The Best Home Remedies for Constipation
Unless you’re a mom, “potty problems” probably aren’t a popular conversation topic. You may be willing to tell everyone you know about your stuffy head or how much your sore throat is bothering you, but rarely will anyone tell their coworkers how bad they want to poop, because let’s face it, you haven’t been able to all week.
Believe it or not constipation isn’t something to feel embarrassed about. A whopping 80% of Americans suffer from constipation at some point in their lives and 19% have chronic constipation. So guess what? You’re not alone. And before you go running to the pharmacy to pick up some OTC laxatives I think you should try some simple home remedies for constipation to relieve your discomfort first. They work!
What is Constipation?
I wasn’t going to include this part in the article but a surprising amount of people don’t actually know what constipation is or what it means. So here is a quick rundown of those frequently asked questions.
• “constipation meaning”, “constipation definition”, “constipated meaning”, and “meaning of constipation”….I can’t even make this stuff up
Here’s your answer straight from the dictionary:
a condition of the bowels in which the feces are dry and hardened and evacuation is difficult and infrequent.
infrequent or difficult evacuation of the bowels, with hard feces,caused by functional or organic disorders or improper diet
Constipation includes symptoms like:
• Abdominal pain or distention
• Feeling as though you are “blocked” and can’t go
• Hard stools that are difficult or painful to pass
• Nausea and bloating
• Straining to have a bowel movement
What Causes Constipation
There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re asking yourself “Why am I constipated?”
• Are you relatively inactive?
• Did you just have surgery?
• Are you on any medications including OTC medicines?
• Do you eat a low fiber diet?
• Do you drink enough water?
• Are you stressed?
• Do you frequently use laxatives?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then that is where you need to focus your improvements. You don’t need to go overboard to get results. You already know the right answers . Eat healthy, stay hydrated, move your body, get good sleep, and stress less! Also, stop taking OTC laxatives, they’re only making things worse because you won’t be able to poop without them after prolonged use.
Simple Home Remedies for Constipation
These tips and tricks should be accessible to everyone and are super easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Take a look and pick the ones that suit your lifestyle.
So without further ado…
Fresh aloe is one of the best remedies for constipation because it contains “aloe latex”, a runny yellow liquid that is known to be a gentle laxative. Most commercial aloe juice doesn’t contain aloe latex so you need to look for products labeled “whole leaf aloe juice” or “whole leaf aloe gel”. There isn’t much difference between the two as far as effectiveness goes so go with what’s easiest for you. I personally like taking the gel version.
There are a few brands I really like and recommend for high quality aloe you can buy at your local health food store.
1. Lily of the Desert– They have both whole leave juice and gel. They even have a stomach formula with aloe and herbs that is also really great.
2. Aloe Force– These guys have some amazing formulas with aloe and herbs as well. They also have a great whole leaf aloe juice
3. Aloe Life– These guys have different flavors you can choose from like cherry berry and orange papaya to make your experience a bit tastier
Taking 1-2 TB of these formulas daily keeps your gut lining clean and helps neutralize acidity.
Of course you can also take fresh aloe leaf for great results too. Simply cut a fresh leaf near the bottom of the plant and fillet it. You will notice yellowish liquid closest to the leaf, that’s the good stuff. Scoop out 1-2 TB of fresh gel and eat it or blend it up in a little water. Try not to dilute it too much or it won’t work as well.
Coffee and Black Tea
Coffee and black tea do more than perk you up in the morning. Caffeine is a natural digestive stimulant that works even in small amounts, so indulging in a cup of joe every morning may be your answer. Just don’t overdo it. Drinking more than two cups a day can actually have the opposite effect due to the tannic nature of coffee and black tea. In case you didn’t know, tannins dehydrate you.
Dandelion leaf is an all-natural laxative that is gentle yet effective. It’s also an amazing detoxifier and will help boost your liver, detox your kidneys, and keep water retention at bay. Using this herb is most beneficial for those who have constipation due to diet and poor exercise habits though that doesn’t mean you should be skimping and exercise!
I really love this dandelion tea but you can also get loose dandelion leaf here.
Herbs that are slippery and soothing to mucus membranes like slippery elm, mallow, marshmallow root, and mullein are great for moistening a dry colon. My personal favorite is slippery elm because it tastes good and can easily be taken as a lozenge or in capsule form daily. The other herbs can be taken as cold infusions (though it isn’t pleasant) or in capsule form with a large glass of water.
Epsom salts are great for constipation for two reasons. First, the salt pulls water from its surroundings which sounds drying but is actually moistening. Water begins surrounding the hardened stool which softens it making it easier to pass. The magnesium is Epsom salt causes the bowel muscles to contract which encourages an easier bowel movement. This remedy is best used mixed in warm lemon water or in fruit juice on an empty stomach.
How to Use Epsom Salts for Constipation
• Mix 2 tsp (for adults) or ½ tsp (for children) of epsom salt into 1 cup of warm lemon water or fruit juice
• Drink it all at once. If within 4 hours you have not had a bowel movement then take one more dose
Everyone knows that eating a fiber rich diet helps relieve and prevent constipation. A diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and other types of roughage keeps our body healthy and gets it moving- if you know what I mean. Fiber is, in short, indigestible material that helps sponge up moisture and bulk up stool making it easier to pass. Processed foods tend to be missing this essential element which is why they often cause constipation. Surprisingly, like too much coffee, there are certain kinds of fiber (like legumes) that actually contribute to constipation unless you drink a lot of water with your burritos.
So, what are some foods that help with constipation?
• Beans as long as you drink enough water
• Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables
• Carrots- raw
• Fresh apples- the starchier the better
• Nuts and seeds
• Salads with lots of variety
• Tons of fresh dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, etc.
Some of my favorite fiber supplements are:
Here’s another great natural laxative that works really well. Flaxseed oil actually coats to walls of your intestine as well as the stool making things a bit more passable. A good way to take it is blended in pulpy orange juice. This blend will increase the number of bowel movements per day to help give you quick relief.
How to Use Flaxseed Oil as a Laxative
• Blend 1TB high lignin flaxseed oil in 8oz of orange juice with the pulp
This remedy should work within 5 hours. If not, try one more dose but don’t overdo it.
Blackstrap molasses never fails to impress. Not only is it great for menstrual cramps it also great for constipation. The reason it works so well is because of how it’s made. While regular molasses doesn’t contain vitamins and minerals, blackstrap molasses does due to the third boiling process. This crystalized sugar contains significant amounts of nutrients, especially magnesium, which as we know helps the bowel contract and relieve constipation. Blackstrap molasses is a healthy and tasty remedy that is really easy to use.
How to Use Blackstrap Molasses for Constipation
• Add 1-2 tsp (you can use up to 2TB if desired) of unsulfured blackstrap molasses to 1 cup of hot water or in your favorite herbal tea
• Drink daily for best results
Including a high quality olive oil in your daily diet is a great way to reduce and even prevent constipation. Just like flaxseed oil, olive oil also has the ability to coat both the stool and the intestinal walls to make bowel movements easier.
How to Use Olive Oil for Constipation
There are two really easy ways to add olive oil to your diet that do not involve cooking.
1. Make a delicious salad dressing for your daily salads. I love mixing 1TB olive oil with 2TB of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and ½ tsp of herbs de provence. It’s delicious!
2. Mix 1TB of olive oil with 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice and take on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Not as fun but it gets the job done
I’m not sure it cooking with olive oil give same effect.
Of course we couldn’t forget about prunes! Only everyone knows about how well they work for constipation and with good reason, they work! Prunes work as a natural laxative due to their high amounts of fiber and sorbitol levels- a natural carbohydrate that is difficult to digest. The sorbitol attracts water as it passes through the bowel adding bulk to stool making it easier to pass. Don’t eat too many prunes though, too much sorbitol can make you gassy and bloated.
How to Use Prunes for Constipation
• Eat 5 prunes daily or drink 2 8oz glasses of prune juice daily- one in the morning and one at night
These are herbs that forcefully cause a bowel movement and should only be used as a last resort because they are very irritating to the gut lining. Overuse of these herbs can also cause dependence as well as cramping and diarrhea. They do however work in acute situations within 12 hours if you have tried everything else without relief.
Follow the instructions carefully on the package for use.
Warm Lemon Water
This remedy is one of the tastiest and most beneficial. Lemon is an excellent stimulant for digestion and can actually help detox the colon by helping it release built up waste and toxins along the walls of the bowel.
How to Use Lemon for Constipation
• Squeeze half a lemon in warm water upon waking for best results
Not only will the lemon help relieve constipation it will also keep your body hydrated.
Other Methods That Stop Constipation
One cannot expect things to move through the body unless we move ourselves. Not only are we eating fiber deficient processed foods, we’re also sitting and staying immobile longer throughout the day. Getting up and moving gets the juices flowing in more ways than one. When you exercise you drink more fluids too which helps keep things moist. Some of the best exercises for constipation are yoga, swimming, hiking, and if you’re more hard core, HIIT exercise routines.
Go When Nature Calls
There’s a reason our body gives us signals to go to the bathroom because the longer you hold it in, the more water is absorbed from the stool making it harder to pass. Your body also only gives you the signal to go for a certain amount of time so even if you don’t feel the need to go anymore doesn’t mean all’s well. You may not get the signal again until things become uncomfortable. So when nature calls- GO!
Having healthy gut bacteria is vital for a properly working digestive system. Keeping them strong and plentiful ensures that constipation doesn’t happen as easily or as often. A lot of things compromise the delicate balance of flora in the colon so it’s important to take gentle probiotics daily in the form of high quality cultures foods like kefir, sour kraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, and kombucha. You can sometimes even find active yogurt- make sure it says live strains of bacteria present on the label.
Eating fermented food is the best way to get your little beasties in, but if you’re not a huge fan of fermented foods then taking a simple probiotic capsule will work as well.
I like these brands:
Many cultures around the world do not use western style toilets and for good reason. Countries like China, Japan, and many other Asian cultures have realized the important of proper elimination posture and its effects on constipation. Squatting low to the floor while going number 2 is the best way to eliminate completely and easily. Using a western toilet actually bends the last few inches of large intestine at an unnatural angle making elimination more straining. This can cause some stool to be left in the colon. Good thing for us westerners, there’s actually a stool that wraps around western style toilets to imitate proper elimination posture- the squatty potty.
What have been your best remedies for constipation?
For more on digestion remedies check out my article below:
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