Part 3: Digestive Changes and Why Constipation Happens

What causes constipation in the first place?

There are a couple of ways of looking at this.

  • There can be diet and gut balance problems that trigger constipation and turn it into a chronic problem.  By this I mean things like:
  1. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
  2. Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, IBS, etc.
  3. Other inflammatory bowel conditions or other digestive dysfunctions that stop the body from processing nutrient effectively.

Depending on whether you are working with an MD, ND, or another kind of practitioner, in these situations, constipation is often treated with diet changes, various supplements, antibiotics, etc.

Basically, in this case the focus is on the inside of the digestive tract.

But that is certainly not the only likely cause of constipation . . .

roseI often see people struggling with more structural problems.

  • Tissue restrictions between:
  1. the organs themselves 
  2. between organs (intestines, stomach) and the abdominal wall 
  3. between muscles and fascia that don’t adhere directly to the organs
  4. also, chronically tight abdominal muscles, and
  5. spinal vertebrae imbalances, which impede proper nervous system functioning

So often, when someone is being treated for a condition like SIBO, all of their symptoms (including constipation) get attributed to it.  And occasionally that is the only cause of their constipation.

But, very often, I see that actually what is causing, or complicating, the constipation has more to do with the fact that:

  1. the guts are being held too tightly in the abdomen by slightly spasming abdominal muscles, or
  2. there is restriction caused by adhesions that are sticking the intestine loops to each other or to the abdominal wall.  (And those adhesions do not have to be from surgery.  They can come from various other sources as well.)

What do we do about this?

If your supplement/diet/drug treatment for whatever you are working on is not having a positive effect on your constipation, then NOW is the time to get going with your abdominal massage.

1.  Get comfortable.

2.  Consciously breathe into your belly and let your belly expand on your inhale, and contract on your exhale.
Just doing this much, you are already positively affecting your whole system. 

3.  Lay your hand on your belly horizontally (fingers on one side of your belly button, the palm of your hand on the other).  You can do this sitting up or laying down.
hand on abdomen

4.  Gently SINK (don’t push) SINK your fingers into your belly, pulling slowly toward the opposite side.
hand on abdomen pull 1

hand on abdomen pull 2

hand on abdomen pull 3

5. Release the pressure gently, and now SINK (don’t push) SINK the heel of your hand into the opposite side of your belly, gradually moving the tissues over toward the opposite side.

hand on abdomen heel 1

hand on abdomen heel 2

hand on abdomen heel 3


Remember: You may not be able to sink into your belly as deeply as these pictures show.  Take it at your own pace and follow your own body’s ability.

And, just this gentle exercise can be incredibly powerful – so don’t overdo it – rest, drink some water and see what your body tells you when you’re done!

As always, let me know how this goes for you and whether it helps that constipation.

(See Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.)


Author Profile

Isabel Spradlin
Isabel Spradlin
Isabel Spradlin is a Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and abdominal adhesion specialist in Portland, OR. She specializes in educating people about manual treatment (massage) for abdominal pain and dysfunction, especially when it is adhesion related. Please see the "Programs" page to see her offerings.

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