Could chronic constipation signal worsening cognitive function?
(NaturalHealth365) Chronic constipation is a condition that arises when an individual experiences three or more days between bowel movements. Although, worth mentioning, if you’re not having at least one bowel movement per day, this is already a sign of poor digestive health.
Most holistic healthcare providers will tell you that excessive sitting and sedentary lifestyles, which have become prevalent in our society due to the “comforts” of technology, greatly contributes to the growing problem of constipation. However, it is essential to note that inactivity is just one of the factors that can lead to constipation.
Beyond its impact on physical health, constipation can have broader implications. Emerging evidence suggests that chronic constipation may be indicative of worsening cognitive functionality. This connection highlights the potential link between gastrointestinal health and cognitive well-being.
How are constipation and poor brain function connected?
The recent study presented at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference reveals compelling findings regarding the link between constipation and cognitive performance. Participants who experienced constipation were found to be nearly 75% more likely to perform worse on cognitive tests compared to those with regular bowel movements, defined as having one bowel movement per day.
These results emphasize the interconnectedness of the entire body and how the health of one system can influence the well-being of another. Engaging in a lifestyle that includes a fiber-rich diet and regular exercise appears to promote healthier bowel movements, benefiting both the body and the mind.
The impact of bowel movements on cognitive function: A study of 110,000 adults
The study, consisting of data pertaining to more than 110,000 adults living in the United States, focused on the frequency of bowel movements across a full year. The frequency of bowel movements was compared to performance on cognitive testing. The data revealed that irregular excretory system functionality that takes the form of constipation causes cognitive decline to the point that it ages the brain by three years.
It is also interesting to note that the scientists behind the study analyzed gut microbiome data, studying the trillions of bacteria and parasites within the digestive tracts of participants. The analysis determined study participants with less diverse gut bacteria were less capable of digesting dietary fibers, ultimately meaning their bowel movements were less frequent and cognitive functionality also declined.
Why the connection between constipation and cognitive health is important
Indeed, the link between the excretory system and cognitive functionality remains a complex puzzle that conventionally trained scientists and medical professionals are actively striving to decipher. Of course, for holistic healthcare providers, this issue is not as “complex” as Western medicine would have you believe.
Having said that, the ongoing research in this area holds promise for potential breakthroughs that could lead to novel therapies and strategic approaches in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. But, common sense tell us, we don’t have to wait for more research. Simply put, better digestive health (and elimination) will greatly reduce the risk of poor brain function.
Tips to prevent constipation and improve cognitive performance
While engaging in regular exercise can undoubtedly help combat constipation resulting from a sedentary lifestyle, there are several additional steps you can take to maintain regularity and support a healthy excretory system.
One essential factor is your diet. Opt for a diet that is rich in fiber, as it plays a crucial role in promoting proper bowel movements. Foods like organic fruits, vegetables, and legumes are excellent sources of dietary fiber and should be incorporated into your daily meals. Fiber adds bulk to your stool, facilitating its passage through the digestive tract and reducing the risk of constipation.
On the flip side, it is essential to minimize your intake of foods that are low in fiber, particularly processed (sugary) foods. These often lack the necessary fiber content and can contribute to constipation. Instead, prioritize whole, natural foods that provide essential nutrients and support digestive health.
In addition to dietary considerations, hydration is paramount for maintaining a well-functioning excretory system. Aim to drink at least 6-8 glasses of clean water per day to keep your body adequately hydrated. Water helps soften the stool and facilitates its movement through the intestines, preventing constipation and ensuring regular bowel movements.
Ultimately, incorporating a balanced (organic) diet high in fiber while avoiding low-fiber processed foods and staying well-hydrated with enough water intake can work synergistically to support your digestive health. By combining these lifestyle choices with regular physical activity, you can significantly improve your chances of staying regular and avoiding constipation.
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