If a person is having fewer than three bowel movements per week, they have constipation. Only one movement per week is severe constipation. This ailment causes discomfort and sometimes pain while going to the bathroom. Anyone experiencing constipation that does not resolve should see a doctor. Prescription medications exist, but a doctor may recommend trying some of the following home remedies.
Stay hydrated throughout the day to optimize digestion and muscle function. Drinking enough water keeps the body and all the systems that contribute to bowel movements healthy and hydrated. Increasing fluid intake can help resolve constipation.
People have long turned to prunes and prune juice to relieve constipation. Prunes are full of fiber and sorbitol, a carbohydrate digested slowly by the body. As it moves through the intestines, prunes collect water, helping to soften fecal matter. Drinking a glass of prune juice in the morning and then again at night or including a few prunes in one’s daily diet can maintain bowel regularity. Eating too many, however, can cause other digestive issues, such as gas and diarrhea.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant for the digestive system, so enjoying a morning coffee can help prompt a bowel movement. However, coffee is also a diuretic and can increase urination, which removes water that would help soften stools. While a cup or two of coffee each day can ease constipation, any more could exacerbate the issue.
Oils and Gels
Oil stimulates the digestive system and lines the walls of the intestine for smoother bowel movements. Olive oil taken on an empty stomach can help constipation. Mixing a teaspoon of flaxseed oil or aloe vera gel into orange juice with pulp (for extra fiber) can also encourage this process. Two tablespoons of oil in the morning and again later in the day can ensure continued relief.
Probiotics encourage a healthy bowel and good gut flora, which encourages regular bowel movements. Found in yogurt and kefir, probiotics contain good bacteria that can help prevent constipation. A person already experiencing this ailment can try eating more yogurt or turn to a probiotic supplement.
Another home remedy for constipation is baking soda mixed with water. Drinking the mixture neutralizes stomach acid, helping things pass through the gut more easily. Baking soda is made up of bicarbonate, which relieves pain and pressure and encourages the release of air. One teaspoon of baking soda in a quarter cup of warm water can also ease heartburn and indigestion. Note that, in rare cases, ingesting baking soda can have side effects. It also contains a lot of sodium and should be avoided by people on a low-sodium diet.
Eating magnesium-rich foods facilitates the movement of food through the digestive tract by relaxing the muscles and drawing water into the intestines. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of magnesium, and so are beans, lentils, avocados, bananas, seeds, nuts, and oily fish, such as mackerel. Like caffeine, too much magnesium can have an opposite effect, but moderate amounts may help.
Fiber helps keep digestion regular so consistent consumption of fiber-rich foods helps prevent and ease constipation. Refined or artificial foods are harder to process than natural ones, in part because they generally contain less fiber. Replacing them with beans, whole grains, and fruits such as plums, pears, apples, and apricots, and berries can improve digestion.
Epsom salt or magnesium sulfate helps fight constipation. Two teaspoons of Epsom salts mixed with one cup of water or juice typically causes a bowel movement within four hours. The salt draws the water from its surroundings and makes stools softer, while the magnesium helps the bowel muscles contract.
Gentle exercises can retrain the way the body processes food. Physical activity benefits the muscles and joints and stimulates the colon, encouraging the bowels to start moving again. Ideally, avoid eating any significant amount of food an hour before or after a workout.
Herbal Laxatives with Glycosides
Herbal laxatives with glycosides stimulate colon activity and encourage fluid secretion, which can ease constipation. Glycosides send more electrolytes into the colon to assist digestive system function. After an oral dose, a bowel movement usually occurs within six to eight hours. These natural laxatives come from plants such as ascara, aloe, frangula, and senna and are available over the counter at pharmacies and health stores. It is best to talk to a doctor before trying this herbal remedy. A common side effect is abdominal cramping.
The low-FODMAP diet is low in fermentable carbs that often contribute to stomach pain and digestive problems. Choosing low-FODMAP foods with high dietary fiber can curb constipation and prompt healthy, frequent bowel movements. Fresh fish, seafood, rice, wheat pasta, eggs, and yogurt fall into this category. Many fruits and vegetables make the list, too; broccoli, corn, sweet potatoes, blueberries, grapes, and oranges are some of the healthy options to consider for reducing constipation.
Studies show an allergy to cow’s milk can lead to chronic constipation, particularly in children. Cheese and milk also commonly cause digestive system issues. People with lactose intolerance benefit from reducing their dairy intake, as can those with regular constipation. It may not be necessary to completely stop eating dairy, as there are valuable nutrients and probiotics in cheese and yogurt. People who eat multiple servings of dairy a day can try cutting back until symptoms stop.
Enemas and Suppositories
Enemas and suppositories encourage easier bowel movements. Homemade enemas are water-based and may contain sodium-phosphate, milk sugars, molasses, or soap to push fluid into the digestive tract and soften the stool. Health care professionals often use enemas made of a dilute saline solution. Suppositories have a similar result but work by irritating the intestine, causing it to contract and expel the stool. Some suppositories promote salt and water secretion to free up blocked stool, as well. Again, it is important to ask a doctor about the safety of these options for your constitution before trying them
Ginger tea is a natural wonder; the warm beverage boosts immunity, reduces stress, and battles respiratory infections while also protecting the digestive system. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects and natural warming quality are beneficial for digestive health. A dose of ginger also stimulates the release of gastric and pancreatic enzymes that speed up stomach emptying. Doctors recommend drinking ginger tea two or three times a day if the bowels have been sluggish.
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