Constipation is one of the worst feelings in the world. In some cases, the condition is so painful that it restricts us from normal movement. Serious cases may require medical treatment.
The good news is that constipation is relatively easy to cure with foods and over-the-counter (OTC) medication. When you need to go, you want to be able to go. Period. Keep reading to learn more about advice and natural treatments for fast acting constipation relief.
What causes constipation?
Constipation is medically defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. There are several reasons you might have trouble going to the bathroom. Common causes include poor diet, poor lifestyle choices, and medication. To be more specific:
- Not eating enough fiber
- Frequent dehydration
- Lack of exercise
- Certain prescription medications
- Dietary changes due to travel
In many cases (especially in chronic cases), the cause of constipation is unknown.
Home remedies for constipation – immediate relief
Molasses. Drink 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses before you go to bed, and your troubles should be eased by morning (this one is great for kids).
Stay hydrated. Frequent dehydration can make it difficult to go, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning can also help get things moving.
Sip herbal tea. Certain teas have been shown to alleviate digestive problems, including constipation. Mint teas contain menthol, which can help relax your digestive muscles. Ginger teas help your body generate more heat, which can speed up the digestive process. Hot water in general has been known to help with digestion.
Castor oil. Drink 1-2 teaspoons of castor oil on an empty stomach and you should feel the effects in about 8 hours.
Click here for more ways to relieve constipation (source: Medical News Today)
Home remedies for constipation in kids
Kids can be picky eaters, which only increases the chance that they will have digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea.
Most of the remedies and tips in this article are appropriate for kids – such as eating lots of fiber and staying hydrated.
Make sure your children know that pooping is a natural activity, and is nothing to be ashamed of. Encourage them to speak with you if they have trouble in the bathroom. Explain to them that it is not uncommon for a person to sit on the toilet for 10 minutes or longer. Never punish a child for soiling his underwear.
Some kids get so caught up in playing that they forget to use the bathroom. Waiting too long to go to the bathroom can cause constipation. To prevent this, ask your children if they need to go.
It’s also a good idea to create a toilet routine after mealtimes. If necessary, provide a footstool so your child has the necessary leverage to release stool.
Get instant constipation relief with these foods
The easiest way to relieve constipation is to maximize fiber intake. For most healthy adults, this means eating at least 25 grams of fiber per day.
Prune juice is the #1 natural solution when you need relief fast, but there are plenty of fruits and veggies to choose from:
- Pears, apples, oranges, and peaches: taste great and help move stool where it needs to go
- Pineapple: high in fiber; helps remove blockages in the digestive system; helps improve bowel functionality
- Broccoli: contains 28 grams of fiber per cup
- Flaxseed: contains fiber and antioxidants; best when added to a smoothie
- Carrots: high in fiber; help stave off hunger
- Beans: the more you eat, the more you… you know what I mean
- Figs: four dried figs contain about the same amount of fiber as one prune or one apple
Some people struggle with frequent constipation simply because they don’t like the taste of fruits and veggies. If this describes you, you might want to try yogurt. Yogurt contains natural probiotics, which are known to aid in the digestive process. According to a recent study conducted at Harvard, regular consumption of yogurt can:
- Reduce overall digestion time
- Reduce constipation
- Increase frequency of bowel movements
- Soften stool, making it easier to pass
Immediate constipation relief for adults: OTCs
When food isn’t enough, you might want to try a medication. Constipation treatment comes in several forms, including:
- Emollient stool softeners
- Bulk-forming agents (fibers)
- Rapidly acting lubricants
- Prosecretory drugs
- Osmotic agents
These medications are available in the following forms:
- Oral liquid
- Oral pill, tablet, chewable, or powder
- Rectal enema
- Rectal suppository
It’s important to understand that not all laxatives work the same way. A stool softener or “emollient laxative” uses docusate sodium and docusate calcium to soften the stool inside your intestines.
Emollient laxatives are easy to use, but tend to lose effectiveness over time. They are best used for isolated incidents. They take between 12 and 72 hours to work.
Bulk-forming laxatives use a variety of hard-to-pronounce ingredients that increase the amount of water in your stool. This makes the stool larger, which can help stimulate bowel movements.
Bulk-forming laxatives have few side effects and are a good option for people who suffer from chronic constipation. They take between 12- and 72 hours to work.
Lubricant laxatives are great when you need immediate relief. Lubricant laxatives use mineral oil to lubricate the stool and the intestines to ease bowel movements. Mineral oil can interfere with the body’s absorption of vitamins, so you should be careful not to use lubricant laxatives too frequently.
Hyperosmotic laxatives increase the amount of water in your intestines, which softens stool to allow for easier movement. Like bulk-forming laxatives, these are a great option for people with chronic constipation. They take between 12 and 72 hours to work.
Saline laxatives, such as Phillips’ “Milk of Magnesia,” also work by drawing water into the intestines. Saline laxatives can cause dehydration, and should not be used on a regular basis. They take between 30 minutes and 6 hours to work.
Stimulant laxatives, such as the product at left, utilize sennosides and bisacodyl to stimulate your intestines. This type of laxative should not be used frequently, as it can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. They take between 6 and 12 hours to work.
Rectal suppositories and enemas are uncomfortable, but are generally the quickest solution. They take between 2 and 15 minutes to work.
Click here to learn more about laxatives and how to use them safely (source: WebMD). You should not continue to use any laxative for more than a week without speaking with a doctor.
It’s important to follow all instructions when taking a laxative. Side effects include:
- Stomach cramps
- Throat irritation
- Bloating and gas
Serious (but rare) side effects include: vomiting, allergic reaction, severe diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.
Along with the use of laxatives, here are some tips to help keep you regular:
- Don’t skip meals
- Drink lots of water
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies
- Exercise frequently
Click here to read my article about natural sleep aides.