Top Five Natural Remedies for Constipation
While most people will experience constipation at some point in their lifetime, it is estimated that about 20% of the U.S. population suffers from chronic constipation. This means over 63 million people are suffering from constipation on a regular basis. Prevalence is higher among the elderly, especially elderly women. Having daily bowel movements that are easy to pass is very important for the health of the colon, getting rid of waste (the ultimate full-body detoxification), and reducing the risk for certain cancers. Everyone’s bowel pattern is different, but ideally you should be moving your bowels every day.
There are many possible causes of constipation including: a low-fiber diet that is high in dairy, processed food and added sugar; not drinking enough water; lack of exercise; imbalance of gut bacteria; avoiding a bowel movement when you have the urge; change in routine and travel; certain nutrient deficiencies; overuse of laxatives; sluggish motility; psychological stress; some iron supplements; and certain medications such as opiates and antidepressants. Constipation may even be an early sign of certain neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
Over the counter and prescription laxatives are the most common conventional treatments, but constipation is not a Miralax deficiency. Constipation is a symptom of something else that is out of balance and it is important to identify the root cause. While there are many potential causes, adopting a few key strategies can be very effective at alleviating constipation for many people.
Here are my top five suggestions for you to try:
- Drink up! You’ve heard it before—drink more water! But have you taken the time and effort to actually drink more non-caffeinated fluids? Not only is dehydration the most common cause of constipation, but it can make you feel terrible in many other ways. You can read more about the importance of staying hydrated in my blog here.
- Fiber. Soluble fiber helps water remain in your stool so that it does not become hard. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools, which speeds up the movement through your bowels. Getting a combination of both is important. Fortunately, most whole, unprocessed fiber-rich foods contain a combination of both. Some of the best choices include seeds, especially ground flax seed (try getting two tablespoons daily), organic berries, green leafy vegetables, nuts, prunes, figs, and psyllium husk. Be careful to avoid processed foods that have added fibers (such as cereals), which tend to be high in sugar, less nutritious, and the fiber may actually cause gas, bloating and discomfort. Bonus points for removing dairy from your diet, which can be constipating for many people!
- Position matters. Humans did not evolve using toilets! Our ancestors were forced to squat when having a bowel movement. This worked well because when your knees are above your hips, it creates the optimal angle to pass a stool with the least amount of strain. You can put a stool under your feet or even try the Squatty Potty.
- Exercise. Not only does regular exercise reduce the amount of time it takes for stool to pass through the large intestine, it also acts as a stress reliever. Remember, psychological stress is one major cause of constipation. A variety of exercises can help, but there are certain yoga poses that can be particularly effective at getting things moving. Check out this Art of Living post for five poses (with pictures) that will support your bowels, and your entire body for that matter.
- Magnesium and vitamin C. Many people with constipation have a deficiency in magnesium. Supplementation with magnesium citrate can act as a natural and gentle laxative. As with any dietary supplement, I recommend you “start low and go slow” by taking a small amount and gradually increasing the amount until you are able to have a soft, easy to pass bowel movement. If this is not enough, also supplementing with vitamin C can be helpful.
While many people prefer not to discuss their habits in the bathroom, identifying your daily bowel patterns is essential for cultivating good health. Toxins need to be removed from the body in order for it to function at its best. If you’ve been struggling in this area, try these easy tips to get things moving. And don’t be afraid to talk about your bowel movements with your healthcare practitioner, this area of the body deserves support and care, too, so don’t neglect it! Your whole body will thank you for taking care of your bowels.