Did you know that 16% of Americans suffer from chronic constipation, while almost everyone experiences constipation at least once in their life? That means more than 62 million people are struggling to produce healthy bowel movements on a regular basis.
Not only can constipation be painful, it can also signify a more serious problem with your digestive system. If you have chronic constipation, it would be best to seek help from your doctor.
However, if you only experience it once in a while, there are natural ways to relieve your constipation at home without resorting to laxatives.
1. Sesame Seeds
Constipation can be a cause of dry stools, which can't move through your digestive system comfortably. Thankfully, sesame seeds have natural oils which help to moisturize your intestines and get things moving.
Adding sesame seeds to your daily diet isn't as difficult as you may think, either. You can top your morning cereal with them, put them on your toast, or even grind them up and add them to your recipes like you would any other seasoning.
I'm sorry if you're not someone who loves working out, but exercise is a great way to relieve constipation. It's a natural, healthy way to get things moving, and in a recent study of people with Irritated Bowel Syndrome, exercise was found to significantly reduce a lot of symptoms.
There are other studies which show that exercising doesn't really help with constipation, but it depends entirely on the person and the cause of the irritation. It certainly won't hurt, that's for sure.
Blackstrap molasses is for more than just baking. One teaspoon of the thick liquid right before bed can have your constipation relieved by morning. Because blackstrap molasses is boiled and concentrated three times, it has a higher level of magnesium. This mineral helps to naturally keep things moving in your digestive system.
Dehydration is a cause of regular constipation. If there is not enough water in your body, your digestive system can't function properly. Making sure to regularly drink fluids, specifically water, can help to keep things moving.
Studies have shown that sparkling water might actually be more effective than regular water when it comes to relieving constipation, though it's not clear why. That being said, don't turn to any carbonated drink for relief. Sugary soft drinks will make your constipation worse.
It sounds easy, but adding more fiber to your diet will help relieve your constipation. But do you know why that is? Extra fiber in your diet makes your bowel movements bulkier and more consistent, which makes them easier to pass.
There are different kinds of fibers, but if you are constipated you want to focus on increasing your intake of soluble fiber. This can be found in nuts, seeds, beans, wheat bran, and some fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber absorbs water and makes your stools easier to pass and more frequent.
Probiotic foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and certain fermented cheeses can help treat constipation if they are consumed regularly. The healthy bacteria in these foods help promote proper digestion by producing lactic acid and short-chain fatty acids.
Probiotic supplements can also help keep you regular if you don't want to consume any of the foods that contain them. If you are taking supplements, take them daily for four weeks to see if they work.
7. Healthy Fats
I know a lot of people try to stay away from fatty foods, which is a good thing if the foods are processed, but healthy fats can help you naturally relieve constipation. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and nut butter are all filled with healthy fats that help lubricate your intestines and keep your bowel movements regular.
Healthy fats are necessary for anyone's diet, so whipping up a salad with some avocado and an olive oil dressing is a great way to stay healthy.
8. Low FODMAP Diet
This is not a permanent fix, as a low FODMAP diet is only meant to be followed for three to eight weeks, but it can help identify problems and get your digestive system back on a regular schedule.
The FODMAP diet involves eliminating FODMAPs from your diet. This means taking out:
- Fermentable foods: foods that are broken down by bacteria in the large bowel
- Oligosaccharides: individual sugars that join together in a chain
- Disaccharides: double sugar molecules
- Monosaccharides: single sugar molecules
- And Polyols: sugar alcohols
All of these foods can cause stress on your digestive system, so cutting them out will give it time to reboot and get back to normal.
Foods to avoid include (but are not limited to):
- Granola Bars
- Cream cheese
- Ice cream
- Sour cream
Things you should try and eat include (but are not limited to):
- Sweet potato
- Red peppers
- Corn tortillas
- Plain crackers
- Brown rice
- White rice
- Sesame seeds
- Peanut butter
- Dark chocolate
- Maple syrup
- Pesto sauce
- Cheddar, cottage, feta, or Swiss cheese
- Whipped cream
Coffee, especially when it's caffeinated, stimulates your colon and acts as a natural laxative. It's important to remember, however, that coffee is also a diuretic, so if you don't drink enough water when you've had coffee, you could actually make your constipation worse.
Drinking caffeinated coffee is 60% stronger than drinking water and 23% stronger than drinking decaffeinated coffee. One study finds that it gets your digestive system moving the same way eating an entire meal would.
Prunes are a natural remedy, because they not only contain a significant amount of fiber but also sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect. If you have IBS, then stay away from prunes because they are known FODMAPs. But if you're just trying to solve a once-in-a-while problem, prunes should do the trick.
The suggested dosage for prunes to relieve constipation is 50g taken twice daily. Fifty grams of prunes roughly works out to seven medium-sized prunes.
Raisins, similar to prunes, also contain a natural laxative. However, instead of sorbitol, raisins are loaded with tartaric acid. A study once proved that eating a small box of raisins, about 4.5 oz, can double the speed of your digestion and help move things through you quicker than if you didn't eat raisins at all.
12. Avoid Dairy
Dairy doesn't automatically cause constipation, but to those who have a dairy intolerance, it can make things worse. Try removing dairy from your diet and if that solves the problem, it's entirely possible that your guy cannot properly digest it.
If you do cut out dairy, make sure you supplement that loss with other calcium-rich foods.