The digestive system is the power center of the body. There are more organs in this system than any other system. It keeps things moving in the right direction. Regular bowel movements are the cornerstone of good health as can ensure proper detoxification and absorption of nutrients. 

Anything interfering with these processes interferes with energy, sleep, mood, immune function and more. Therefore chronic constipation may lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, yeast overgrowth (candida), migraines and allergies. As a naturopathic doctor, chronic constipation is a common issue that I help address. After each meal, you should produce a bowel movement. 

Although it is very common, finding the underlying cause can be complex and differ from person to person.  Blanket treatments such as laxatives often do not address the true issue and long term use can come with side effects. The body is very complex and the root issue must be found for overall health.   

Constipation is usually a symptom of other issues caused by lack of enzymes, bacterial imbalances, allergies, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, stress, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Knowing and understanding what is causing the body to ‘back up’ is oftentimes my first step in creating individualized protocol.  

Constipation & Mood Disorders

When I see someone with chronic anxiety or depression, I oftentimes find some sort of underlying gut issue.  Notice the difference in your mood when you have a good bowel movement every day? Don’t you feel a little more optimistic about life?  It’s not a coincidence.  Most of your neurotransmitters like serotonin are made in your gut, and maintaining healthy digestion is essential for mental health.

Whether your bowels are working properly or need some TLC, below are seven healthy practices for everyone to maintain a healthy, happy gut.  If you suffer from chronic constipation, it’s a good idea to seek help from your medical practitioner or schedule an appointment with me.  

  1. Movement: If your body isn’t moving, your gut and other systems slow down.  Exercise isn’t just important for staying in shape, but is a means to keep your body functioning properly. Working your muscle groups improves muscles around your intestines promoting peristalsis (involuntary contractions of your intestines to promote bowel movement.) Yoga, pilates, walking, or Zumba all offer substantial health benefits.  Regular exercise will help keep things moving smoothly. 
  2. Proper Diet: Our digestive system is not able to break down an overload of foreign chemicals.  By minimizing processed foods and choosing whole organic foods, we supply our body with the nutrients it needs.  These whole foods also supply fiber and prebiotics needed to absorb toxins and promote bowel movement. Too much sugar, simple carbs, and processed foods gunk up the digestive track and overtime can build up an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast. 
  3. Probiotics: Our intestinal microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria and organisms.  These tiny helpers break down food and assist in elimination.  Accumulating data now indicate that the gut microbiota also communicates with the CNS--possibly through neural, endocrine and immune pathways–and thereby influences brain function and behavior. Probiotics are important for healthy digestion and a strong immune system. Food sources include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, olives, lemon pickles, and dark chocolate. 
  4. Essential Oils: Essential oils have a two-in-one effect.  Not only do they help with physical symptoms like constipation, but they also elevate the spirit.  Many people find that certain oils evoke feelings of happiness or contentment.  For constipation, I recommend Digestive Massage Tonic by Veriditas.  Both clients and friends have told me that it helps soothe abdominal tension, discomfort and occasional constipation.
  5. NAET: Sometimes, regular constipation is caused by food sensitivities, the most common being gluten, dairy, and egg. NAET is a highly effective, gentle treatment for food sensitivities as well as environmental and seasonal allergies.  If constipation or other gut problems follow you around, addressing food sensitivities can be a game changer.  Read Lisa’s testimonial about NAET and her journey to a healthy gut. 
    I’ve had to avoid casein (milk) for over two years because I would wake up with trouble breathing. Not only did the NAET treatments (you can find articles on them on psychology today as well as the NAET website) cure me of my milk intolerance, Dr. Melanie also recommended all natural remedies to help my body heal. She has truly been the answer to our prayers that I would heal from food intolerances. If you’re suffering like I was, you don’t have to. Take a chance on her. Thank you, Dr. Melanie!
  6. Micronutrient Testing:  I frequently use micronutrient testing to evaluate how the body is absorbing important vitamin and minerals like Vitamin C or magnesium.  Both these nutrients are important for keeping the bowels moving smoothly, but Vitamin C is also a key adrenal supporter and magnesium is essential for muscle recovery.  From this test, I also access the need for enzymes, detoxification or gall bladder support. You can be doing all the right things, but may need supplementation to help your body absorb the nutrients you need.
  7. Water: Drink clean, fresh, and plenty! Typically drinking half your body weight in ounces is a good place to start. This alone can help with constipation. 

Chronic constipation doesn’t have to be a mystery.  If you are struggling with occasional or chronic constipation, make an appointment with your doctor or call to learn more about my practice.

Dr. Melanie MacLaren is a naturopathic doctor and registered yoga teacher who is passionate about natural health and the individualized needs of each of her clients.

Call 317-818-1800 to learn more about Dr. Melanie or request an appointment. 


  1. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Oct;13(10):701-12. PMID: 22968153
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