Constipation is a symptom not a disease. In both men and women constipation can be caused by many different reasons which is why there are many differing answers to the question of how to get rid of constipation.
But even among the many common causes of constipation, diet and lifestyle (in the form of low intakes of fibre, water and lack of exercise) feature prominently as one of the great causes of constipation in the population at large in the 21st century.
If this describes you and you’re looking for a natural way to relieve your constipation symptoms, encourage regular bowel movements and just generally get things moving, here’s your answer to how to rid yourself of constipation fast…
(By the way, if diet and lifestyle isn’t it for you, read on and learn more below about the other common causes of the conditions, the most popular and effective home remedies for constipation well as the over the counter (OTC) and prescription medicines available to help prevent constipation in the first place).
Constipation Relief – Drink More Water
Does drinking water make you poop more? A common question regularly asked. The answer is a very straight forward, no. But it can help with constipation, a well know fact.
And actually, in an age where all kinds of soft drinks are available and preferred to water, it’s this lack of pure water consumption that leads to constipation in many cases.
Start your constipation relief regime by drinking lots of water, at least 8 glasses of fluid per day. This because dehydration is very, very well known for bringing on constipation.
Its been observed and is the practice of many to start the day with a drink of very warm or even hot water first thing in the mornings and to do so on an empty stomach. It’s said to improve bowel movements and is helpful with constipation by more easily breaking down foods as it passes through your digestive system.
Dehydration happens by the way when your body simply does not have enough water to carry out the “housekeeping” tasks its supposed to. This can be for all sorts of reasons including vomiting, diarrhea or simply not drinking enough.
There is another cause of dehydration which should encourage you to consume plenty of water. The food you’ve eaten eventually departs your stomach and finds it’s way to your large intestine (or colon).
It’s the large intestine’s job to extract the water from your food waste, but not so much that it becomes completely dried out, rock hard and difficult to pass, if it continue it’s the beginnings of chronic constipation.
If there is a problem in your colon this is what happens which in turn leads to excessive straining which in turn can lead to haemorrhoids in which case drinking plenty of water works to offset the excessive “drying out” action of your colon.
Diet – Foods to Relieve Constipation Fast (Eat More Fiber)
Next up is you need more fiber in your diet.
Where do you find fiber? Fiber is in pretty much everything that is plant based including vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds.
But plant based fibre isn’t the only kind of fibre, there is another type called chitin and this form of fiber you’ll find in the shells of crabs, shrimps, lobsters and some other crustaceans.
How much fiber do I have to consume to stay healthy? You need to pay close attention to your diet especially in terms of your fiber intake and you need to be consuming at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day in the form of flax seeds, pears, apples, beans, berries and many others.
What exactly is fiber? There are two.
Soluble and insoluble.
The insoluble variety is the edible parts of plants or carbohydrates that are not digested in your stomach because they are resistant to the action of the digestive enzymes your stomach produces.
This simply means they go through you in tact and come in the form of whole grains, vegetables and wheat bran.
It’s the insoluble variety that adds bulk to your stool and seemingly helps food pass more quickly through the digestive system which includes the stomach and intestines of course.
Soluble fiber is found in all kinds of things. Peas, some fruit and vegetables as well as oat bran, nuts of all kinds, barley, lentils and beans are all rich in fiber.
In the bowel, the action of soluble fiber is to act as a sponge, absorbing excess fluid or water from its surroundings. The end result of this is that loose stool is bolstered or firmed up.
You want to be eating both types for a healthy nutritious lifestyle.
But if you are having problems with diarrhea particularly, it’s soluble fibres you want to be eating because of its water absorbtion properties while insoluble fiber is said to help constipation, the opposite of diarrhea.
So What Form Does the Best Fiber for Constipation Come in?
The absolute best fiber you want to be tucking into is insoluble fibers that comes in the form of bread (whole wheat grain), pasta, cereals, the skin of fruits, beans and potatoes, brown rice, broccoli and spinach.
Whole wheat grain is particularly good for you because it contains all the components that make up the natural grain with nothing left out namely, bran, endosperm and germ. As opposed to the not so good wheat bran which is the hard outer layer of the grain only…
Lifestyle Constipation Remedy – Do More Exercise
So how does exercise affect constipation?
The idea behind exercise is that activity will affect bowel movement for the better. However research on the effect of exercise on bowel movement and constipation turned up varying results.
Results in fact suggested that exercise does not affect bowl movement frequency at all.
But the story does not end there.
IBS (irritable bowl syndrome) is known to be closely related to constipation in those who suffer from IBS.
A recent controlled study on constipated people suffering with IBS revealed that exercise could significantly reduced symptoms and this has been backed up by other studies which targeted the same group type.
At the time of writing, the general consensus is that while exercise does not increase the regularity of bowl movement in constipation sufferers and trips to the toilet, what it does appear to do is significantly decrease some constipation symptoms.
Are There Particular Exercises for Constipation Relief?
If you enjoy exercise, consider aerobic style exercises like running, jogging, cycling, swimming, or even swing or line dancing, for example.
Aerobics exercises by their very nature naturally increases blood flow to your organs generally and to your gastrointestinal tract in particular.
This results in more powerful and effective intestinal contractions which has the effect of kick starting the process whereby food wastes move more quickly through your colon, intestines and out of your body.
Yoga is exercise of a sort and it is known that certain yoga positions have the same effect on your body has aerobic or high intensity exercises in that it helps to increase blood flow in around your digestive system and provokes into action the mechanisms that makes your intestines want to contract and finally produce the desired bowel movement.
The yoga positions that appear to relieve constipation most effectively are the Virasana, Adho Mukha Virasana and the Pavanmuktasana.
Constipation Relief – Using Baking Soda
Constipation is not only discomforting, it can be often times painful as well and when that happens many people will resort to home remedies to relieve their discomfiture and one of the best home remedies is reputed to be baking soda, a common household product typically used for both baking and cleaning but, can it really help?
According to medical experts, no. At least, most doctors are not going to recommend it.
Reasons being that for one, it’s high in sodium and too much of it can create health risks in those who are salt averse, those with high blood pressure or suffering from heart or kidney disease.
For another baking soda produces carbon dioxide when mixed with stomach acids.
Introduce it into a digestive tract that’s full and you run the risk of producing a gas which has no way to get out and may rupture your stomach in the process of trying to escape its confinement.
This is admittedly rare but a possibility all the same.
But as you might expect, some people take the opposite view point and many are firm in their conviction that baking soad works and has worked for them. You can read about one such account here.
The recipe used is one teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) plus a quarter cup of water. Mix thoroughly and drink.
Other well known constipation antidotes are olive oil, castor oil and lemon juice
Castor Oil and Constipation
Castor oil can certainly be used to treat the constipated.
It’s what’s known as a stimulant laxative. Laxatives helps with stool evacuation by inducing bowel movements which basically causes the contraction of muscles in your intestines.
Because it’s a laxative, the dosage is really not as simple as merely swallowing a teaspoon of castor oil. How much you take is age dependent and reliant on other factors. Click here to learn more about its usage.
Olive Oil and Constipation
Olive oil is not a laxative but it has a laxative effect.
In basic terms the fats in the oil smooths the inside of the bowel thus making stools easier to pass.
To find out if it will work for you, all you need is one tablespoon of olive oil taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
The expectancy is that it will markedly relieve your symptoms. If you’re tempted to take more than a teaspoon full, don’t. Over dosing can reportedly lead to diarrhea and cramps.
Constipation and lemon Juice
As you can see, treating constipation doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking! And one of the simplest and cheapest home remedies for constipation there is involves lemons and water.
Water intake for constipation we have already addressed above. It’s a natural lubricant which softens stools and encourages easy bowel evacuation. Lemon juice has a high acid content.
Adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of warm water and drinking it a couple of times a day produces and anti constipation combo which together works on your digestive system to not just get things moving quickly but also make stools easier to pass.
Prune Juice and Constipation (Adults and Children)
For both children and adults, prune juice is recognised as an effective remedy for constipation.
You can even feed it to infants but follow the Mayo Clinic guidelines for doing so by trying just two to four ounces at a time and adjusting the amount needed as you go.
In adults, drinking four to eight ounces of prune juice first thing each morning to provoke bowel movement will suffice.
Aloe Vera and Constipation
Historically speaking, various preparations of aloe vera have been used as a natural remedy for constipation but it’s not recommended as it can just as easily cause you to develop diarrhea in the process and become unsafe. Aloe vera has also been linked to kidney disease and cancer.
However if you really want to use it to relieve constipation know that it’s basic action is that of a laxative and a very powerful one at that.
As such it comes in juice, gel or capsule form which you can buy from drug or health food stores and which you must use very sparingly. For more detailed information click here.
Sesame Seeds and Constipation
It’s no hardship or bad thing to snack all day long on sesame seeds.
What they do in action is to provide roughage and bulk in and to your stool and in so doing soften the food wastes in your intestines so making it easier to pass.
In use, just lightly sprinkle your salads and other foods with the seeds. Drink plenty of water in the process and be sure not to consume more than an half ounce or so per day.
Coffee Constipation Relief
Coffee contains caffeine and caffeine is a stimulant.
As such and like any stimulant, it can cause you to have a bowel movement by stimulating your intestinal (or gut) muscles. So you might think that drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages morning, noon and night is the ideal “treatment” for constipation relief, right?
Because caffeine has a side effect. It can also cause dehydration. And dehydration is one of the principal cause of constipation in the first place.
Best OTC Constipation Relief Medications
Most everybody will experience constipation at some point in their life. But it’s when the problem persists for three or more months (and you’ve tried a few home remedies without success) you may want to get some medical advice.
But just before you do go see a doctor, it may be a good idea to check out some over the counter (OTC) solutions first..
Broadly speaking, home remedies offer the possibility of permanent long term relief but, it will take time. OTC medication on the other hand are generally more fast acting but tend to wear off and you have to keep on taking them.
So what’s the absolute best OTC constipation med?
There is no best in absolute terms. Instead you have to decide what’s most likely to be causing your constipation.
If you suspect it’s your diet because you simply aren’t getting enough fiber, then you may decide that a fiber supplement is the way to go. So let’s talk about those.
Psyllium Husk is typical of the fiber supplements available. Available for sale on Amazon, the link will take you directly to the buyer reviews.
There is a good reason for its popularity. It’s generally acknowledged by experts that the best fiber supplements are those that are 100% natural and contain psyllium.
Psyllium is a leafy stemmed Eurasian plantain. Its seed are used as a laxative and bulking agent.
The psyllium husk (the dry outer covering of the seed) is edible and is a soluble fiber as well as being a prebiotic (it promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal microorganisms)
Once eaten, it expands and soak up water present in the colon. The end result is the fast and efficient evacuation of waste from the colon more quickly and efficiently.
Additionally, psyllium husk has a most welcomed “side effect” – it highly beneficial in the healthy maintenance of your heart and plays a part in controlling your body’s levels of cholesterol.
After fiber supplements, other OTC medications you can buy include laxatives and stool softeners. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular laxatives around…
MiraLax Constipation Relief
If you only suffer from constipation occasionally, your body will most likely deal with it and you probably won’t have to take anything.
But if the opposite is the case and being constipated has become a regular event (meaning that over a two week period you’re going to the bathroom fewer than three times a week) you need to talk to your doctor.
But if you’re desperate and need something immediately, one long standing OTC solution you can consider while you’re waiting to see your doctor is the ever popular product called MiraLax which has built up a reputation for being highly effective with few side effects.
It’s derived from the laxative drug polyethylene glycol, comes in powder form in this case and is entirely tasteless.
Like all such medications, in action it softens the stool for easier excretion.
It’s real attraction for many buyers is that it does it without too much of the usual side effects associated with stool softeners which are usually a huge and sudden desire to get to the bathroom as fast as possible, bloating, intestinal cramping and excess gas.
Using it simply involves dissolving it in water (or pretty much any hot or cold beverage you favor) and drinking it.
MiraLax is also available on prescription but the over the counter version works well enough for most and will save you money as well.
Rival OTC solutions to MiraLax include medication like Correctol (generic bisacodyl), Ex-Lax and Senokat.
Correctol, like MiraLax, is a stimulant laxative which works by causing rapid movement in your intestinal muscles which softens the stool.
The end result is the stool being shifted and moved along but, it’s this same rapid movement that can cause cramping and other unwelcome side effects. Ex-Lax and Senokot (generic senna) are similar in operation.
One thing is for sure, stimulant laxatives like these are fine as one-off treatments but are no good long term because after a while, they will stop working for you.
However, where laxatives can be good is if, once they have cleared the problem, you follow up with a return to an anti constipation diet.
This of course will include plenty of fruit and vegetables like broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, whole grains and nuts as well as going to the toilet immediately your body tells you to.
Do not delay and go when it suits you because this simply allows a build up which may prove much harder to shift later and then you’re having to reach for the MiraLax or what ever you have chosen to use, once again.
OTC Meds and Side Fffects – While it’s easy to pick up these meds at your local drug store and they are non prescriptive, bear in mind that they still all come with side effects and potential side effects of one sort or another.
So read the label carefully especially if you’re a pregnant woman or if you’re already on medication for other pre existing conditions.
Best Prescribed Constipation Medicine For Adults.
Once you have been examined by your doctor and your diagnosis confirmed, you are most likely to be prescribed one of three prescription-only medicines used to treat constipation:
Lactulose (Enulose, Kristalose and generic),
Linaclotide (Linzess) and lubiprostone (Amitiza).
Once taken, lactulose (a synthetic sugar) breaks down in (and draws water into) your large intestine and this softens your stool and eases constipation.
Linaclotide is prescribed to those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which often goes hand in hand with constipation.
As well it’s often used to treat constipation where the cause is unknown, a condition called idiopathic constipation.
In action, linaclotide operates “locally” meaning its action is confined to the intestine, it’s not absorbed into the body. Its success is measured in terms of it’s ability to increase bowel movements while reducing pain.
Amitiza (lubiprostone) like linaclotide, is used to treat chronic constipation in adults as well being used to treat IBS in women where constipation is the primary symptom of their condition.
While it’s effective when used as chronic constipation relief, there are many side effects associated with amitiza and infact all these medicines come with the issue of side effect so it’s very important that you are clear as to where you stand especially if you’re pregnant, breast feeding or taking other medications for a preexisting condition. Learn more here.