Natural Remedies for Constipation

Natural Remedies for Constipation

Your first instinct when you're in this predicament (constipation) might be to reach for a laxative. But chances are you don't need one. The best way to get "regular" again is simply to eat more fiber – 20 to 35 grams a day. Fiber absorbs water and makes your stool softer and larger, which speeds it through your system. To cope with all that fiber, you'll need more fluids too. And don't forget about exercise, which can also help keep things moving. Do all three things and you'll certainly put a smile on your face instead of that, well, constipated look. 

 

Fix It with Fiber

  • Start your day with a high fiber bran cereal. Some brands contain as much as 14 grams of insoluble fiber, the kind that adds bulk to stool, shich spurs the body to move it through the digestive tract more quickly. A word to the wise: If you're not used to eating this much fiber, start with a smaller serving-say, one quater cup, served with skim milk or low-fat yogurt-then work your way up. otherwise you may experience gas, bloating, and cramps. 
  • Fill up on cooked dried beans, prunes, figs, and oatmeal. All are rich in soluble fiber, the kin that turns to gel in the intestines and helps to soften stool. Pears are also good sources of soluble fiber. 
  • Mix one to two teaspoons psyllium seeds into a cup of hot water. Let it sit for two hours, add lemon and honey to taste, then drink. Psyllium adds bulk to stool and is the main ingredient in many OTC bulk-forming laxatives. You'll find the seeds in most drugstores and health-food stores. You can also try this remedy with flaxseeds. 
  • Flaxseeds are high in fiber and also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Take 1 tablespoon of the ground seeds, which are sold in health food stores, two or three times a day. Some people like the taste of flaxseed )it faintly resembles walnuts). If you don't, you can hide it in your morning cereal, stir it into applesauce, or add it to a fruit smoothie. or grind the seeds in a spice blender or coffee grinder, keep the ground-up seeds in the fridge, and sprinkle a half-teaspoon into your orange juice. 
  • As you increase your intake of fiber, also be sure to drink lots of water-at least 8 eight oz glasses a day. Fiber is extremely absorbent, and when you don't drink enough, your stools may become small, hard, and painful to pass.

Have a Hot Cup to Loosen Up

  • Have a morning sup of Joe. If you're a java drinker, you may have already discovered that the caffeine in coffee has a bowel-loosening effect. It induces a bowel movement by stimulating the colon. Just don't drink too much of it-caffeine is a diuretic and will eliminate fluid from the body. 
  • If you don't like coffee, try other hot beverages first thing in the morning. Herbal or decaffeinated tea or a cup of hot water with a little lemon juice or honey may stimulate the colon as well. (Lemon juice is a natural laxative.)
  • Dandelion Tea, which has a mild laxative effect, may help to get you regular again. Steep 1 teaspoon dried root in 1 cup boiling water and drink one cup three times a day. You'll find the dried dandelion root in health-food stores. 

Wrinkle Your Nose-but It Works

One of Mom's favorite remedies, castor oil, really does help relieve constipation. A component in the oil breaks down into a substance that stimulates the small and large intestines. Take 1 to 2 teaspoons on an empty stomach, and give it 8 hours to do its work. 

Wrinkled Fruit Works Too

The humble prune is one of the oldest home remedies for constipation. It's high in fiber ( three prunes contains 3 grams of fiber). Also, prunes contain a compound called dihydroxyphenyl isatin, which stimulates the intestinal contractions that make you want to go. 

Don't like prunes? Open a box of raisins. They, too, are high in fiber and contain tartaric acid, which has a laxative effect.  In one study in which people ate 4 1/2 ounces ( one small box) of raisins a day, doctors determined that it took half the time for digested food to make it through the digestive tract. 

Get Up and Go

Get regular exercise. There's a reason a daily walk is called a daily constitutional. When you move your body, you also help move food through your bowel more quickly. Aim for a daily walk at the very best. 

Put the Pressure On

One of the more unusual remedies for constipation is acupressure. Practitioners of this technique say that it helps stimulate your digestion- and, therefor, your bowels. Apply pressure with your thumb to the point four finger-widths above your wrist on the back of the forearm. Do this for two minutes every day while the problem persists. 

Last Resort

The herb cascara sagrada is so effective it's even added to several over-the-counter laxatives. It's known as a stimulant laxative because it stimulates the intestinal tract. The herb comes in a variety of forms; follow the dosage directions on the packages. But don't take it for more than two weeks; it can make your body lose too much fluid and salt- and with habitual use you can become dependent on it. 

If other remedies fail to bring relief, try the mother of all natural laxatives;senna. It should work in about 8 hours, so most people take it before bedtime. Take 20 to 40 drops of the tincture at night, but don't plan on making it a long-term cure. With repeated use, it can cause cramps and diarrhea. As with cascara sagrada, long-term use can cause dependency. 

Final Pointers

Never try to force a bowel movement. You may give yourself hemorrhoids or anal fissures. These not only hurt, they aggravate constipation because they narrow the anal opening.

Never ignore nature's call. If you do, you're asking for a case of constipation.

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