Chas Gant MD, PhD
I appreciated the article Got Constipation? by Debra Graugnard, a Certified Colon Hydrotherapist at NIHA, and I plan to photocopy it and provide the copy to all of my patients who suffer from constipation. Constipation as a symptom is not taken seriously by many healthcare practitioners, including me at various times in my career, which is in my opinion constitutes negligence. Constipation is a serious and deadly symptom and should be aggressively cured.
I have some good news to add to these nice suggestions about managing constipation in the article Got Constipation? by Debra Graugnard - the actual, primary cause of chronic constipation has been discovered. Anytime in history when the causal factor is discovered for a symptom or a disorder, clinicians have been able to zero in on the cause and be more effective in achieving positive outcomes. Knowing the primary cause of chronic constipation helps us understand why colon hydrotherapy is so effective. Knowing the cause also should help clinicians and patients alike take this symptom very seriously.
Constipation and Neurotoxins
The primary cause of all constipation are unfriendly germs which live in the intestines, usually a class of bacteria called anaerobes, which over eons have evolved certain clever, chemical, survival skills. These organisms secrete “neurotoxins” - toxins which damage neurons - and which paralyze the muscles surrounding the intestines. Why does this toxin confer a survival advantage to these nasty germs? By paralyzing the intestines (AKA constipation), peristalsis (intestinal movement) slows down or stops and the organisms don’t get removed via the stool as easily as they might have, had the intestines not been paralyzed.
The germ also tries to stick to the surface of the intestines with glue-like substances so that it is not swept away by peristalsis. Colon hydrotherapy, fiber, additional water, exercise and various herbal therapies and antibiotics and other supportive strategies are effective because they all conspire to weaken and wash the germ away.
Perhaps the most famous constipation-causing, anaerobic organism is the clostridia bacteria or the tetanus germ. It secretes a neurotoxin (tetanospasmin) which is so potent in fact that if a tetanus infection were to get past the protective barriers of the intestines or were to infect you through a skin wound, you might develop the dreaded disease tetanus or “lockjaw” and become totally paralyzed for months and unable to breathe on your own. Tetanus infected patients require assisted respiratory therapy for months in an ICU until the toxin which is bound irreversibly to muscle receptors, gradually fades away.
To neutralize this powerful neurotoxin, many people receive a tetanus vaccine or a “booster” composed of inactivated tetanus toxin. The vaccine is not paralytic, but it still is close enough in structure to arouse the immune system to make an antibody against it, so that if the real tetanus toxin came along the immune system would recognize it and destroy it before it could cause paralysis.
The germ’s presence is easy to spot on the newer stool cultures which assess for DNA and in a urine test called an organic acids. The telltale marker which shows up in the organic acids urine test is the DHPPA (dihydrophenylproprionic acid). This marker itself is not dangerous but the tetanus germ secretes many other damaging toxins, some of which get to the brain to cause autism and other neuropsychiatric disorders. If the DHPPA is elevated the patient is always chronically constipated. If the DHPPA is not elevated, the patient can still be suffering from chronic constipation because other unfriendly organisms can paralyze the intestines also, such as parasites, and the DHPPA may not be elevated in parasitic infestations.
The Immune System and the Gut
60% to 80% of the body’s immune system surrounds the gastrointestinal tract to contain such unfriendly organisms. Like any life form, the germ wants to survive, so anything it can do to weaken the immune system is to its advantage. For instance, the tetanus bacteria also secretes an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase which is associated with increased risks of colorectal, prostate and breast cancer. The liver attempts to rid the body of toxins and waste products by “conjugating” them to carrier molecules, one of them being glucuronide, and depositing them in the bile to be excreted in the stool. The tetanus bacteria secretes beta-glucuronidase in order to separate the waste product from its carrier molecule, so they have to be reabsorbed and go back to the liver to be reattached again. Thanks to the tetanus germ, toxins go round and round and never leave the body. The immune system is damaged and the germ lives on.
Some clinically important waste products which are attached to glucuronide are estrogen metabolites, some of which are probably the main cause of breast cancer. The tetanus germ therefore not only causes constipation, but may be a factor in cancer, and especially estrogen related cancers and colon cancer. As I think back over 35 years of practicing medicine, I cannot recall a single breast, ovarian, uterine or colon cancer patient I treated who did not have a significant history of constipation!
Chronic constipation is not just a nuisance symptom which comes and goes, and occurs because you don’t eat enough fiber. Chronic constipation is a deadly symptom which predisposes one to cancer because it is caused by some of the worst toxin (some carcinogenic) producing organisms. Constipation should be treated aggressively with all supportive measures including colon hydrotherapy. If constipation recurs, despite such efforts, stool cultures and organic acid testing should be done to determine if anaerobes are present and they should be eliminated with focused antibiotic treatment along with other supportive treatments. If cancer of the breast, prostate, ovaries, uterus or colon has occurred, even if it was “successfully treated” years ago, diagnostic testing should be done to find the underlying causes, especially if constipation is a recurring problem.
Chas Gant M.D., Ph.D., is an integrative and functional medicine doctor, author, teacher, national lecturer, and practices part-time at NIHA, an integrative medicine and dental center serving Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. Using diagnostic testing, functional medicine looks for the root cause of imbalance in order to correct the underlying problem, not just treat the symptoms.