Calcium Supplementation, Constipation, Mood Changes and Maybe Divorce

This blog was originally posted at DotComWomen.com.

A number of conditions can cause constipation such as iron supplements, antidepressants, irritable bowel syndrome, chocolate, hypothyroidism, opiates and depression, among others. But most of the time the cause is unknown.Many physicians are aware that women are naturally more constipated than men. Though not precisely quantitated in large clinical studies, constipation leads to definite mood and psychological changes ranging from depression, fatigue, irritability and loss of patience.

We all know both men and/or women who are generally regular but, when constipated, are not happy troopers.

Calcium causes constipation, doctors know it and yet it’s one of the best-kept secrets from women. In the early 80’s the NIH published the findings of a group of medical experts who recommended calcium supplementation for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Shortly after, the consumption of calcium increased dramatically, and its extensive consumption by women continues to this day. It is reasonable to assume that this adds to their natural state of constipation, leading to a decrease in the quality of life and happiness because of its negative psychological impact. As with our illicit drug use problem, this should be considered a major national medical issue demanding a remedy. Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, Ecstasy, bath salts and combinations of them all can lead to negative psychological changes,which impacts not only on the users but on others, from family to the workplace to our national strength. But these drug induced causes are recognized and being vigorously addressed by our country while calcium induced constipation, a more common condition, remains in the shadows of medicine. Unpleasant behavior, be it due to drugs or constipation or whatever, is like an infectious disease. It spreads from one person to another. Imagine having to face a constipated grouchy boss, father or mother in the morning!

There may also be a connection between calcium supplementation and divorce. Parallel to the substantial increase in calcium consumption has been a huge increase in our divorce rate. Though there is no published statistical evidence to support a direct link between the two, from a medical point of view I believe it is reasonable to assume that chronic negative mood changes among women due to calcium-induced constipation is a factor leading to divorce (FYI, men account for about 10 percent of calcium consumption).

If it’s so common, you may wonder why the calcium- constipation story is not generally known. I’m an oldtimer physician and over the years have observed that we have cultural blind spots to certain issues from common sense to medicine. For example, our medical technology is breathtaking but why can we go to the moon and not cure cancer let alone the common cold, and why haven’t we asked that question?  Regarding constipation: one plausible reason is that Americans don’t like to discuss their bowel movements.Yet they have no problem openly discussing other maladies such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer but bowel movement irregularities or the nature of their stools is a no-no and very private affair!

Here’s something I think you should know about and discuss with your physician: Magnesium is an essential structural component of bone, and there are several human or clinical studies that indicate it may have a beneficial effect on bone health. In addition, it has an opposite effect on bowel movements than calcium causing loose stools and diarrhea. It makes make good sense to take both of them. Magnesium supplementation offers other potential health benefits particularly in diabetic patients. I’ll address these potential benefits in a future post.

And finally, I feel I’m obligated to tell you about my recipe for homemade gazpacho and two constipated women who are taking calcium supplements. Both, after two bowls of it, were “cured” of their constipation within two hours! The larger point is that certain dietary changes may help.

About the Author

Lorenzo Baccalà is an Italian American physician, author and social philosopher known for his provocative and engaging book – The Man Who Made Love to More Women than Casanova. He has lots more to offer on his Blog and his Twitter and Facebook  profiles.

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