bowel movements
- Straining at 25% of bowel movements
- Have two or less bowel movements per week
Treat the Cause, not the Symptom
Itâs important to understand that constipation is a symptom and not the disease. By that, I mean there must be an underlying reason for the constipation. In this case, itâs the high blood sugar level thatâs causing the constipation, not the other way around. You need to treat the cause to remedy the symptom. Treat the high blood sugar and your chances of experiencing constipation will decrease.
Constipation, while very dangerous if left untreated, is usually an easy condition to get rid of. Eating a healthier diet, with more fiber and water can greatly reduce the chances of constipation. Exercise can also have a great impact on keeping a healthy digestive tract. With both conditions, the key is to control your blood sugar levels. Healthy diets, exercise and water can help keep blood sugar levels closer to a normal level, but of course diabetics may still require assistance in controlling their sugar levels.
The New England Journal of Medicine did a study of class 2 diabetics and the effects that eating a high fiber diet can have on blood sugar levels. There were 2 groups of participants. In the first group, they were instructed to follow a diet that included 24 grams of fiber per day for six weeks. The second group did the same thing, but had to have 50 grams of fiber per day. After six weeks, the two groups switched diet regimens and followed that diet for six more weeks. It was found that when both groups were on the higher fiber diet, their blood sugar levels were lowered by 10%.
If you are diabetic and you are suffering from severe constipation, itâs time to get your blood sugar tested. The longer you wait, the more serious it can become.
The Colon Cleansing & Constipation Resource Center