Constipation
14 Case Studies
2 Member Stories
24 Research

Constipation is generally fixable with natural therapies, and without OTC laxatives, prescription medication, or surgeries. The important point in getting constipation relief is by addressing the root cause in your daily diet and lifestyle - which in turn governs digestion and bowel movements.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is an acute or chronic condition in which bowel movements occur less often than usual or consist of hard, dry stools that are painful or difficult to maneuver.  Bowel habits change, but an adult who has fewer than three bowel movements per week or a kid who hasn't had a bowel movement in four days is considered constipated.   

Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or hard passage of stools which lasts for a few weeks or more.  Though occasional constipation is extremely common, some people experience chronic constipation which could interfere with their ability to do their everyday tasks.  Chronic constipation can also cause individuals to strain excessively to be able to have a bowel movement.    Treatment for chronic constipation is based in part on the underlying cause.  However, in some instances, a cause is not found.    

Constipation is among the most common medical complaints in America.  It can happen at any age and is more prevalent among people who resist the temptation to move their bowels in the body's signal.  This often occurs when children begin school or enter daycare and feel shy about asking permission to use the restroom.   Constipation is more common in women than in men and is particularly apt to occur when pregnant.  Age alone doesn't increase the frequency of constipation, but older men and women are more likely to suffer from the condition.   Although this problem is rarely serious, it may cause:

 • bowel obstruction

• chronic constipation

• hemorrhoids (a mass of dilated veins in swollen tissue around the anus)

• hernia (a tear in the muscle causing a protrusion of an organ )

• spastic colitis (irritable bowel syndrome, a disease characterized by alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation)

• laxative dependency

Chronic constipation may be a sign of colorectal cancer, depression, diabetes, diverticulosis (small pouches in the muscles of the large intestine), lead poisoning, or Parkinson's disease.  An opioid overdose (like in excess codeine from cough suppressants or heroin addiction) also may lead to constipation.   In somebody who is elderly or handicapped, constipation may be a sign of bowel impaction, a more serious condition where stool is trapped in the lower portion of the large intestine.  A physician should be called if an elderly or disabled person has been constipated for more than a week or if a child appears to be constipated.   A doctor should be notified whenever constipation happens after beginning a new prescription, vitamin, or mineral supplement or is accompanied by blood in the stools, changes in bowel patterns, fever, or abdominal pain.

See: Ayurvedic herbs for constipation relief

Constipation causes & symptoms

Constipation usually results in not getting enough exercise, not drinking enough water or clear fluids, or by a diet that doesn't include an adequate quantity of fiber-rich foods such as legumes, bran cereals, fruits, raw vegetables, rice, and wholegrain bread.  

Other causes of constipation include anal fissure (a tear or crack in the lining of the anus), chronic kidney failure, colon or rectal cancer, depression, hypercalcemia (abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), illness requiring complete bed rest, irritable bowel syndrome, imbalanced gut from flora and food allergies, and stress.

Constipation most commonly occurs when waste or feces moves too slowly through the digestive tract or cannot be removed effectively from the anus, which might cause the stool to be dry and hard.  Chronic constipation has many potential causes.  

Blockages in the colon or rectum

Blockages in the colon or rectum may slow or prevent stool motion.  Causes include:

•  Tiny tears in the skin around the anus (anal fissure)

•  A blockage in the intestines (bowel obstruction)

•  Colon cancer

•  Narrowing of the colon (bowel stricture)

•  Other abdominal cancer which presses on the colon

•  Rectal cancer

•  Rectum bulge through the rear wall of the vagina (rectocele)

Constipation may also be a side effect of medications such as antacids, antihistamines, aspirin, blood pressure medicines, codeine or opioids, and many others.)

An adult who's constipated may feel bloated, have a headache, swollen abdomen, pass rock-like stool, or strain, bleed, or feel pain during bowel movements.  A constipated baby may shout, draw the legs toward the abdomen, or arch the back when having a bowel movement.  

See: Magnesium for constipation relief

Diagnosis of constipation

Everybody gets constipated once in a while, but a physician should be notified if significant changes in bowel patterns persist for over a week or if symptoms persist more than three weeks after raising activity and fluid and fiber intake.  The patient's observations and medical history help a primary care doctor diagnose constipation.  The doctor uses his fingers to see if there's a hardened mass in the abdomen and might conduct a rectal examination.  Physical and psychological evaluations and a detailed history of bowel habits are particularly important if an older person complains of constipation. 

See: Magnesium Glycinate Benefits & Side Effects

Natural remedies for constipation

Practitioners may recommend the person drink an adequate quantity of water daily (six to eight glasses), exercise on a regular basis, and eat a diet high in soluble and insoluble fibers.  Soluble fibers include pectin, flax, and gums.  Insoluble fibers include psyllium and brans from grains such as wheat and oats.  Fresh fruits and vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, and because constipation is aggravated by folate, calcium, and magnesium deficiencies, sources of those nutrients, such as asparagus, spinach,  parsley, and other dark green leafy vegetables, should be a part of the everyday diet. 

See: Foods to avoid when constipated

Various fruit juices may also help maintain normal bowel function; sorbitol, the natural sugar found in apple juice has proven laxative properties.   Castor oil, applied topically to the abdomen and covered by a heat source (a heating pad or hot water bottle), helps relieve constipation when used nightly for 20-30 minutes.  For infants, about 1 tablespoon of corn syrup blended with warm water may help alleviate constipation.    


Acupressure

This kind of acupuncture is supposed to relax the abdomen, alleviate distress, and stimulate regular bowel movements when diet and exercise don't do so.  After lying down, patients close their eyes and take deep breaths.  For two minutes, the practitioner applies gentle fingertip pressure to a point about two inches below the navel.  Acupressure can also be put on the outer edges of a single elbow crease and preserved for 30 seconds before pressing the crease of the other elbow.  This should be done three times per day to relieve constipation.   


Aromatherapy

Six drops of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and six drops of thyme (Thymus spp.)  diluted by a single ounce of almond oil, olive oil, or another carrier oil may relieve constipation when used to massage the abdomen.  Circular motion for massage is recommended, starting up the right side of the abdomen, coming round the surface, and down the left side.  Massaging the leg from knee to cool in the morning, at night, and before attempting to move the intestines is thought to relieve constipation.   


Ayurveda

Dosha imbalance [Vata surplus ] also causes spasms, particularly in The colon and pelvis.  Very thin stools or people shaped like little pellets signal the existence of a spasm in the smooth muscles which comprise the walls of the colon.  Chronic constipation sufferers will need to learn how to relax deeply enough so those muscles will remember how to let go.  This will not happen overnight: habitual holding in the pelvis often stems from long-term chronic anxiety, stress, or injury that will take routine practice to resolve.   Systematic comfort will move stagnant energy in the pelvis and help unwind chronic gripping.   

Specific ayurvedic herbs can help flush out the colon and large intestines.  Take these purgatives with a great deal of water to lubricate the bowels and assist the passage of dry stool.           


Herbal therapy  

Many different herbal therapies can be useful in the treatment of constipation.    Several herbs, including chamomile (Matricaria recutita), dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), and burdock (Arctium lappa), behave as bitters which stimulate the movement of the digestive and excretory systems.  Additionally, there are laxative herbs that help with bowel movement.  Two of them are senna and buckthorn.  These laxative herbs are more powerful acting on removal than bitters and can occasionally lead to cramping (mixing them with a calming herb such as fennel or automobile away might help reduce cramping).  The two senna and buckthorn are strong herbs which are used with direction from an experienced practitioner because they could have adverse side effects and the patient may become dependent upon them.  Professionals caution that senna can cause severe cramping.    


See: Homeopathic medicines for constipation

Yoga

The knee-chest position said to alleviate gas and excite abdominal muscles involves:

• standing straight with arms at the sides

• lifting the perfect knee toward the chest

• grasping the correct ankle with the left hand

• pulling the leg as close to the torso as you can 

• holding the position for around eight minutes 

• repeating these steps with the left leg


The cobra pose, which is repeated as many as four times per day, entails:

• lying on the stomach with legs together

• placing the palms just below the shoulders, holding elbows near the body

• inhaling, then lifting the head (face forward) and chest off the ground 

• keeping the navel in contact with the ground 

• appearing up as possible

• holding this position for three to six seconds

• exhaling and lowering the torso 


The back twist is just another pose that is suggested for everyday use in relieving constipation.  Practicing relaxation and meditation may also have a powerful influence on the digestive tract.  Slow, steady music may relieve tension that contributes to constipation.  

See: Ayurvedic Approach to Gut Health & Constipation

Can you prevent constipation?

Many Americans eat between 11-18 g of fiber every day.  Consumption of 30g of fiber and involving 6-8 glasses of water every day can normally prevent constipation, and 35 grams of fiber per day (an amount equivalent to five servings of fruits and vegetables, and a huge bowl of high fiber cereal) can alleviate constipation. 

Fiber supplements containing psyllium (Plantago psyllium) usually become effective within about two days and can be used daily without causing dependency.  Powdered flaxseed (Linium usitatissimum) works the exact same way.  Insoluble fiber, such as wheat or oat bran, is as powerful as psyllium but might give the patient gas in the beginning. 


 Daily use of 500 mg vitamin C and 400 mg magnesium can avoid constipation.

 If symptoms do occur, each dosage can be increased by 100 mg per day, up to a maximum of 5,000 mg vitamin C and 1,000 mg magnesium.  The use of preventative doses should be resumed after relief happens.  If an individual develops diarrhea, vitamin C ought to be decreased.  Calcium is also important.  Children over five can take up to 1,300 mg and adults ages 1950 can take up to 2,000 mg.

Many of us maintain poor methods of living and eating.  Like many problems, constipation is generally fixable without prescription medication or other invasive procedures.  The first most important point to get things going consistently is addressing your daily diet, which causes most constipation. While chronic tension and antibiotic overuse can mess up your gut, a diet that's high in processed foods and sugars does great harm and promotes constipation.    

Sitting on the toilet for 10 minutes at the same time each day, preferably after a meal, can cause regular bowel movements.  This may not be successful for a month or two, and it's crucial to defecate if necessary.  

The following can help you prevent developing chronic constipation.  

•        Include loads of high-fiber foods in your diet, such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals, and bran.  

•        Eat fewer foods with low levels of fiber such as processed foods, and meat and dairy products.  

•        Drink a lot of fluids.  

•        Reduce stress. 

•        Stay as active as possible and attempt to get regular exercise.  

•        Do not ignore the urge to pass stool.  

•        Attempt to make a regular schedule for bowel movements, particularly after a meal.  

•        Make sure children who start to eat solid foods get loads of fiber in their diets.

See: Amla Health Benefits & Side Effects

Research of natural therapies for constipation

In a review article in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers review of the literature suggested that acupuncture or electroacupuncture and herbal medicine are effective in treating constipation, whereas findings on massage and moxibustion are inconclusive. More well-designed clinical trials are needed to improve and prove the efficacy of the complementary and alternative therapies for constipation. [2]

See: Ayurvedic Diet

Summary

Constipation is fairly common, and causes include a poor diet lacking fiber, lack of hydration, older age, a sedentary lifestyle, drug side effects, and high stress. Natural constipation relief remedies include a healthy nutritious diet with high fiber foods, drinking more water, exercise, stress reduction, and utilizing beneficial supplements, herbal remedies, and mind body exercises.

See: Nose breathing exercises for health benefits

References

1. Liu LW. Chronic constipation: current treatment options. Can J Gastroenterol. 2011;25 Suppl B(Suppl B):22B–28B.

2. Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Chronic Constipation

Xinjun Wang1,2 and Jieyun Yin3

3. Lee YY. What's New in the Toolbox for Constipation and Fecal Incontinence?. Front Med (Lausanne). 2014;1:5. doi:10.3389/fmed.2014.00005

4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Amitiza (lubiprostone) Capsules [labeling]. Approved 2006.

5. Gayle Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine

See: Probiotics benefits for digestive health

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