Living with chronic constipation is hard, both physically and mentally. It is embarrassing to talk about as it is often a source for crude jokes, whereas its counterpart, diarrhoea is more commonly sympathised, due to its link with food poisoning.
Constipation is a result (or symptom) of an underlying problem. Such as, colonic inertia, IBS, crohns disease, celiac disease, emotional stress, hormones or as a side effect of treatment of another problem like cancer.
I have spoken to many people who suffer with constipation and they often tell me that they take antidepressants to cope with their chronic illness, however one of the most common side effect of antidepressant drugs is constipation… a bit counter intuitive, no?
When I was seventeen I was pretty much suicidal. I didn’t want to deal with my condition any more, the doctors weren’t helping me and I got to the point where I couldn’t and wouldn’t eat anymore. It was at this point I got addicted to laxatives. Life was bad. Again the doctors wanted to put me on antidepressants but I refused.
I then went to university, where I met some really inspirational people who have changed my life, including my other half. After a year or so I managed to get off the laxatives but still had the cloud of depression over me.
Right now, I still really suffer from good days and bad days, but the bad days are rarer now. I exercise regularly, eat health and drink at least two litres of water every day. I follow a low FODMAP diet and I eat foods high in tryptophan which helps to produce serotonin (which makes you happier and aids my Resolor).
About ninety percent of serotonin is produced in the gut. It is a very important hormone that has an important role in controlling your mood. It is usually referred to as the happy hormone… because… well… it makes you feel happy.
People who suffer with slow bowel transit (colonic Inertia) often suffer with depression. They pretty much go hand in hand. Serotonin controls peristalsis (the wave like motion that moves things along the bowel in a timely manner). People who have low levels of serotonin also often have symptoms of colonic inertia or vice versa, which causes constipation by drying out the stool. They also have low mood level, are grumpy, irritable and are often fatigued.
It might be worth anyone with chronic constipation asking a doctor to check their serotonin level as it could be a contributing factor.
I currently take Resolor (Prucalapride) which mimics serotonin in the body and helps speed up peristalsis. By just changing your diet and eating foods high in tryptophan (which metabolises into serotonin) you can improve your mood and speed up your transit time to some degree. Try to stay away from food you are intolerant to: dairy is a big contributor to constipation, especially in children.
To help initially you should ask your doctor if 5-HTP supplements. It is a plant extract which is a protein of tryptophan. It is often used to combat mild depression, among other problems but it can help you while you’re adjusting and assist in lightening you mood. but please whatever you do talk to your GP first.
To find out more about how serotonin works in the body read Secrets of Serotonin By CAROL HART, PH.D.