Constipation is one of the most common afflictions that affect people of all ages and genders. In a nutshell, people suffering from constipation are not able to pass stool with any regularity. People who are fairly regular but are unable to completely empty their bowels may be considered to be constipated as well!
Adults as well as kids can be constipated because of their diet or physiology. Sometimes, a bout of constipation may be caused by psychological factors! Some of the most common causes of chronic and severe constipation are:
- Not receiving enough fiber in your diet. This is extremely prevalent among people who consume a lot of protein, but not enough fruits, cereals and leafy green vegetables.
- Not exercising enough.
- Not drinking enough water.
- A change of schedule, brought about by switching apartments, jobs or even while travelling.
- Getting the urge to pass stool at an inconvenient time, causing you to ignore it.
- As a side effect for certain medications.
- Being overly dependent on laxatives.
- Can be brought on my anxiety or depression as well.
Please note that constipation may also be caused by some serious underlying diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
If you are suffering from constipation, you will be familiar with the following symptoms:
- Feeling bloated, accompanied by stomach aches and cramps. You may be passing some foul-smelling wind as well!
- When you do pass stool, it tends to smell more rank than normal. The stool tends to be hard, making it a painful experience
- A feeling of general malaise, accompanied by a loss of appetite.
- An increased aversion towards physical activity, accompanied by general irritability.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Constipation
Being constipated is one of the most common afflictions of the human experience. Everyone has been constipated at some point in their lives; hence before feeling depressed or embarrassed, remember that you are not alone. Following any of the following home remedies will help you beat this condition really fast. There are some cures that will cure you of this affliction within hours!
As not consuming enough fiber tends to be the most common cause for chronic and severe constipation, the most sensible way to cure constipation for the long haul would be to incorporate more fiber in your diet. This is one of the safest ways to combat constipation and it works for people across all age groups, including toddlers and pregnant women.
Fiber helps you to retain water in you colon, which is then used to soften your stool. However, please note that you need to drink plenty of water as well, so that the fiber can actually do its job. Without enough water, the excess fiber can actually make your constipation worse.
Beans, potatoes, apricots, broccoli, plums, pears, carrots, brown rice, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds, among other are some excellent sources of fiber. However, incorporating these items in your diet will help you stave off constipation in the long term. For some immediate relief, we would like to suggest the following fiber superfoods:
- Figs: The fiber content in figs are so high, that they are considered to be a natural laxative. Following is how you can use figs to cure your constipation:
- Take about three pieces of dried figs and three pieces of green almonds and soak them in water for a few hours.
- Peel the almonds and then grind them with the figs into a smooth paste.
- Add one tablespoon of honey into this mixture and have it before you go to bed.
- Prunes: Besides a prodigious quantity of fiber, prunes contain sorbitol, which is a complex carbohydrate that absorbs a lot of water before it can be digested, thus softening your stool in the process. Drink one glass of prune juice on an empty belly and one glass of prune juice right before you go to bed for some immediate relief! Do not exceed the recommended dosage, or you may start suffering from boutsof diarrhea instead!
- Flax seeds: Besides a healthy dose of fiber, flax seeds contains omega-3 fatty acids, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is also proven to prevent heart diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids also keeps your digestive system in tip-top shape and treats symptoms of constipation that are caused by ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Moreover, they also form a protective layer inside your colon, thus preventing the hard stool from creating fissures or ulcers.
Simply mix one tablespoon of flax seeds into a glass of water and let it sit for a few hours. Drink the water right before you go to bed. Your bowel movement the following morning is guaranteed to be a satisfying experience. This treatment needs to be avoided if you have diabetes, or are taking a prescribed doses of blood-thinners or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Grapes: Grapes are incredibly rich in fiber as well. For immediate results, boil about 12 pieces of grapes in milk and then drink it right before you go to bed. For long-term digestive well-being, it is a great idea to incorporate a small bowl of grapes into your breakfast. If grapes are not in season, you can always have half a glass of packaged grape juice. Alternatively, you can soak raising in water for a couple of days, then eat the raisins and drink the water on an empty belly.
Lemon contains citric acid, which helps stimulate the colon. It allows your digestive system to remove toxins from the intestinal tract and it also allows undigested food matter to be detached from the intestinal wall. Following is how you can use lemons to treat your constipation:
- Take a regular-sized lemon and cut it in half. Squeeze the juice from one of the halves into an 8 oz. glass.
- Add a pinch of rock salt to it. If you do not have rock salt, then half a teaspoon of table salt is a worthy replacement.
- Add a teaspoon of honey. Besides being a natural sweetener, honey has anti-inflammatory properties as well!
- Fill the glass with lukewarm water. Stir gently till all of the salt is dissolved.
- Drink this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Your condition should improve in a few days. Keep drinking this everyday to prevent the symptoms from ever showing up again!
- Castor oil
If you cannot afford to wait a couple of days for lemons to unclog your system, then you can use castor oil instead. A recent study conducted in Nigeria claims that castor oil is one of the quickest natural remedies for constipation as it immediately stimulates the small and the large intestines.
For best results, simply consume two teaspoons of castor oil every morning on an empty stomach. However, as it is highly unpalatable and is difficult to swallow, it is recommended to mix it in a glass of fruit juice.
A word of caution, as castor oil usually works within hours, it is not recommended to take castor oil before going to bed or while travelling.
- Blackstrap Molasses
If you have a bit of a sweet-tooth, you may actually enjoy this treatment. Blackstrap molasses are created from sugarcane juice by repeatedly boiling it. It contains significant amount of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, which can help stimulate your digestive system. Magnesium draws water from the surrounding area into your colon, thus making your stool soft and thus easier to pass.
For best results have one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses before you go to bed and have another teaspoon right after you wake up. Some find it to be too sweet, hence feel free to mix it in a glass of lukewarm water, milk or even a tangy juice such as orange, prune or cranberry juice. Some even like to mix it with peanut butter. Feel free to figure out what works for you!
For some, just one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses may not be adequate. If your symptoms persist after a few days, feel free to double the dosage. Be careful not to go beyond that!
One of the main components of coffee is caffeine, which is a natural stimulant for your digestive system. Having a strong cup of Joe first thing in the morning will help you ‘get down to business’ in more ways than one! However, refrain from over-indulging as coffee is a natural diuretic as well, which means that it causes you to urinate a lot, thus reducing the supply of water that could be softening your stool, making your constipation worse in the process.
- Green Tea
Besides polyphenols, which an effective anti-oxidant, green tea also contains generous quantities of caffeine, which as we have already mentioned can initiate natural peristalsis. Just take some organic green tea leaves in a sieve, run boiling hot water through it and drink it first thing in the morning. If you cannot procure green tea leaves, then green tea bags can be a worthy substitute. Its also safe to use during pregnancy in moderate amounts.
Modern humans are tamed beasts who tend to be chained to a desk for extended hours every-day, causing us to lead a sedentary lifestyle. With the passage of time, such lack of movement opens up a host of health issues, constipation being one of them. The demands of a career and a family do not leave us with too with much time to hit the gym or to play a sport. This is where yoga can come to the rescue. With a little bit of will and self-discipline, we can all eke out 30 minutes from our schedule, during which we can try the following postures that can help us be free from the symptoms of constipation:
- Sitting Half Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) : It improves bowel movement by stimulating the digestive canal.
- Plough Pose (Halasana) : This improves the blood circulation in the pelvis region, thus improving digestion.
- Wind-Relieving Pose (Pavanmuktasana) : Lets you release the gas that is making you feel bloated.
- Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana) : This is another pose that will help you get some relief from gas-induced bloating. Yoga experts say that this pose also helps reduce stress, hence may prove to be a cure for stress-induced constipation!
- Olive Oil
Olive oil can cure your constipation because:
- It stimulates the colon to help induce natural peristalsis.
- It helps soften feces.
- Contains Omega-3 fatty acids which helps cure constipation caused ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- It forms a protective layer around your colon, thus reducing the chances of it being ruptured by stool that has become especially hard.
Simply have a teaspoon of olive oil first thing in the morning and also right before you go to bed. You can add it to orange juice or add a teaspoon of lemon juice to make it easier on your palate. It is also a great idea to use it as cooking oil or a salad dressing!
- Epsom Salt
Epsom salt can relieve the symptoms of constipation because:
- It contains magnesium, which helps initiate the bowel contractions
- It draws water from the surrounding area to the colon, which makes the stool softer, thus making it easier to pass.
Simply mix two teaspoons of Epsom salt (1/2 teaspoon for children below 12 years of age) in a glass of water or juice and drink it first thing in the morning. If you are unable to have a bowel movement within four hours then feel free to repeat the dosage.
- Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Baking soda can eliminate the symptoms of constipation because as it is an alkali, it helps neutralize the stomach acids, thus easing the build-up of gas. Once the pH level of your colon becomes normal, you should feel the natural urge for a bowel movement.
Mix one teaspoon of baking soda into ¼ cup of lukewarm water and drink it all in one gulp. The relief will soon follow! Baking soda is completely safe for adults, however please do not try it on children as their digestive tract is too delicate.
- Aloe Vera
Although people tend to use aloe to treat skin conditions like sunburn and eczema, it is a little-known fact that aloe is a natural laxative as well!
Procure a leaf of an aloe plant and chop off its rinds to take the leaf apart. Scrape about two teaspoons of this natural aloe gel and mix it in a glass of fruit juice and drink it!
If you cannot get hold of an aloe plant, simple visit your local health food store and look for some aloe juice. Drinking this first thing in the morning can stave off bouts of constipation as well!
- Fish oil
There are several internet resources that list fish oil as an effective cure for constipation; however most of them fail to provide you with the full picture. Fish oil is abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is necessary for treating symptoms of constipation caused by other underlying diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. It can be ingested naturally by consuming cold-water fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and halibut. If you do not like seafood, then you can visit your pharmacy to purchase a bottle of fish oil supplement and simply follow the instructions on the bottle.
However, before going down this route, please keep the following things in mind:
- Before purchasing the fish, try to find out where the fish was sourced from. As the ocean is increasingly turning into a dumping ground for industrial and chemical wastes, with a few oil spills thrown in for good measure, lots of cold water fish tend to contain an alarming quantity of heavy metals like mercury.
- Omega-3 fatty acid needs to be avoided by people who are on diabetes medication.
- It also needs to be avoided by people on blood-thinners, steroids or anti-inflammatory medication.
Hence, at the risk of sounding incredibly ironic, please do not believe everything you read on the internet and kindly consult a doctor to figure out whether fish oil can cure “your” particular case of constipation.
- Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds (known as sonf in the Indian sub-continent) are helpful in relieving constipation caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It also helps get rid of the associated bloating and indigestion. Following is how you use fennel seeds to treat your constipation:
- Dry roast a cup of fennel seeds
- Grind the roasted fennel seeds into a fine powder and run them through a sieve to get rid of the husk. Store the powder in a clean jar.
- Add half a teaspoon of this to a glass of empty water and drink it first thing in the morning on an empty belly.
Probiotics are a collection of ‘benevolent’ bacteria that naturally exist in your digestive canal and helps in the digestive process. Some examples are Lactobacillus, Sacchromyces boulardi and Bifidobacterium. If your digestive system is in good health, then by inference, Probiotics help relieve constipation as well because regular bowel movements are a characteristic of a healthy digestive system. Yogurt is the most common source of Probiotics. Your local health food store will probably have a wide selection of Probiotic drinks as well.
However, the medical community is yet to substantiate any direct impact Probiotics may have on constipation. Results from a recent study in Poland have proved to be inconclusive.
People choose to have an enema for two main reasons:
- They have been suffering from the symptoms for way too long and are in too much discomfort to wait for the natural laxatives to have their desired effect.
- Due to certain physiological factors the natural laxatives fail to have any impact.
Just because you need an Enema does not mean that you need to make an expensive visit to the doctor’s office. It is a really simple process that you can do at home without any additional help. You will need the following things:
- An Enema kit. You can find that at your local pharmacy, or you may choose to order one online.
- A couple of towels
- A quart of distilled water that is at room temperature.
- A natural lubricant; any one of the following should suffice:
- Organic almond oil
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Virgin olive oil
You need to undergo the following steps:
- Assemble your enema kit. The box it came in should have a set of instructions.
- Find a comfortable corner in your bathroom. Make sure that you are really close to the toilet. Some people’s digestive tract responds almost immediately after the application of an enema and if you are not close to the toilet then you can create a serious mess!
- Lubricate your anus and the insertion tip of the enema tube with the natural lubricant you chose earlier.
- Fill your enema bag with water. Some choose to add a few extra ingredients to make the treatment more effective. Some examples are:
- Chamomile tea: Has mild anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lemon juice: If you have been suffering from chronic constipation, then squeezing a quarter of a lemon into you enema bag may be extremely helpful. It helps detoxify your colon and increases the pH level as well!
Some suggest adding Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to the enema bag as well. We would strongly recommend against that, as some people tend to be allergic to it. The absolute worst time to find out that you are allergic to something would be after you insert it into your constipated colon!
- You may have noticed a clamp that controls the flow of water from the enema bag to the insertion tube. Test the flow over a bathtub or your sink to ensure that the water is flowing smoothly. Master the clamp, so that you can easily control the flow of water. This will come in handy in a little bit.
- Put the towels on the floor. Make sure that it looks comfortable, as you are about to lie on them!
- Lie on these towels and bring your knees close to your chest, or in other words get in the wind-relieving yoga pose.
- Insert the insertion tube into your anus. Do not probe more than three inches. The tube is usually thin enough and along with the lubrication you applied earlier, this insertion should not cause you any major discomfort. If it does, you may need to adjust the angle.
- Slowly start the flow of water into your anus. The goal here is to get as much water into your colon as possible, so that it can trigger natural peristalsis. If you feel like you are cramping, stop for a few seconds and gently massage your abdomen. Then take a deep breath and restart the flow of water.
- After you have inserted a reasonable quantity, hold it in and get yourself to the toilet. Sit on it for a few minutes before you release the water.
- Enjoy your bowel movement!
Remember to sterilize your enema kit and air-drying it, if you want to save it for future use! Its safe in general, but should be administered to kids or pregnant women under medical guidance. Please note that if an enema doesn’t help you, then your constipation may just be an associated symptom of a more serious disease and you need to seek some immediate medical help!