Constipation is a common problem that affects many people. It occurs when the stool becomes hard, dry, and difficult to pass. Constipation can cause discomfort, pain, bloating, and gas. It can also lead to complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and fecal impaction.
There are many causes of constipation, such as low fiber intake, dehydration, lack of exercise, medication side effects, stress, and certain medical conditions. Sometimes, the cause of constipation is unknown.
Fortunately, there are some natural home remedies that can help relieve constipation and prevent it from happening again. Here are some of them:
Drink more water: Water helps soften the stool and lubricate the intestines. It also helps flush out waste and toxins from the body. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, or more if you are dehydrated or have a fever. You can also drink other fluids, such as fruit juices, herbal teas, and soups. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, alcohol, or sugar, as they can dehydrate you and worsen constipation.
Eat more fiber: Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the body. It adds bulk and moisture to the stool, making it easier to pass. Fiber also helps feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion and immunity. Foods that are high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Try to eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day for women and 38 grams for men. You can also take a fiber supplement, such as psyllium husk or flaxseed.
Exercise regularly: Exercise stimulates the muscles of the digestive system and helps move the stool along the colon. It also reduces stress and improves blood circulation. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming. You can also do some yoga poses or stretches that target the abdomen and pelvis.
Drink coffee: Coffee is a natural stimulant that can help activate the bowels and induce a bowel movement. It also contains antioxidants and chlorogenic acid, which can improve digestion and metabolism. However, coffee can also dehydrate you and irritate your stomach if you drink too much. Therefore, limit your intake to one or two cups a day, preferably in the morning. You can also try other caffeinated drinks, such as green tea or black tea.
Eat prunes: Prunes are dried plums that are rich in fiber and sorbitol. Sorbitol is a natural sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect. It draws water into the colon and softens the stool. Prunes also contain phenolic compounds that can stimulate intestinal contractions and speed up transit time. You can eat prunes as a snack or add them to your cereal or yogurt. You can also drink prune juice or make a prune puree.
Take probiotics: Probiotics are live microorganisms that can benefit your gut health. They can help balance the gut flora and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause constipation. They can also produce short-chain fatty acids that can nourish the colon cells and regulate bowel movements. You can get probiotics from fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. You can also take probiotic supplements in capsule or powder form.
Try laxatives: Laxatives are substances that can help loosen the stool and increase bowel movements. They are usually used as a last resort when other remedies fail to work. There are different types of laxatives, such as bulk-forming laxatives (fiber), osmotic laxatives (sorbitol), stimulant laxatives (senna), lubricant laxatives (mineral oil), and stool softeners (docusate). However, laxatives should not be used for more than a week without consulting your doctor. They can cause side effects such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, cramps, diarrhea, and dependence.
Avoid dairy: Dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, and ice cream can cause constipation in some people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to casein (a protein in dairy). Lactose intolerance is a condition where the body cannot digest lactose (a sugar in dairy) properly. This can lead to gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea or constipation. Casein sensitivity is an immune reaction to casein that can cause inflammation and mucus production in the gut. This can slow down digestion and cause constipation. If you suspect you have either of these conditions, try eliminating dairy from your diet for a few weeks and see if your symptoms improve.
Eat kiwifruit: Kiwifruit is a tropical fruit that has many health benefits. It is high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and enzymes that can boost immunity and digestion. It also contains actinidin (a protease enzyme) and a unique type of fiber that can enhance bowel function and prevent constipation. One study found that eating two kiwifruits a day for four weeks improved stool frequency, consistency, and ease of defecation in people with chronic constipation. You can eat kiwifruit as a whole or add it to your smoothies or salads.
Try castor oil: Castor oil is a vegetable oil that is extracted from the seeds of the castor plant. It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for various ailments, including constipation. Castor oil acts as a stimulant laxative that can increase intestinal motility and induce a bowel movement. It also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can soothe the gut and prevent infections. However, castor oil can also cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. Therefore, use it with caution and only in small doses (one to two teaspoons) on an empty stomach.
These are some of the natural home remedies that can help you get rid of constipation and improve your digestive health. However, if your constipation is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms such as blood in the stool, weight loss, fever, or abdominal pain, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. You may have an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Remember, constipation is not only uncomfortable but also harmful to your health. Therefore, do not ignore it and take action to relieve it.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456