Constipation and Methane Gas – What’s the connection?

Are you living with chronic constipation and feeling frustrated and fed up?

You’ve tried to drink more water, get regular exercise, eat ALL the things like prunes and extra fibre but these things don’t seem to help? Laxatives may give you some short-term symptomatic relief, but they are not a long-term solution.

Standard medical tests and examinations have all come back normal, so now what? If you delve a bit deeper to uncover the root cause of your lack of regular bowel movements, it may be due to an overgrowth of certain microbes living in your gut – namely tiny micro-organisms called methanogens. These organisms are not bacteria but archaea, tiny organisms which consume hydrogen and carbon dioxide in your gut and transform it into methane gas.

So why is methane a problem? Methane is often blamed for flatulence and bad smells, however the real issue with methane gas relates to its impact on gut motility.  The motility of your gut refers to how well your food moves through the digestive system. Methane producing microbes slow down the movement of the gut, therefore increasing the ‘transit time’ of food in your gut.

A slowing moving gut can provide an opportunity for recirculation of toxins and hormones and an overgrowth of certain bacteria at the expense of more beneficial bacteria. In addition, these opportunistic, overgrown bacteria can themselves produce toxins and harmful metabolites which damage the gut lining and produce inflammation in the body.

How do you know if you’ve got too many methane producing microbes?

A ‘test don’t guess’ approach will ultimately enable a more targeted approach to get the results you want faster. The best approach is via breath testing. This can easily be done using an at home test kit from a specialist pathology lab. The breath test can measure the levels of methane gas you produce after ingesting certain sugars, usually either lactulose, fructose or glucose. Some of the advanced stool testing techniques can also identify the presence of methanogens in a stool sample.

How do you treat methane overgrowth?

The good news is, that methane overgrowth once identified is treatable usually over a 3-6 month period. Naturopathic treatment approaches include dietary changes and prebiotic fibres to lower the pH levels in your gut and selective herbal anti-microbials to rebalance the gut microbiome without destroying healthy bacterial species in the process. The outcome being improved gut transit time and a healthier gut ecosystem which has numerous other health benefits in the long term.

The discomfort of constipation is not something you need to put up with. For a tailored approach to relieving constipation and getting your gut functioning at its best, book in with Michelle at Beattie Street Health, Balmain. Michelle can arrange breath testing referrals and/or microbiome analysis and design a treatment plan just for you.

Michelle is a naturopathic practitioner with a special interest in working with the gut microbiome, supporting her clients to uncover the root cause of functional gut disorders, including constipation, bloating, reflux, IBS and SIBO.

*Constipation may be an indicator of other more serious health conditions. If you notice an unexplained change in your bowel patterns and/or blood in your stool, please consult your GP. If you are aged over 50 years, it is recommended to do at at-home bowel cancer test every 2 years.

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