Let’s be honest – talking about bowel movements is not always a comfortable conversation. Many of my clients can not help but flush their ideas when I ask questions about stool. However, most people tend to relax after eating and drinking. In fact, most dieticians are so comfortable with this topic that they will not bat an eye while having a conversation about their lunch break. Given that 1 in 7 adults suffer from chronic constipation, I think it is important that we end the taboo against “Number 2” (1). Let’s talk about some ways to treat constipation naturally.
5 Remedies for Treating Constipation Naturally
Chronic constipation can lead to many negative consequences .
I know – yikes! Thankfully, constipation is treatable through natural home remedies. Follow these steps to improve your health and stool
What puts you at risk for constipation?
- Persons taking multiple medications, especially opioids
- Dehydration ( 4 )
- Physical inactivity ( 5 )
- Older age
- Women are at increased risk compared to men
Ways to treat constipation naturally:
Drink More Water
This is a great place for a home remedy for constipation. The Daily Intake Intake (DRI) for water for healthy adults falls between 10 to 15 cups daily ( 6 ). During the digestion process, our colon draws in water to help moisten and soften stool. Thus, dehydration can lead to harder and difficult to pass bowel movements. To help treat constipation naturally, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and enjoying foods like fruits and vegetables. The extra hydration will help improve stool consistency. A good indicator that you’re getting enough water when your urine looks lightly colored (like lemonade). In contrast, if it’s darker tinted (like apple juice), you need more water.
Add Probiotics to fight constipation
You have likely heard about probiotics. They are the helpful bacteria that help in bodily functions, like digestion. It is thought that probiotics treat constipation naturally by helping stimulate motility ( 7 ). In other words, it helps get things moving faster. Probiotics are naturally found in kefir, certain yogurts, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Therefore, add these to your diet as a home remedy for constipation.
Oxygenated Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium oxide has been shown to be a remedy for constipation. In fact, it is just as effective as Miralax ( 8 ). It is thought that the magnesium aids digestion by drawing both water and oxygen into the digestive tract. As a result, stools become softer and easier to pass ( 9 ). As with all supplements, it is important to discuss with your healthcare provider before taking magnesium. High dose magnesium supplementation can be problematic long term ( 10 ).
Insoluble Fiber to ease digestion
You may have heard that adding fiber to your diet is a natural remedy for constipation. H owever, only 5% of adults meet the recommended intake for fiber (25 grams). Fiber supplements do not tend to be as helpful as food sources of fiber ( 11 ). Therefore, it’s important to add high fiber foods to get benefits. T he type of fiber is also important to keep in mind. ” Insoluble ” means that the fiber does not dissolve in water. Rather, it improves stool consistency by adding bulk. This helps waste move through our digestive system faster. Due to these effects, insoluble fiber is a preferred natural remedy for constipation ( 12). Food sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, whole grains, vegetables, and beans. Be sure to increase fiber intake slowly, and drink more water along with it.
Exercise to improve bowel movement
The saying that “exercise is the best medicine” rings true even when it comes to gut health. One study found daily exercise can decrease the risk for constipation by 44% ( 13 ). This natural remedy for constipation has no negative side effects! Of course, any activity is better than none, and it is important to start where you’re at. If you’re just getting started, it’s easier to start with something fun. Activities like gardening, dancing, hiking, and playing sports can be enjoyable, and will be a natural remedy for constipation, too!
- Suares NC, Ford AC.Prevalence of, and risk factors for, chronic idiopathic constipation in the community: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol 2011; 106: 1582-91.
- Breckan RK, Asfeldt AM, Straume B, Florholmen J, Paulssen EJ. Prevalence, comorbidity, and risk factors for functional bowel symptoms: a population-based survey in Northern Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology . 2012; 47 (11): 1274-1282. doi: 10.3109 / 00365521.2012.688215.
- Promthet SS, Pientong C, Ekalaksananan T, et al. Risk Factors for Colon Cancer in Northeastern Thailand: Interaction of MTHFR Codon 677 and 1298 Genotypes with Environmental Factors. Journal of Epidemiology . 2010; 20 (4): 329-338. doi: 10.2188 / jea.je20090140.
- Arnaud MJ. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition . 2003; 57 (S2). doi: 10.1038 / sj.ejcn.1601907.
- Lindber G, and. al. Global Gastroenterology Global Guidelines Constipation-A Global Perspective. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology . 2011; 45 (9): 838. doi: 10.1097 / mcg.0b013e3182355fd2.
- Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2004/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-Water-Potassium-Sodium-Chloride-and-Sulfate.aspx. Published August 19, 2015. Accessed September 8, 2018.
- Dalziel JE, Anderson RC, Peters JS, et al. Promotility Action of the Probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 Extract Compared with Prucalopride in Isolated Rat Large Intestine. Frontiers in Neuroscience . 2017 11. doi: 10.3389 / fnins.2017.00020.
- PB Gomes, Duarte MA, Maria Do Carmo Barros De Melo. Efficacy of polyethylene glycol without electrolytes and magnesium hydroxide in the treatment of chronic constipation in children. Jornal of Pediatria . 2010. doi: 10.2223 / jped.2051.
- Izzo AA, Gaginella TS, Capasso F. The osmotic and intrinsic mechanisms of the pharmacological laxative action of oral high doses of magnesium sulphate. Of the release of digestive polypeptides and nitric oxide. Magnesium Research . 1996; 9 (2): 133-138.
- Weng YM, Chen SY, Chen HC, Yu JH, Wang SH. Hypermagnesemia in a Constipated Female. The Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2013; 44 (1). doi: 10.1016 / j.jemermed.2011.09.004.
- Lambeau KV, Mcrorie JW. Fiber supplements and clinically proven health benefits. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners . 2017 29 (4): 216-223. doi: 10.1002 / 2327-6924.12447.
- Gray DS. The clinical uses of dietary fiber. Am Fam Physician. 1995 Feb 1; 51 (2): 419-26. Review. PubMed PMID: 7840038.
- Dukas L. Association between physical activity, fiber intake, and other lifestyle variables and constipation in a study of women. The American Journal of Gastroenterology . 2003; 98 (8): 1790-1796. doi: 10.1016 / s0002-9270 (03) 00442-8.