What Is Constipation?
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. The normal length of time between bowel movements ranges widely from person to person. Some people have bowel movements three times a day; others, only one or two times a week. Going longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long. After three days, the stool or feces become harder and more difficult to pass.
You are considered constipated if you have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
- Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time
- Hard stools more than 25% of the time
- Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
- Two or fewer bowel movements in a week
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation is usually caused by a disorder of bowel function rather than a structural problem.
Common causes of constipation include:
- Inadequate water intake
- Inadequate fiber in the diet
- A disruption of regular diet or routine; traveling
- Inadequate activity or exercise or immobility
- Eating large amounts of dairy products
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement, which is sometimes the result of pain from hemorrhoids
- Overuse of laxatives (stimulant laxatives such as senna (Senokot)) which, over time, weaken the bowel muscles
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis
- Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum
- Medicines (especially strong pain medicines, such as narcotics, antidepressants, or iron pills)
- Eating disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Colon cancer
- In some cases, lack of good nerve and muscle function in the bowel may also be a cause of constipation.
What Are the Symptoms of Constipation?
Symptoms of constipation can include:
- Infrequent bowel movements or difficulty having bowel movements (straining)
- Hard or small stools
- Sense of incomplete bowel movement
- Swollen abdomen or abdominal pain
There may also be occasional diarrhea resulting from hard stool obstructing the colon.
How Can I Prevent Constipation?
There are several things you can do to prevent constipation. Among them:
Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread and cereal (especially bran). Fiber and water help the colon pass stool.
Drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water and other fluids a day (unless fluid restricted for another medical condition). Liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks, seem to have a dehydrating effect and may need to be avoided until your bowel habits return to normal. Some people may need to avoid milk, as dairy products may be constipating for them.
Move your bowels when you feel the urge.
Home Remedy :
1. Oil…it gets more than cars running
Pure olive oil is more than just a healthy and tasty fat, it can also help relieve constipation. It’s not surprising really when you consider what olive oil’s texture and consistency is like- it’s practically the poster child for constipation home remedies. It stimulates your digestive system, which helps get things moving through your colon, and taken regularly it can prevent constipation as well.
You will need…
-1 tablespoon of olive oil
-1 teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)
In the morning consume one tablespoon of olive oil. It works best on an empty stomach, so have it before you eat anything else. If you forget, wait until later when you haven’t eaten for a while. You can mix it with a little bit of lemon juice if you like to lighten the flavor (lemon juice also acts as a natural aid for constipation.)
2. Freshen up from the inside out
Ah the scent of a fresh lemon…did you ever think your stomach might appreciate it as much as your nose? The citric acid in lemon juice acts as a stimulant for your digestive system, and can also help flush out toxins and undigested material that may have built up along the walls of the colon. Mixing the juice with water not only lessens the intensity of the lemon flavor, but helps get you the fluids you need to get everything moving normally again.
You will need…
-1 fresh lemon
-1 cup of warm water
Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into 1 cup of warm water. Drink or sip until finished completely.
3. Molasses makes the world go ‘round
Blackstrap molasses has been a sweet savior for more than a few sufferers of constipation, be it chronic or occasional. The reason blackstrap molasses works so well is because of how it is made. Regular molasses is essentially pure cane sugar juice boiled to concentrate and crystallize the sugar. The third boiling results in blackstrap molasses, which is crystallized but contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals, specifically magnesium, which is what helps the constipation. It’s natural, tasty, and while you thank goodness someone decided to repeatedly boil a bunch of sugar, your body will thank you for the natural remedy.
You will need…
-1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses
-warm water or tea (optional)
Consume one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses. Start slow and small here-if you don’t like the flavor of molasses, you can add it to a cup of warm water or tea to dilute the taste. If you find that a teaspoon has not been effective, you can go as high as 1-2 tablespoons, but try less at first.
4. Coffee is our friend (sometimes)
A lot of people love their morning coffee, but it does more than just give off heavenly aromas and help you perk up. Caffeine is a natural stimulant for the digestive system, so indulging in a cup of joe will help get you up and running in more ways than one. 1-2 cups is fine, but make sure you don’t overdo it-too much can actually have the opposite effect. Coffee is a diuretic and makes you urinate more frequently, and if you drink it an excess, it can cause constipation by dehydrating your body and drawing out water that would normally soften your stool.
5. Get moving
If you want stuff to move through your body, you need to move too! Our lifestyle these days not only involves dietary changes that increase constipation, but we’re often sitting much more than we’re active. While there isn’t an exact scientific reason as to why lack of exercise is linked with getting clogged up, we can assume that moving the body helps get the smooth muscle in the colon moving as well. Keep in mind, however, that you should wait an hour after big meals before exercising. There are also specific stretches and workouts that are supposed to help with getting good old number 2 out the door.
6. Go natural (aka fiber, fiber, and more fiber)
You’ll hear people talk a lot about how a natural diet helps relieve and prevent constipation. An overall healthy diet just improves everything, and our bodies know how to process fruits, veggies, grains and roughage more than the refined or artificial foods that don’t pass as easily. To get more specific, natural foods tend to contain boatloads of fiber-that magical word that signifies the end of toilet suffrage. In short, fiber is material that cannot be digested, and it acts like a sponge. It draws water from its surroundings, making it swell, which softens stool and adds bulk to it, which in turn helps it pass. Like coffee, some kinds of fiber (like beans) can contribute to constipation, so always drink plenty of water. Some good fiber-filled foods include-
-Whole grain bread
-Plums, pears, and apples
-Potatoes (skip the fries though)
7. Get some FLAXitive
Flaxseed oil is a pretty simple home remedy for constipation. It sort of coats the walls of the intestine, as well as stool, and increases the number of bowel movements you are having. Enjoying your oil with orange juice is a double whammy when it comes to constipation, since oranges have a good amount of fiber in them (make sure to get orange juice with pulp, which is what has most of the fiber.)
You will need…
-1 glass of orange juice with pulp (8 oz.)
-1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil
Mix 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil with 1 glass of orange juice. Drink as needed, but give it time (up to 5 hourse) to start working so you don’t overdo it.
8. Aloe-it’s benefits aren’t just skin deep
Aloe is known to soothe minor cuts and burns, but it can also soothe your tummy. It’s best to use pure aloe vera gel from the plant. The gel straight from the plant is more concentrated than commercial aloe juice so don’t use more than 2 tablespoons. If you don’t have an aloe plant, than drinking aloe juice can accomplish similar results.
You will need…
-2 tablespoons of pure aloe gel or 1 cup of aloe vera juice
Mix two tablespoons of pure gel with fruit juice and drink in the morning, OR drink one cup of aloe vera juice as needed.
9. Establish a routine
Potty schedules aren’t just for puppies, they’re a great way to relieve and prevent constipation in humans too. Regulating the timing of when you go to the bathroom will regulate your bowel movements as well. Set aside about 15 minutes anywhere from 1-3 times a day, and take your time, even if nothing happens. Make sure you stay relaxed, and eventually your body will catch on.
10. Baking soda does it all
Baking soda lies at the heart of home remedies. It’s is so incredibly versatile, and it pretty much does its job 95% of the time. It works incredibly well for constipation (and tummy aches in general) because it is a bicarbonate, which will encourage air to come out of you one way or another, and relieve pain from pressure. It also re-alkalizes the stomach, neutralizing the acid a little bit and helping things pass through your gut.
You will need…
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 cup warm water
Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with ¼ cup of warm water. Drink all of the mixture-the quicker you finish it, the better it seems to work.
11. Empty out with Epsom salt
Epsom salt is an effective home remedy for constipation for two main reasons. First, the salt draws water from its surroundings, softening up stool and making it easier to pass. Second, the magnesium that is present in the salt promotes contraction of the bowel muscles, which also makes passing easier. Table salt can be useful in terms of drawing water out, but it lacks the magnesium that Epsom has, so try and use Epsom salt if possible.
You will need…
-2 teaspoons of Epsom salt (for adults) OR ½ teaspoon (for children)*
-1 cup of water or fruit juice
Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt in one cup of water or fruit juice and drink all of it. If within 4 more hours there is no sign of bowel movement, you may take one more dose. Only use ½ teaspoon for children.
*Consult the box for dosing
12. Don’t forget the prunes…
Perhaps one of the most classic cures for constipation is prunes or prune juice. The fruit works as a natural laxative because it has high amounts of fiber, and contains sorbitol. Sorbitol softens stools because it is a natural carbohydrate that is not easily ingested, causing it to draw a lot of water as it passes through the intestines and adding bulk to stool. Be careful though-too much and sorbitol can cause gas and make stool too soft.
You will need…
-2 glasses of prune juice (8oz)
Drink one glass of prune juice in the morning and one at night to relieve constipation. It should start working within a few hours, so it’s important to let one glass pass through your intestines before attempting to drink another-or else you risk diarrhea. You can also eat several prunes instead of drinking the juice if you prefer.
13. Heed natures call
This is a preventative measure to help ward off those uncomfortable bouts of constipation in the future, and it’s pretty straightforward. When you need to go to the bathroom-go! Your body is giving you the signal for a reason, and it’s a good idea to listen. The longer you hold it in, the more water is absorbed from the stool, and the harder it becomes. You’re body also only sends the signal to have a bowel movement for a certain amount of time, after a certain amount of time. That’s why if you have to go really badly and don’t, you stop feeling like you have to go. Delay the duty and you may not get the heads up to go until you’re even more clogged.
14. Dandy Dandelions
Dandelions are a terribly annoying weed, but you might view them differently after they help relieve your constipation. The constituents of dandelions make it a gentle laxative as well as an effective detoxifier, and a cup of dandelion tea will be enormously beneficial to those who are suffering from constipation due to inactiveness or the consumption of a lot of processed foods (although drinking it does not mean you don’t need to exercise or eat healthy!)
You will need…
-1-2 teaspoons of dried dandelion leaves
-1 cup of hot water
Put 1-2 teaspoons of dried dandelion leaves into a mug, and pour hot water over them. Cover and let steep for 6-10 minutes. Drink up to 3 times a day.
15. Bacteria is necessary
Healthy gut flora is vital to keep our digestive system working properly, especially in these times, when our stomach is getting pounded with all sorts of processed sugars and foods. Working to keep the good bacteria in our bodies strong and plentiful will help prevent constipation, and lessen its severity should it still occur. There are a number of ways to go about helping your bacteria flourish, but one simple method is to enjoy a cup of yogurt, which is filled with probiotics, with breakfast and during the day.
You will need…
-1-3 cups of plain yogurt
Eat a cup of yogurt with breakfast, and then on its own or with snacks throughout the day.
16 Home Remedies to Relieve Constipation
constipation“Potty problems” are something we avoid in our everyday conversations. While you may be more than willing to share how much your sore throat is torturing you, rarely do you go into the office and announce that you haven’t pooped in five days. However, constipation is not something to be embarrassed about, and if you’ve had it (and we all have) than you understand that it is no laughing matter-in fact it can be downright debilitating. Before running to the drugstore for a quick-fix laxative (which often worsen the problem) try some simple home remedies to relieve your discomfort, and keep it from coming back.