Are you having a difficult time emptying your bowels as often as you would like? You are not alone. Constipation is a common digestive condition in Australia, where one in five adults report that they experience it from time to time.
Constipation is divided into two categories: primary or functional constipation, meaning you don’t have any underlying disease, and secondary constipation, which may be triggered by other health problems. Increasing your daily fibre and water intake is all you need for functional constipation, but if you’ve been experiencing weight loss, nausea, drastic changes in your bowel habits, and excruciating stomach pain recently, see your doctor as soon as possible. These symptoms suggest that there may be a more complicated cause for your constipation.
Alternatively, if you are just having less bowel movements than your normal rate, you may want to head to your kitchen to prepare these six constipation remedies at the comfort of your own home.
1. Drink More Water
When you are dehydrated, your intestines and colon are unable to absorb the right amount of fluid they need to digest everything you eat. So, your gut will have less water content to moisten your stools. And if they get harder and thicker than normal, it will be more difficult for you to eliminate them. Worse still, the waste that’s stuck in your colon for days can be reabsorbed back into your bloodstream and wreak havoc to your intestinal walls.
So, keep yourself hydrated to improve the consistency of your stools and boost your bowel function. We recommend drinking six to eight glasses of water every day, and to be mindful of how much alcohol you consume regularly as this can also get you dehydrated.
2. Increase Your Fibre Intake
Constipation is usually caused by an unbalanced diet. That’s why doctors often recommend increasing a patient’s fibre intake to help them manage their bowels.
Based on a study, 77% of adults who have chronic constipation found fibre to be moderately effective in treating their condition.
Fibrous foods like whole grains, vegetables, fresh fruits, seeds and legumes can help speed up the time it takes for food to pass through your digestive system. They can also hold onto water, which plays a significant role in keeping your stools moistened, thereby, making them easier to excrete.
If you are constipated, switch to a high fibre diet but do it gradually to prevent bloating and gas pains. For adults, the recommended daily intake is around 30grams while children will need to have anywhere between 5 and 12grams of fibre per day. Additionally, this will change the consistency of your stools into something similar to cow manure, but as long as it doesn’t cause you any pain or discomfort, then everything should be okay.
3. Take Soluble Fibre Supplements
If you can’t meet the recommended daily fibre intake from organic sources, consider taking dietary supplements for your constipation.
Soluble fibre supplements come in many forms, but the most accessible types are Psyllium, Methylcellulose, Polycarbophil, and Wheat dextrin. Available over the counter, these supplements contain plant-derived ingredients known for effectively absorbing the water in the food you eat, which in turn slows down digestion and makes you feel fuller. So, they will not only help regulate your bowel function, but they can also keep weight gain at bay.
To ensure that you will get the right type of soluble fibre supplement for you, discuss your options with your dietitian first. Drinking lots of water after taking a fibre supplement to avoid turning your constipation issues from bad to worse.
4. Have Some Coffee
Have you ever had the urge to defecate after drinking a cup of coffee? It’s because coffee stimulates the digestive muscles responsible for motor activity. Research shows that it can make your gastrointestinal tract work like it’s digesting a 1,000-calorie meal. So, its effects in the gut are basically stronger than drinking water and decaffeinated drinks.
Despite the fact that coffee contains diuretic properties that may cause symptoms of dehydration like dry mouth, researchers have found out that your body will begin to react less to it by drinking coffee regularly over a period of time.
But if you are not a coffee person, warm soups and drinks at room temperature may offer the same stimulating effect in your colon, especially when taken first thing in the morning. Examples include warm honey-lemon juice and bone broth.
5. Eat Prunes
A natural laxative, prunes are rich in sorbitol and fibre, which naturally absorbs water, adds bulk to your stools, and boosts your bowel movements. That’s why a 100ml of prune juice or 10 prunes that contain 6.1grams of sorbitol can instantly trigger a laxative effect in your body. So, if you are not too keen on taking OTC fibre supplements every day, you may find a great and natural alternative in prunes.
However, dietitians do not recommend consuming more than 50grams of sorbitol in one day as it can cause diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
6. Ingest Healthy Oils from Seeds and Plants
Oils extracted from herb seeds and plants like castor, flaxseed, and olive have been used to relieve constipation in adults for years. These oils contain healthy fats that can help smoothen your intestinal walls so that your stools can pass through them easily.
A 2015 study showed that a 4ml serving of olive oil and flaxseed oil taken every day for four weeks were found to be as potent as mineral oil in alleviating the symptoms of constipation and improving the consistency of stools.
Castor oil is also reported to be a good laxative as it stimulates both the large and small intestines. It may help wash away waste in the gut and soften stools as it moves through the colon.
Take one to two tablespoons of any of these oils on an empty stomach every morning to fight constipation. And if you feel abdominal pain or bloating, consider massaging your belly with peppermint essential oil for quick relief. The menthol may soothe muscle spasms in your colon, allowing for stools to have a smoother passage.
Overall, there are many natural home remedies for constipation. While soluble fibre supplements can provide instant relief, committing yourself to a long-term solution like keeping yourself hydrated and sticking to a high fibre and healthy fat diet is still a healthier way to go. However, if you don’t know how to get started, consult a dietitian to discuss which dietary plan will work best for your condition.
Need Our Help?
Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, learn more about how we can help with your constipation.
- Constipation – Better Health Channel
- Information about Constipation – GESA
- Effect of fibre supplementation on chronic idiopathic constipation in adults – NCBI
- Dried Plums and Their Products: Composition and Health Effects – Taylor & Francis Online
- Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction – NCBI
- Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review. – NCBI
- Sorbitol is a Possible Risk Factor for Diarrhea in Young Children – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Short-Term Effects of Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil for the Treatment of Constipation in Hemodialysis Patients – Science Direct
- Ricinoleic acid: Current view of an ancient oil – ResearchGate
- A Novel Delivery System of Peppermint Oil Is an Effective Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms – NCBI