Most of us experience constipation, and about 14% experience chronic constipation at some point.
Symptoms of constipation include:
- passing stools less than three times per week,
- lumpy or hard stools,
- a sensation of incomplete evacuation,
- feeling blocked or
- Being unable to pass a stool.
Constipation has a variety of causes but is often the result of slow movement of food through the digestive system, and the type and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.
Constipation may be due to dehydration, diseases affecting the nervous system, poor diet, medications, illness, or mental disorders.
Unfortunately, constipation can have a serious negative effect on quality of life, as well as your physical and mental health, but, fortunately, certain foods can help relieve constipation, as well as lifestyle choices, and medications.
For some people, the cause of their chronic constipation is often unknown (chronic idiopathic constipation).
Ways to Relieve Constipation
There are many natural ways to help relieve constipation, and some of these ways, you can do in the comfort of your own home.
- Drink more water: To prevent constipation, it’s important to drink enough water and stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you constipated, so make sure to drink enough water, and sparkling water may be even more effective.
- Eat more fiber, especially soluble, non-fermentable fiber because increasing fiber intake is thought to increase the bulk and consistency of bowel movements, making them easier to pass. There are many different dietary fibers, but in general, they fall into two categories: Insoluble fibers (Found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains), and Soluble fibers (Found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables).
- Exercise more: A recent randomized controlled study on constipated people with IBS found that exercise significantly reduced symptoms. While many studies have found that exercise does not affect the number of times people go to the bathroom, it, however, seems to reduce some symptoms of constipation.
- Drink coffee, especially caffeinated coffee because coffee stimulates the muscles in your digestive system. Coffee may also contain small amounts of fibers that help prevent constipation by improving the balance of your gut bacteria.
- Over-the-counter or prescription laxatives: You can speak to your doctor about choosing an effective laxative. They may recommend Bulking agent (fiber-based laxatives used to increase the water content of your stool), Stool softener (contain oils to soften the stools and ease their passage through the gut), Stimulant laxative (stimulate the nerves in your gut to increase bowel movements), Osmotic laxative (soften your stool by pulling water from the surrounding tissues into your digestive system).
- Eat prunes: Prunes and prune juice are often touted as nature’s remedy for constipation because, in addition to fiber, prunes contain the natural laxative sorbitol. Studies have shown that prunes may be more effective than fiber; however, you may want to avoid prunes if you have IBS, as sugar alcohols are known FODMAPs.
- Acupressure: Acupressure is a traditional healing practice that involves the application of pressure to specific acupuncture points on the body. Although it hasn’t been studied for constipation, it is a simple home remedy that may work for some people, with the point being the large intestine.
- Try avoiding dairy: In some circumstances, a dairy intolerance can cause constipation due to its effect on your gut movements, and if you think that you may be intolerant to dairy, then you could try removing it from your diet temporarily to see if it improves your symptoms.
Best Foods to Relieve Constipation
- Citrus Fruits
- Spinach and Other Greens
- Jerusalem Artichoke and Chicory
- Sweet Potato
- Beans, Peas, and Lentils
- Chia Seeds
- Whole-Grain Rye Bread
The Bottom Line
There are many fruits, vegetables, pulses and seeds that can help relieve constipation, and a diet high in fiber helps add bulk and weight to stools, soften them and stimulate bowel movements.
However, in some people, high-fiber diets can make constipation worse, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Remember, it’s vital to drink plenty of water, and to know that your fluid requirements will increase when you increase your fiber intake.
Regular exercise is another critical factor in improving symptoms of constipation and developing a healthy bowel habit, and if you experience constipation, gradually introduces some of the foods above to your diet.
Drink plenty of water and engage in physical exercise, to improve your regularity, stool consistency, and overall comfort.