Constipation is a problem that affects many people. Its causes include foods eaten and avoided, lifestyle choices, medication and disease. However, some people suffer from chronic idiopathic constipation – that is when the cause of their chronic constipation is not known.
Constipation is when you have less than three bowel movements weekly. There are also symptoms like discomfort during bowel movements, abdominal bloating and pain due to hard, dry and difficult-to-pass stools.
All of this can badly affect your life quality and your physical and mental health. Here are 6 natural constipation remedies that can help you relieve constipation in the comfort of your own home.
Being hydrated will help you be less constipated. The best beverage is, of course, water, including sparkling water. In fact, some studies found the latter to be more effective against constipation as well as chronic idiopathic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, carbonated drinks, such as sugary soda, should be avoided because they are unhealthy and can worsen your constipation.
- The importance of good hydration for the prevention of chronic diseases – Manz F., Wentz A.
- Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation? – Arnaud M. J.
- Constipation: an approach to diagnosis, treatment, referral – Soffer E. E.
- Water, hydration, and health – Popkin B. M., D’Anci K. E., Rosenberg I. H.
- Effects of carbonated water on functional dyspepsia and constipation – Cuomo R., Grasso R., Sarnelli G., Capuano G., Nicolai E., Nardone G., Pomponi D., Budillon G., Ierardi E.
- Management of faecal incontinence and constipation in adults with central neurological diseases – Coggrave M., Norton C., Cody J. D.
- Effects of carbonated water intake on constipation in elderly patients following a cerebrovascular accident – Mun J. H., Jun S. S.
- Carbonated beverages and gastrointestinal system: between myth and reality. – Cuomo R., Sarnelli G., Savarese M. F., Buyckx M.
2. Eat Fiber
Increasing your fiber intake will also help against constipation. The reason is that fiber makes your bowel movements easier to pass as it increases their bulk and consistency.
However, studies diverge on this. One showed that 77% of chronic constipation sufferers benefited from eating more fiber. Some others found that increasing their fiber intake can actually worsen their problem. Others have also found that fiber only helps with bowel movements and not with other symptoms of constipation, such as stool consistency, pain, bloating and gas.
As a matter of fact, the type of fiber plays a big role in whether fiber will actually help you against constipation. There are two main types of fibers: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibers, found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains, add bulk to your stool and help them pass more quickly and easily through your digestive system. On the other hand, soluble fibers, found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas and some fruits and vegetables, absorb water and form a gel-like paste, which makes your stool soft and more consistent.
There have been no conclusions as to how insoluble fiber helps or not to treat constipation. This is because insoluble fiber can worsen functional bowel problems such as IBS or chronic idiopathic constipation.
Moreover, some fermentable soluble fibers may not help to treat constipation: they are fermented by bacteria in the gut and cannot absorb water.
If you are looking for a fiber supplement, non-fermentable soluble fibers, such as psyllium, are the best option against constipation. In general, a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fibers daily is recommended: 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
- Systematic review: the effects of fibre in the management of chronic idiopathic constipation. – Suares NC1, Ford AC.
Bran and irritable bowel syndrome: time for reappraisal – Francis C. Y., Whorwell P. J.
- Fiber and functional gastrointestinal disorders – Eswaran S., Muir J., Chey W. D.
- Evidence-based approach to fiber supplements and clinically meaningful health benefits, part 2 – what to look for and how to recommend an effective fiber therapy – Johnson W. M.
- Clinical data support that psyllium is not fermented in the gut – McRorie J.
- Randomised clinical trial: mixed soluble/insoluble fibre vs. psyllium for chronic constipation. – Erdogan A., Rao S. S., Thiruvaiyaru D., Lee Y. Y., Coss Adame E., Valestin J., O’Banion M.
- Psyllium is superior to docusate sodium for treatment of chronic constipation – McRorie J. W., Daggy B. P., Morel J. G., Diersing P. S., Miner P. B., Robinson M.
- An evidence-based position statement on the management of irritable bowel syndrome – American College of Gastroenterology Task Force on Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Brandt L. J., Chey W. D., Foxx-Orenstein A. E., Schiller L. R., Schoenfeld P. S., Spiegel B. M., Talley N. J., Quigley E. M.
- Systematic review on the management of chronic constipation in North America – Brandt L. J., Prather C. M., Quigley E. M., Schiller L. R., Schoenfeld P., Talley N. J.
- Chronic constipation: an evidence-based review – Leung L., Riutta T., Kotecha J., Rosser W.
- Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber – Dahl W. J., Stewart M. L..
- Health benefits of dietary fiber – Anderson J.W., Baird P., Davis R. H. Jr., Ferreri S., Knudtson M., Koraym A., Waters V., Williams C. L.
- Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis – Yang J., Wang H. P., Zhou L., Xu C. F.
- Systematic review with meta-analysis: effect of fibre supplementation on chronic idiopathic constipation in adults – Christodoulides S., Dimidi E., Fragkos K. C., Farmer A. D., Whelan K., Scott S. M.
- Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms – Kok-Sun H, Charmaine Y. M. T., Muhd A. M. D., Francis S.
Prunes are nature’s remedy against constipation. They contain not only fiber but also sorbitol – a sugar alcohol that acts as laxative.
Studies have found that prunes can work better than fiber to relieve constipation. The recommended amount is around 50 grams, twice daily.
However, if you have IBS, prunes should be avoided.
- Chemical composition and potential health effects of prunes: a functional food? – Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M., Bowen P. E., Hussain E. A., Damayanti-Wood B. I., Farnsworth N. R.
- Dried plums and their products: composition and health effects – an updated review – Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M.
- Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation – Attaluri A., Donahoe R., Valestin J., Brown K., Rao S. S.
- Systematic review: the effect of prunes on gastrointestinal function – Lever E., Cole J., Scott S. M., Emery P. W., Whelan K.
- Constipation: Dried plums (prunes) for the treatment of constipation – Scott S. M., Knowles C. H.
4. Avoid Dairy
Dairy intolerance can cause constipation because it affects gut movements. To confirm dairy intolerance, avoid dairy for a period of time and see if your symptoms improve. You should also ensure to consume other calcium-rich foods as substitute for dairy.
- Review article: lactose intolerance in clinical practice – myths and realities – Lomer M. C., Parkes G. C., Sanderson J. D.
- Lactose intolerance: diagnosis, genetic, and clinical factors – Rejane M., Daniel F. C. M., Flair J. C.
- Lactose intolerance: from diagnosis to correct management – Di Rienzo T., D’Angelo G., D’Aversa F., Campanale M. C., Cesario V., Montalto M., Gasbarrini A., Ojetti V.
- The role of cow’s milk allergy in pediatric chronic constipation: a randomized clinical trial – Seyed-Mohsen D., Bita A., Mahmood H., Sara K., Mohammad-Hadi I., and Mohammad S.
5. Magnesium Citrate
Magnesium citrate, a type of osmotic laxative, is a well-known home remedy against constipation. It can be bought over the counter or online. Moderate amounts are recommended. In case of medical procedures, higher doses are sometimes used in order to clean the bowel.
- Medical treatment of constipation – Jonathan D. S., Jack A. D. P.
- Magnesium citrate (by mouth) – PubMed Health
Senna is a herbal laxative that can help against constipation. It can be bought over the counter or online and can be taken either orally or rectally.
Glycosides, plant compounds, are found in Senna and stimulate the nerves in your gut and make your bowel movements faster. Senna is safe in the short term. However, if symptoms persist after a few days, consult with your doctor.
People who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease should not use Senna.
- Laxatives and the special role of senna – Godding E. W.
- The senna drug and its chemistry – Franz G.
- Constipation and botanical medicines: an overview – Cirillo C., Capasso R.
How do you treat constipation at home?