The proverbial ‘constipated face’ is not funny anymore when you actually get to the business and aren’t able to pass stools no matter how hard you try. Although constipation is not a life-threatening problem as such, it still puts you through a lot of inconvenience.
However, thanks to our natural remedies for constipation, there are various methods with which you can rid yourself of severe constipation right in the comfort of your home. And if taken care in the right way on a long-term basis, you can put a full stop to even chronic constipation. For that relief from constipation that you are yearning for, I suggest you begin with investigating what is constipation in the first place and then moving over to what is causing this ordeal in your body.
How Do You Define Constipation?
Like all other bodily problems in human beings, the inconvenience that comes with constipation is purely subjective and each one has their own definition of it. Nevertheless, when it comes to an objective medical definition, constipation is difficultly in passing stools or infrequent (precisely, less than 3 times in 7 days) passage of stools. So, irrespective of your ‘usual’ bowel habits, if you tend to poop less than 3 times a week, then you, medically speaking, are constipated.
However, if you are seeking for a broader speculation (outside the limitation of medical jargon) over what constipation is; then noticeable infrequency in your normal bowel movement or change in usual consistency (towards the drier side) to the extent of creating pain and inconvenience while passing stools can be called constipation. In a way, to define what constipation means to you, it is important for you to know what ‘normal/usual’ is for you.
Symptoms of Constipation
- Precisely, if you pass stools less than 3 times in a week, it undeniably is constipation.
- Apart from the frequency, if you find your stools to be hard and dry, then that is again a sign of constipation.
- If you continue to feel the urge to defecate even after several visits to the loo and you feel ‘incomplete’ after using the loo, it is constipation.
- One of the other signs of constipation is when you experience abdominal pain, bloating, and cramping along with painful bowel movement.
- In certain severe cases, you could also bleed while pooping. This calls for immediate medical surveillance.
Causes of Constipation
Now that you have a fair idea of the symptoms of constipation, try finding out what causes constipation in general. Here are the most common factors that could be contributing to your colorectal discomfort.
1. Longer Transit Time
The food you consume quite literally travels a long way from your mouth and exits from the other end of the gastrointestinal tract –the anus. The time it spends during the due course of its journey along the tract is called the Transit Time. For various reasons, under unusual circumstances, the food sometimes spends a longer transit time.
While it is in the gastrointestinal tract, there is constant absorption of water from food that converts liquid food into more solid stools. So, the longerthe transit time, the harder it gets. Ultimately, your rectal muscles that help in pushing the poop out from the anus find it difficult if it is too hard in consistency.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is one of the major reasons you could be experiencing constipation. This is a large intestine-related disorder that is caused due to multiple reasons including intestinal muscular contractions, nervous system abnormalities, and infection or inflammation in the digestive system. If you experience both constipation and diarrhoea one after the other and pass mucus along with stools, they could all be symptoms of IBS (constipation being one of the major issues).
3. A Fibre- Deprived Diet
In general, there is no specific food that can be causative of constipation as such. However, when you consume high-fat (harmful fat) or processed food, you usually tend to pick up foods that undeniably lack fibre. Fibre, interestingly, is of nutritional importance – it neither boosts you with energy like the carbs, fats, and proteins, neither does it promote chemical well-being in your body.
Then why is fibre such an important element of your diet? Why does the nutritional policy of United States Department of Agriculture ask women to consume 25g and men 38g of dietary fibre every day to make theirs a healthy diet? This is because one of the most important ingredients that helps in the metabolic process called elimination is fibre. A diet that lacks sufficient fibre can cause a host of other ailments, constipation being the inevitable one.
As it is made clear right at the start that it is the increased absorption of water from digested food that causes constipation, it goes without saying that dehydration could jolly well contribute to constipation. When there is enough water in the system, precisely the GI tract, there is less absorption of water from the food you consume. This way, your stools remain sufficiently moist and find no difficulty in passing out of the anus.
5. Insufficient Physical Activity
Physical activity not only physiologically takes care of your metabolism and digestive efficiency, it also helps in physical movement of food along the alimentary canal. The peristaltic movement of food is aided by the movement of abdominal and rectal muscles, and when these muscles aren’t moved/exercised appropriately, it could lead to a sluggish movement of food along the gut, thereby causing constipation.
6. Laxative Overdose
Laxatives causing constipation – doesn’t that sound counter-intuitive? Yes, it does. Laxatives are commonly used to promote stool passage. However, an overdose of these laxatives, deliberately or unknowingly, can lead to impaired function of bowels and improper stool motility. What should have caused motility now inhibits the movements and can lead to severe colonic disorders if the abuse isn’t stopped immediately.
7. Side-Effect Of Medication
Pain relievers rid you of pain even sometimes just by looking at them. Exaggeration apart, they really are helpful in times of intolerable pain. However, the ugly side of them is the constipation they might lead to as an after-effect. Constipation caused by pain killers is termed Opioid-Induced Constipation and occurs because these opioids alter the peristaltic movement of food in the gut.
Also, they make the intestines go partially numb, which leads to seizure of intestinal activities, causing constipation. Other medications that lead to similar repercussions are calcium and iron supplements, certain anti-depressants, anti-hypertensive medicines, and medications prescribed for neurological and psychiatric problems. If you have started to feel constipated after your doctor has put you on some specific medicines, check with them if that could be causing the problem.
Depression and constipation being related to each other – sounds impossible,doesn’t it? Not really! Do you remember the urge to poop or that strange butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling when you are nervous just before giving a seminar or writing an exam? Yes, this is because the gut and your brain share what is called a gut-brain axis.
This makes it clear that what happens in the brain has the capacity to influence the gut and vice-versa. Low serotonin levels causing depression can also affect the gut and the muscular movements in the gut. Stress and chronic depression have been hence proved to cause constipation.
How to Get Rid of Constipation (At Home)?
What is constipation? Check. What are the signs of constipation? Check. Causes of constipation – check. All that is now left is to find out the home remedies to treat this problem naturally. Here are some remedies that you will find are good for immediate constipation relief.
1. Consume Foods That Can Lubricate The Gut
- One of the reasons stools don’t travel in an unobstructed and smooth way along the gut can be due to lack of lubrication. These lubricants act quickly and give quick relief from constipation.
- Consuming healthy fats like organic ghee or homemade butter. Ingesting lubricants like fats help the food pass easily through the gut. Also, consuming honey is an excellent way of treating constipation at home.
- Coconut oil is another lubricant that you can include in your diet if you wish for faster relief from constipation. The Medium-Chained Fatty Acids in coconut oil help ease bowel movements because of the energy-boost they instantly provide the intestine with. You can have a tablespoon of coconut oil directly or mixed with any beverage you have on an everyday basis. Make sure you slowly increase the amount, for increased amounts can lead to diarrhoea.
- Another remedy that proves to be a terrific treatment for constipation is ingesting castor oil. It starts working in less than 2 hours from ingestion. In severe cases it could take a maximum of up to 6 hours. Once consumed, the fatty acid (natural triglyceride) called Ricinoleic Acid acts on the intestinal walls by propelling intestinal movements to cure constipation within a relatively short span.
- If you cannot tolerate the pungent taste of castor oil, ingest it along with fruit juice to make it more palatable. Pregnant, lactating, and menstruating women should refrain from using this home remedy to treat constipation to avoid adversities like contractions that castor oil could cause to the uterus.
2. Resort To Indian Spices
- Cardamom, commonly known as Elaichi in India is known for its curative effects on the digestive system. It works as a stimulant and promotes bowel movements which help in relieving you from constipation. Plus, it also helps in easing spasmodic pain that might occur along with constipation. Chew whole cardamom seeds or add a spoonful of cardamom powder to your cup of tea to rid yourself of difficulty in bowel movement.
- Ingesting fennel (saunph) seeds directly with warm water, or brewing fennel tea and drinking it until you find relief are effective remedies you could consider for constipation.
- In fact, this is why most Indian families delightfully chew on a handful of fennel seeds after every meal. You could also add a teaspoon of fennel seed powder to one cup of boiling water. Allow the goodness of the powder to infuse itself in the boiling water before you strain the tea into your cup. Mix a tablespoon of organic honey to your cup of fennel tea to enhance the curative properties of this remedy.
- Cumin (jeera) seeds, like fennel, can be chewed to experience relief from constipation. These seeds are known to expel bad bacteria from the gut, thereby reducing gas and bloating along with solving the problem of improper bowel movements. If you are suffering from uncontrollable flatulence, cumin seeds take care of that too, owing to its carminative properties.
3. Eat A Fibre-Rich Diet
Fibre, fibre, fibre. This is the go-to home remedy for quick relief from constipation. If you suffer from constipation frequently, make sure you include lots of fibre-rich foods to enrich your gastric functioning. Fibre goes out of the system without being digested. This is why the bulk of your poop is formed significantly by fibre.
- All plant-based foods like raw vegetables and fruits are rich in fibre. Whole grains and legumes are other abundant suppliers of fibre that you can gorge on not just for relief from constipation but to promote overall well-being.
- If gas, bloating, and constipation have become a routine in your life, it is time you adopted a healthy lifestyle which includes the right choice of food. Shifting from white bread, rice, and refined sugar to wholesome grains, and foods of plant origin from animal-based foods should be your immediate action.
- If you have a sweet tooth and can’t help but indulge in desserts, try including natural sweet enhancers like honey and green stevia in your diet. You could also pamper yourself with a variety of fruits like citrus fruits, berries, pears, and apples to curb your unhealthy cravings to enhance the gut environment.
- Dry fruits like nuts, raisins, dates, and prunes,which arerich sources of dietary fibre can also be eaten as a remedy to stop constipation. These act as agents that can soften the stools to ease the passage of faeces.
- One of the most effective home remedies to relieve you of constipation is using Psyllium husk, which is commonly known as Isabgol or Ispaghulain India. This husk powder has a tremendous amount of fibre in it, which makes it an apt remedy for constipation. When you mix Psyllium husk powder in water, it immediately begins to develop a gel-like consistency. Try gulping down the mixture as quickly as possible after adding water to it to reap great benefits. You could mix this powder in a bowl of yogurt too. This way you have the added advantage of the probiotics in the yogurt.
4. Move Your Butt
Yes, you heard it right.You quite literally have to move your butt if you are vexed with that persistent feeling of wanting to ‘go’. Apart from the fact that exercising for at least 45 minutes every day is unavoidably essential to prevent metabolic problems including constipation, there are some exercises that you can do for immediate solace from constipation.
- A good session of vigorous cardio exercises like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming act on the abdomen and help in pushing the stools out of the body.
- Repeated sets of squats and lunges are other exercises you could do if you want to put an end to your discomfort and the nagging feeling of incomplete emptying of bowels.
5. Replenish Your Body With Fluids
If the body is sufficiently hydrated, the absorption rate of water from stools by the body reduces. This is exactly why you should stay hydrated. Apart from drinking plenty of purified water, make sure you drink other fluids like coconut water, fresh juices, and herbal teas. These will not only relieve you from constipation, but the anti-oxidant rich juices and teas also bestow a host of other benefits to your body, skin, and well-being.
Home Remedies for Constipation In Infants And Children
Constipation in adults, in a way, is lot more tolerable because adults are self-sufficient and can take care of themselves in case of such discomforts. However, when your little toddler looks unsettled and restless, you can’t even identify what could be bothering them. Generally, one of the major reasons for your toddler’s restlessness can be attributed to gastric troubles.
Although they cannot articulate that it is constipation creating the discomfort, there is a simple way you mothers can make out if that is the root cause of your baby’s ill health. If you find your baby to be pooping hard, lumpy, and dark-coloured stools, it could mean they are constipated. You could try implementing these simple remedies at home to help your toddler defecate without pain or obstruction.
1. Castor Oil
Castor oil works equally well for children. However, see to it that you give them not more than 15 ml and that too only if their age is above six years. If your baby is very young, external application of castor oil should do the trick.Gently apply a spoonful of castor oil on your child’s anus. This is as effective as ingesting it and you would have the added benefit of not worrying about the side effects of consuming this natural laxative.
2. Prune Juice
If your toddler has started eating solid foods, you could give them some prune juice as a remedy for constipation. Prune juice consists of a naturally-occurring sugar called sorbitol. This remains undigested and is eliminated out of the body as it is. The sorbitol in prune juice will help your baby flush the faeces out of the body. You could give your baby prune juice along with the baby food mix that you feed them with. Start with low amounts and monitor accordingly. However, if your baby is still being breast fed, refrain from giving them prune juice because a sudden change in food habits might worsen the situation.
3. Fluids For Baby Constipation
Try giving them small amounts of water and see if it is making any difference in their bowel movements. Since you would be feeding your babies with milk anyway, make sure you continue doing that. Drastic alterations in baby’s diet might adversely affect the bowel movements further. Also, if you haven’t changed any feeding patterns and your baby still shows signs of constipation, check if you have been eating any different. Lactating mothers should be as careful with their diet as with their baby’s.
4. Physical Stimulation
Just like how adults are suggested to exercise to stimulate bowel movements, this technique works for babies too.
- However, here physical stimulation doesn’t mean you ask your toddler to start running. Instead, gently massage their belly, particularly the lower abdomen, several times a day until there is a proper bowel movement.
- You could also try inserting, very carefully, your little finger, or instruments like a rectal thermometer to promote a smooth bowel movement.
Constipation appears to be a petty gastric issue for an onlooker but can take a serious toll on the person suffering. This time you find it impossible to ‘go’, you know what is to be done, don’t you? And if it is your tot’s turn for the ordeal, make sure you follow these home remedies but also see to it that you implement them only after your paediatrician’s approval. Do not forget, however, that making the right lifestyle choice is by far the best home remedy for a bunch of health issues, including constipation.