Constipation is a very uncomfortable, yet very common condition. Although there are a number of quality products available to relieve it, there are also many natural ways to help your constipation. This article will outline the types of constipation, and what you can do to maintain optimal bowel health.
Types of Constipation
The Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) defines two main types: functional (primary) and secondary. Our article is dedicated to remedies for functional constipation, but we will briefly touch on the difference between the two types below.
Secondary constipation can be caused by a number of medications, including calcium channel blockers, antacids, and opioid drugs. Medical conditions, such as diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression, can also be causes of secondary constipation. As such, available treatment options will vary.
Functional (primary) constipation is the difficulty of passing stools for physiological reasons. There are three subtypes of functional constipation that can be helped naturally and under the guidance of your primary care physician. These are normal transit, slow transit, and outlet constipation.
Normal transit constipation is diagnosed when stool transit is normal, but when the patient experiences the perception of constipation. This condition is associated with psychological stress.
Slow transit constipation occurs when stool transit is prolonged. This type of constipation is typically related to slow peristalsis, or the contraction of the intestines, following the ingestion of a meal.
Outlet constipation involves the stool not being expelled when it reaches the rectum. This condition occurs when the pelvic floor is dysfunctional.
Functional constipation’s main causes are the lack of proper food, hydration, and self-care—all of which are things that can be corrected with natural methods of treatment.
Symptoms of Constipation
There are several symptoms associated with functional constipation. You may:
- feel as though you have not emptied your bowels after passing stool;
- find it difficult or painful to pass stool;
- strain when defecating;
- have noticed your stools are lumpy, dry or hard; and/or
- experience three or fewer bowel movements per week.
Consider These Constipation Remedies
The cause of functional constipation is usually the ingestion of too many processed foods. Processed foods are difficult for the digestive system to break down because they have very little nutritional value. Over time, if the regular ingestion of processed foods and the experience of constipation continues, colon walls can become weak and cause other, more serious medical problems.
When colon walls are weak, it becomes harder for them to push stool through. Constant difficulty will lead to tired intestinal muscles, which will eventually cease to work and cause constipation.
Therefore, one of the best natural remedies for constipation is to change your diet. Instead of high-carbohydrate, high-sugar, high-fat, and high-sodium processed foods, begin choosing natural, whole foods. Incorporating fruits and vegetables and avoiding starchy foods like potatoes is recommended. Also increasing your intake of water can help to relieve constipation by making it easier for the body to process stool.
Healthy fats like the ones found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil will ease constipation by lubricating your intestines.
Although it may not seem that exercise and constipation are related, they are. The more and the better your body moves, the more and the better your bowels will move, too. The ideal exercises for bowel health, along with all the organs in the body, are those which elevate the heart rate. Ensure you are consistent with your exercise, and that you are exercising between 3 and 4 hours per week.
If you aren’t used to exercising or have a health condition, it’s important to start slowly with low-impact activities like walking. Gradually increase the length of time and intensity of exercise, either according to your doctor’s recommendations or by listening to your body for cues.
Other Natural Constipation Remedies
There are many ways to relieve constipation, and the ingredients you need may be as close as your kitchen.
To stimulate the digestive system and help to flush your digestive tract of waste and toxins, lemon juice can be very effective. Lemon is a natural laxative, and all you have to do is add fresh lemon juice to a glass of warm water or your morning tea. Ingesting lemon juice in this way will both aid to relieve constipation and help you drink more water due to its tart flavor.
Raisins and Pitted Fruit
In addition to fiber, raisins contain tartaric acid, which is another natural laxative. All that’s needed is to eat a small box or handful of your favorite raisins and wait for the results.
Pitted fruit like cherries and apricots, which are high in fiber, can also help to relieve constipation. Try a fruit bowl of cherries, raisins, and apricots for constipation relief. Another fiber-rich pitted fruit that’s ideal for constipation relief is the prune.
Oils and Oil-Containing Foods
Oils help to lubricate the intestines, making it easier for the body to pass stools. Olive oil was mentioned earlier as an easy constipation remedy. There is another oil remedy, and an old one at that, having been used by both the Roman and Egyptian empires. See below.
Castor oil works by triggering peristalsis, or the contractions of the intestines. However, it can also affect uterine muscles to trigger contractions, and so should not be used if you are pregnant. For constipation, adults should take one tablespoon of castor oil first thing in the morning, and on an empty stomach.
Because of the strong peristaltic action the oil causes, diarrhea can be the result. Therefore, it’s a good idea to remain close to the bathroom on the day you take it.
Sesame seeds have an oily composition, and as such, can help to both moisturize and lubricate the intestines. Ingesting these seeds is a good idea if your stools are dry and difficult to pass. Simply add sesame seeds to salads and cereal in their whole form. They can also be ground in a food processor and sprinkled on virtually every food as a seasoning.
Honey and Molasses
In addition to its antibacterial and antiviral properties, honey is also an ideal mild natural laxative. It can be taken on its own in the form of one tablespoon 3 times daily, or by mixing one tablespoon into a glass of warm water.
Black strap molasses is another natural laxative that when taken before going to bed can relieve constipation by morning. This concentrated, high-calorie remedy also contains considerable amounts of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, which is the main ingredient for constipation relief.
Honey and black strap molasses can be mixed together to increase laxative properties. Simply mix half a tablespoon of honey with half a tablespoon of molasses, either by itself or by mixing in warm water.
Peppermint offers many health benefits. It is a great friend of the digestive system, able to eliminate the symptoms of indigestion and nausea almost instantly with a very small amount.
However, peppermint also helps the body to stimulate the production of bile, which lines the walls of the intestines and makes stools easier to pass.
The best advice is to begin with a very small amount, such as ¼ of a teaspoon, and then monitor your symptoms.
Maintain Colon Health
Once you’ve relieved your constipation, you can prevent it from occurring again by maintaining your colon health.
One way is to always answer the call of nature. Waiting or holding in stool is unhealthy for the body. Not only can it cause constipation, but it also holds toxins and waste in the body for longer than they should be there.
A Primary Care Physician Can Help
Left unchecked, constipation can result in many high-risk conditions that can be life-threatening. A primary care provider from a membership-based service can not only provide prompt access to care, including same-day service, but will also place you ahead of the paperwork.
With assistance from qualified individuals and the remedies above, constipation can be reduced from a perpetual problem requiring urgent care to a temporary condition.
Direct Care, located in the Park Cities, is dedicated to care based on the individual. Following a concierge medicine structure, also known as retainer medicine, gives our patients access to advanced practice providers and top-tier family physicians with the goal of achieving optimized health for all.