Get quick constipation relief with effective household remedies. Also include natural ways to ease the discomfort of bloating, gas, stomach pain and hard stools.
Unfortunately, at some point most people have or will experience that uncomfortable feeling of bloating, gas, cramps, and the discomfort of constipation. It’s one of the most common complaints when it comes to digestive problems. Poor bowel movements less than three times a week, accompanied by symptoms of hard stools, stomach gas or flatulence and digestive discomfort are all signs pointing to a possible constipation problem.
Constipation occurs when one of two things happen: either too much water is absorbed by (in other words, out of) the colon, or your colon’s muscle contractions are too slow to move the stool along at an adequate pace. The result? The stool becomes hard and dry, and you become very uncomfortable. There are many possible causes from lifestyle to medications to simply having an under-active bowel. Stool softeners should be a last resort, as they’re known for creating dependency. There are a plethora of solutions that you may find right in your home. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the exact cause, but whatever it is you can take a look at some of these home and diet remedies to help get fast relief.
Remedies From The Kitchen And Around The House
- Olive oil: Pure olive oil can help to stimulate your digestive system and prevent constipation in the future. In the morning, on an empty stomach, mix one tablespoon of olive oil with one teaspoon of lemon juice.
- Honey/Backstrap molasses: Honey can be used as a very mild laxative. Approximately one tablespoon, three times/day either by itself or mixed with warm water could help with mild cases. Others claim that mixes of 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey help. Or, sip up approximately two tablespoons of backstrap molasses. Both of these are items that are worth a try since you probably already have them in your house.
- Coffee: For many people caffeine is a natural stimulant to help things move. Beware that too much may have the opposite effect, though.
- Lemon: The citric acid in lemon juice acts as a stimulant for your digestive system, all while flushing out toxins! Squeeze the juice of one lemon into one cup of warm water. This is a practice recommended by many Ayurveda practitioners. Many also recommend adding a pinch of salt to the warm water and lemon, and drinking on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
- Water: It’s the basic of basics, but it may be as simple as that. For one day you can try drinking 10 glasses of water (try to drink warm water most of the time).
- Support your feet with a small step stool when you sit on the toilet. This is a more natural position for us, promotes “squatting,” and will place your body in a better position for allowing the passage of the stool.
- Applying heat to the front of the pelvic area may help as well. Use either with a hot water bottle or a heating pad on low.
- You can do some self-massage that may help to get things moving. Lying back, use your flat fingers to massage in a small clockwise rotation around your belly button. Start with light pressure and increase as you continue. After some small circles, use both hands to make bigger circles, this time using your palms around your entire abdomen.
Before there was medicine and the ability to import well-known constipation-relieving fruits, many cultures relied on herbal remedies for relief. Those commonly used include:
- Flaxseed (not flaxseed oil) for bulk-forming (a handful with warm water)
- Fenugreek for bulk-forming
- Burdock (as a gentle laxative)
- Senna as a stimulant (use a tincture of 20-40 drops before bedtime)
- Cascara segrada as a stimulant (one of the key ingredients in over-the-counter laxatives, it can be found in the form of teas, tinctures, and tablets)
- Aloe also as a stimulant (some people complain about cramping with the use of aloe)
- Dandelion tea has a mildly laxative effect (Steep one teaspoon of the dried root in one cup of boiling water, three times daily)
Sorbitol is the most well-known dietary remedy for constipation. What is it exactly? It’s the naturally occurring sugar that we find most commonly in prunes. It draws in water, which helps soften the stool. Aside from prunes, other fruits and juices with high sorbitol content include apples, apricots, grapes (raisins), peaches, pears, plums (prunes), and some berries. The concentration of sorbitol is about 5-10 times higher in dried fruit, which is why people most often turn to dried fruits for help with constipation. What’s known as the “Beverley-Travis natural laxative mixture” may be worth a try for you. It’s full of sorbitol-laced ingredients. In a blender combine one cup each of raisins, pitted prunes, figs, dates, currents, and prune juice concentrate. Take tablespoons, twice a day.
Like fiber and liquids, probiotics may be another digestion-helper. Some studies have found that a boost in probiotic foods can be an effective long-term cure for constipation. Though yogurt is the most popular source of probiotics, other sources include kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kim chi, and kombucha. This is not usually an immediate solution, though. If you are suffering from chronic constipation then this is one change you can make.
Supplements To Try
Castor oil is one of those age-old home remedy treatments for constipation. It typically works quickly, and can be used with children. Due to its quick effects, however, it’s not advised to take a spoonful close to bedtime.
Though fish oil is another omega-3 rich fatty acid that can help with digestion, one must take with caution. People with blood disorders or those who bruise easily should beware of high doses. The same goes for anyone taking blood-thinning medication, diabetes and cholesterol medication, and NSAIDS. Some people also complain about gas and bloating that may be brought on by the fish oil.
Prevention Against Constipation Re-Occurrence
The most common causes of constipation are: low dietary fiber, low water intake, lack of physical activity, certain medications, changes in your daily routine (such as travel), pregnancy, laxative abuse, and ignoring your body’s urge to use the toilet. Some of these can be prevented or altered, and some cannot. Oftentimes changes in your lifestyle are enough to prevent the re-occurrence of constipation.
Exercise: Regular exercise not only has outward physical benefits, but also helps to keep the inside of your body healthy. While moving your arms and legs you’ll also be helping to keep your digestive system moving. Don’t feel pressured to suddenly start training for a marathon, though. Even just 20-30 minutes of walking every day will benefit your body.
Stress: If you’re feeling rushed and go-go-go then your body may not be allowed the adequate time it needs to let your digestive system finish its process. Stress, anxiety, and depression can alter the body’s rhythm, which can then change the effectiveness of the large intestine’s motility. Thus, sometimes people with a lot of stress or a sudden acute stress may suffer from an instance of constipation, especially those who already have IBS. Make sure you pay attention to your body’s needs and urges, giving it time when it asks you. Try meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques that will help not only your mind, but your body to relax.
Poor diet of highly-processed, low-fruits-and-vegetables is one of the leading culprits of constipation. Adding bulk and softness to the stool, a diet rich in fiber is a well-known way to help keep you regular. What are you aiming for? Typical dietary recommendations are for 20-35 grams of fiber/day for adults. Do be aware that a sudden jump in fiber consumption could cause problems as well. If you’re not used to a diet high in fiber, start to introduce it slowly.
Aside from whole-grains (such as those containing whole-wheat flour, brown rice, and hearty cereals), here are some other fruit and vegetable fiber-rich sources:
- Prunes: They are the stereotypical grandmotherly suggestion to help relieve constipation. Maybe she does know best. Not only are they high in insoluble fiber, but they also contain sorbitol, which helps soften the stool.
- Beans: Racking up more than 10 grams of fiber/cup, they are one of the best (and most economical) sources of fiber (both soluble and insoluble). Any kind of bean will do; just add them to salad, soups, pastas, casseroles, or dozens other creative dishes.
- Kiwi: That’s right; according to research by the Advances in Food and Nutrition Research as well as researchers in Taipei, Taiwan, kiwi, with 2.5 grams of fiber each, they can also help to increase or regulate bowel movements.
- Pears, apples, and raspberries: These are the top-3 ranking fiber-rich fruits. Just be sure to keep the skin on your pears and apples!
The other important dietary component to include is water and fluids. Six to eight, 8-ounce glasses per day is a good rule of thumb. For those who don’t find it particularly easy to drink a lot of water, keep in mind that fluids come from other sources. Clear soups and fruit and vegetable juices count as well. Getting the appropriate amount of liquid in your system helps to ensure there’s enough fluid in your colon to keep stool soft.
When To Get Medical Help
If symptoms persist, and none of the above home remedies and lifestyle changes help, then it’s time to seek help from your doctor. If you’ve just started a new medication when the symptoms of constipation begin to appear, then you should let your doctor know that you may want to try a different medication. You could also need medical help if your constipation is related to a food allergy or food intolerance. Your doctor can help with such diagnoses. If your bowel has become impacted, then you will have to have medical attention to fix this problem first. Keep a look out for any of these additional symptoms that should alert you to seek medical attention:
- Blood in the stool
- Worsening or persistence, despite trying the home remedies
- Abdominal pain
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea
Other Constipation Questions
- Are there any natural solutions for constipation caused by medication?
- What remedies can help to ease constipation during pregnancy?
- Any quick or natural ways to tackle post pregnancy constipation?
- What constipation remedies are advisable to give for an infant?
- What home remedies are suitable for constipation in young children?
1. Are there any natural solutions for constipation caused by medication?
Some medications are commonly accompanied by the side effect constipation. The most common culprits are painkillers (especially very strong painkillers such as morphine or those with codeine), some antidepressants, some antacids, and iron tablets.
Prednisone, an immunosuppressant, and antibiotics will diminish your healthy bacteria as well, sometimes causing digestive problems. In this scenario, boost your diet daily with good sources of probiotics, such as a natural yogurt every morning and a half glass of kefir in the afternoon.
The most important changes you can make if you’re going to begin a medication with constipation as a side effect is to drink plenty of fluids (boost it up to eight, 8-ounce glasses/day), include some warm fluids, move around, and pay attention to your diet. You can try any of the home remedies mentioned at the beginning of the article, but just be sure to consult your doctor first for any cross-over concerns with your medication (such as the fish oil) before adding any herbs or supplements to your dietary routine.
2. What remedies can help to ease constipation during pregnancy?
Constipation is a common symptom in pregnant women as hormones continue to change through the months, your digestive tract slows down, and the baby starts to squish your bowels more. If you’re taking iron tablets, they may also be complicating the situation. Once again, changes in diet may help. Be sure to include:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Dried fruit
- Wholegrain cereals and linseed/flaxseed
- Beans, lentils and pulses
During pregnancy you need to be very careful with consumption of any herbs or homeopathic remedies. Some home remedies may be helpful, such olive oil or warm lemon water. One common recommendation is psyllium (ispagula husks). They are the seeds from plantain. They contain mucilage, which may act as a bulk-forming agent. Again, ask your doctor if you are taking any other medications to be sure that there are no adverse effects of combining the two. Of the other natural remedies offered at the beginning, dandelion tea and senna are both considered safe, under approval from your doctor/midwife, for pregnant women.
Aside from dietary supplements, you may find some other techniques helpful. Aromatherapy with 3-4 drops of orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit oil accompanied by a carrier oil such as grape-seed could help in a relaxing bath.
Also, pay attention to the relaxation of your pelvic floor when you feel the urge to go. Allow yourself time to sit and relax. Breathe in deeply, then exhale so that your pelvic floor muscles are also relaxed and more likely to allow the stool to pass. Bending one knee or putting your feet on a small stool can help the relaxation as well. Lastly, some women find that reflexology can help. If you don’t have a friend or partner to massage the arches of your feet, you can put two bottles underneath the arches while you’re sitting. Gently roll your feet back and forth over the bottles on the floor to stimulate the appropriate reflexology zone.
3. Any quick or natural ways to tackle post pregnancy constipation?
It’s very common, for many reasons, for women to experience constipation for a few days after giving birth – whether vaginally or by c-section.
- Start eating and drinking regularly as soon as you are able to after having the baby. Foods such as wholegrain cereals, brown rice, fresh fruits, dried fruits and beans are also good for you at this point.
- Take short walks around the maternity ward or around your home, especially after you’ve just had something to eat or drink.
- Don’t ignore or be anxious about the urge to go. When it finally comes, allow yourself to relax and take the time to pass a stool. It might be uncomfortable for the first few times, but it will get better. If you don’t have a stool in front of you to help get you into more of a squatting position, then go on your tiptoes so that your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
- Of course drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, but also try prune juice and warm liquid.
4. What constipation remedies are advisable to give for an infant?
Commonly occurring when a baby is transitioning from breast milk or formula to solid foods, infant constipation is just the lack of daily bowel movements, but also the passage of hard, dry stool.
Simple dietary remedies may help, such as:
- Water – add a daily serving of water in addition to the regular feedings.
- Fruit juice – apple, prune, or pear juice in addition to the usual feedings may help; starting with 2-4 ounces.
- Food – if your baby is eating solids, try pureed pears or prunes, barley cereal instead of rice.
For some help to get the digestive tract moving:
- Massage their belly, with slight pressure, in a clockwise motion starting at the navel and moving your hands out away from the center of their belly.
- Place your baby on their back and holding their legs in a half-bent position move their legs in a circular motion, as if riding a bicycle.
- As with adults, a warm bath may help to get things moving as well.
- Apply a small amount of water-based lubricant to their anus to allow the passage of hard stools.
- If you’re breastfeeding you may try eating some prunes and getting plenty of fluids yourself. The passage of the nutrients through your breast milk may help your little one’s bowels to move again.
5. What home remedies are suitable for constipation in young children?
Many of the home remedies for young children with constipation are a cross-over between those for infants, and those for adults.
- Caster oil: Often a fast-working solution, children may be put off by the taste. Try mixing it with a sweet beverage such as juice. Be careful not to over-use. Alternative, try using a castor oil emollient and massage over the abdomen area. Apply some heat to increase penetration.
- Fluids and exercise: Make sure your child is drinking enough (or more), and getting enough movement that will help to keep their digestive tract active as well.
- Fiber: Add or be sure they’re getting enough of some of the recommended foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and flaxseed.
- Dairy: Sometimes too much dairy can aggravate a child’s digestive system. Be sure they’re not eating or drinking too many servings of dairy products/day.
- Encouragement: Constipation can become a problem during potty training. Encourage your child to take their time and go when they feel the urge. Allow them to relax during typical times for a bowel movement (often after meals), and prop their feet up on a stool if it seems to help.
- Warm bath: Add two tablespoons of baking soda to warm bath and allow them to relax.
- Honey: Mix two tablespoons of honey with a glass of milk on an empty stomach. This is often a gentle relief for children.
- Warm milk: For some children drinking one glass of warm water or milk before bed will help them produce a bowel movement in the morning.
- Vaseline or warm cloth: Apply a warm, moist piece of cloth to your child’s anus. Or, likewise with infants it may help to rub some Vaseline around their anus to allow it to pass more easily.
- Stomach massage: Just as with infants, you can lightly rub their tummies with your fingertips in a clockwise direction, starting at the belly button and circling outward.