👎I am not going to tell you to “just take Miralax.”
There is nothing worse than not being able to have a proper bowel movement everyday. 🚽Your doctor may have recommended that you “just take miralax” or “drink more water” but in this episode I share the 3 culprits of slow gut motility that contribute to constipation. If you feel like you have already tried everything including: ✅magnesium, ✅fiber, ✅miralax, and ✅prescription motility medications, this episode will give you 3 action steps you may have not thought of before that will finally bring you the relief you have been looking for.
In this episode, I cover:
- 🧠How the vagus nerve impacts gut motility
- 💩What having a “complete” bowel movement means
- 🎈What it mean when you get more bloated as the day goes on
- ⚠️The top 3 causes of slow gut motility
- 🪄How to address your slow gut motility
- [0:01] Three hidden culprits of constipation
- [04:05] Definition of gut motility and signs of slow motility
- [10:15] First cause of slow motility: food poisoning and how it damages the migrating motor complex
- [18:40] Second cause of slow motility: stress and how it impacts digestion
- [24:30] Third cause of slow motility: low stomach acid and how it impacts gastric emptying and overall motility
- [30:29] Action steps to improve motility and finding lasting relief from your constipation
After listening, if you find this episode has been helpful, share this episode on Instagram and tag me, and tell me your biggest takeaway!
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- “When nothing seems to help, I go look at the stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” – Jacob Riis.
- “Just because it’s not working immediately, doesn’t mean it’s not working.”
Connect with Dr. Heather
- Purchase your copy of The Healthy, Happy Gut Cookbook: Simple, Non-Restrictive Recipes to Treat IBS, Bloating, Constipation and Other Digestive Issues the Natural Way by Dr. Heather Finley on Amazon and in Barnes and Noble
- Take the free quiz to identify the root causes of your bloating.
- Listen to our secret podcast “Fix Your Gut and Love Food Again.”
- Join the GutTogether membership program and start addressing your GI issues today!
Dr. Heather Finley
Dr. Heather Finley 00:00
If you struggle with really lumpy, hard stool, or even the feeling of I just went to the bathroom, and surely that cannot be all that’s in there, then this episode is for you. Hey, welcome to the love your gut podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Heather Finley, I know what you’re thinking, how am I supposed to love my gut when all it does is hold me back. I thought the same thing before I found my own relief from my own gut health issues. I dedicated my life to getting to the bottom of my own gut issues, so I can help women just like you transformed theirs. Now I’m here to guide you through your own gut health journey. We do this through identifying your root causes and making sustainable and transformational changes. As a result, you can unleash your true potential. My goal is to empower you with the information and tools you need to love your gut. So it loves you back right here on this podcast. Hello, hello, and welcome back to the next episode of the love your gut Podcast. Today I’m going to talk to you about three causes of slow gut motility. And you might be wondering, what on earth is gut motility? And why does it matter to me, and we are going to dive into all of that today on this episode. So there’s nothing worse than feeling like you either can’t go to the bathroom, or like you’ve just sat there for entirely too long, and you try so hard, and one small pebble comes out. Now you might be thinking, oh my gosh, I can’t believe you are talking about this on a podcast. But if you are like any of the women that we work with, this is a common struggle. And it’s not talked about enough. So I just want to normalize this a little bit. If you struggle with really lumpy hard stool, or even the feeling of I just went to the bathroom. And surely that can not be all that’s in there, then this episode is for you. I’ve had so many clients in the past that have gone to the ER or gone to even we had one recently who went to a chiropractor, and they’ve had X rays or CT scans. And they go in you know, because they’re they’re having back pain to a chiropractor, or they’re in the ER maybe because they’re having terrible stomach pain, only to find out that they are super super constipated, that their colon is just full of stool. And this is actually why they are feeling so uncomfortable. So if this has happened to you, or you think that you might struggle with a motility issue, first I want to just define what motility is. So motility is the movement of food and waste through the GI tract. And gut motility is the term given basically to the stretching and contraction of the muscles in the GI tract. So these muscles in synchrony they can tract and this is called peristalsis. And this action allows food to progress along the digestive track, while at the same time allowing nutrients to be absorbed. So this process called peristalsis, is also known as stomach or gastric motility. And when functioning appropriately, the muscles in the intestinal walls can tract and they release. This pushes the food through from the esophagus to the stomach, then through the intestines and all the way out. And there can be a lot of reasons why motility might be slow along this entire process. Your digestive tract is a very long process. You have like 25 feet of intestine, which that is a lot of area for stool to get definitely backed up. Which is why you could be going to the bathroom every day, and actually still be constipated. That’s something that is often a huge lightbulb moment for a lot of the women when we start working with them, is they don’t realize actually how constipated they are. Because maybe they’ve gone to their GI doctor, and they’ve been told that Oh, you’re going to the bathroom every day. There’s nothing wrong, but the reality is they’re still super constipated. Because of gut motility. They’re not actually clearing their bowels every single day. There are many signs and symptoms of slow motility. So I just want to name a few. Just to pique your interest to help you determine if potentially this low motility is what you’re struggling with. So one of the actually unknown or the missed reasons for slow motility is actually a weak vagus nerve. So if you have struggle, or difficulty swallowing pills, or food or you have a poor gag reflex, maybe you don’t hear your stomach growl or you have difficulty even gargling, those can definitely be signs of slow motility. The other thing is, let’s say you ate corn for dinner and you don’t see it come out for a couple of days, you definitely are struggling with slow motility. Ideally, you want to see something come out within 12 to 24 hours. So you could do a little at home tests on yourself and see how long it’s taking for things to actually make their way through your digestive tract. The other more obvious signs of slow motility would be that you’re not having a bowel movement every day. Or maybe you have a bowel movement and you feel not relieved after you feel like there’s got to be more. Another sign of slow motility would be maybe you wake up and you are not bloated, but you progressively get more bloated throughout the day. That is showing me potentially a motility issue, but even more if you wake up bloated. More than likely motility is definitely at play here. So I want to break down three different reasons why you could have slow gut motility. And hear me when I say that there are many many reasons that you could have slow gut motility. But today we’re just going to talk about three and three of the more common reasons why we see slow gut motility in our clients. So the first reason is food poisoning. Food poisoning bacteria make something called Saito lethal distending toxin or CDT is what we’ll call it today. And to fight the food poisoning your body makes antibodies against CDT CDT has a very similar shape to a human protein called vinculin. And when the body is normally tolerant of vinculin, anti CDT antibodies that are produced during food poisoning actually cross react with this. And this cross reactivity causes the body to basically mistake vinculin as foreign, which then creates a immune response and causes antibodies. So the body is basically attacking this, and it shuts off the migrating motor complex or the MMC. Now, if you’ve followed me for any amount of time on Instagram, you’ve seen me talk about the migrating motor complex. But I just want to break that down a little bit here. The migrating motor complex is basically your intestinal house house cleaning crew. It comes in, in between meals, and it sweeps through the intestines and clears things out just like an after office hours cleanup crew would do come in and vacuum and take out the trash etc. So this migrating motor complex is extremely important because that is what’s giving that big whoosh of fluid and digestive juices to come through the gut to clear things out so that you can have a bowel movement. So if you’re having antibodies to the system that regulates this, then of course, you can have slow gut motility, we find that a lot of our clients have had no digestive symptoms. And then maybe, for example, they travel abroad, or they get food poisoning, all of a sudden, they go from no digestive symptoms to one day, never feeling worse than they have, and the symptoms they can’t get ahead of. And this often has to do with this reaction that I just talked about. Now, that being said, that does not mean that you are doomed. And if you’ve had food poisoning, that you’re always going to have gut issues and you’re never going to recover. There are actually a couple of different tests that you can run to see if this is what you’re struggling with. One of the tests is called the IBS smart test. And there’s another test it’s called IBS. Sure, both of these will look to see if Auto immunity is contributing to your IBS. Or if you have SIBO as well, you can run that do I think that you need to maybe not but it you know, if you’re curious if your symptoms are a result of food poisoning, and therefore an auto immunity response to this, it could be helpful even just for clarity there. So food poisoning is the number. The first cause that that we just talked about. And there are a couple things that you can actually do. So if you suspect that food poisoning has been a part of your story and could be contributing to your slow gut motility. One thing that could be really helpful for you is Lion’s Mane mushroom. So you can actually buy these mushrooms. I was actually at the farmers market a couple months ago and saw that they were selling these mushrooms to buy and cook and eat. They’re these Lion’s Mane mushrooms help to repair the nerve damage that happens as a result of this food poisoning reaction. that damages your migrating motor complex. So like I said, you can purchase these mushrooms, you know, go to Whole Foods, your farmers market, whatever, buy them, cook them, eat them, or they do sell them in capsule or powder form. I’m not going to give brands specifics here, but you can definitely look those up and you can find Lion’s Mane mushrooms, that can definitely help with improving the nerve damage that can happen. As a result of food poisoning. It’s something that we recommend to our clients. Of course, consult your doctor if that’s something that you are considering consuming in a capsule form. The next thing that you can do is work on movement post meal. So this is going to get your digestive juices flowing and can help improve motility. Regardless of if you’ve had food poisoning or not, it would be definitely something that you could do even just a short walk around the blog could definitely help just to get things going and get your motility moving a bit more. So the second cause that I want to talk about is stress. You’ve heard me talk about stress over and over again. And you’re probably sick of me talking about it. But I’ll never stop talking about stress. Because if your body is worried about digesting a meal, and if it’s thinking that it’s being chased by a bear, even stressors, like under eating over exercising, being in traffic being in a toxic relationship, all of these things can create slow motility because your body is basically interpreting these stressors as a threat. And it’s not worried about digesting a meal, it wants to get away from the threat. So we have to create safety in our digestive tract and in our digestive symptoms, so that our body feels safe to digest and move things through. And one of the big causes of stress that we often see for our clients is restricting calories, or restricting food groups. And basically just this energy equation that it comes down to at the end of the day, if you are consuming less calories and your body needs at the end of the day, that is a stress. And then also your gut is not a priority. Your brain, your lungs, your heart are the priority. And so therefore, your gut motility will suffer because just like any other muscle in your body, your gut needs energy to actually contract and to move the muscles and create that peristalsis contraction that I was talking about earlier. So we want to eliminate or remove stressors that we can, of course, we are never going to be in an environment where we don’t have stress. A lot of this comes down to the stress load that you have on your body, how much stress your body is under. And then also, a piece of this is how you actually handle stress. So the state of your nervous system. And if you’re curious about nervous system, and how this affects your symptoms, I would encourage you to go listen to I believe it’s Episode Three with Lindsey Mitchell, where we talk with her a bit more about the nervous system. So you might want to check that out if you think that you are just in a constant state of stress, or even if just thinking about your digestive symptoms stresses you out. So there’s of course many different things that you can do to avoid stress or to manage stress. But the first things that I would really suggest if you think that this could be part of your slow motility is, I think the first thing would be just eating enough calories, making sure that you are eating enough calories for your body to have the energy that it needs to be able to prioritize your motility. The next thing would be try to do one thing every day that reduces stress. So for everybody, this is going to be a little bit different. Maybe that means going outside and getting some sunshine maybe it means listening to music or doing some yoga or deep breathing. Whatever it is that will help you to reduce stress is really going to help your gut motility because it’s going to get your body into a state of rest and digest and you’re going to digest your food a lot better if you’re in a state of rest and digest. So the third cause that I want to talk about here is low stomach acid. So this is a really trendy thing I think that people are talking about now is that you know if you have acid reflux, your symptoms could be low stomach acid, not high stomach acid, and that’s definitely an episode for another day. But we find that a lot of our clients have low stomach acid, and this definitely affects their gut motility because this decreases the serum levels of gastrin which are involved in gastric emptying, and we live in a day and age right now where PPIs or proton pump inhibitors, which is suppressed stomach acid are basically handed out like candy. And unfortunately, when using excess, this causes tons of issues downstream for digestion because your stomach acid really is the first stop where food starts to get broken down and if food is not broken down, it’s going to sit in the digestive tract longer, it’s going to ferment, it’s going to overgrow, it’s going to cause a lot of that unwanted bloating, constipation gas, but also the stomach is less likely to empty if it doesn’t have enough acid.
Dr. Heather Finley 15:35
So some common causes of low stomach acid again, we’re getting to the root cause but some of these root causes have their own root causes. So some triggers for low stomach acid would it be chronic proton pump inhibitor use or stomach acid suppressing medications. If you’re popping Tums like candy, then this could definitely be part of why you struggle with slow gut motility stress. Again, your body is not worried about digesting if it’s under stress, low mineral count or just an imbalance in your minerals. I have another episode on minerals, so you can go check that out. With Leah. She talks all about minerals, and you need minerals actually to make stomach acids specifically like sodium. And so we talked about that on that episode. But we want your stomach to fill with acids so it can empty and so also that your food is really well broken down by the time it hits your small and then large intestine so that you can get the nutrients from the food that you’re eating, but then also so it can efficiently move through your gut, and it doesn’t sit there and cause excess fermentation, or overgrowth. Hey there, I know you are absolutely loving this episode, but I have to jump in really quick and remind you that I have a quick, free quiz that will help you finally figure out why you’re bloated. In order to live a life free of discomfort. You need to figure out what the root causes that’s making you experience these uncomfortable symptoms. The easiest and fastest way to do this is by visiting Dr. Heather finley.co backslash quiz. Take the quiz as soon as you can, so you can transform your gut issues and lead a happier, more vibrant life. Now let’s get back to the episode.
Dr. Heather Finley 17:21
If you think or suspect that low stomach acid could be a piece of why you struggle with slow gut motility. And really, if you struggle with slow motility at all, these next tips will apply to you because they’re not going to hurt to focus on chewing your food. Chewing your food is the first step of digestion. So if you can really chew your food, break it down so it’s really easy for your stomach to digest, then you’re going to be in a much better situation. So think about chewing your food and chewing it some more. That 20 to 30 Choose per bite can definitely help you want your food basically to be applesauce consistency by the time that you swallow. The next thing that you can do is to stimulate your vagus nerve. So you can do this by gargling humming singing. A lot of times we have our clients hum Happy Birthday twice before they eat, and this can stimulate the vagus nerve, it will stimulate stomach acid secretion and then it will also improve your gut motility. And then the last tip that I want to give here is you may need to even try a pro kinetic. And there’s lots of medication type pro kinetics. There’s also supplemental forms of pro kinetics, one of the pro kinetics that is really basic, and a good kind of entry point that you can use is ginger. So you can try drinking ginger tea in between your meals, you can even take ginger capsules, it can definitely improve your gut motility. If you struggle at all with acid reflux, you probably want to avoid doing this if it’s going to aggravate the acid reflux. But definitely, if you’re taking the capsules or you’re drinking the tea, you probably want to consume this or take the pills at least an hour before you lay flat because ginger is a spicy warming herb. And so if you take it and it’s burning your esophagus and you lay straight down, that could be problematic. So you want to give it time to digest and move through your system. So there’s a couple obstacles and challenges that I definitely want to bring light to when it comes to struggling with slow gut motility. As I mentioned earlier, this is probably one of the top three root causes that we see with our clients. And one of the reasons that I think people run into challenges when it comes to addressing their slow gut motility is just time and giving up too quickly. So even a month in thinking, Okay, well my motility is not improving. So this is not going to work. I heard this amazing quote the other day and I want to read it to you because I think it’s super powerful. I want to just bring light to this idea. of not giving up too quickly and giving yourself time. So the quote is, when nothing seems to help, I go and look at the stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps 100 times without as much as a crack showing in it yet at the 100 and first blow it will split into and I know, it was not the blow that did it, but it was all that had gone before. So this quote is by Jacob Rees. And I think it’s actually in the San Antonio Spurs locker room, if I’m remembering correctly, where I heard the quote from, but I love this quote, because it’s very applicable to digestive health, I think we’re all the time, you know, going through the daily motions of working on our stress management, improving our blood sugar balance, improving our hydration, doing all the lifestyle things, but we give up so quickly when we don’t see instantaneous results. And some of this is our culture, it’s a very bandaid culture, you know, you have a symptom, go to the doctor, take the medication, you feel immediately better. And so we’ve been primed to want to that with every situation in our life. And we just sometimes don’t give things enough time. So slow gut motility is definitely one of the things that we see takes quite a bit of time to improve, especially if you are, if you’ve had food poisoning, or you’re really stressed, it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take persistence. So my encouragement here is, just because it’s not working immediately doesn’t mean it’s not working, it just means you might need to give it a little bit more time. The second obstacle or challenge that I see is not giving the lifestyle modifications, the focus that they need and relying too much on supplements. So you could be taking all this motility medication or all these supplements for motility. But if you aren’t sleeping, if you aren’t working on your stress, if you aren’t optimizing your movement, either, you know doing too, you’re either doing too much movement or too little movement, it really doesn’t matter. Because the lifestyle modifications matter so much more than any other supplement that you’re going to take. This is a huge lightbulb moment that a lot of the women have when they are working with us and they got together program is that they had no idea how much their lifestyle was contributing to their symptoms. And it’s not like they’re actually making these huge lifestyle modifications. It’s small, consistent lifestyle modifications that they’re able to stick with over time. Because a quick fix or a like get rich quick type scheme mentality is not going to help you to have the improvement in your symptoms long term that you desire. If you’re doing something that’s a quick like detox or elimination or whatever it might be, and you can’t wait for it to be done, then that’s not a good sign. Because that’s that doesn’t mean it’s something that you’re going to be able to stick with long term. And at the end of the day, if you’re prone to digestive symptoms, you want to be able to make sustainable changes so that you can have relief long term. Now the last obstacle or challenge that I want to bring up is just continuing to restrict food and restrict large amounts of food groups from your diet. Your gut thrives on variety. And when you include a variety of foods in your diet, you actually will have an increase in short chain fatty acids. And basically what you need to know here is when your probiotic bugs eat prebiotics, they produce something called short chain fatty acids, which are a byproduct of fermentation in the gut. The short chain fatty acids actually will increase motility because they are anti inflammatory and this diversity in your gut is going to promote optimal motility. So when you are eating a very short list of foods, this is continuing to create the vicious cycle of slow gut motility. And so one thing that you can do here is just continuing to challenge your mindset about food and why you think you need to eat so little variety. Because likely if you’re listening to this episode, and you struggle with slow gut motility, you’re probably not feeling too much better eating just three, four or five, you know, maybe 10 foods, you the thing that might be holding you back is actually the lack of variety, the lack of diversity, and the food fear piece. And there are definitely other episodes that you can check out where I, I talked about that.
Dr. Heather Finley 24:43
So I want to conclude this episode with just kind of a summary of what we talked about and just some action steps that you can take as a result. So three reasons that you could be struggling with gut motility are one food poisoning past food poisoning can damage the nerve cells that What are the nerve endings that affect your migrating motor complex? Number two is stress you have to manage your stress in order for your gut to function. And then number three is low stomach acid. So your low stomach acid can definitely affect gastric emptying, and therefore affect your motility. And it can cause all sorts of downstream issues. So you might be feeling like now, you’ve just uncovered a bunch of things that you need to work on. But again, going back to that quote that I read earlier, I want you to think about one or two things that you can implement to improve your gut motility. So to sum up some of the suggestions that I made, you can consume Lion’s Mane mushrooms, if you have had past food poisoning, you can work on movement post meal, so you could take a walk after eating just a gentle walk outside or do some gentle yoga, you could work on chewing your food really well. You could work on stimulating your vagus nerve, or even just try a pro kinetic, like ginger tea or ginger capsules could definitely be a great place to start. So I really hope that this episode was helpful. As you know over here at get together in the love your podcast, our mission is really to help you identify the underlying causes for why you feel the way that you do. And when you’re actually able to uncover the reasons for why you feel the way you do. You can find lasting relief. So if you’ve if you’re new to the concept of root cause medicine or more of a functional approach to your GI symptoms. Really what this is, is basically we’re taking a look under the hood of the car and seeing what spark plugs aren’t firing slow motility definitely being one of them. So I would encourage you to go back listen to this episode. If you need to take more notes or need to pick out some of the action steps. Come over tag me on Instagram. Tell me what you learned. Tell me what stuck out to you. And I will see you next week on the next episode of the Love Your Gut podcast.
Please note that this episode is not a substitute for medical advice. And you should always consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes.
Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the Love Your Gut podcast. I’d love to help you understand why you’re bloated and so that is why I have created my FREE QUIZ “Why am I Bloated?” In this quiz, you will learn what could potentially be causing your bloat and what you can actually do to fix it. So if you want to learn why you’re bloated and how to fix it, visit Dr. Heather finley.co backslash quiz, or visit the link in the show notes. I’ll see you next time.