In naturopathic practice, practitioners are frequently faced with patients whose main concern is constipation. Constipation is defined as a disturbance of bowel function manifested either in a prolonged interval between defecations or in incomplete evacuation of the bowel. Constipation is associated with striking changes in the healthy ratios of faecal flora, intestinal permeability and whole body immunity. Relieving constipation tends to normalise these findings suggesting that these changes are secondary to, rather than a cause of, constipation (Khalif, Quigley, Konovitch & Maximova, 2005). In a recent study, researchers from the State Scientific Centre for Coloproctology, Moscow, investigated systemic immunity (whole body immunity), faecal flora and intestinal permeability in patients with chronic constipation, under basal conditions and following therapy with the laxative Bisacodyl (Khalif, Quigley, Konovitch & Maximova, 2005). To determine intestinal permeability and bacterial antibodies serum ovalbumin concentrations were assessed. Serum ovalbulmin concentrations increase with increasing intestinal permeability. The results of this study showed that all 57 patients (6 males and 51 females), suffering with constipation, examined in this study had a significant increase in serum ovalbulmin compared to participants with regular bowel motions. However, with the use of laxative therapy intestinal permeability and serum concentrations decreased from 30 ng/ml at baseline (start of the study) to 8 ng/ml after 3 months of laxative therapy.
Although, Bisacodyl was used in the foregoing study to reduced intestinal permeability, herbal laxatives have been utilised to improve bowel variability. A combination of ginger (Ghayur & Gilani, 2005), german chamomile (McKay & Blumberg, 2006), casara sagrada (Izzo, 1998), cinnamon and rhubarb (Zhao, 2009), has been show to reduce episodes of constipation, and thus, decrease the incidence of intestinal permeability.
Khalif, I.L., Quigley, E.M.M., Konovitch, E.A. & Maximova, I.D. 2005. Alterations in the colonic flora and intestinal permeability and evidence of immune activation in chronic constipation. Digestion and Liver Disease, 37, 838-849.
Izzo, A. 1998. Nitric oxide as a modulator of intestinal water and electrolyte transport. Digestive Disorder Science, 43, 8, 1605-1620.
Zhao, Y.L. 2009. Investigations of free anthraquinones from rhubarb against alpha-naphthylisothiocyanate-induced cholestatic liver injury in rats. Basic Clinical Pharmacology Toxicology, 104, 6, 463-469.
Ghaynur, M.N. & Gilani, A.H. 2005. Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of ginger in gastrointestinal disorders. Digestive Disorder Science, 50, 10, 1889-1897.
McKay, D.L. & Blumberg, J.B. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of chamomile tea. Phytotherapy Resources, 20, 7, 519-530.