Constipation is perhaps one of the most common health nuisances there is, and you are likely to suffer through it at some point or the other. The discomforts of constipation can ruin a great day. Unfortunately, constipation is a common problem with numerous causes.
Studies show certain lifestyle and dietary habits can contribute to the problem. The good news is modifying these risk factors or trying out a few natural remedies can often relieve constipation without the need for medications.
Constipation is a condition in which there is difficulty emptying the bowels and is usually associated with hardened feces. The food undergoes much of the digestion process in the stomach and the small intestine before making its way into the lower gastrointestinal tract where water is absorbed from it. Thereafter, the undigested waste that was previously in liquid form is converted into a solid mass which is eventually expelled through the rectum as the stool.
However, if there is a slowing down of the movement of waste through the tract, more and more water gets absorbed from it in the colon, and it forms a hard, dry stool. It becomes increasingly difficult and painful for your rectal muscles to push this coarse mass out of the body giving rise to constipation. Restricted bowel movement is often accompanied by pain, gastric trouble and a feeling of bloating.
While there should be at least one bowel movement each day in normal situations, a healthy individual may pass two or three bowel movements a day.
- Causes of Constipation
- Symptoms of Constipation
- Preventive Measures
- Natural Remedies for Constipation
- Method 2: Using Honey Water
- Method 3: Using Flaxseeds
- Method 4: Using Blackstrap Molasses
- Method 5: Using Castor Oil
- Method 6: Using Yogurt
- Method 7: Using Figs
- Method 8: Using a Salt Water Flush
- Additional tips for constipation relief
Causes of Constipation
What pleases your taste buds might not necessarily agree with your digestive system as well. Your indulgent diet, more often than not, can prove quite taxing for your digestive tract to process, eventually resulting in constipation. (1) (2)
While it’s often very hard to put the finger on the exact cause for such digestive hindrances, there are nevertheless certain common factors that can be held accountable:
- Lack of fluid intake
- Increasingly sedentary lifestyle, or being underactive
- Unhealthy or erratic dietary patterns and daily routines
- Insufficient consumption of fiber-rich foods such as cereals, fruits, and vegetables
- Making a habit of unduly holding off on relieving a bowel movement
- Caffeine-fueled all-nighters and lack of proper sleep
- Certain medications like opioids, anticonvulsants, diuretics, antidepressants can give rise to such digestive unrest as a side effect
- Pregnant women undergo certain hormonal changes that make them more prone to constipation
- People’s metabolism rate plummets with age resulting in frequent bouts of constipation due to decreased intestinal activity
- Constipation can also be rooted in structural deformities such as colorectal stricture or abnormal narrowing of the rectum, diverticulosis as well as congenital disabilities such as an absence of nerve cells in the large intestine called Hirschsprung disease
- Excessive consumption of milk or other dairy products
Symptoms of Constipation
The tell-tale giveaways that you are suffering through an episode of constipation include: (3)
- hard and dry stools that are difficult or painful to expel
- the consistency of the stools resembles that of rocks or pebbles
- fewer than three bowel movements in a week
- a feeling that your bowel has not emptied completely even after the stool has passed
- feeling nauseous
- abdominal cramps that are often painful
- distended stomach
Prevention tips to avert the occurrence of constipation and thereby do away with the subsequent need for treatment and medication include: (4)
- Up your intake of fibrous foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and fortified cereals for enhanced gut function. People who are prone to constipation are advised to eat at least 18-30 g of fiber daily. At the same time, people with increased bowel sensitivity must also refrain from consuming high-fructose fruits, such as pears, apples, and watermelon, which can cause gas.
- Regular physical activity is a boon for your digestive health as it helps assist the movement of stool through the colon.
- Increase your fluid intake by aiming for eight glasses of water daily. Simultaneously, try to cut back on your caffeine intake as it works as a diuretic and can lead to dehydration. Which only makes matter worse.
- Be prompt to answer nature’s call, instead of delaying it unnecessarily. The longer you wait to relieve an oncoming bowel, the harder and drier the stool will get.
Natural Remedies for Constipation
All in all, you can use natural remedies to get rid of constipation naturally, but in order to prevent it, you may need to review your diet and lifestyle.
Here are eight home remedies that can regularize your constipated bowel movements:
Method 1: Using Lemon Water
Warm water and lemon juice, which is slightly acidic, work to stimulate the digestive system and help move the contents of the intestines forward. Lemon also helps flush toxins as well as undigested material stuck to the lining of the colon out of the body. (5)
Things you’ll need:
- Lemon juice, fresh – from ½ lemon
- Warm water – 1 cup
Add fresh lemon juice to warm water
- Squeeze the juice out of half of a lemon into 1 cup of warm water.
Drink this warm water before going to bed and again right after you wake up in the morning. Drinking warm lemon water twice daily in this manner will surely regulate your bowel movements.
Method 2: Using Honey Water
Honey has been used for ages as a mild and safe laxative. (6) (7) This viscous nectar helps soften the hard stool and stimulates mucus production that facilitates the much-needed expulsion of old and residual fecal matter.
Moreover, the fact that honey is generously supplied with a wide array of nutrients just reaffirms its efficacy as a strengthening aid for your digestive as well as overall health. Consuming a dollop of honey mixed in warm water acts as the perfect stimulant for your intestinal tract, and thereby helps you beat constipation.
Things you’ll need:
- Honey – 1 tablespoon
- Warm water – 1 glass
Pour honey into warm water
- Add 1 tablespoon of honey to a glass of warm water and stir the mixture thoroughly.
Using raw and organic honey of good quality will produce the best results.
Drink the warm honey water twice a day - at night before going to bed and first thing in the morning after waking up, for relief from constipation.
Method 3: Using Flaxseeds
The oil present in flaxseeds helps to relieve constipation as well by coating the lining of the intestinal walls as well as the colon and thereby assisting in the movement of the fecal matter through the tract.
Whole flaxseeds don’t do much for constipation, as your body will simply pass them out whole. Only ground or crushed flaxseeds alleviate constipation. They should always be consumed with some form of fluid like orange juice or water to yield the best results as well as to prevent further digestive distress.
Things you’ll need:
- Flaxseeds, ground – 1 tablespoon
- Water – 1 cup
Add ground flaxseeds to water and let it sit
- Add 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to 1 cup of water.
- Let it sit for 2 to 3 hours before drinking.
Drink the flaxseed water and give it some time to work.
You may need to be patient, as it may take up to 5 hours to work. If convenient, you can drink it at night just before going to bed.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds over your cereal. Wash it down with milk, juice or water.
Method 4: Using Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is the by-product that forms when pure cane sugar juice is boiled to make sugar. The third boiling in the sugar-making process results in the formation of blackstrap molasses. It contains magnesium and other minerals and vitamins that help relieve constipation. (10) (11)
Blackstrap molasses can have a bit of a strong taste, which can be toned down by consuming it with a drink. These pungent molasses can be diluted in water, green tea, cereal, porridge, baked goods or sweet dishes. Taking it with honey or prune juice can increase its effectiveness.
Things you’ll need:
- Blackstrap molasses – 1 teaspoon
- Warm water – 1 glass
Add molasses to warm water
Add 1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses to a glass of lukewarm water and stir well.
Drink the molasses water three times a day to ease constipation and regularize bowel movements.
Method 5: Using Castor Oil
- You may take 1 to 2 teaspoons of castor oil orally to relieve constipation. If you find the taste unacceptable, consider diluting it with juice for consumption.
- Wait for it to show results, as it may take 6 to 12 hours to work.
Despite being a sure-shot remedy for constipation, castor oil should always be administered with caution.
Castor oil has traditionally been used to introduce labor pains in pregnant women. Therefore, pregnant women should never consume castor oil to relieve constipation as it may lead to uterine contractions.
Method 6: Using Yogurt
- Consuming yogurt regularly will prevent constipation, bloating and pain.
- You can include yogurt in your diet to keep your digestion smooth and your bowel movements regular.
- Always prefer organic yogurt, which doesn’t contain any additives or preservatives.
- Read the info on the packaging before buying yogurt to ensure that you get the best and the healthiest.
Method 7: Using Figs
Rich in fiber, figs are a natural laxative and can be consumed to relieve chronic constipation. While figs can be consumed both fresh and dried, the latter variety is most widely available. (14)
A single dried fig contains more fiber than a small apple or orange.
- If eating the fresh fruit, eat it along with its skin because most of the fiber is present in the skin.
Figs are abundant in both soluble and insoluble fibers. The insoluble fiber helps add bulk to the stool, making it easier to defecate. The soluble fiber binds the fatty acids and holds the food in the stomach for a longer time, allowing proper digestion. This reduces the chances of undigested material clogging the lower gastrointestinal tract.
Things you’ll need:
- Figs, dried – a handful
Soak figs in water overnight
- Put a handful of figs in a small bowl. You can safely consume 4 to 6 figs at a time.
- Add enough water to the bowl to fully immerse the figs.
- Let the figs soak overnight.
- Discard the water the next morning.
- Consume the soaked figs on an empty stomach.
Doing this regularly for a couple of days should gradually bring your bowel movements back on track.
Method 8: Using a Salt Water Flush
You can make a salt water flush with salt or salt water sole. If using salt, opt for Himalayan salt or sea salt. The refined table salt will not benefit your body as well as Himalayan salt. Saltwater sole is simply saturated salt water in which no more salt can be dissolved.
- Add 1 teaspoon of Himalayan salt to a glass of water and mix thoroughly.
- Alternatively, mix 1 teaspoon of salt water sole in a glass of water.
The best time to consume this salt water is in the morning on an empty stomach before you’ve eaten anything. This will prevent bloating and nausea, and give you plenty of time to use the bathroom.
Additional tips for constipation relief
- Lemon water is a great tonic for the body, and you can continue taking it even after getting relief from constipation. It will keep your body hydrated, boost your immune system and balance your body’s pH level. It can also help you achieve healthy weight loss and give you clear, glowing skin.
- If using flaxseeds, you can grind them in your coffee grinder or a good blender. Use only freshly ground flaxseeds, as their oil tends to oxidize and become rancid when kept for several hours.
- Ask your doctor if you can safely consume castor oil, keeping in mind your age, medical conditions and any medication that you might be taking.
- Ensure that you drink at least 8 glasses of water each day. Furthermore, you may need to increase your water intake in proportion to the amount of dietary fiber you consume.
- Avoid processed foods and include at least 30 minutes of exercise in your daily routine.
- Constipation symptoms and treatments. NHS inform - Scottish health information you can trust. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/constipation. Published May 1, 2018.
- Constipation. NHS Choices. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/. Published December 20, 2017.
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- Conditions & Health Home > Health > Healthy Woman > Conditions & Health Constipation: Causes and Prevention Tips. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-woman/conditions/constipation-causes-and-prevention-tips.
- Patel S, Patel J, Patel M. European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research. https://www.ejpmr.com/home/abstract_id/220.
- Ladas SD, Haritos DN, Raptis SA. Honey may have a laxative effect on normal subjects because of incomplete fructose absorption. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7491882. Published December 1995.
- Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey, and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/. Published 2017.
- Soltanian N, Janghorbani M. A randomized trial of the effects of flaxseed to manage constipation, weight, glycemia, and lipids in constipated patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutrition & Metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5944250/. Published May 9, 2018.
- Tarpila S, Tarpila A, Gröhn P. Efficacy of ground flaxseed on constipation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291155913_Efficacy_of_ground_flaxseed_on_constipation_in_patients_with_irritable_bowel_syndrome. Published May 2004.
- Wallaker K, Fortuna E, Bradin S. Milk, and Molasses Enemas: Clearing Things Up. Plum X Metrix. https://www.jenonline.org/article/S0099-1767(13)00413-3/abstract. Published November 2012.
- University of Virginia School of Medicine. Department of Pediatrics. https://med.virginia.edu/pediatrics/about/clinical-and-patient-services/patient-tutorials/chronic-constipation-encopresis/treatment-of-chronic-constipation/.
- Arslan GG, Eşer I. An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21168117. Published February 2011.
- Corliss J. Probiotics may ease constipation. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/probiotics-may-ease-constipation-201408217377. Published November 28, 2017.
- Effects of Ficuscarica paste on constipation induced by a high-protein feed and movement restriction in beagles. Laboratory Animal Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3251757/. Published December 19, 2011.
- Portalatin M, Winstead N. Medical Management of Constipation. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3348737/. Published March 2012.
- Treatment of Chronic Constipation. Department of Pediatrics. https://med.virginia.edu/pediatrics/about/clinical-and-patient-services/patient-tutorials/chronic-constipation-encopresis/treatment-of-chronic-constipation/.
Summary of How to Get Rid of Constipation
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