Home Remedies for Constipation
Home remedies for constipation include intake of water, fiber rich fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, figs or anjeer, castor oil, flax seed, regular exercise and natural laxatives, if necessary. The prime causes of constipation include dehydration, improper diet, certain medications, medical conditions, stress, etc. But, what is constipation?
What is Constipation?
Constipation is the condition where stool movement is irregular with hard stools which often obstruct the movement of stools. Constipation is also categorized by some people as hardening and difficulty in passing stools. A sense of incomplete bowel movement is also felt by many people complaining of constipation. The stiffening of stools near the rectum causes an obstruction for smooth stool passage resulting in difficulty to defecate.
Constipation is defined by medical experts as fewer number of bowel movements per week. Precisely, less than 3 bowel movements per week is considered as constipation. On a general scale, any number of bowel movements between 3 to 21 bowel movements per week is considered to be normal. This has been observed in majority of the population.
Ideal frequency of bowel movement is considered to be at least one or two bowel movements per day without any difficulty, though there is no standard for the number of bowel movements. Bowel movement of one person may be different from another person because of changes in life style and other significant things.. Normally 40-50% of people have a frequency of 1-2 bowels movements a day.
University of Bristol had developed the Bristol Stool Scale that categorizes human faeces on a scale of 1 to 7. According to it, a scale of 1 to 3 has been categorized as chronic and severe constipation due to the appearance of the stool. 4 and 5 have been categorized as normal condition and 6 and 7 tend to be conditions of diarrhea.
Severe or acute constipation is characterized as not more than one bowel movement per week. Under chronic constipation, bowel movements have been observed to be not more than once every 15 to 20 days or more. In any case, severe and chronic constipation have to be treated urgently.
Normal constipation also requires attention. Normal constipation can range between one bowel movement to three bowel movements per day. This constipation can be cured with home remedies which are very simple and yet provide the best results.
Causes of constipation
Some of the reasons for constipation include:
Lack of sufficient amount of water: Water is one of the major components of human body. It constitutes about 70% of the body and is the best organic carrier and dissolvent. It is the key ingredient in the digestive system as it helps in absorbing the digested food in the small intestine as well as in the movement of indigested food into the large intestine or colon and from here to outside through rectum and anus. During this process, water helps in giving the smooth texture to stool and helps in the movement. Lack of required amounts of water inside the colon forces the stool to accumulate and turn hard and bowel movement very slow.
Improper diet: Diet is perhaps the most important thing to consider in case of constipation. Diet without regular and significant intake of dietary fiber is considered to the root cause of constipation. Fiber is the undigested food material which helps in stool formation and its movement. Fiber helps in creating bulk of loose stools which easily pass through the colon. Without sufficient fiber, stools become hard and difficult to move. In some cases, people who follow improper diet pattern also face constipation. Consumption of dairy products and animal products can be attributed to increase of constipation. These dairy and animal products lack dietary fiber.
Drugs and Medication: Drugs and medication are often over looked as some of the causes for constipation. Certain type of medications can cause constipation. These medicines include antacids, anticholinergics, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, cholestyramine, clonidine, diuretics, levodopa, narcotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, psychotropic, sympathomimetic, etc. These are some of the drugs that can cause constipation. (Ratnaike, R.N. (1999))
Stress: Stress is known to be one of the causes for constipation. People who suffer from stress and anxiety have lower levels of gastro colic reflex which in turn causes constipation. Some people tend to suppress the urge of visiting the rest room due to certain conditions. As a result, the stools harden up and do not move even when considerable pressure is applied leading to constipation.
Physical conditions: In certain conditions like diabetes mellitus, hypocalcaemia, hyperparathyroidism, hypo kalmia, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Hirschsprung’s disease, etc. are known to cause constipation.
Abuse of laxatives: Contrary to popular belief, abuse of laxatives creates a condition called lazy colon syndrome in which the peristaltic movements in the colon which push the stools out is stopped. After long term use of laxatives, the colon will lose its ability to make these movements resulting in constipation.
Dehydration: Dehydration is related to water itself, but under certain conditions, dehydration can cause constipation. Constipation during summer times is often seen because many people are dehydrated. During summer times, the water that is present in the digestive system is diverted to control the body temperature. Water is released in the form of sweat and water vapour. This loss of water must be replenished as quickly as possible so that the digestive process will begin.
Home remedies for constipation
Constipation can be cured by following certain home remedies which are very easy to implement. With the implementation of these home remedies for constipation, one can experience free bowel movement without the need to apply pressure and also the sense of incomplete bowel shall also fade away.
Water: Water, as already mentioned, is one of the major components of our body which helps in most of the metabolic activities, especially digestion. Drinking good amount of water daily (at least 6 to 8 glasses) will help us not only in maintaining optimum water level in the body but will also help in smooth bowel movement. Drinking water throughout the day is helpful. It is suggested that people who suffer constipation must drink at least one litre of water early in the morning in one go(not bottoms up, but gradually) and have a rigorous walk of at least 10 minutes. As water suddenly rushes through the digestive system, it will wash away any undigested food in the stomach and small intestines into the large intestine. Here, the rushing water dilutes the hard stool and makes it softer and easier to move. The water in your stomach also puts pressure on the lower part of the digestive system. [Chhajer, B. (2005). ‘Constipation’]
Fruits: Fruits are highly recommended to control constipation. Fruits contain dietary fiber that fights constipation. There are many varieties of fruits and vegetables that can be consumed on a daily basis to avoid constipation. Fruits such as apple, papaya, orange, apricots, guavas, strawberries, dates, raisins, pears, etc. (Wisten. A Messner. T. (2005))
Vegetables: Vegetables are also high in fiber. Vegetables can be taken either cooked or half cooked. In case of constipation, the best way to consume them is by taking them half cooked or raw. Vegetables such as cabbage, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, all types of gourds such as bottle gourd, snake gourd, bitter gourd, ridged gourd, etc contain good fiber amounts to help clean your bowel. (Chhajer, B. (2005))
Fiber intake: Food is the first and often the best source to identify the problem of constipation. People whose diet consists of less fiber or no fiber at all are more prone to the problem of constipation. The best source of dietary fiber is through the intake of more and more vegetarian food. It is recommended to take whole grains such as whole wheat and whole rice, vegetables, herbs and various fruits. Fiber is the undigested food that soaks up water in the process of digestion. When moving into the colon, undigested fiber is converted to stool. As it contains more water, the stool easily moves through the colon and out. (Cummings J.H. (1984))
Whole grain products: Consuming whole grain products is recommended in place of polished grain products which include whole wheat, whole or brown rice, in place of white rice and polished wheat flour. Whole grains contain a layer of fiber. This fiber contains essential B complex vitamins. Polished grain lacks this fiber. (Cummings J.H. (1984))
Figs: A fig is a sweet and chewable fruit. Figs have large amounts of fiber which helps in easy digestion and in producing bulk of stool. (Lee HY, Kim JH, Jeung HW (2012))
Almond Oil: Consume milk with 2 table spoons of Almond oil added every night. Consume this mixture for 3-4 days to get rid of constipation.
Dates: Make a paste of half a cup of dates. Mix this paste with milk and consume it every night before sleep. The fiber dates will reduce constipation.
Psyllium: Psyllium or Ispaghula has large amounts of dietary fiber. The fiber inside it is ideally suited for constipation because it is not absorbed by the small intestine and while on its way to the colon, it absorbs a lot of water and pushes out stools, there by relieving from constipation. (McRorie, Daggy, Morel, Diersing, Miner and Robinson (1998))
Bishop’s Seed: Bishop’s Seed or Ajowan has been traditionally used in India to treat constipation. A spoonful of Ajowan seeds with luke warm water can relieve of constipation.
Regular Exercise: Regular exercise is an effective home remedy for constipation. Exercising regularly induces not only the external muscles but also the muscles in the internal organs to expand and contract. This is especially true in case of the digestive system which moves food through peristaltic movements. Exercise helps in maintaining optimum peristaltic movements to move food through the digestive system. Yoga can be a good choice to deal with constipation. There are exercises that specifically deal with constipation. These include Surya Namaskara, Pavanamukta Asana, Trikona Asana, Hala Asana, Tada Asana, Matsya Asana, Ardha Matsyendra Asana, etc.
Flaxseed: Flax plant has been used historically in a variety of ways including cooking, medicine, clothing, etc. Particularly flax seed has been used in constipation. Flax seeds are rich in soluble fiber which makes it ideal to fight constipation. A four week trail research on healthy people with flax seed intake had found their bowel movements increased for about one-third. Research has also shown that usage of flax seed in patients suffering from Constipation with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-C) showed a significant improvement in their condition with reduction in constipation and pain. (Basch E, Bent S, Collins J, Dacey C, Hammerness P, Harrison M, Smith M, Szapary P, Ulbricht C, Vora M, Weissner W; Natural Standard Resource Collaboration (2007))
Castor Oil: Castor Oil has been used traditionally as a laxative. It is a stimulant laxative. It stimulates not only the large intestine but also the small intestine and helps in washing away fecal matter. Castor oil prevents water absorption from intestine thus making the faeces softer and easy to move. (T. S. Gaginella and S. F. Phillips (1975))
Enema: Enema is another approach to treat constipation. It is useful when water intake does not yield expected result. Administering a plain enema with or without any medication may also help in loosening of hard stool. This is helpful in severe and chronic conditions of constipation.
- Ratnaike, R.N. (1999). ‘Diarrhoea And Constipation In Geriatric Practice’, UK: Cambridge University Press
- DiMarco, D. (1999). ‘Natural Relief From Constipation’ Chicago, McGraw-Hill Professional
- Chhajer, B. (2005). ‘Constipation’, New Delhi, Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd
- Marc D Basson. Constipation. URL: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/184704-overview
- Annells. M, Koch. T. (2003). Constipation and the preached trio: diet, fluid intake, exercise International Journal of Nursing Studies Volume 40, Issue 8 , Pages 843-852, November 2003
- Wisten. A Messner. T. (2005). Fruit and fibre (Pajala porridge) in the prevention of constipation, Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-6712.2004.00308.x/abstract
- Cummings J.H. (1984) Constipation, dietary fibre and the control of large bowel function Postgraduate Medical Journal (November 1984)60, 811-819
- American Medical Association () American Medical Association Family Medical Guide
- Lee HY, Kim JH, Jeung HW (2012) Effects of Ficuscarica paste on loperamide-induced constipation in rats, Food and Chemical Toxicology March-April 2012.
- McRorie, Daggy, Morel, Diersing, Miner and Robinson (1998), Psyllium is superior to docusate sodium for treatment of chronic constipation. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 12: 491–497. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00336.x
- Basch E, Bent S, Collins J, Dacey C, Hammerness P, Harrison M, Smith M, Szapary P, Ulbricht C, Vora M, Weissner W; Natural Standard Resource Collaboration (2007) Flax and flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum): A review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2007 Summer;5(3):92-105.
- T. S. Gaginella and S. F. Phillips (1975) Ricinoleic acid: Current view of an ancient oil, Digestive Diseases and Sciences; Volume 20, Number 12,1975 , 1171-1177, DOI: 10.1007/BF01070759