In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there is this quote on constipation that I find quite amusing, yet highly relevant:
“Why are you worrying about YOU-KNOW-WHO, when you should be worrying about YOU-NO-POO? The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!”
While constipation is no laughing matter, there is increasing evidence that constipation is indeed gripping the nation. There are thousands who haven’t “gone” for days. Their stomachs are bloating up, they feel uncomfortable, yet when they sit on the pot, nothing happens. They strain, they struggle, they clench, but nothing comes out. Or at best, just a little poop comes out and try as they might, they cannot get the rest out.
They know there is a lot of poop in there. They can feel it. But…
Because the whole experience is so frustrating and even painful, some people put off “going” for three to four days, sometimes even more. But in the long run, this will make matters worse as the stools will become even harder to expel. While constipation in itself is worth worrying about, it can have other serious complications.
Why you need constipation relief
All the straining can lead to hernias, it can lead to hemorrhoids, it can even cause something called a rectal prolapse, where the rectum comes out and has to be pushed back in. On a more general scale, the backed-up stools can cause toxicity, mood disturbances, irritability, joint pains, sleeplessness, and in severe cases, even depression.
And while laxatives and enemas help, they are cumbersome and overuse of these aids will further weaken your natural intestinal muscle movements. And if you ask me, there really is no reason to resort to these extreme measure. Especially as good, healthy nutrition can easily prevent you from getting constipated in the first place.
There are a lot of natural constipation remedies that work with your body to provide constipation relief. But as the constipation you might be suffering from could be either just a recent affliction or a long-standing one, I’ve divided the remedies into quick constipation remedies and chronic constipation remedies.
Quick constipation remedies
Eat more fiber: Fiber is the enemy of constipation. It helps to keep your bowel movements regular, so eating more fiber is a great way to both reduce constipation and prevent it from recurring. Some good choices for increasing your fiber intake include:
- Berries and other fruits. Try and eat them with the skin.
- Dark, leafy green vegetables like collard, Swiss chard, mustard and beet greens.
- Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, artichokes and green beans.
- Beans and other legumes such as navy, kidney, garbanzo, lima, and white beans, as well as lentils and black-eyed peas.
- Whole, unprocessed grains. Cereals like granola tend to have the highest fiber, but if you are buying boxed cereals, read the label to make sure your choice is high in fiber.
- Seeds and nuts such as sesame, pumpkin, flax seeds, sunflower, as well as almonds, walnuts and pecans.
Add prunes to your daily intake: Prunes are high in fiber, but what makes them your best ally to fight constipation is the fact that they contain a stool-loosening sugar called sorbitol. Sorbitol is a mild stimulant of the colon. It helps reduce the transit time of stool and decreases the risk of constipation.
If you don’t like the wrinkly texture or unique taste of prunes, try prune juice. But remember, if you drink too much prune juice, you may risk diarrhea.
Drink more water: Hard, dry stools are a common cause of constipation, so the more water you add, the easier it will be to pass the stool. While there is no hard and fast rule about how much water you should drink each day, drink about eight full glasses daily. Use that as a starting point and find what works best for you. Increase or decrease accordingly.
Eat yogurt: Yogurt contains live probiotics that create the right environment for your digestive system to stay healthy and run on a regular schedule. Try adding a cup of yogurt to your daily diet. The bacteria in yogurt help alter the microflora in the gut and reduce the amount of time it takes for your food to be digested and move through your system.
Other fermented and cultured foods such as kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut also contain beneficial bacteria that may aid in digestion and relieve constipation.
Increase magnesium intake: Magnesium can be very helpful in relieving constipation. It helps to draw water into the bowel and soften the stool so it can move through your intestines. You can take magnesium by adding a teaspoon of Epsom salt to six to eight ounces of water. Mix well and drink.
The flavor can be unpleasant, tasting a bit like sea water. If you can’t stomach it, take magnesium capsules. Be aware that magnesium may help to relieve constipation very quickly, so make sure you have facilities available to you before taking it.
Chronic constipation remedies
If your constipation has been going on for a long time and you have become habituated (going once in three to four days seems normal to you) to it, it is imperative that you see your doctor immediately and discuss it. Your doctor will likely suggest some medication for you, or better still he will advise you to incorporate these chronic constipation remedies and tips into your daily routine.
Consume bulking agents: There are several mild herbs that have a laxative effect and soften stool. These include flaxseed, psyllium and fenugreek.
Drink herbal teas daily: There are many commercial herbal teas available that include laxative herbs like psyllium and fenugreek. They are available in most grocery stores and all health stores. If don’t like the taste, you can always add a bit of lemon or honey to change the flavor.
Take fish oil regularly: When you are constipated, omega 3-oil, commonly found in fish, can help lubricate your bowels so the stool may slip out more easily. There are several fish oil supplements available in capsule form. Take only the recommended dosage. Fish oil is good for your health in general, so you may want to consider taking this supplement routinely.
Try purgative herbs: For severe constipation, there are stronger herbs that can sometimes get things moving by irritating your bowels. These include senna, buckthorn, cascara and aloe. But try these only after you have tried the other simpler tips. Also, you might be tempted to use these regularly because of the quick results. It is best to use these strong purgative herbs under the guidance of a doctor or a health care practitioner.
Walk more: Many people spend most of their day seated in front of a computer or relaxing in a chair, and this lack of exercise can contribute to constipation. If you can, try taking hourly walk-breaks to “massage” your bowels. If you are severely constipated, this may be somewhat uncomfortable, but try not to get discouraged. It’s better than another day of constipation.
Don’t rush things: When you “go,” make sure you have enough time to relax and try to let your bowels do most of the work. If you can, try to pick a time you won’t be interrupted. Take a book or magazine with you. Or do something (crossword, Sudoku) that will take your mind off your bowels.
Try squatting: Tribal people tend to have bowel movements while squatting, and this position can be helpful. You want to bring your knees in as close to your chest as possible. This increases the pressure on your bowels and may ease the passage of a stool.
Go the yoga route: There are several yoga poses you can try to help stimulate your bowel and get your body in a comfortable position to have a bowel movement. They can increase the internal pressure on your intestines and help the bowels move the stool more easily. Seek out a good yoga instructor and ask them to work with you for a few days.
As you can see, there are many different natural ways to help you soften your stools, activate your bowels, and strengthen your muscles so that you can ‘go’ more regularly and more easily. There is no need to resort to treatment of constipation that involves invasive techniques, pressure pumps and other harmful (in the long run) ways. Remember, the best way for you to “go” is to go natural.