You suffer from constipation when you have
- Less than three bowel movements in a week (ideally you should have bowel movements daily)
- Hard or lumpy stools (stools should normally be soft, semisolid inconsistency)
- Difficulty while passing stools (passing of stools should be an easy process)
- A feeling of incomplete evacuation of bowels (you should normally feel that you have emptied your bowels)
What causes constipation?
A variety of factors can cause constipation. The most common causes are:
- Not drinking enough water
- Lack of fiber in the diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor bowel habits (ignoring or delaying the urge to defecate)
- Pelvic floor dysfunction (weakness of the pelvic floor muscles)
- Medications (such as antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, iron supplements)
- Overuse of laxatives
What are the seven home remedies for constipation?
Constipation is usually an easily treatable problem. A few changes in diet, lifestyle, and making use of certain over the counter products can help relieve it.
Here are seven natural home remedies to relieve constipation.
Fiber, also known as roughage, is a plant-based nutrient. It promotes easy passage of stools in the bowel and adds bulk to the stools for easy expulsion.
It is recommended to have a daily intake of 25 grams. You can obtain the fiber from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Some of the rich sources of fibers are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bran cereal
- Black beans
- Black raisins
If you are no able to eat the fresh veggies and fruits, you can consider taking a fiber supplement such as psyllium (Metamucil) and methylcellulose (Citrucel). In general, these fiber supplements are safe and effective. They need to be taken in a glass of water one to three times daily.
Drink an adequate quantity of fluids, especially water and fruit juices. Drink 6- to 8-ounce glasses of water daily increases water content inside the gut. This helps soften stools and enhances bowel movements.
Drink warm water can increase bowel movements and relieve constipation.
Prebiotics act as a food source for your gut’s healthy bacteria. Natural sources of prebiotics include:
- Dandelion greens
- Green vegetables
- Legumes (peas and beans)
Examples of probiotics found in supplements are:
- Chicory fiber
6. Maintain bowel hygiene
Go to the toilet whenever you feel the urge. Avoid delaying because keeping the stools for long in the bowel can make it hard and dry and cause difficulty in bowel movements.
Maintaining a regular eating schedule often stimulates bowel movements.
7. Avoid straining at stools.
Avoid using laxatives frequently
Taking over the counter laxatives once in a while is OK. However, some strong laxatives make you habituated to it. One such example is Senna whose long-term use may damage the nerves that stimulate bowel movements.
All the measures above are generally suitable for everyone. However, ask your doctor if you can take probiotics or prebiotics and if yes, for how long.
Many people use alternative and complementary medicine to treat constipation. An Ayurvedic formulation, Triphala, is effective in treating constipation in various studies. Even castor oil is effective in relieving constipation. Another home remedy is taking carrom seeds daily. There are many such herbs and herbal formulations that have shown promising results in animal studies as well as in humans. However, it is advisable to always discuss with your doctor before you try any of them.
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Mayoclinic. Constipation. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354259
Brenner DM, Shah M. Chronic Constipation. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. June 2016;45(2):205-16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27261894/
Naseer M, Poola S, Uraz S, et al. Therapeutic Effects of Prebiotics in Constipation: A Review. Curr Clin Pharmacol. Published online February 12, 2020. doi: 10.2174/1574884715666200212125035
Peterson CT, Denniston K, Chopra D. Therapeutic Uses of Triphala in Ayurvedic Medicine. J Altern Complement Med. August 2017;23(8):607-614. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28696777/