EVIDENCE BASED NATURAL HOME REMEDIES FOR CONSTIPATION
Constipation is common and affects individuals of all ages. Everyone will experience constipation from time to time however, it may become a chronic condition. It is estimated that upto 20% of individuals suffer from chronic constipation.1,2
The cause of constipation in many cases is unknown however it is highly influenced by an individual’s diet, lifestyle, health condition and certain medications.
It is constipation when an individual goes for at least 3 days without passing stool, passes hard stools, or small pebble like stools, stools that are too hard to pass, or feel they have not emptied their bowel completely. Generally, the individual’s quality of life is affected.3
A great number of people experience relief through natural means. It is important to remember that there are several medications in forms of laxatives, stool softeners and the likes that are often prescribed for constipation.
The following are evidence based natural home remedies for constipation
1. Eat Foods High In Fiber
Research shows that consuming food high in fiber prevents constipation by bulking up the stool.10 Fiber acts as sponge and along with water, sweeps through the digestive system.9
As part of healthy diet, your daily fiber intake should be at least about 25g per 1000 kcal for women and 38 grams per 1000 kcal for men. This implies that if your daily calorie requirement is about 1600 kcal per day, you will need 50g (25g x2) for women and 78g for men.7
Fiber are derived from plants. The body cannot digest or absorb them, so consuming a high fiber diet will add to the bulk of your food, make you fuller, stave off hunger, stabilize your blood sugar keeping it from spiking after meals (great for diabetes), reduce the amount of actual food your body is getting and help you lose weight.
Another reason to increase your fiber intake is to prevent heart disease and stroke, diabetes, bowel cancer.7,8
According to a study published in the Alimentary Pharmacology And Therapeutics, people with recurring constipation will benefit from increasing their fiber intake.10
Several commercial fiber products available are psyllium, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin, calcium polycarbophil.
Food sources of fiber
- High fiber, whole grain cereals
- Wheat bread
- Whole wheat pasta
- Bulgur wheat
- Brown, local or Ofada rice
- Potatoes with their skin
- Beans: All kinds
- Fruits and vegetables: Kiwis, grapes, blackberries, pears, raspberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, okazi leaves, ugu leaves.
Note that there are 2 types of dietary fibers; soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibers include; oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, peas and lentils,fruits and vegetables, psyllium.12
Insoluble fibers include:Wheat bran, whole grains, some fruits and vegetables.
They both prevent constipation, however, soluble, non fermentable fiber is the best to relieve constipation.11
2. Drink Plenty Of Water
Drink lots of water especially with meals. Water eases the passage of stool by making it softer.1,2
Drink water first thing in the morning to help regularize your bathroom schedule.
Good fluid options include, plain purified water, carbonated water, sparkling water.
Avoid carbonated drinks like cola, soda, high sugar drinks, high fructose juice, as these can worse your constipation.3,4,5,6
It is important to note that drinking more fluids will only help if you already do not take enough. If you are well hydrated and still constipated, consider other remedies such high fiber diet and others. Drink when thirsty, as taking more water than you need may cause brain injury.5
3. Eat Wheat Bran For Breakfast
Wheat bran is high in insoluble fibers which helps increase the rate at which stool passes through the gut.
According to a study published in Nutrients, eating at least 3.5 g wheat bran every morning promotes ease of defecation, relieves symptoms of constipation including; bloating, sense of fullness, incomplete emptying of bowel, feeling fat, mental and physical tiredness and other symptoms associated with constipation.16
4. Eat Yogurt And Take Probiotic Supplements
Yogurt and probiotics supplements provide helpful microorganisms (good bacteria) that improve gut health and prevent constipation.
A study published in the Nutrition Journal reported that eating unflavoured yogurt containing L. acidophilus (normal gut bacteria and a common addition to yogurt), shortens the time it takes for stool to travel through the bowel.13
5. Eat Plenty of Legumes/Pulses
Pulses include all kinds of beans, peas (including, pigeon peas aka Fio-fio, Otili, Aduwa), chickpeas and lentils. They are high in fiber which prevents and relieves constipation.
A study in the Nutrition Reviews, recommends that everyone consumes at least 100g (1/2 cup or 125 ml) of cooked legumes daily.14
Consuming legumes will also provide you with other nutrients and vitamins such as Vit B6, zinc, potassium, folate, and iron.
6. Take Prune Juice
Prune juice is made from dried plums. Dried plums contain high amounts of sorbitol (a type of sugar alcohol), vitamin K, boron, copper, potassium, quinic acid, chlorogenic acids. They all act in synergy to prevent and relieve constipation.15
Regular consumption of prune juice has been shown to prevent constipation and colorectal cancer.15,16
7. Eat Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is essentially pickled, finely shredded cabbage. It is considered a probiotic superfood as it promotes gut health by providing gut friendly bacteria.17
There are several brands that can be bought in stores, however, research shows that homemade sauerkraut is superior in promoting gut health.18
A study published in a journal; Functional Foods in Health and Disease, recommends consuming between 2 tablespoons- 1 cup per day.18
8.Eat Spicy Food
The active ingredient in peppers that makes them hot is capsaicin. Studies have shown that it stimulates the gut to relieve and prevent constipation.19,20
9. Drink Herbal Teas
Some herbal teas have been shown to aid constipation and promote gut health. Among these are ginger tea, fennel seeds/tea, senna, green anise, dandelion, caffeinated teas and coffee (green and black tea), lemon water, and peppermint tea.18
Coffee especially caffeinated, is known to increase gut motility and to reduce stool transit time through the gut.19
10. Avoid Dairy Products
Research shows that dairy products (milk, cheese) may worsen your constipation. Be attentive to how your body responds to dairy and avoid it if it makes you constipated.19
Individuals with lactose intolerance often experience diarrhea but may experience constipation too.20,21,22
11. Become Active, Exercise
The jury is still out on this, research outcomes and recommendations are inconsistent on the effectiveness of exercise on constipation.
While some studies suggest it helps relieve constipation, some say it may prolong stool transit time especially in the elderly. 23,24,25
Though it may not affect constipation it has been shown to reduce the symptoms, especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome.26,27
Many have experienced relief from constipation by becoming more active. You may try it to see if it works for you.
If modifying your diet and other lifestyle changes do not help with your constipation, your doctor may recommend laxatives, stool softeners and the likes. Laxatives are medications that help increase the rate at which stool transits through the gut.
Bowel habits are unique to each person, what works for one may not work for another. Therefore, pay attention to your body to know what typically makes you constipated and what relieves it.