27 Home Remedies for Constipation
Home Remedy Treatments for Constipation
The following home remedies are designed to help reduce the discomfort caused by the most common allergies. They may be used in combination with a doctor's treatment or, if your constipation is mild, by themselves.
Home Remedies From the Cupboard
Eat 6 ounces of grain products each day. That's in addition to the five servings of fruits and vegetables just mentioned. Grain products include cereals, breads, and starchy vegetables (such as corn, green peas, potatoes, and lima beans). Whenever possible, choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereal. To get a big dose of fiber early in the day, eat high-fiber cereal for breakfast. Check the labels on cereal boxes; anything with more than five or six grams of fiber per serving qualifies as high fiber. If you don't like high-fiber cereals, try mixing them in with your usual cereal and increasing the amount of high-fiber cereal over time.
Cut back on refined foods. Bump up your fiber intake by switching from refined foods to less-refined foods whenever possible. Switch from a highly processed cereal to a whole grain cereal, move from heavily cooked vegetables to less-cooked vegetables, and choose whole-grain products over products made with white flour. A serving of white rice has 0.5 grams of fiber; a serving of brown rice contains 2.4. And while a serving of potato chips has only 0.6 grams of fiber, a serving of popcorn supplies 2.5 grams.
Bulk up. Sometimes, a little extra dietary fiber is all you need to ensure regularity. Fiber, the indigestible parts of plant foods, adds mass to the stool and stimulates the colon to push things along. Fiber is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans (although refining and processing can significantly decrease their fiber content). Meats, chicken, fish, and fats come up empty-handed in the fiber category. The current recommendations for daily dietary fiber are 20 to 35 grams, but most people eat only 10 to 15 grams a day. Fiber supplements may be helpful, but you're better off getting your fiber from foods, which supply an assortment of other essential nutrients as well. To avoid getting gassy, increase the fiber in your diet gradually, and be sure you drink plenty of water so the fiber can move smoothly through your digestive system.
Barley. Make it a permanent addition to your diet -- it can relieve constipation and keep you regular, and it has cholesterol-lowering properties, too. What more could you ask of a simple grain? Buy some barley flour, flakes, and grits. Add some barley grain to vegetable soup or stew.
Blackstrap molasses. Take 2 tablespoons before going to bed to relieve constipation. Molasses is too high in calories to use it as a daily preventative, but on an occasional basis, it can help to get you moving. It has a pretty strong taste, though, so you may want to add it to milk, fruit juice, or for an extra-powerful laxative punch, prune juice.
Walnuts. Fresh from the shell, they may be just the laxative you need.
Don't forget beans. Dried beans and legumes, whether they're pinto beans, red beans, lima beans, black beans, navy beans, or garbanzo beans, are excellent sources of fiber. Many people don't like them because of the gassiness they may cause. Cooking beans properly, however, can ease this problem considerably. Plus, if you add beans to your diet gradually, you'll minimize gassiness.
Try a cup of coffee. The bitter-tasting constituents in coffee, and all bitter-tasting foods, stimulate the digestive tract. If you don't like coffee, try an herb called Oregon grape. The root of this plant and some close cousins such as barberry have been used safely since ancient times to overcome occasional constipation. Mix 1/2 teaspoon Oregon grape tincture in water and sip slowly before eating for best results.
Home Remedies From the Refrigerator
Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Select a variety of fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, apples, berries, apricots, peaches, pears, oranges, prunes, corn, peas, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. And opt for the whole produce over juice as much as possible; a glass of orange juice, for instance, provides 0.1 grams of fiber, while eating an orange gives you 2.9 grams.
Apples. Eat an hour after a meal to prevent constipation.
Apple juice, apple cider. These are natural laxatives for many people. Drink up and enjoy!
Bananas. These may relieve constipation. Try eating two ripe bananas between meals. Avoid green bananas because they're constipating.
Raisins. Eat a handful daily, an hour after a meal.
Rhubarb. This is a natural laxative. Cook it and eat it sweetened with honey, or bake it in a pie. Or, create a drink with cooked, pureed rhubarb, apple juice, and honey.
Home Remedies From the Spice Rack
Sesame seed. These seeds provide roughage and bulk, and they soften the contents of the intestines, which makes elimination easier. Eat no more than 1/2 ounce daily, and drink lots of water as you take the seeds. You may also sprinkle them on salads and other foods, but again, no more than 1/2 ounce. Sesame is also available in a butter or paste and in Middle Eastern dips, such as tahini.
Garlic. In the raw, it has a laxative effect for many. Eat it mixed with onion, raw or cooked, and with milk or yogurt for best results.
Honey. This is a very mild laxative. Try taking 1 tablespoon three times a day, either by itself or mixed into warm water. If it doesn't work on its own, you may have to pep it up by mixing it half and half with blackstrap molasses. Keep in mind, however, that honey (like molasses) is high in calories, so use it as an occasional laxative, not a daily preventative.
Oil. Safflower, soybean, or other vegetable oil can be just the cure you need, as they have a lubricating action in the intestines. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons a day, only until the problem is gone (not on an everyday basis). And remember that on those days when you increase your intake of oils, balance the calorie count by lowering your consumption of butter. Otherwise, you risk packing on extra pounds as you seek relief from constipation. If you don't like taking oil straight from the spoon, mix the oil with herbs and lemon juice or vinegar to use as salad dressing. The combination of the oil and the fiber from the salad ought to fix you right up.
Vinegar. Mix 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey in a glass of water, and drink.
While your diet is most likely the primary change you need to make for constipation, there are some other lifestyle changes that can also help. Move on to our final section to learn some other steps you can take to help cure constipation.
Get moving. Exercise not only boosts your fitness level but promotes regularity, as well. When you are active, so are your bowels -- and the more sedentary you are, the more slowly your bowels move. That may partially explain why older people, who tend to be less active, and those who are bedridden are prone to constipation. So gear up and get moving. You don't have to run a marathon; a simple walking workout doesn't take much time and can be very beneficial. When it comes to regularity, even a little exercise is better than none at all.
Don't fight the urge. People sometimes suppress the urge to have a bowel movement because they are busy or have an erratic schedule or because they don't want to use public bathrooms. If at all possible, heed the call when you feel it.
Don't rush. It takes time for your bowels to move, so allow sufficient time and be patient. It will happen.
Take advantage of an inborn reflex. We're all born with a reflex to defecate a short time after we're fed, and as babies, that's what we did. With socialization, we learn to control our bladders and bowels, and we tend to inhibit this reflex. Work on reviving this innate tendency by choosing one mealtime a day and trying to have a movement after it; you may be able to teach your body to pass a stool at the same time each day. (This works better with younger people than with seniors.)
Drink water. Consuming at least 8 glasses of water a day not only improves your general health, but also helps moisten the intestines so that the bowels move easily.
Keep a food diary. If you suffer frequent bouts of constipation, it's possible that your body is reacting to certain foods that you are consuming. By keeping a detailed log of what you eat, you'll see which foods are clogging you up.
Train yourself to a daily routine. Pick a time, possibly after a meal, and retire to the bathroom. Follow that routine every day, whether you have to go or not, and soon it may very well become your time.
Know your medications. A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause constipation. If you are currently taking any medication, you might want to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it could be causing your constipation. Among the drugs that can cause constipation are calcium-channel blockers taken for high blood pressure, beta blockers, some antidepressants, narcotics and other pain medications, antihistamines (to a lesser degree), certain decongestants, and some antacids. Antacids that contain calcium or aluminum are binding and can cause constipation; antacids that contain magnesium tend not to cause constipation. If you are unsure what's in your antacid, check the label or ask your pharmacist or doctor.
Constipation is no laughing matter. However, with the right diet, you can control your risk of constipation. Foods that are high in fiber -- including grains, vegetables, and nuts -- can help you beat constipation, as well as the many other home remedies covered in this article.