Healthy Food & Life: Natural Remedies to Relieve Constipation
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Natural Remedies to Relieve Constipation

basket of prunes

Constipation ranges from annoying to an actual health issue. Some people live with constipation their whole adult lives and take medication without fixing the original cause. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious health problems such as IBS, diverticulitis, and diverticulosis. Learn natural remedies to relieve constipation.

The Causes of Constipation


Constipation is usually caused by a diet low in fiber, inadequate water intake, and a sluggish digestive system. This doesn’t mean you have to turn to a vegan or vegetarian diet, it just means you need to add more high fiber foods to your diet. A diet that is high in animal food, dairy, and white flour only can cause constipation in some people.

Current research says that we need between 25 and 35 grams (g) of fiber per day. If you were to add up the fiber you eat every day, you would most likely fall far short of those figures. All animal foods such as beef, pork, chicken and dairy products have no fiber or very little. Refined white flour products also have very little fiber and cheese can cause constipation since it is very binding.

Medication can help in the short term or one time, but prolonged use and reliance on laxatives can cause more constipation in the long term. If your body gets used to these medications it could become necessary to have to take them just to go to the bathroom properly. There is a time when medication might be needed; you just don’t want your body to have to rely on these all the time.

A Healthy Digestive System


A healthy digestive system is one way to relieve constipation for good. You have to start by building up the good bacteria in your digestive system, this way your food will be better digested.

Eating a good quality yogurt or Greek yogurt with live bacteria will help your digestive system. There are also probiotic capsules you can take if you don’t like yogurt. There are many probiotics on the market; one that is good is Ultimate Flora brand. Fermented foods like miso and sauerkraut are also very good at helping the digestive system and relieving constipation.

For a healthy and properly working digestive system, we need to eat both kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble.


Natural Remedies to Relieve Constipation


Eat more fiber by substituting high fiber foods for low fiber foods. Instead of white bread or buns, use whole grain. Instead of white rice use brown rice and try whole-wheat pasta for a nice change.

Make soups or buy soups that are higher in fiber such as vegetable, green pea, split pea and lentil soups. Be aware that the sodium content of canned soups can be quite high.

Eat fruit. Increasing the amount of fiber you eat per day isn’t that hard to do. One medium apple has 4 grams, a medium pear has 6 grams of fiber and both are helpful relieving constipation. Also, dates, figs, and prunes are very helpful for relieving constipation.

Drinking a lot of water will help constipation. Water is very important in keeping your body cleaned out and running smoothly. If you eat a diet of mainly animal foods, then you need to drink more water. Fruits and vegetables have a lot of water in them already, which reduces your overall need to drink water, but at least 64 ounces of water per day can relieve constipation.

Exercise is also important in alleviating this problem. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, just something to get your body moving again. Walk, jog, aerobics, weights and even working in the yard or garden. The more exercise you do, the better your metabolism becomes which aids your body in elimination. Move around to get your body and digestive system moving again, which makes walking an excellent way to get your body moving, in more ways than one.

Coffee can be a natural reliever of constipation since it is a natural laxative. Many people say they become constipated when they quit drinking coffee. That is because the body has become used to the laxative effects of the coffee.

Some people have a hard time digesting certain foods such as salad, corn and other raw vegetables. If you have this problem at times, avoid these when you are trying to alleviate constipation. Beans and legumes can also be hard to digest for some people, using digestive enzymes can help you digest food better. 


 Foods That Cause Constipation


A good balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber is important to prevent and relieve constipation. As mentioned above, most people get too little fiber in their diet, and this is a major cause of constipation. As you might suspect the following foods that usually lead to constipation are all lacking in fiber, in fact, most of these foods have no fiber at all.

  • Milk and dairy products can cause constipation, though Greek yogurt can be helpful because of the probiotics they contain. 
  • Red meat following by chicken, and pork
  • Fried foods, fast foods, and process foods
  • Refined or processed grains like white bread, white buns, etc.
  • Alcohol
  • In some people, gluten can also cause constipation, and you can try reducing or eliminating foods with gluten and see if that helps.
You might wonder, what does that leave. That leaves plenty of food with a lot of fiber that might be missing from your diet, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and whole grain products. There are many whole grain products that do not contain gluten that are healthy and full of fiber.

    Psyllium Husk for Constipation

     

    Fiber can affect people differently. I have found that for me, psyllium husk can relieve constipation and keep you regular. Psyllium husk is almost all soluble fiber can really help with constipation. But fiber does affect people differently. Most of the foods we eat are actually higher in insoluble fiber as you can see in this fiber chart.

    Psyllium husk is great for diarrhea, constipation and the sticky type of bowel movements. Another great benefit of psyllium husk is that it is also a great prebiotic, which will help you build healthy gut bacteria.

    Digestive Help and Constipation Relief


    There are different supplements for constipation like Citrucel, Konsyl and Metamucil. These products differ in the amount of fiber from 1 gram to 6 grams per dose, so high fiber food is actually better and cheaper than these fiber products.

    Psyllium husk would be a cheaper way to go and the psyllium husk whole flakes have between 6 and 8 grams of soluble fiber and about 2 grams of insoluble fiber. I have found that just the psyllium husk whole flakes mixed in water will do a great job.

    In addition to probiotics, there are also prebiotics and digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are a product you might consider trying as they help the digestive process. If you eat a great deal of meat and little fiber, your digestive system will have more enzymes to digest meat. By taking a digestive enzyme that contains enzymes to digest fiber foods like whole grains, beans, and legumes, you will be able to digest those foods better.

    Conclusion


    As you can see, some of the best natural remedies for constipation are as close as your grocery store. By eating more fiber, you can relieve constipation and keep it from returning. 

    If you plan to add more high fiber foods to your diet, don’t overdo it. Do not eat several bowls of oatmeal and brown rice in one day. That can cause discomfort if your body is not used to so much fiber. You should slowly add more high fiber foods to your diet. Adding more high fiber foods to your diet will help build the enzymes and good gut bacteria to help you stay regular and keep from getting constipation.

    Important: If constipation continues for more than one or two weeks, you should see your doctor as there are other reasons for constipation that are not diet related.

    About the Author

    Sam Montana is a certified Food Over Medicine instructor from the Wellness Forum Health Center and certified in optimal nutrition from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

    Copyright © 2009-2018 Sam Montana

    Helpful Resources and Books:

    Digestive Tune-Up by Dr. John McDougall
    12 Days to Dynamic Health by Dr. John McDougall 
    Natural Remedies to Relieve Constipation
     

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