Constipation is not a subject that many people like talking about, however, most people suffer from it at some stage in their lives. Constipation can be uncomfortable, painful and frustrating, and something everybody would like to avoid. While continuous constipation is a concern and more than likely requires medical attention, there are ways and means to prevent constipation in the first place, or treat it at home, if you suffer from it, with various home remedies.
What is constipation?
Also known as irregularity or costiveness, constipation is a condition of the digestive system that occurs when bowel movements become troublesome or less frequent. When bowel movements become less frequent, this in turn causes faeces to become hard and even more difficult to pass, creating further constipation and discomfort. Bowel movements vary from person to person, however going for longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long and can lead to constipation.
What causes constipation?
When food is in the digestive tract, the colon absorbs a certain amount of water from that food as it passes through. If there is too much food in the colon, it will pass through at a slower rate, causing the colon to absorb too much water, causing the faeces to become dry and hard, leading to constipation. When this occurs, defecation (emptying the bowels) can become very painful, and in some severe cases can lead to obstipation (the blocking of both faeces and gas) and bowel obstruction.
Some causes of constipation:
- A diet lacking in adequate quantities of fiber
- Lack of physical activity and exercise
- Certain drugs/medication
- Not drinking enough water
- Milk and dairy products
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Aging – slower metabolism
- Change in routine/traveling
- Overuse of laxatives
- Refraining from going to the toilet when needed
- Colon / rectum problems
- Eating disorders
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Symptoms can include:
- Infrequent or painful bowel movements
- Hard or small stools
- Sense of incomplete bowel movement
- Swollen abdomen and abdominal pain
Home remedies to cure constipation
1. Fiber fix- Add some more fiber to your diet, which can be found in a variety of foods. A small bowl of high-fiber bran cereal is the best way to begin the day, along with a handful of prunes or raisins. Other high-fiber foods that can be added to your diet throughout the day are dried beans, figs, pears and oatmeal.
2. Drink, drink, drink- Increase your daily intake of water to at least eight glasses a day – this will help to add moisture to your digestive system and increase the chance of bowel movements. Hot liquids have a bowel-loosening effect, so have a cup of hot coffee or tea in the morning, or if you want to avoid the caffeine, go for a cup of warm water with a slice of lemon. Dandelion tea also has a mildly laxative effect – drink three times a day.
3. Castor oil- This age-old remedy might taste absolutely terrible, but works like a charm! Swallow one or two teaspoons of castor oil on an empty stomach once or twice a day, and wait for the effects.
4. Prunes and raisins- Another age-old remedy is that of eating prunes and raisins, which are natural laxatives. Prunes cause the colon to jump into action, while raisins are high in fiber, as well as tartaric acid, which has an excellent laxative effect. Don’t eat too many though as this can have an adverse effect and cause gas! A small handful of prunes or raisins twice a day should suffice.
5. Take a walk- Exercise is an excellent laxative, and daily exercise and movement helps to keep you regular, so make sure to move – taking a walk after meals help aid digestion. Try to exercise every day and get into a routine, which will help your bowels take on a regular routine as well.
6. Last resort – over the counter laxatives- The last resort is to take an over-the-counter laxative, which can be purchased from your local pharmacy or supermarket. Senna is the best natural laxative for constipation and is best taken as a tincture – mix the herb with some hot water, let it steep and sip. Do not use laxatives continuously as this can cause long-term problems – if constipation persists, seek medical attention.