Most people have battled the unpleasantness of constipation at least once in their life. In most cases, it not a very serious issue and passes relatively quickly. Constipation usually occurs when stool is hard and has difficulty evacuating the body. Elimination becomes infrequent or slowed due to the dried/hard feces. A red flag for constipation is not having a bowel movement after three days or less than three in a week.
Constipation Symptoms include the following:
- Stomach bloating
- Abdomen pain
- Less frequent bowel elimination
- Feces that is difficult to eliminate (straining)
- Small stool
- Hard stool
- Less than three bowel movements in a week
- Bleeding from the anus
- Frequent feeling of incomplete elimination
The typical internal cause of constipation is from the colon absorbing too much water which leaves hard or dried stool. Dried stool does not move through the bowels as well as lubricated feces, therefore, elimination becomes markedly slow in movement.
Causes of constipation include the following:
- Colon neurological issues
- Poor diet
- Pelvic muscle problems
- Lack of fiber
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Underactive thyroid
- Strong pain pills
- Excessive laxative use
- Iron and calcium supplementation
- Lack of exercise
- Older in age
- Hormone Disorder
Natural Home Remedies for Constipation Relief
Use these home remedies to potentially help solve your constipation problems:
- Yogurt – We have all likely seen Jamie Lee Curtis touting the digestive benefits of Activia yogurt. While she is clearly presenting a sale pitch, she isn’t far off in her claim. Yogurt contains live cultures (probiotics), which may ease constipation by promoting stable gut health. Researchers at King’s College pooled data from 14 studies that focused on constipation and probiotics. The trial data revealed that “On average, probiotics slowed “gut transit time” by 12.4 hours, increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3, and helped soften stools, making them easier to pass. Probiotics that contained Bifidobacterium appeared to be the most effective.” More research is needed to confirm the benefits of probiotics for constipation, but data shows promising signs. While many dairy products cause constipation, yogurt may be the exception for some people.
- Prunes – Prunes (dried plums) are probably the most well know constipation helpers, likely because they work. One cup of pitted prunes has 12.5 grams of fiber. Fiber helps keep the stool moving by providing bulk and moisture. Prunes also contain high levels of sorbitol (a natural laxative) which keeps the colon hydrated and helps stool remain soft. Studies have found that bowel movements increase with consumption of prunes.
- Castor oil – Castor oil derives from castor seeds and is essentially a vegetable oil. It has been around for centuries for use as a laxative and for other minor medical purposes like chapped lips. It can be issued to patients for use as an intestinal cleanser for medical procedures. Castor oil stimulates the intestine walls creating peristaltic waves (contraction and relaxation of the muscles) which encourage the movement of feces. The downside is that the taste is horrible for most people, but it can be mixed with juice or milk. One to two tablespoons is typically all that is needed and it usually takes 5-6 hours to work. However, dosage and safety should be discussed with your doctor.
- Olive Oil – Olive oil is not just a tasty oil used for cooking and dressings, but can help alleviate constipation as well. It lubricates the intestine walls to help move stool along. It is also rich in vitamins and omega fatty acids that help promote a stable gastrointestinal tract. Stick with extra virgin olive oil since it is made from only crushed olives. Drink a tablespoon with your morning beverage or add it to your vegetables at lunch or dinner.
- Coffee – Have you ever noticed an urge to go as finish your morning coffee? The caffeine in coffee is believed to help promote contraction and relaxation of the intestine walls to keep feces moving south. While caffeine can help constipation, it can also dehydrate the body and draw water out of the institute walls creating dried/hard feces. The key may be to not overdo coffee consumption and find a balance of maybe one cup daily. We still consider this one of the remedies for constipation despite its ability to dehydrate, but proceed with caution and test for effectiveness.
- Exercise – There are many reasons why a sedentary lifestyle of little exercise is unhealthy. Constipation is one of those reasons. This is particularly true for older people (over 65). It is believed that exercise helps create a healthier gastrointestinal system by bring blood to the area and promoting adequate colon muscle contractions.
- Spinach – Spinach is known for its cleansing ability along with being rich in vitamins A, B2, C, and K. It adds bulk to the stool and is high in fiber, making for easier eliminations.
- Raisins -Raisins are one of the best constipation home remedies because of their effective laxative abilities. They are high in insoluble fiber which adds bulk to stool to enable proper movement through the intestine. They also create a softness to the stool that aids in a smooth travel. Eat them as a dessert, snack or mixed in with food to promote proper digestion. Better yet, soak the raisins overnight in water and drink the soaking water with the raisins in the morning. A handful in a cup of water will work well.
- Lemons – Many of us know that lemon juice is full of vitamin C. An excess of vitamin C in the body creates a natural lubricant in the intestines. The best option is to drink lemon water because it provides hydration and lubrication from both sources. Simply juice a full lemon and add it to a 16-ounce bottled water or a glass of water. Lemon is not harmful unless huge doses are consumed so feel free to drink this a few times a day. The daily recommendations for intake by the National Institutes of Health are 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women (85 mg if pregnant & 120 mg if breastfeeding). To put things in perspective, 47 mg of vitamin C are in a half cup of lemon juice.
- Oranges – Oranges are similar to lemons being high in vitamin C. See above for the benefits.
- Figs – Figs help soften waste matter and they act as a laxative. Additionally, they are high in fiber which helps bowel movements stay in motion.
- Pears – Like prunes, pears contain sorbitol which brings water into the intestine walls and works as a lubricant. They are also another high fiber food.
- Flaxseed Oil or Seeds– A recent study found that flaxseed oil showed signs of being a laxative to relieve constipation as well as being an aid in alleviating diarrhea. Flaxseed contains soluble fiber which may be responsible for its laxative properties.
While the above natural remedies for constipation do provide assistance or relief to a common problem, letting constipation linger for too long can cause serious problems. The above remedies should be used short-term only. See or call a doctor if constipation turns into a long-term problem and/or if other symptoms out of the normal being to appear.