Many people suffer from constipation from time to time. There are a number of natural remedies one can use in place of expensive pharmacological solutions.
What can cause constipation?
There are a number of factors which can disrupt bowel movements. Lack of exercise, artificial sweeteners and a lack of fibre in one’s diet are all common causes of constipation. Not drinking enough water can also cause irregular bowel movements, while red meat, dairy products and sugary foods can also contribute to constipation. Independent of lifestyle choices, medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid, Type II diabetes and certain cancers can all cause symptoms of constipation. Older people are also more likely to suffer from constipation, particularly if they predominately eat softer prepared foods as they are easier to chew and swallow. Some medications such as anti-depressants, antacids containing high levels of aluminium or calcium, anti-histamines used to treat allergies, and blood pressure medications can cause constipation.
When should I use constipation remedies?
One medical definition of constipation defines it as having bowel movements of less than three times a week; finding stools “hard” or painful to pass; having to strain for a quarter or more of bowel movements; and not feeling fully voided after passing stools. In severe cases, constipation can lead to faecal impaction, abdominal tenderness and paradoxical diarrhea, where softer stools bypass harder stools in the colon. For mild constipation, try some of the remedies listed here. If you are suffering from constipation for a longer period of time, or if you are experiencing pain, consult a medical professional.
Lifestyle changes to help alleviate constipation
Long periods of inactivity can contribute to constipation – particularly a problem for people who are staying in bed to recover from an illness or accident. If you’re beginning a programme of exercise after a period of inactivity, consult with your medical professional beforehand. Swimming, walking and cycling are all low-impact exercises which can be a good way to get back into a more active lifestyle.
2. Increase the amount of fibre in your diet
The easiest – and tastiest! – way to add fibre to your diet is by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet. Lima beans, mushrooms, potatoes (with their skin), pumpkins, peas and spinach all contain a lot of fibre. Fruit with the highest fibre content include bananas, berries, figs, apricots, kiwis and oranges. Whole grain bread is another simple way to add fibre to a diet. A few spoonfuls of unprocessed bran (sometimes sold as “miller’s” bran) can be added to baking and cereal for a fibre boost.
3. Drink enough water
Staying properly hydrated is crucial to maintaining healthy bowel movements. Men typically require about 3 litres of fluid a day, women 2.2 litres. That might seem like a lot, but remember that any beverages you drink, not just water, count towards the total: tea, coffee and juice are all useful. Alcoholic drinks are not counted due to their diuretic effect.
a. Triphala powder
Triphala powder is made of three types of dried fruit – amla (also known as Indian gooseberry), haritaki and vibhitaki. Try a teaspoon with warm water, or mix it with honey. It’s best to use trihphala powder first thing in the morning or last thing at night as it usually takes effect very quickly.
b. Lemon juice
For centuries Ayurvedic gurus in India have used lemon juice to promote healthy bowel movements. Mix 50ml of freshly-squeezed lemon juice with 250ml of warm water and add in a teaspoon of salt. Best drunk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
c. Castor oil
Drinking a tablespoon of castor oil will often help ease constipation. If you find the taste hard to stomach, try mixing it into 300ml of warm milk. This is a good remedy to take before bed as it needs a few hours to work.
d. Dandelion root
Dandelion root is an effective natural laxative which has a mild and gentle action. Dandelion tea is simple to make – pick a bunch of dandelion greens and store them in a plastic bag which has holes punched for circulation. If you can’t use them straight away, keep them somewhere cool and damp. Pour 235ml of boiling water over a teaspoon of crushed dandelion leaves, leave to stew for five minutes, and add lemon, orange or mint before drinking.