Constipation is an incredibly common problem. Constipation is generally considered to be less than three bowel movements per week. However it can also involve other unpleasant symptoms, such as difficulty when going to the bathroom, abdominal bloating and pain due to stools being hard, dry and difficult to pass. Therefore any of these signs mean you need to address your bowel health.
Constipation can be caused by foods you eat or avoid, lifestyle choices, medication or disease. Most people are unsure what causes their chronic constipation and need to go through a process of elimination to see what may help.
Unfortunately, constipation can have a serious negative effect on quality of life, as well as your physical and mental health.
Here are 10 natural remedies that may help relieve constipation:
- Drink Water:
Dehydration can make you constipated. Make sure you drink a minimum of 1.5L of water a day. Some research suggests that carbonated soda water (not sugary soda drinks) can help relieve constipation.
How to – Drink 1.5L of water daily.
- Eat Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds are particularly high in soluble fiber, which can aid in forming softer stools to ease constipation. It moves through the intestines undigested, adding bulk to the stool and encouraging regularity.
How to – Eat 2-3 Tablespoons of soaked Chia seeds daily eg in a chia pudding.
- Magnesium Citrate:
Using an over the counter magnesium citrate supplement can relieve constipation.
How to – To determine the level of magnesium to take, start with 1/day with or without food. Then daily, increase by 1. Stop when stools are normal.
- Take a Herbal Laxative – Senna
The herbal laxative Senna is commonly used to relieve constipation. It is available over-the-counter and in supermarkets in tea form. Senna stimulates the nerves in your gut and speed up your bowel movements.
It’s usually considered safe for adults to use Senna for short periods of time eg, a few days. Senna is usually not recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Prolonged use is discouraged as this can lead to your body becoming dependant on it.
How to – Easiest way it in tea form. Buy Alpine Tea or make your own by pouring hot water over one-quarter teaspoon of crushed senna herb. Allow your tea to steep for 10 minutes and then strain.
- Olive Oil:
Olive oil functions as a lubricant laxative, providing a coating in the rectum that allows for easier passage, while also stimulating the small intestine to speed up transit.
How to – One tablespoon of olive oil, taken on an empty stomach in the morning.
Prunes provide lots of fibre but they also contain a type of sugar alcohol known as sorbitol. Sorbitol is poorly absorbed and acts as an osmotic agent, bringing water into the intestines, which helps induce bowel movements.
How to – Try 5 prunes and see if that helps.
This is mostly due to its high fibre content. Kiwifruit contains pectin which has been shown to have a natural laxative effect. It works by increasing the movement of the digestive tract to stimulate a bowel movement.
How to – Eat 2-3 kiwifruit daily.
Its high content of soluble fibre is what makes it especially effective in relieving constipation.
How to – Adults, mix 1 Tablespoon of psyllium is a large glass of water, 1-3 times a day.
Read more about the benefits of psyllium.
Coffee may increase the urge to use the bathroom for some people. It stimulates the muscles in your colon, which can produce a natural laxative effect.
How to – Drink a cup of moderate to strong black coffee mid morning to see if that gets you going.
- Aloe vera juice:
Helps reduce inflammation and improve the frequency of bowel motions.
How to – ¼ cup twice daily, adjust based on how symptoms persist.
Here are ways to prevention of constipation:
Remember that these are all ways to relieve constipation. The most important thing you could so however is prevent constipation. The following tips will help you prevent constipation!
Eat prebiotic food:
Prebiotic foods improve digestive health by feeding the friendly bacteria in your gut. This can improve the balance of your gut bacteria. These fibre has been shown to help increase the frequency of bowel movements and make stools softer.
How to – Eat prebiotic foods every day! Foods that are high in prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks and bananas.
Eat Probiotic foods or take a supplement:
Probiotics may help prevent chronic constipation. Many people who have chronic constipation have been shown to have an imbalance of bacteria in their gut. It’s thought that by eating probiotic foods you can improve the balance of gut bacteria and prevent constipation. Probiotics seem to treat constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements and improving stool consistency. Our favourite and recommended multistrain probiotics are BioKult which you can purchase here.
How to – Include probiotics in your diet by eating probiotic foods such as yogurt (dairy and dairy free), sauerkraut and kimchi, which contain live, friendly bacteria. Alternatively, you could try a probiotic supplement. It is usually recommended to take it daily for at least 4 weeks to see if it has any beneficial effects.
Stop eating Dairy Products:
A dairy intolerance can cause constipation in some people due to its effect on your gut health. Dairy intolerance is also common in people who experience bloating, gas, stomach cramping, eczema and other skin conditions, PMS and chronic pain conditions.
How to – If you think that you may be intolerant to dairy, then you could try removing it from your diet for 6-8 weeks to see if it improves your symptoms.
Increase your Fibre:
You would have heard it before, eat more fibre to help decrease constipation! And this is true however this doesn’t work for everyone. This is because many fibrous foods recommended are the ones making the person constipated, such as whole grains and wheat. Therefore, make smart choices when increasing your fibre intake and choose foods that are low on the intolerance list. You may even find avoiding wheat may decrease constipation.
How to – Here is a good list of fibrous foods which are generally well tolerated by people, eat some daily:
Pear, Banana, Peas, Avocado, Brussel Sprouts, Sweet Potato, Plums, Asparagus, Turnip, Dried figs and dates, Flaxseed, Collard Greens, Cauliflower and Plums.
Exercise helps constipation by increasing how quickly food moves through the large intestine and therefore, reducing the amount of water absorbed from the stool into the body. The more moist the stool, the easier it is to pass.
How to – Exercise daily, purposely walking 30 minutes throughout your day will help. If doing more rigorous movement, wait an hour after eating.
As we mentioned, long term constipation indicates poor bowel health so getting to the root cause of your constipation is essential. Good health starts in the gut, which means looking after your gut health is important. Taking steps to learn how you can optimise your gut health will benefit you for years to come!
Do the 10 Week Challenge!
“Ok a subject no one likes talking about … CONSTIPATION and BLOATING. Who knew it wasn’t not normal to feel so uncomfortable all the time!?? After years of putting up with this I gained the courage to see the Dr who told me it was normal. I wasn’t sure I agreed! I decided to join the 10 week challenge as I had hit a plateau in my weight loss journey and was hoping this would kick start my weight loss – within the first week I was seeing changes and soon discovered it wasn’t normal to be constipated! Woohoo. After completing the challenge not only did I lose weight but I can now say I’m not suffering from constipation or bloating and those uncomfortable feelings I got told were normal are completely gone. Completing the 10 week challenge has changed my life for the better – totally recommend it for anyone who is suffering from bloating or constipation. The support from Sara and Elora as well as the support group is fantastic as everyone is going through it together.” – Kate, April 2017.