By Dr. Paul Deglmann
Edited by Meghan Feir Walker

At some point, everyone experiences constipation or diarrhea. Whether you caught a stomach bug or are dehydrated, diarrhea and constipation are ways your body may react to various problems. But when either of these two bowel behaviors begins to happen frequently, you need to figure out why it’s happening and how to resolve these uncomfortable gut motility issues. 

Read on to learn how to support your body when it’s experiencing regular constipation and/or diarrhea, two gut motility issues.

To watch the correlating video, click here

What does “gut motility” mean?

Gut or gastrointestinal (GI) motility describes the movement of food from the time it enters your body through the mouth until it exits your body in the form of stools. From the mouth, it goes down the esophagus, the stomach, and the small and large intestines until it’s excreted through bowel movements. It’s supposed to be a smooth process. But for many people with digestive issues, the process is far from easy. 

What symptoms and conditions are associated with GI motility issues?

Constipation and diarrhea are two of the most common symptoms related to gut motility dysfunction. Constipation occurs when motility is slowed down, and diarrhea occurs when motility is too fast. 

In some cases, gut motility issues can be caused by other conditions, such as: 

  • Gastroparesis: Delayed gastric or stomach emptying
  • Achalasia: A motility issue of the esophagus 
  • Acid reflux: Stomach contents flow up instead of down
Constipation and Diarrhea: How to improve gut motility issues

While symptoms vary depending on the area of the digestive system that’s affected, common symptoms of gut motility problems include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive gas
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Acid reflux (when food goes back up the throat instead of down)
  • Regurgitation
  • Burping
  • Feeling full quickly 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

What’s the difference between normal bowel movements, constipation, and diarrhea?

Normal bowel movements: We consider one to three daily, complete bowel movements (when you know you’ve completely emptied your bowels) normal.

Constipation: The term “constipation” means difficulty passing stools. If the stool is dry and hard, that typically means you’re not getting enough water into the stool to soften it. The stools remain in the colon long after they should, allowing the colon to reabsorb water from the stools, exacerbating the problem. When the stool isn’t soft and hydrated enough, its journey down the GI tract is far more difficult.

From daily, incomplete emptying to going without a bowel movement for several weeks, the severity of constipation can vary greatly. 

When patients feel they are unable to release their stools completely, this is called incomplete emptying. This is often due to the stool being too dehydrated, but sometimes other factors are at play causing a problem in complete emptying.

Some of the most common causes of constipation include:
  • Not getting enough fiber and fluids
  • Not getting enough movement/exercise 
  • Changes in your daily routine or surroundings
  • Changes in diet
  • Anxiety/stress
  • Certain illnesses and infections

Constipation is problematic for several reasons. Not only is it incredibly uncomfortable and painful at times, but toxins carried in the stool can also cause problems when not released from the body quickly enough.

Diarrhea: Some people classify diarrhea as loose stools, while others only consider it diarrhea when the stools are liquefied. Both loose and liquefied stools can be due to fast transit time–the amount of time it takes for food to be eaten, digested, and then excreted from the body.

For some patients, diarrhea can happen often and quickly after eating. Undigested food can sometimes be seen in diarrhea because the body hasn’t been able to take the proper time to digest the food properly before it’s excreted. 

Sometimes nerves cause diarrhea. Fast motility is often a stress response in the body. Whether nervousness is caused by positive or negative life events (e.g., work, relationships, trips, planning, anticipation, etc.), the body’s stress response can cause a shift in the functioning of your digestive system. 

Besides emotional responses, your body can also be stressed from non-obvious things like blood sugar imbalance, inflammation, illness, infection, trauma, pain, etc. 

While diarrhea always seems like a negative event because of how unenjoyable it is, it does serve its purpose. If you contract food poisoning, your body will try to quickly remove the toxins through diarrhea. You want those toxins flushed out of your body as fast as possible.

Whether your transit time is too fast or too slow, you must find out why your body feels the need to slow down or quicken transit time. 

What common factors influence gut motility?

Sometimes nerves cause constipation. Other times nervousness can cause diarrhea. Many factors can influence gut motility, and what can cause constipation in some can cause diarrhea in others. 

Some of the most common factors that can influence gut motility include:

  • Food sensitivities
  • Nutritional deficiencies: This can include nutrients like folate, magnesium, and vitamin C
  • Stress
  • Thyroid dysfunction: Hypothyroidism tends to contribute to constipation and hyperthyroid tends to contribute to diarrhea; thyroid hormone can increase the transit time and stimulate motility
  • Brain-gut axis communication: The brain has to signal to the gut to activate the vagus nerve, activate the migrating motor complexes, and move food along the GI tract
  • Dysbiosis: Imbalances in the gut microbiome 

Can you test gut motility performance?

If you suspect you’re dealing with motility issues due to problems like frequent constipation and diarrhea, there are several ways you can test to try and figure out why motility isn’t optimal..

The most common tests include:

  • Food allergy and food sensitivity testing 
  • Micronutrient/nutritional deficiencies testing
  • Stool tests
  • Organic acid tests, which is a urine test 
  • Adrenal or cortisol panel which will measure your stress hormone output 
  • A full thyroid panel
  • Functional neurological examination to see how well your nervous system is functioning and see how well the brain-gut axis is functioning
Constipation and Diarrhea: How to improve gut motility issues

What can you do about your gut motility issues?

If you know why you’re having motility issues, you can find better solutions to fix the problem. This is why testing is so important to us at Restorative Health Solutions. Testing enables us to give you the most accurate picture of your health condition and bodily functions, enabling us to know the best, most effective ways to solve the problem(s). Testing helps personalize your plan, making it unique to your body’s situation.

After testing, we’ll provide suggestions and guidelines to improve your motility issues. The most common applications after testing include: 

  • A personalized diet based on your food allergies and food sensitivities. 
  • Lifestyle suggestions 
  • Supplement plans to help balance the microbiome, address nutritional deficiencies, and  support healthy adrenal/cortisol function
  • And more

Remember: Test, don’t guess!

Constipation and Diarrhea: How to improve gut motility issues

Can you improve motility issues without testing?

At Restorative Health Solutions (RHS), we always advise getting accurate testing done.

Diet

If you’re unable to test right now, consider your diet and its effects on gut functions. The things you eat every day can majorly affect bowel movement behavior. 

Since diet plays a major role in digestive health, it’s important to test and not guess. However, some food culprits that commonly affect gut health are grains, including wheat, corn, rice, oats, etc. Dairy, soy, sugar, and nuts are common sensitivities as well.

Probiotics and supplements

The state of your microbiome is a massive factor when it comes to digestive problems. While it’s difficult to determine the state of your microbiome without testing, certain probiotics may be helpful for some people.

Certain supplements can also help speed up or slow down motility.

With constipation, some patients find magnesium (particularly ozonated magnesium or magnesium citrate), vitamin C, cape aloe (a more natural laxative fiber), and dairy-free colostrum helpful to speed up bowel movements.

Dairy-free colostrum and fiber are also used to address diarrhea because both can positively impact motility problems.

While certain diets, supplements, and probiotics can all be useful tools in alleviating symptoms, testing is always recommended. To ensure you’re making the right choice for your health condition, we also recommend consulting with your healthcare practitioner before starting any supplements or new diets.

Summary

I hope this article has been helpful for you as you navigate your daily health goals! For a free 15-minute consultation with an RHS doctor, call 952-479-7801 or visit restorativehealthsolutions.com.

If you don’t have time to read the entire article, here are the main points we discussed:

  • Constipation and diarrhea are two of the most common symptoms related to gut motility dysfunction.
  • Constipation occurs when motility is slowed down, and diarrhea occurs when motility is too fast.
  • In some cases, gut motility issues can be caused by other conditions, such as gastroparesis, achalasia, and acid reflux.
  • Symptoms vary depending on the area of the digestive system that’s affected, but common symptoms of gut motility problems include constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas, abdominal pain or swelling, difficulty swallowing, acid reflux, regurgitation, burping, feeling full quickly, nausea, vomiting, and weight issues.
  • Some of the most common factors that can influence gut motility include, food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, stress, thyroid dysfunction, brain-gut axis communication, and dysbiosis.
  • If you think you have gut motility issues, the most common ways to test are food allergy and food sensitivity testing, micronutrient/nutritional deficiencies testing, stool tests, organic acid tests, an adrenal or cortisol panel, a full thyroid panel, and a functional neurological examination.
  • Remember, test, don’t guess!
  • After testing, we provide suggestions and guidelines to improve your motility issues.
  • The most common applications after testing include a personalized diet, lifestyle suggestions, supplement plans, and more.
  • We always advise getting accurate testing done, but if you can’t, try an elimination diet, probiotics, or other supplements.
  • Wheat, corn, rice, oats, dairy, soy, sugar, and nuts are common food sensitivities that affect gut motility.
  • Probiotics can improve the state of your microbiome.
  • Certain supplements can also help speed up or slow down motility.
  • Some patients with constipation find magnesium (ozonated magnesium or magnesium citrate), vitamin C, cape aloe, and dairy-free colostrum helpful to speed up bowel movements.
  • Dairy-free colostrum and fiber are also used to address diarrhea because both can positively impact motility problems.
  • Testing is always recommended to ensure the right choice for your health condition.
  • We also recommend consulting with your healthcare practitioner before starting any supplements or new diets.

You CAN feel better!

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