Constipation in Women: Huberman & Gottfried Solutions

Constipation in Women, Stress, & Microbiome

According to Dr. Gottfried, women have a higher risk of depression, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid dysfunction, which can all contribute to constipation. The gut is also longer in women and they are more likely to have torturous colons. 

Constipation can be a serious symptom that signals a set of problems occurring in a person’s body. Women are more likely to experience constipation and should address it, but there is a lack of collaboration between different medical fields in addressing this issue. 

Dr. Huberman asks at what age women should get a colonoscopy to explore for polyps and colon cancer. 

Dr. Gottfried says she operates with the age of 50 and suggests checking with the US Preventive Task Force rating for the most appropriate age.

Dr. Huberman mentions that all the organs are connected to each other and the microbiome sits at a key node in this network. He points out that mainstream medicine still operates in a silo-based way, despite the understanding of the network effect at a scientific level.

Constipation Relief and Causes

Dr. Gottfried, who learned about constipation during her time at Harvard Medical School and residency at UCSF, was taught that constipation is defined as having a bowel movement less frequently than once every three days. 

However, she doesn’t agree with this definition and has a different perspective on what constitutes constipation. 

According to her, if a person isn’t having a bowel movement every morning and doesn’t feel a complete evacuation, then that person is constipated.

Dr. Huberman highlights the relationship between constipation and the autonomic system and how an imbalance between the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze, fawn) can lead to constipation.

Both doctors agree that reducing stress is a crucial tool in relieving constipation. They also recommend eating more fiber and using breathwork and meditation to reduce stress.

Are Over-the-Counter Probiotics Beneficial? 

Dr. Huberman and Dr. Gottfried discuss the complex issue of whether young men and women should take over-the-counter probiotics as a way to enhance their microbiome. 

Dr. Huberman raises concerns about the potential side effects, such as a brain fog-like condition, and only uses probiotics in limited situations, such as after taking antibiotics.

Dr. Gottfried emphasizes the importance of looking at randomized trials to support the use of probiotics and is underwhelmed by the current data. However, she notes that there is some evidence of probiotics being beneficial, particularly for athletes with leaky gut. 

Dr. Gottfried also mentions that prebiotics and selective use of polyphenols have better data supporting their benefits for the gut microbiome.

Dr. Gottfried suggests that a good starting place for anyone is to consume more vegetables, as this can improve the gut microbiome without the need for testing.

Wrapping Up

Constipation is a common issue among women, with various factors such as depression, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid dysfunction contributing to it. Women also tend to have longer guts and torturous colons, increasing the risk of constipation. 

Dr. Gottfried and Dr. Huberman agree that reducing stress is key to relieving constipation and recommend eating more fiber and using breathwork and meditation. 

On the topic of probiotics, both doctors caution about the potential side effects and emphasize the importance of looking at randomized trials for support. 

Dr. Gottfried suggests starting with consuming more vegetables to improve the gut microbiome, while Dr. Huberman is more cautious with using probiotics and only uses them in limited situations. 


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