Feeling a little clogged up? Constipation is no fun, but it happens from time to time. It's relatively common and often confused with other gastrointestinal problems. For the most part, the majority of treatments focus on simple dietary adjustments. In addition to modifying what you eat, there are also various home remedies for constipation that you can try.
Continue reading to discover more about constipation, how to treat it, and what typically causes it. You'll also learn how to avoid becoming constipated and when to seek medical attention.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is defined as difficulty defecating and having less than three bowel movements per week. Bowel movements that are hard and dry and can be difficult to expel. Sometimes constipation can also make you feel like you still have to go.
Constipation can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute or temporary constipation comes on suddenly and can last a few days. Chronic constipation tends to develop gradually and can last up to three months.
Keep in mind: Chronic constipation occurs more frequently in women and increases with age. It can also happen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
Main Causes of Constipation
Below are the main causes of constipation, which can be classified into two groups:
These are some of the causes of constipation due to intestinal malfunction that inhibits proper bowel movements:
A diet low in fiber and water, or frequent consumption of foods that cause constipation
Poor dietary habits that cause a low deposit of food to your colon
The inability to relax your anal sphincter, causing an involuntary contraction and release which makes going to the bathroom more difficult
Consuming opioids, antidepressants, antihistamines, iron salts, aluminum hydroxide, sedatives, and some antihypertensives
Using laxatives without consulting a doctor
The inability to feel the urge to use the bathroom due to neurological or rectal structure problems (for example, a rectum that’s too large)
Insufficient intestinal wall functioning at the time of pushing stool out of your rectum
Reduced abdominal muscular tension, which inhibits the necessary strength to defecate (frequent in pregnant women, the elderly, and people with muscle weakness)
These causes originate from another illness or condition. We can observe these in people with:
Spinal cord injuries
Foods to Prevent Constipation
Changes in diet are one of the most common causes of constipation. That’s why it’s important to ingest enough water and quality sources of fiber to prevent and treat constipation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends consuming:
Vegetables high in fiber (broccoli, carrots) and leafy greens (cabbage, kale)
Legumes (peas, black beans, edamame, pinto beans, and chickpeas)
Fruits (apples, oranges, and pears)
Whole grains (whole grain pasta, bread, oatmeal, and bran flakes)
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, and peanuts)
Plenty of water
Natural juices or vegetable stock
Keep in mind: The ideal amount of fiber and fluids varies from person to person depending on weight, gender, overall health, age, and daily physical activity. Consult your doctor to determine the ideal daily fiber and liquid intake for you.
Which Foods Can Cause Constipation?
Just as some foods can help prevent or treat constipation, there are other foods that can cause it or make the problem worse:
Fatty foods, like fast or fried foods
Pastries and cookies, which can be high in fat and sugar
Processed foods (hamburgers, hot dogs, and microwavable meals)
Frozen foods (like pizza or lasagne)
Unripe fruits, like green bananas
Meat, especially processed meats
Soda and sugary soft drinks
10 Natural Remedies for Constipation
Some teas and infusions made with natural ingredients can help alleviate constipation at home. We recommend consulting your doctor before using any of these remedies to supplement their professional treatment plans.
Probiotic foods or supplements
Probiotics are bacteria that help your digestive system, and they are already present in your gut. Probiotics can be found in a variety of foods and supplements. Also available in either capsule or beverage form, they’re great at maintaining healthy intestinal flora and balanced digestion.
Keep in mind: Probiotics can help alleviate and prevent constipation, and there are many scientific studies that demonstrate their benefits. One way that probiotics help with constipation is by decreasing bowel transit time. Some examples of probiotic-rich foods are:
Some studies show that drinking both caffeinated and decaf coffee can help evacuate stool. Caffeinated coffee can do so more efficiently. Coffee stimulates your intestine to help you defecate and softens stool.
Keep in mind: Talk to a doctor before drinking coffee for constipation. Drinking coffee may worsen digestive symptoms for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.
Chamomile is a popular natural remedy for stomach pain, which is a common symptom of constipation. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits that help decrease gas that causes uncomfortable abdominal bloating.
Drinking chamomile tea hydrates you, which helps soften your stool. Best of all, it’s easy to make:
Boil a cup of water
Add a few spoonfuls of dried chamomile or a tea bag to the boiling water
Boil for a minute and remove from heat to steep
Let sit until it the temperature cools slightly
If you prefer, add a teaspoon of honey for sweetness
Oatmeal and yogurt
Oatmeal is a great source of fiber. Yogurt is rich in probiotics. When you combine the two and eat them for breakfast, it may help alleviate constipation. In fact, you can also eat oatmeal mixed with yogurt to prevent constipation from happening in the first place.
Keep in mind: You can eat oatmeal and yogurt three times a week in portions that are adjusted to your diet. Talk with your doctor to determine the right portions for you.
Senna is a natural laxative used to treat severe constipation. It’s an FDA-approved over-the-counter supplement. In addition to helping constipation, this laxative can be used to empty your colon before a colonoscopy.
Using Senna for more than a week or consuming more than 34.4 mg twice daily can be detrimental. This supplement can be safe if you stay within those ranges. Consult your doctor beforehand as it can interact with other medications.
This soluble dietary fiber can be found in plenty of plants such as psyllium, flaxseeds, aloe vera, mallow, and parsley. It has a tremendous ability to increase in volume when it comes into contact with liquids. This makes it viscous and helps lubricate the intestinal walls while regulating bowel movements.
It’s also a great source of fiber. Mucilage provides other benefits like:
Regulating blood sugar
Protecting your intestinal walls
Increasing your feeling of fullness
Preventing cholesterol from entering your bloodstream
Protecting wounds and burns
Hydrating your skin
Keep in mind: Mucilage is perfect for kids because it aids digestion and promotes a better feeling of fullness.
This classic childhood snack is a fantastic remedy to counteract the effects of constipation. When eaten with the skin on, apples are a great source of pectin and fiber. Pectin helps regulate intestinal function.
Simply peel and boil a few apples. Once they're fully cooked, you can either blend them into another dish, such as oatmeal, or simply eat them on their own.
This fruit, which is actually a dried plum, is one of the most highly recommended foods for constipation. Sorbitol, which is commonly found in prunes, is used to treat constipation and act as a natural laxative.
Keep in mind: Some people are allergic to sorbitol. If you have a sorbitol allergy, avoid eating prunes, especially if you haven’t spoken with a doctor first.
Eating papaya is an excellent way to cure or treat constipation due to its high water and fiber content. Papaya is also vitamin-rich, which nourishes the body and helps your immune system fight off infection.
You can consume fresh papaya fruit (eating the pulp and seeds), or drink dried leaves in tea form. Papaya also:
Supports intestinal transit
Promotes good digestion
Decreases cholesterol levels
May help with weight loss
Fights against premature aging
Helps eliminate liver toxins
While there are natural substances and plants that can help ease constipation, they’re not the only solution for this condition. Getting daily physical activity, or exercising at least three times a week, is a great way to increase the frequency of your bowel movements and facilitate digestion.
Daily physical activity is one of the best ways to prevent a variety of illnesses. Strengthening your abdominal muscles also helps you go to the bathroom more easily. There are even bowel retraining programs designed to help improve bowel movements and function in cases of severe constipation or fecal incontinence.
Six Bad Habits to Avoid
Before and during bouts of constipation, it’s a good idea to avoid certain habits that could trigger or exacerbate the problem. Below are six examples:
Don’t skip meals. It’s important to stick to a consistent daily eating regimen. Skipping meals will only cause constipation or make it worse.
Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. A lifestyle without daily physical activity leads to health problems, including constipation. Stay active by exercising at least three times a week.
Don't forget to drink water. Everyone’s body is different. The right amount of water for you will depend on what your doctor indicates. Try to adhere to your recommended daily fluid intake to prevent constipation.
Don't skimp on the fruits and vegetables. The fiber they contain is a great digestive booster, which makes elimination much easier.
Try to go at the same time every day. It's a good idea to establish a time to go to the bathroom every day to prevent abnormalities. Every morning, try to use the bathroom anywhere from 15-45 minutes after eating breakfast.
Don’t hold it in. If you have to use the bathroom, don’t wait too long to go. Waiting only suppresses the urge temporarily, only for it to come back later. This can impact your regularity.
Using Laxatives for Constipation
Many laxatives are sold over-the-counter, easily available, and for the most part safe to use. That said, misuse of these medications could be harmful to your health. For example, taking laxatives excessively can lead to dependence and other side effects like:
Abdominal pain or cramps
Bowel movement irregularities
Chronic constipation that isn’t alleviated with laxatives
Keep in mind: If you have any of these symptoms while taking an over-the-counter laxative, consult your doctor. It’s always advisable to talk to a healthcare professional before self-medicating. Before taking any laxatives, try changing your diet, drinking more fluids, and getting daily exercise.
The safest laxatives for long-term use are fiber supplements. They act as bulk agents. Below are some laxatives you can purchase:
When to See a Doctor for Constipation
It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor for the most adequate treatment plan. If you experience one of these symptoms below, call your doctor immediately:
Abdominal bloating or distention
Inexplicable weight loss
Chronic constipation that doesn’t seem to improve (in elderly people)
Kick Constipation to the Curb!
With the information above, you can now prevent and relieve constipation symptoms at home. This condition can be more common than you think, and it isn’t necessarily a sign of anything serious. So rest easy and don’t let this condition keep you backed up! A fiber-rich diet, getting enough fluids, and exercising are some of the best remedies to relieve constipation and other digestive discomfort.
Remember, in all regular and irregular cases, SABEResPODER!