Constipation may be something you suffer from on a daily basis, or it may just plague you once in a while. Either way, it is debilitating and uncomfortable, frustrating and if chronic, can lead to other complications. However, we don’t always have the best supplements or medications to hand, and what we need are easy remedies we can whip up in our kitchens to help get the bowels moving. Here are a few natural and easy home remedies to help do just that.
This classic and ancient remedy for constipation is still around because it works. Prunes contain both soluble fibre as well as insoluble fibre which help bulk up stool and draws water into the colon to soften the stool. As well as this, prunes contain 15% sorbitol which also helps draw water into the intestine. Additionally, the prune skin contains a substance called Dihydrophenylisation which stimulates peristalsis, the movement in the intestines. You can take prunes in either the form of a juice or just straight out of the packet. You can also add to smoothies if you wish – just remember to remove the stones. If you don’t have any prunes but do have other dried fruit such as figs, apricots or dates, try those instead.
As a nutritional therapist, I wouldn’t normally advocate drinking coffee. In fact, coffee is known more for its ability to be a diuretic. It would, therefore, seem counterintuitive to drink it when constipated as you need to be absorbing water into the colon at this point not drawing it out. However, in actual fact, a strong coffee can really help some people get to the toilet. The caffeine in a freshly brewed coffee stimulates muscle contractions in the large colon. Don’t get the caffeine in a cup of coffee confused with a coke. Firstly, caffeine is much more concentrated in coffee (about 70-100mg) than it is in a coke (about 35mg). Secondly, there are about 7 teaspoons of sugar in one can of coke. Sugar can seriously disrupt gut bacteria and actually cause constipation. So get brewing and make that strong coffee.
3. Bicarbonate of soda and lemon drink
This is a very popular home remedy. And it’s very simple. When you wake up, get a medium sized glass of water, approximately a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and the juice of half a lemon. The results will vary from person to person so be aware that one person might need to run to the toilet after a teaspoon which may have absolutely no results for another person. So, just start with a small teaspoon and see what works for you. In fact, why does this work? Because bicarbonate of soda is a salt it draws fluid into your digestive tract and increases intestinal peristalsis which helps move the stool along. Lemon juice, on the other hand, is a well-known digestive aid as it helps stimulate digestive enzyme and stomach acid production and again may help induce peristalsis. I would just urge a little caution at using this drink too often as the bicarbonate soda may possibly inhibit stomach acid production in the long run.
This is the easiest and probably the most effective home remedy for constipation. Sluggish body equals sluggish bowels. Getting out for a run, fast walk or if you are worried you might have to take a loo roll with you, then star jump, stair run, do sit ups, generally just get out of breath! The movement stimulates your bowels to also get moving. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main causes of constipation. Yoga is also a good way to ease most digestive complaints.
Read more about why exercise helps ease constipation here.
5. Other popular natural remedies
These include castor oil, flax seed oil or olive oil taken pure or with a little fruit juice in the morning as a mild laxative. Honey is also considered a mild laxative, and it’s suggested that 1 tablespoon taken with warm water 3 times a day can help. However, I would go easy with these remedies as they could possibly have some side effects if used unchecked.
6. Don't forget fibre and water
When it comes down to it, bog standard (excuse the pun) relief for constipation, however, is an adequate fibre and water intake. If you don’t have enough of either of these you will become constipated however healthy your colon is. Make sure you have a mix of soluble fibre (such as veggies and fruit) and insoluble fibre (such as cereals) and around 8 glasses of water a day. The bottom line is that adequate amounts of both of these will contribute to it being less likely you have that awful blocked up feeling in the first place.
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