With the holidays right around the corner, a recent article in the Well Being Journal, A Functional Approach to Managing Constipation, got my attention. Along with the holidays comes travel, yummy cakes and cookies, extra alcohol, and not to mention a bit of stress (who said that?). All these combined, at any time of the year, can add up to a nasty bout of constipation.
Approximately 40 percent of people suffer from constipation when on vacation!
Factors contributing to constipation include not drinking enough water, a lack of dietary fiber, inadequate amounts of exercise, hormonal imbalance and gut disfunction.
One other factor that most of us don’t consider is the gut’s connection to our brain. Messages are constantly relayed between the two by our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems through our vagus nerve. Our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our “fight or flight” response, while our parasympathetic response helps us relax or “rest and digest”.
The vagus nerve oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions
Our sympathetic nervous system was designed to help us survive a life-threatening situation like a bear attack. In this situation, your heart rate speeds up to deliver more blood to areas of your body that need more oxygen. It also moves blood away from other organs like the digestive tract that are not needed at the time. When the threat is over, our parasympathetic response helps us calm down, relax and digest the meal that the bear so rudely interrupted.
Stress is a major reason why many people suffer from constipation.
While a bear attack is unlikely, most of us lead fairly stressed lifestyles. We wake up and begin doom scrolling, rush out of the house and sit in traffic only to find a busy day ahead of us. Like the bear attack, constant sources of stress activate our sympathetic nervous system telling our brain that our digestive track is not needed. This interferes with the regular contractions of the muscles along the digestive tract and decreases secretions needed for proper digestion.
The endocannabinoid system has important physiological functions
Many of our past blogs mention that we all have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS regulates and controls many of our most critical bodily functions such as sleep, mood, appetite and digestion, memory, pain control and inflammatory and immune responses. The ECS system located throughout the body making use of the cannabinoids in hemp as well as the endocannabinoids we produce. These cannabinoids attach to receptors through the body, including the gut.
The ECS helps regulate the connection between the brain and our gut through the vagus nerve. You can find cannabinoid receptors on the vagus nerve that control our digestive function system. The ECS processes and releases cannabinoids to manage the way our brain and gut send messages to each other. Since the vagus nerve is a fundamental part of our parasympathetic nervous system in charge of calming up down, it’s important maintain a healthy response.
People can learn to trigger their parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress
There are many ways to engage your parasympathetic nervous system to help us lower stress. These include mild exercise, meditation, yoga, deep breathing from your diaphragm and even nature walks. Benefits of the relaxation response include lower blood pressure, improved digestion, increased blood flow to the body’s major muscles, improved mood and concentration, better sleep quality and less fatigue.
In addition to measures that help us relax, we can use CBD to help our digestive system get back on track. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, CBD can address the causes and symptoms of constipation. It’s stress relieving and anti-inflammatory abilities have an indirect role to play in helping constipation patients. While stress can be a major contributing factor in constipation, it’s important to address other causes like a blockage, hydration, fiber and food sensitivities.
Let us help you find the right CBD product for your relaxation needs and potentially help with any bouts of constipation. Especially when traveling, CBD hemp capsules are an easy and convenient solution. One product that we especially excited about are Boulder Hemp CBD capsules. They are formulated with their in-house dry sieve keif blend, which is the absolute minimum processing they can apply to hemp flower.
And, of course, contact our resident expert if you have any questions!