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20 home remedies for constipation

Defecation is a vital function to keep the body healthy. Typically, an individual will need to pass three or more bowel movements per week. Some individuals poop two to three times a day. Constipation occurs when fecal matter hardens in the colon, and it becomes difficult to have a bowel movement. Healthy stool consistency should be soft to firm as well as long and tubular in form. 

Dehydration, stress, lack of exercise, and fiber deficiency are some causes of constipation. Over-eating and consuming junk food can also contribute to infrequent bowel movements. It’s also a common side effect of many prescription medications

Constipation can affect all age groups, but especially the elderly. One-third of adults older than 60 experience constipation. Others who are more susceptible to constipation or chronic constipation include women, especially those who are pregnant or recently given birth, and non-Caucasians. 

Constipation can be very uncomfortable, but thankfully, numerous home remedies for constipation to try.

20 home remedies for constipation relief

Dietary changes, drinking water, exercise, and taking supplements are among the natural ways to relieve symptoms of constipation. Identifying the factors contributing to constipation can help you decide which remedies are best. A combination of the following remedies may be necessary to treat the problem.

  1. Water
  2. Exercise
  3. Abdominal massage
  4. Fiber
  5. Probiotics
  6. Castor oil
  7. Coffee
  8. Senna
  9. Tea
  10. Lemon juice
  11. Aloe vera
  12. Coconut water
  13. Vitamins
  14. Milk and ghee
  15. Fennel
  16. Prunes, figs, raisins
  17. Honey
  18. Molasses
  19. Omega-3 oil
  20. Baking soda

1. Water

Drinking enough water can be the first step to constipation relief. When an individual becomes dehydrated, the body starts pulling water from all over the body, including the colon. Staying hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water a day can keep stool soft, making bowel movements more frequent and comfortable.

2. Exercise

Regular exercise can help maintain healthy bowel movements. Both vigorous and passive activity can have a positive effect on the bowels. Running can jostle the intestines and colon in a manner that encourages the stool to move. Participating in sports activities, dancing, or even walking for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day can help keep you regular. 

Constipation can be uncomfortable, especially if you are bloated or cramping, making exercise difficult at times. A more relaxing approach to natural bowel relief can be through stretching and practicing yoga. Yoga, especially involving twisting motion of the torso, can also squeeze the intestines so that the stool loosens in the colon. Seated twist and supine twist are two yoga positions that incorporate twisting the torso. Numerous other poses, such as downward-facing dog and standing forward bend, are also recommended for stimulating bowel movement. 

3. Abdominal massage

Massaging the abdomen can be a beneficial home remedy for constipation. Lying on your back, press the abdomen in a clockwise motion for approximately 10 minutes. You can do this massage twice a day. The clockwise motion helps push stool in the colon toward the rectum. Drinking hot water or tea before the massage can further improve the gastrointestinal system.

4. Fiber

Eating enough fiber can contribute to a healthy digestive system as well as weight loss. The daily recommendation for dietary fiber consumption is 25 to 30 grams of fiber. Fiber can be soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber gives stool density, while insoluble fiber can contribute to the pace in which it moves through the colon. 

Fiber-rich foods often contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Foods such as oatmeal, flaxseed, whole grains, fruit, beans, bran, and vegetables provide a fiber source that can prevent hard stool. Dietary choices have a strong impact on constipation. 

OTC fiber supplements can help increase fiber intake without having to eat excessive amounts of fiber-rich foods. Fiber supplements come in capsule form or powder that can be added to water, take as directed. 

Compare fiber supplements
Brand name Administration route Standard dose Side effects
Metamucil (psyllium fiber) Oral 2 g of fiber per 5 capsules; 3 g of fiber per tbsp of powder Difficulty breathing, itchy skin, trouble swallowing, facial swelling, bloating
Citrucel(methylcellulose) Oral 1 g of fiber per 2 capsules; 2 g of fiber per tbsp of powder Indigestion, nausea, tiredness, stained teeth
Benefiber (wheat dextrin) Oral 3 g of fiber per 2 tbsp of powder Diarrhea, bloating, cramping

Add powder fiber supplements to water or juice but not carbonated beverages like soda. Allow your body time to adjust to the fiber supplement. Drinking extra water can help reduce side effects, such as bloating.  

RELATED: Metamucil details | Citrucel details | Psyllium fiber details | Methylcellulose details

5. Probiotics

Digestion supported with probiotics can reduce constipation. Probiotics help restore healthy bacteria in the digestive system. Found naturally in foods such as sauerkraut and yogurt or taken as a supplement, probiotics can be added to your daily regimen to prevent or relieve constipation. 

6. Castor oil

A natural laxative, castor oil derived from the castor bean can be taken orally to stimulate a bowel movement. Not only does this ancient oil lubricate the intestines, but it also causes the intestines to contract. Take castor oil as directed, one to two teaspoons on an empty stomach. Allow up to eight hours before a bowel movement occurs.

7. Coffee

Drinking caffeinated coffee can stimulate a bowel movement. Caffeine can cause the muscles in the intestines to contract. This stimulation can move the stool toward the rectum. Though caffeinated coffee can help move bowels, it can also be dehydrating. Be sure to drink plenty of water when drinking caffeinated beverages, as not to worsen the condition. 

8. Senna

Senna is an herb that utilizes the leaf, flower, and fruit of the cassia plant. It’s been used for thousands of years as a natural laxative. Senna is a stimulant laxative that helps the digestive tract to contract. Often drunk as a tea, senna can be very effective and work within several hours after consumption. Approved by the FDA, Senna is available as a tablet or powder supplement. It can also help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and hemorrhoids.

9. Tea

Warm liquids can be soothing to the digestive and gastrointestinal systems. Certains teas such as ginger and peppermint help upset stomachs. Below is a list of teas that could prove to be helpful if you are experiencing constipation:

  • Ginger: This warming spice generates heat and speeds up digestion.
  • Peppermint: The menthol can soothe an upset stomach and move stool through intestines.
  • Chamomile: Relaxes the digestive muscles, which can prevent the bowels from moving on their own during stress and tension.
  • Licorice root: Its anti-inflammatory properties can ease the digestive system after a meal.
  • Dandelion root: Alleviates mild constipation by stimulating the liver.
  • Black or green tea: Caffeinated tea works similarly to coffee in stimulating the bowels.

10. Lemon juice

Lemon juice can help flush toxins from the body. As a natural digestive aid, lemon juice can be added to drinking water or tea to enhance bowel stimulation. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is best.

11. Aloe vera

Often used externally to soothe cuts and burns, you can also take aloe vera orally to soothe the digestive tract. Drink aloe vera juice plain or add it to smoothies or other beverages to help alleviate constipation and IBS. 

12. Coconut water

Drinking coconut water can be detoxifying and hydrating. It increases kidney function increases and stimulates the digestive system. Magnesium is also naturally found in coconut water, which helps the muscles in the intestinal wall move fecal matter out of the body. 

13. Vitamins

Vitamins can be helpful to keep your digestive system balanced. Below is a list of recommended vitamins for gastrointestinal health.

Eating foods that contain these vitamins could increase your number of bowel movements. Vitamins in supplement form are another way to ensure you are getting the proper amount of your daily recommendation.

14. Milk and ghee

While consuming too much dairy or dairy products can sometimes lead to constipation, some people can benefit from warm milk to stimulate the bowels, especially when ghee is added. Ghee is clarified butter and an ancient healing tool. Ayurvedic practices have used ghee for its healing properties for thousands of years. You can try adding one to two teaspoons of ghee to warm milk in the evening to gently and naturally encourage a bowel movement the next morning.

15. Fennel

Fennel is a mild, natural laxative. Roasted fennel can be added to warm water and drank in the evening. Fennel seeds increase gastric enzymes in the digestive system, helping stool move through the colon effectively.

16. Prunes, figs, and raisins

“Eating prunes have been the standard home remedy for constipation,” says Leann Poston, MD, the assistant dean at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and a contributor for Ikon Health. “Besides their fiber content, they contain sorbitol, which seems to have a laxative effect.” 

Dried plums or prunes have always been on the list for keeping bowel movements regular. Eating prunes or drinking prune juice is not just for senior citizens. A six-ounce glass of prune juice every morning could be the remedy to end constipation. If you don’t like prunes, eating raisins or figs will provide a similar function. Dried fruit has more fiber than drinking prune juice, but both have a natural laxative quality.

17. Honey

Chock full of enzymes that aid in digestive health, honey is a common household item that is also a mild laxative. When taken plain or added to tea, water, or warm milk, honey can ease constipation. 

18. Molasses

Molasses, especially blackstrap molasses, can help soften stool. Blackstrap molasses is molasses that has been boiled down to a concentrated form and contains vital vitamins and minerals like magnesium that can provide constipation relief. One tablespoon in the evening plain or added to warm water can gently encourage a bowel movement in the morning.  

19. Omega-3 oil

Omega-3 oils in fish oil, hemp seed oil, and flaxseed oil lubricate the intestinal walls for a laxative effect. Incorporating fish such as salmon, flaxseed, avocados, and hemp products into your diet can naturally introduce these oils to your digestive system. Omega-3 supplements are also available if you don’t like or can’t eat these foods on a regular basis.

20. Baking soda

Baking soda, another household staple, can be used to clean out the colon. Make a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda to approximately one-fourth cup of warm water. The baking soda reacts with stomach acids to stimulate a bowel movement.

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Constipation medications

In addition to home remedies for constipation, over-the-counter (OTC) products can also be beneficial in stimulating a bowel movement. Oral laxatives, enemas, and suppositories can be purchased without a prescription to relieve constipation. Laxatives and stool softeners come in a variety of forms and are effective within hours. 

Compare laxatives
Name Drug class Administrative route Forms Side effects
Senokot (senna) Stimulant laxative Oral Capsule, tablet, powder, liquid Muscle aches, tiredness, confusion, rash
Dulcolax (Docusate sodium) Surfactant laxative Oral Capsule, liquid, suppository Skin rash, nausea
Miralax (polyethylene glycol) Osmotic laxative Oral Powder Bloating, diarrhea, facial swelling

Enemas 

If constipation needs to be more immediately relieved, an enema may be more useful than a laxative. Enemas are often composed of a saline solution that is inserted into the rectum. The liquid from the enema flushes stool from the bowels. Although enemas are safe and easy to use, there are warnings about over-using this method. 

Suppositories

Another treatment for constipation includes laxative suppositories, which are inserted into the rectum. A glycerine tablet suppository can relieve mild to moderate constipation. Once inserted, the suppository begins to melt. The tablet may not completely dissolve but should be kept in for 15 to 30 minutes for effectiveness. Suppositories can be a gentle and fast-acting tool to relieve constipation.

RELATED: Senokot details | Dulcolax details | Miralax details| Senna details | Docusate sodium details | Polyethylene glycol details 

When to see a doctor for constipation

Most individuals have experienced some form of constipation in their lifetime. While constipation can go away on its own, it is helpful to know what can ease the discomfort of this common ailment. If home remedies for constipation or OTC products do not produce a bowel movement, an individual may need to seek medical attention. Untreated constipation can lead to an impacted bowel. 

Constipation may be a symptom of a greater health concern, consult your doctor or healthcare professional if you have not had a bowel movement within a two- to three-week period of time. Furthermore, medical assistance may be needed if you are experiencing severe abdominal pain or concerning blood in the constipated stool. Ask your doctor about recommended home remedies for constipation and prevention of constipation in the future.