Treat Constipation Naturally, 12 Ways
Constipation is a common condition people don't like to talk about, and it can make you feel miserable for days or weeks and keep coming back unless you take steps to prevent and manage it effectively. If you want to bypass drugs and their harmful effects, here are 12 ways to treat constipation naturally.
What kind of constipation do you have?
Not all constipation is the same, and even if you cannot identify the type that is haunting you, it may be helpful to know you can try two different treatment approaches to remedy the situation. The two main types involve:
- Weak muscles. If you experience weak muscular action in your colon, you will likely most benefit from remedies that include adding bulk to your diet, the use of certain herbs, and physical techniques such as exercise and abdominal massage.
- Tense muscles. If your colon muscles are tight, then you will probably benefit most from remedies that relax the muscles, such as specific herbs.
Generally, constipation will respond to remedies in either category, although your response may be faster if you choose the “right” treatment or put more emphasis on one treatment approach over another. Therefore, each person's response to various treatments differs.
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With that in mind, let’s consider 12 different ways to remedy constipation.
12 natural ways to treat constipation naturally
Abdominal massage: This self-treatment requires no equipment, can be performed just about anywhere, and is effective. A 2011 study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies reported that a review of previous studies showed that abdominal massage “has been effective for patients with constipation due to a variety of diagnosed physiological abnormalities, as well as in patients with long-term functional constipation.”
Bananas: Eating a ripe banana between meals reportedly helps with constipation. If you are watching your calories or do not usually have a snack between meals, you may want to allow for the extra calories (about 100 per banana).
Burdock root: You can enjoy this herb as a vegetable or make it into a decoction (a tea made from roots). If you choose the decoction, drink 1 to 2 cups daily. The root can be scrubbed and stir fried with other vegetables, but you will want to begin with the burdock root, since it takes about 6 to 8 minutes longer to cook than other vegetables.
To prepare burdock root, scrub well and peel two one-foot roots. Cut into 4-inch segments, then cut lengthwise. Place the cut roots in ice water with a small amount of vinegar as you cut them to prevent them from browning. Place the cut roots in a sauce pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Saute the roots for 5 to 6 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes until cooked through.
Coffee: The caffeine in coffee can help stimulate your bowels. Do not drink too much coffee, however, because it also is a diuretic, which can defeat your goal.
Dried plums: Also known as prunes, dried plums not only are high in fiber, they also contain a substance called dihydroxyphenyl isatin, which can stimulate the bowels. Eat a handful of dried plums in the morning. If you have children with constipation, try mixing some whipped dried plums into applesauce or vanilla yogurt.
Exercise: Regular physical exercise supports a healthy intestinal tract and aids the movement of food through the bowels. Aerobic exercise stimulates peristalsis, which is the natural contraction of the intestinal muscles.
A new study of constipation in the elderly, which is a significant problem among this age group, has reported on the importance of physical activity. The authors concluded that “lower physical activity levels as well as an incomplete and less varied diet are associated to constipation in the elderly.”
Fiber: Most people are aware that fiber is a natural constipation fighter. Adults are encouraged to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber of daily to facilitate the flow of waste material through the intestinal tract. Read the nutrition labels on foods and look for those that contain 4 grams or more of fiber per serving.
Whole-grain foods typically have more fiber than processed foods. Also include at least 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, and beans are also another good source of fiber.
Herbal teas: You can try herbal teas or decoctions (teas made from roots) to help with both types of constipation. For example:
- 1 teaspoon each of Oregon grape root, licorice root, and raspberry leaves plus 2 teaspoons of dandelion root that can help constipation that involves weak bowel muscles. Drink 1 to 2 cups daily until your constipation is relieved.
- 1 teaspoon each of dried valerian, chamomile and peppermint along with 2 teaspoons of dandelion root and can help relax the bowel muscles. Drink 1 to 2 cups daily until your bowels clear.
- 1 teaspoon of dried dandelion root steeped in 8 ounces of hot water, taken three times a day, can be helpful for mild cases of constipation
Oregon grape tincture: Mix ½ teaspoon of Oregon grape root tincture in water and drink before each meal. Oregon grape root contains substances called alkaloids, such as berberine, which are bitter and thus stimulate the flow of bile, which in turns prompts the movement of stool.
Psyllium: These high-fiber seeds are an excellent source of fiber. One way to enjoy psyllium is to combine 2 teaspoons of psyllium seeds in 8 ounces of hot water. Stir, let it sit for about 30 minutes, then add some lemon and a touch of honey. Drink once a day for constipation.
Sesame seeds: Just ½ ounce of these tiny seeds can get you moving again. You can include them in a smoothie, sprinkle them on salads or sandwiches, stir them into soup, or top your yogurt. Be sure to drink enough water if you add sesame seeds to your diet.
Water: Where there’s fiber, there should be at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. One mistake people make when they increase their intake of fiber is to forget to drink enough water. Don’t let that be you!
If you experience constipation, make commercial laxatives and other drugs your last choice. Also be cautious of questionable remedies, such as coffee enemas, or prolonged use of teas that contain the herb senna.
There are many ways to treat constipation naturally, and to prevent it from recurring by including more fiber and water in your diet. The next time constipation strikes, you may want to consider one or more of the 12 natural ways to treat this condition.
Sinclair M. The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2011 Oct; 15(4): 436-45
Vargas-Garcia EJ, Bargas-Salado E. Food intake, nutritional status and physical activity between elderly with and without chronic constipation. A comparative study. Cirugia y Cirujanos 2013 May-June; 81(3): 214-20