Constipation isn’t a glamorous topic, but as the number-one reported gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S., it does affect millions of us. Whether it’s a matter of discomfort or not, constipation should be addressed, as waste matter that sits in the colon for too long has been known to release bacteria and other harmful contaminants back into the bloodstream.
Although it may be temping to turn to a conventional laxative every time you feel constipated, overuse of over-the-counter laxatives can damage the colon and lead to a condition called laxative dependency in which the colon requires more and more amounts of laxatives to produce a normal bowel movement. Feeling plugged up? Try these natural laxatives and home remedies for constipation.
Natural Laxatives and Home Remedies for Constipation
Eat more high-fiber foods. It’s the obvious, but it must be stated. If your current diet doesn’t include a lot of fiber, add high-fiber foods to your daily regime slowly. An influx of high-fiber foods could shock your digestive system and make you feel even worse. A well-rounded diet should include whole grains, especially brown rice; beans, nuts and seeds; and high-fiber fruits and veggies such as peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, corn, carrots, apples, bananas, raisins and berries. Avoid foods high in saturated fat, which move slowly through the intestines, and foods that stimulate mucus production, such as chocolate, dairy and fried and processed foods, which prevent waste matter from moving quickly through the body.
Exercise more often. When you’re up and moving, so are your bowels. The more you sit, the more slowly your bowels move. So get up and go! Just walking regularly can have a positive effect on your regularity.
Drink plenty of water. Water keeps the intestines lubricated, helping waste to pass through. To ensure that you body is hydrated, avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages like coffee, tea and soda, which dehydrate the body.
Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency is common in people who suffer from chronic constipation, so make sure you’re getting enough of this essential mineral. Long-term use of magnesium supplements can cause malabsorption and electrolyte imbalance, so it’s better to turn to food sources first. Try eating more magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. For the short term, you can also try a 250 mg magnesium supplement twice daily.
Probiotics: These microscopic “good bacteria” do wonders for our digestive system, including helping to relieve constipation. In a 2003 Canadian study, researchers found that participants who were given a probiotic drink reported significant improvement in their constipatoin over those given a placebo. An Italian study also found that infants given a drop of oil mixed with probiotics had significantly more bowel movements than babies given a placebo. Try a probiotic supplement containing at least 4 billion active organisms once daily.
Dandelion root: Bile acids act as a natural laxative, helping to soften stool and move it more quickly through the colon. Anything that stimulates the production of bile, such as dandelion root, can help naturally relieve constipation. Boil 2 tablespoons of fresh dandelion root to make a tea, or try a standardized extract of 250 to 500 mg with each meal. For more foods and herbs that stimulate the production of bile, check out blog post “Cleanse Your Liver Naturally.”
Image: Photo By Whitney/Courtesy Flickr