Are you fairly regular in terms of bowel movements or do you ever feel pain because your stool is extremely dry and hard? Perhaps you feel that your colon is still not empty even though you just relieved yourself. If you experience any of these problems, chances are that you suffer from constipation.
Some possible causes
While there are biological reasons as well, one of main reasons for constipation is an unhealthy lifestyle. People consume a lot of processed food, drink less water, don’t exercise, and stress all the time. All this can take a toll on digestive health.
When we eat, the body breaks down the food to absorb all nutrients and sends the rest of the waste to the intestines. The walls of the intestines push this waste to our rectum to dispose it off. Anything that hinders this process causes constipation.
Natural remedies for constipation
Although uncomfortable, constipation can be treated with the help of natural ingredients and some common household items. Some of these items are used as quick fixes while others have to be consumed regularly to fix and avoid constipation in the long run.
Remedies for immediate relief
Remedies mentioned below are usually used to target moderate to mild constipation.
- Hot beverages
A hot (but not too hot!) cup of strong coffee can increase the rate of bowel movements. However, coffee also causes dehydration so don’t go overboard with its consumption. Herbal tea works in the same way, by relaxing the muscles. You can also drink hot lemon water with a bit of honey or warm milk to ease constipation.
- Baking soda in water
When a mixture of baking soda and water reacts with acid in the stomach, it produces salt and carbon dioxide. These resultants neutralize stomach acid. Plus, the salt produced softens stool whereas carbon dioxide helps in its forward movement. Together the two make for an easy remedy to treat constipation.
Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a fourth of a cup of water and drink up.
- Epsom salt
Epsom salts are known to be rich in magnesium. In the digestive tract, they help improve the texture of stool.
Epsom salt acts in the same way. It softens the feces and contracts the muscles of the colon to promote bowel movements. Add two teaspoons of Epsom salt to water or any juice and consume.
- Castor Oil
Castor oil is a healthy fat and a good laxative. It stimulates the muscles of the intestines. Take a tablespoon of castor oil in the morning on an empty stomach. Its effects can be felt after 8 hours.
- Strong herbs
Some strong herbs include aloe, senna and buckthorn. These herbs are extremely strong aperients. They act very quickly when used for mild or moderate constipation. Therefore, they should not be used frequently.
Remedies to avoid constipation in the long term
The remedies discussed below are mainly related to dietary habits and lifestyle. There are certain foods and habits that one should add into their daily routine to keep healthy and avoid constipation.
- Foods high in magnesium
When stool becomes very hard and dry, the movement of the bowels is hindered. In such cases, magnesium improves the consistency of the feces by guiding water to the intestines. It also strengthens the muscles of the colon so that they can effectively push the waste forward. Magnesium-rich foods include:
- Salts ( Epsom salt)
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
- Foods with Probiotics
Probiotics are known to be best friends with the gut. They are the good bacteria that restore damage done by antibiotics to the colon. They help the stomach break down food and absorb nutrients in the body.
Probiotics are also known to increase digestion time and the rate of evacuation of stool as well. They also improve the texture of feces. When dealing with constipation issues, try to include foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut into the diet.
- High Fiber foods
Fibers are very good at absorbing water. By increasing the volume of stool in the intestines, the waste material comes in greater contact with intestinal walls. As a result, walls easily guide the waste towards disposal.
Plus, due to water absorption, high fiber foods make the stool into a gel-like form and easier to pass.
A person should consume 20g to 35g of fiber daily. Most of the fresh vegetables and fruits are high in fiber. Some great options include beans, oatmeal, bran bread and cereals, prunes, raisins, lentils and chia seeds.
- Healthy fats
Healthy fats are very good at greasing the intestines. As a result, they make stool pass through the colon with ease.
The same fats also soothe any irritation already present in the bowels. They are great purgatives and include choices like olive oil, ghee, flaxseed oil, nuts and avocadoes.
One of the best ways to treat constipation is by keeping well hydrated. Water helps in the digestion of food and improves feces consistency to keeps bowel movements fairly regular.
It is recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water in a day. Other non-carbonated fluids like juice can also be consumed. However, carbonated drinks, alcohol and caffeinated drinks should be avoided as they promote dehydration when consumed in large amounts.
Herbs can both be short term and long term remedies for treating constipation. While stronger herbs are used for faster relief, their milder counterparts may be used regularly and for longer periods of time. Some of the bulk increasing herbs include fenugreek, organic cloves, psyllium and slippery elm.
There is no scientific data that links the effects of exercise on constipation. However, it is well established that metabolism gets sluggish when people sit around all day.
In this scenario, exercise fastens the digestive system by increasing the rate of metabolism of the body. In addition, since all muscles move due to exercise, intestinal muscles also experience some movement during bouts of activity. Therefore, regular exercise (especially pelvic exercises) can help avoid constipation.
If constipation still persists, it is best to see a doctor.