Constipation isn’t an issue we talk about often – it’s probably not a hot topic of dinner conversations. “Honey, can you pass the potatoes? And, speaking of passing things………” But (or butt), while it might not be an oft-discussed subject, it is common – at one time or another, most of us will find ourselves in need of a laxative.
Though it’s so common, it’s still a pain (and a strain!). Fortunately, it’s also something that’s usually avoidable. And, even when it does find us, it’s easily remedied in most instances.
So, what exactly is constipation? What causes it? And how does cannabis help?
Per Web MD, constipation comes with several symptoms. You may have few or no bowel movements. You may have trouble with bowel moments (having to strain in order to get things moving). Your stools may be small, hard, or thin. You may have a swollen belly or abdominal pain. You have a sense that you didn’t empty your bowels completely. And, in more persistent cases, you may also feel nauseous or have bouts of vomiting.
The causes of constipation are as varied as the symptoms. They include medicine (especially narcotics, iron, antidepressants, or antacid medicines that contain aluminum or calcium), irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, neurological conditions (such as Multiple Sclerosis), an underactive thyroid, digestive system problems, eating disorders, and pregnancy.
What you eat and drink plays a role too, of course. Diets that are high in dairy (say it ain’t so, cheese!) and low in fiber leave you prone to constipation. So do diets without adequate water (dehydration’s tendency to cause constipation helps explain why it’s common when you’re experiencing a hangover). Taking too many laxatives can also lead to constipation – if you take laxatives for too long, your body forgets how to go on its own. Finally, if you live a sedentary lifestyle, you will also find yourself backed up more than others. It’s simple: getting moving gets things moving.
When is Constipation Serious?
As mentioned above, constipation is extraordinary common (someone reading this is probably experiencing it right now!). Usually, it’s not serious and it’s fleeting – given enough time, your body will readjust.
This isn’t always the case, however. Occasionally, constipation may be the symptom of something more serious.
A doctor’s visit is warranted if constipation doesn’t go away no matter what you do, if you aren’t able to pass any gas or stool, if it’s sudden and accompanied by abdominal pain, if the pain is severe, if you’re losing weight without trying, or if your stools are pencil thin.
Since some of the causes of constipation are related to lifestyle choices, it is preventable in many instances. You can lower your chances of bowel issues by eating diets high in fiber (bran muffins have their reputation for a reason), drinking water (the recommended eight glasses a day may not be enough for you), avoiding caffeine (this is recommended because caffeine acts as a diuretic – so, if you can’t give up your coffee (we understand!), at least up your water intake), reducing how much milk you drink (or switching to almond milk), exercising regularly (30 minutes a day is all that’s needed), and going to the bathroom when you feel the urge.
How Does Cannabis Help Constipation?
While constipation isn’t on the list of conditions for which medical marijuana is approved, it does seem to help. Sometimes, this help is supplemental and other times it’s more direct.
First of all, cannabis helps manage the symptoms of both Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, two diseases (as mentioned above) that marijuana helps manage. Cannabis is also used for chronic pain – this is import because the alternatives to this chronic pain are extremely constipating – according to Medical News Today, opioids lead to constipation because they increase the amount of time it takes stool to move through the digestive system, they paralyze the stomach, and they reduce digestive secretions, which limits the urge to “go.”
Cannabis may also help more directly because of its own laxative properties
Per the Medical Marijuana Blog, laxatives work because they encourage the movement of feces, directing it towards the “exit.” They also soften fecal matter, making it looser and easier to pass. They clear the intestines out, curing the constipation in the process.
Cannabis as a Natural Laxative
Cannabis offers a laxative effect because of its ability to relax the bowels. And, in fact, it has been forever used in this manner – as early as 2300 BC, hemp was used as a remedy for constipation.
Eating raw cannabis, something that’s come into practice thanks to the popularity of smoothies, provides additional benefits to consumers. This is because cannabis is – at heart – a plant and plants are filled with fiber. A diet filled with fiber is much less likely to leave you constipated than a diet with little to no fiber. But fiber doesn’t stop there – it’s also beneficial to your immune system, your heart, and even your mental health.
Whether you eat it or smoke it (or take a tincture under the tongue), cannabis is believed to be beneficial to the digestive system. THC, as we all know, is conducive to a relaxed body and a relaxed body involves relaxed bowels too. As the nerves within the intestinal walls ease, food is digested more efficiently, helping keep constipation away.
This doesn’t mean diet stops counting – there is still something to be said for maintaining a diet that is a little more “whole grains” and a little less “whole milk.”