Did you know 22% of Indian adults suffer from constipation according to a survey? Not just elders, youth and middle-aged people suffer from constipation too. It is prevalent among people living in metros.
About 80 percent of people suffer from constipation at some point during their lives and short periods of constipation are normal. Unless you suffer from chronic constipation, most symptoms can be relieved using home remedies.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a common gastrointestinal problem where you pass less than three bowel movements a week or have painful bowel movements. You may also feel you have not emptied your bowel completely or have lumpy, hard stools. The pattern varies from person to person, while some people may have several bowel movements a week, others may have two or three. Most of the time, it is not a serious health condition.
What happens when you get constipated?
As the food you eat passes through the digestive tract, the nutrients are absorbed by the body. As the partially digested food or waste passes through the large intestine (colon), it absorbs water from it and converts it into solid waste called stools. The longer the waste sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed, making stools hard and difficult to pass.
What causes constipation?
You may get constipated due to several factors. Some of them are listed below.
- Dehydration – It is a common cause for constipation. Water is essential to help digest the food. As the colon absorbs water from digested food, less water you drink, lumpier or hard your stools turn into. Staying well hydrated provides relief from many digestive ailments.
- Lack of fiber in your diet – Dietary fiber bulks up and softens your stools, thus making it easier to pass. Include fiber rich food in your diet.
- Stress and anxiety – Stress is the most common cause for many physical ailments. If you are stressed, your muscles become tense and upset your bowel movements. Practice yoga and meditation along with other lifestyle changes to reduce stress. Learn to manage your stress levels by increasing your happy hormones.
- Lack of exercise – Regular exercise plays an important role in your gut health. Sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of constipation. Sometimes when you are constipated, just a long walk helps you get your bowel movements back on track.
- Changes in your everyday routine – Most people suffer from constipation when they travel or make changes to their regular schedule. In most cases, these problems resolve within a few days.
- Natural aging – As you grow old, you are less active resulting in slower metabolism, which affects your bowel movements.
- Hormone imbalance – Most women suffer from constipation due to the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones. Constipation before periods is common among women. You may feel bloated and constipated, these symptoms disappear once your periods start.
- Pregnancy – High levels of progesterone hormone during pregnancy relaxes muscles. It leads to slower movement and working of the intestine causing constipation.
- Medications – Taking certain pain medications may make you feel constipated.
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement – If you delay clearing your bowels, constipation problem worsens.
How to get rid of constipation fast at home
When you are constipated all you can think of is “how can I relieve constipation quickly?” Most of us reach out to elders at home for instant remedies they have been following for years.
By making small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can get rid of constipation in most cases.
What can I eat to relieve constipation immediately?
You can start by eating fiber-rich food which promotes digestion. The Indian Council of Medical Research recommends that every adult should include at least 40g of natural dietary fiber in the daily diet (based on 2000 Kcal diet).
Some of the good, natural sources of fiber are listed here –
- Psyllium Husk –
- Also known as isabgol, it is derived from the seeds of a plant called Plantago ovata.
- This natural grain has 60-70% soluble fiber. It is a natural laxative people have been using since ages.
- It also boosts digestion, controls cholesterol, promotes weight loss, relieves diarrhea and cures acidity.
- Mix 5 to 10 grams of isabgol in warm water, milk or curd and consume it first thing in the morning or before going to bed.
- Flax seeds
- It is a great source of fiber, adding flax seeds to your diet regulates your bowel movements.
- Start with a small portion (1 teaspoon) of flax seeds and increase the portion size gradually (up to 1.5 tablespoons). Drink a lot of water along with it.
- You can dry roast the flax seeds, grind it into a powder and use it in your cooking.
- Flax seeds may cause allergic reactions, diarrhea, bloating and stomach ache in some people, use it with caution.
- Prune juice is certified by every grandmother, it is the first thing she recommends for constipation problems.
- According to a study, dried plums(prunes) alleviate constipation and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- Prunes are loaded with fibers and other nutrients.
- Consume half a cup of prune juice once or twice a day to ease your constipation problem. Reduce the portion by half for children.
- Apples and other fiber rich fruits
- Apples are a good source of fiber and promote regular bowel movements.
- Adding an apple to your diet is the easiest way to alleviate constipation symptoms.
- For the best results, eat apples without removing the skin.
- Include other fiber rich fruits such as papaya, ripe banana, kiwi fruit, pears, ripe berries, oranges, and figs in your diet for easy bowel movements.
- Sweet potatoes
- Loaded with vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes contain a good amount of fiber which promotes digestive health.
- Consume baked sweet potatoes with the skin which has the most fiber.
- Leafy Vegetables
- Include leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage, colocasia leaves, collard greens, artichokes and brussels sprouts in your diet for easy bowel movement.
- Including vegetable salad with every meal is a good way to get your daily dose of fiber.
- Leafy vegetables are rich in fiber as well as folates and vitamin C and K.
- Legumes and beans
- Legumes, beans and pulses are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber which bulks up and softens your stools.
- Include protein rich lima beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, chickspeas, kidney beans and pulses in your diet.
- Coconut oil
- Coconut oil is a super food with many health benefits.
- Backed by Ayurveda, coconut oil boosts your metabolism, stimulates hair growth and aids weight loss.
- Coconut oil lubricates your intestine and regulates bowel movement.
- Use coconut oil in your cooking, for the best results use virgin coconut oil.
- Natural Ayurvedic remedies
- Triphala (Terminalia chebula) powder mixed with warm milk works as a mild laxative and eases mild to moderate constipation problems.
- Pulp of bael fruit (stone apple) consumed with jaggery before dinner relieves constipation. You can consume bael juice too.
- Consume roasted fennel seeds with warm water to ease the bowel movements.
- Licorice root powder consumed with warm water is the best natural laxative for constipation. It also relieves stomach discomfort. Consuming large quantities over a long period of time may have adverse effects on your health. Consult an ayurvedic physician before using it.
- Drink a glass of warm milk infused with ghee before bed time to regulate the bowel movements.
- Oatmeal and other grains
- Oats are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber making it a good laxative.
- Whole grains like amaranth, rye, brown rice, whole wheat, barley and quinoa are good for your gut health.
What can I drink to relieve constipation?
- Drinking plenty of water is the best way to flush out waste from your colon. Squeeze a lemon in warm water and consume it for optimal results.
- Consume herbal teas like Senna, ginger, dandelion, peppermint, licorice root, chamomile or green tea for the smooth working of your digestive tract.
- Prune juice, apple juice or pear juice aids easy bowel movements.
What should you not consume when constipated?
- It is a myth that coffee is a laxative, caffeine dehydrates your body leading to constipation.
- Avoid processed grains like white rice,white pasta, and white flour which contain less fiber. The husk and bran of the white rice are removed, making it less fiber-rich compared to brown rice.
- Consuming huge quantities of milk and dairy products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream induce constipation.
- Red meat contains less fiber and causes constipation.
- Eating large portions of processed fast food and fried food is also one of the reasons for constipation. Avoid frequent consumption of chips, burgers, French fries and pizza.
- Refined sugar is low in fiber. Consuming sugary sweets, candies or desserts regularly causes constipation.
Does exercise improve constipation?
Regular exercise relaxes the muscles of the colon thus easing the bowel movement. Following are some of the workouts you can do to relieve constipation –
- Since most of the yoga poses involve pelvic movement, regular practice helps you to relieve constipation quickly.
- Practice yoga poses like Mayurasana (Peacock Pose), Pavanmuktasana (Wind-Relieving Pose), Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-cow pose), Malasana (Garland pose) and Ardha-Matsyendrasana (Sitting Half Spinal Twist Pose) which promote intestinal health.
- Learn more about these poses here.
- Exercises like pelvic floor exercise, forward lunges and squats help you regulate bowel movement.
- Brisk walking, running, swimming, dancing and stretching help in the smooth functioning of your digestive system.
Constipation is one of the uncomfortable experiences. It impacts your appetite, makes you sluggish and cranky. Most of us rely on tried and tested home remedies to cure mild to moderate constipation. While these remedies are useful and effective, if you are chronically constipated or have other underlying medical conditions, consult your health care professional.
When should I be concerned about constipation?
If your bowel movements are painful, spot blood in stools, or constipation symptoms persist beyond three weeks you should consult a doctor.
Is curd good for constipation?
Yes, curd contains good bacteria which promotes gut health and prevents constipation. Curd is a probiotic which promotes gut health.
Is chia seeds a good laxative?
Yes, chia seeds contain a good amount of soluble fiber. After absorbing water, they form gel-like consistency which softens and moistens the stools, thus making bowel movements easy.
How often should a healthy person poop?
Normal range is 3 times a day to once in three days. There is no general rule and it varies for each individual. Almost 50% of people pass bowels once a day.
How many prunes should I eat a day to help with constipation?
Eating 100g or approximately 8-10 whole prunes a day help to ease constipation problems.
What is an enema?
It is a liquid treatment used to relieve severe constipation. It involves instilling liquid into your colon using a nozzle inserted in the rectum. Click here to learn how enema works.
Is popcorn good for constipation?
Air-popped popcorn is a good high-fiber, low calorie snack. Do not load your popcorns with butter, the high fat may induce constipation.
Can too much fiber cause constipation?
Yes, intake of too much fiber may cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea. Drink plenty of water to counter the side effects. If your fiber intake is low, gradually increase it instead of loading up at once.
How do I help my constipated baby?
If your baby is constipated, give her water at frequent intervals, a small portion of fruit juice, gently massage the abdominal area, exercise by moving her legs or give a warm bath.
Does alcohol cause constipation?
Yes, alcohol dehydrates your body leading to constipation. Alcohol is a diuretic i.e. it removes fluids from your body. Drinking too much coffee has the similar effect.