Best Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Constipation – Must Know

Imagine you live in a compound house where you share a toilet with about 10 co-tenants. You manage to get access to this hot seat while others impatiently wait for you to finish ‘downloading’ to take their turn. 

You have already spent 5 minutes and nothing has dropped, not even a pebble. You then ask yourself, “Where did all the food I ate yesterday pass?” Angry at yourself, you just end the session to save time for other items on your to-do list. 

Like I said, just imagine! 

Constipation comes with many inconveniences just like its opposite– diarrhea. Luckily, however, there are ways – natural ways – to reduce its frequency or eliminate it. 

But before we dive into this exposition let us try to answer what it means when a person says he or she has constipation.

What is constipation?

The American College of Gastroenterology defines constipation as an “unsatisfactory defecation which is characterized by infrequent stools, difficult stool passage, or both”. 

From this definition, we can say that the complainant is the only person who can accurately say he or she has constipation. You can only say you are satisfied when something has met your expectations or standards, right? 

Now let me ask, are you satisfied after visiting the toilet lately?

How do I know that I have constipation?

You can tell you have constipation when your bowel movement habits worryingly change. People with constipation report symptoms such as:

  • Passage of fewer than three defecations per week or more than 4 days with no bowel movement.
  • A feeling that some stool remains in the bowel after several attempts.
  • A need to make an extreme effort to force out stool.
  • More time spent on the toilet with no bowel movement.
  • Passage of hard or lumpy stools.
  • Continuous and frequent farting. 

So the best way to really know you have constipation is by comparing your current bowel movement habits to previous ones you were okay with.

What are the causes of constipation?

Obviously, the next question, isn’t it? Well, there are several causes of constipation yet sometimes we cannot just tell what causes it. 

Check below for some well-known causes:

  • Insufficient fiber – such as fruit, vegetables, and cereals.
  • Insufficient fluids/water.
  • Lack of movement and spending long periods sitting or lying in bed.
  • Less activeness and body exercise.
  • Ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
  • Change in diet or daily routine
  • A side effect of a medication
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression

Constipation is also common during pregnancy and 6 weeks after giving birth. Rarely, constipation may be caused by a medical condition.

Does constipation affect anybody at all?

Yes, this condition does not discriminate. From neonates to the elderly, anyone at all can have it. Just that some are more easily affected than others. 

For example, constipation is common during pregnancy and 6 weeks after giving birth. The elderly too, given their reduced physical activity and the many medicines they take, can make them susceptible to constipation.

What are the natural ways to get rid of constipation?

Buying medicines to relieve you of constipation may not be the right and the first option to take whenever you are constipated. Drugs that help you to pass out stool, called laxatives, may lead to physical dependence such that without them you cannot visit the toilet with ease again. What then can you do to get rid of constipation, naturally?

Get enough fiber

To begin with, make some changes to your daily diets by including more fiber. Dietary fibers are a type of carbohydrates that are not digested and, therefore, increases the bulk and moisture content of stool and promotes smooth evacuation. 

 We get fiber from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Therefore, try increasing your intake of these. For example, eating one apple or orange every two days can do the magic. Also, you must prefer whole grain rice, bread, or pasta to refined grains or flour.

Stay hydrated

Water and fruit juices are paramount in preventing constipation. To maintain hydration, it is recommended we take at least 2 liters (4 sachets) of water in a day, though some may need more or less depending on their physical activities and health status. 

Taking warm fluids in the morning can also help digestion and “wake up” the gastrointestinal system. However, some fluids such as alcohol and caffeinated drinks must be avoided or reduced because they cause dehydration by making you urinate more.

Move around

Any physical activity, as little as brisk walking, can get the guts moving. And, what happens next is what we need: bowel movement is made much easier. 

As a general requirement, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking a few laps around the block every day. Remember, the gut is a muscle and it needs to move. So move! 

Change your washroom habits

You must keep to a regular time and place and give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet. Also, try not to delay if you feel the urge to defecate. 

Assume a squat position or sit on the seat such that the knees are elevated above the hip. This increases your chances of having “something” fall into the water closet. 

How can you prevent constipation?

The diet and lifestyle changes suggested above prevent and treat constipation. Therefore, stay hydrated, including fibers in your diet, exercise and have a good washroom routine and stay off dehydrating fluids. 

Also, avoid or reduce the intake of highly processed carbohydrate foods such as refined flour-based pastries. Finally, try to reduce stress.

Is constipation a sign of an underlying medical problem?

Yes, it could be. Constipation may be a result of another medical condition. Such medical conditions include but not limited to the following:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cancer, e.g., colon cancer
  • Gastrointestinal diseases, e.g., irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal obstruction
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Autonomic neuropathy
  • Parkinson disease
  • Spinal cord injuries 

So if you have constipation but realize that a change in diet, lifestyle, or the use of medication is not helping to treat it, you may want to visit your doctor for further checks to rule out any of the above conditions. 

What are some of the complications associated with constipation?

Straining to have a bowel movement may cause swelling in the veins in and around your anus.

These are called hemorrhoids. The skin in the anus may be torn by hard or large stool, termed anal fissure. 

Fecal impaction may also occur when chronic constipation leads to the accumulation of hardened stool that gets stuck in your intestines. 

Again, rectal prolapse resulting from excessive straining during bowel movement causes a small amount of the rectum to stretch and protrude from the anus. 

Worst of them all, these complications can result in bloody stool which can lead to unexplained weight loss.

Are there herbal products to treat constipation?

The laxatives most commonly used world-wide come from plants. They fall into two categories: bulk-forming herbs and stimulating herbs. 

The bulk-forming herbs come from plants with high fiber and mucilage content that expand when they come into contact with water. Examples are psyllium, flaxseed, and fenugreek. 

The resulting increase in volume then causes the gut muscle to contract, thus propelling the discharge of stool. Bulk-forming herbs are best suited for long term use.

On the other hand, stimulating herbs are high in anthraquinone glycoside, a compound known to powerfully stimulate gut muscle contractions, and therefore, must be used with caution. 

The most regularly used stimulating herbs which help to increase potency include cascara bark, senna leaves, and aloe latex. Dandelion leaves and roots are also mild laxatives.

On the Ghanaian market, most of the herbs used to treat constipation are stimulating, and so you must exercise caution when buying them. At least talk to your pharmacist or doctor before buying.

Conclusions

Constipation is preventable and treatable in natural ways. The points mentioned above have numerous benefits including improving heart and blood functions, reducing obesity, and improving wellbeing. 

Add these to your daily routines. Good health should be an everyday thing. If the natural remedies do not work, remember to visit your doctor or pharmacist especially if you are young, elderly, pregnant, or have a chronic condition.

References

Cedars-Sinai Blog (2018). How to relieve and avoid constipation naturally. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/constipation-relief.html. Accessed: 15/01/2021.

Eliwa, S. and Mahmoud, S. H. (2019). Patient Assessment in Clinical Pharmacy. Constipation. Springer.

Ford AC, Moayyedi P, Lacy BE, Lembo AJ, Saito YA, Schiller LR, et al. American College of Gastroenterology monograph on the management of irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;109(Suppl 1): S2–26;

Harvard’s Women Health Watch (2013). Natural ways to relieve constipation. https://www.health.harvard.edu/bladder-and-bowel/natural-ways-to-relieve-constipation. Accessed: 15/01/2021.

Mayo Clinic. Constipation. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-2035425. Accessed: 15/01/2021.United Kingdom National Health Services. Constipation. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation. Accessed: 15/01/2021.

WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:

Dr. Emmanuel Baidoo (Pharmacist)
Pharmacist at Ejisu Government Hospital

Dr. Emmanuel Baidoo (Pharm D, MPSGH) is a pharmacist by profession, a reader by heart, and handy at serving. He is passionate about gathering healthy living information for easy access by healthcare providers and the populace for well-informed health decision making.

Noah Amoo
Editor

Noah Amoo is currently a Ph.D. Education candidate at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom with a research interest in Digital Technologies. He has a Masters degree in Education and Leadership from the University of Hull, a Professional Diploma in Software Engineering from IPMC- Ghana, and a Bachelors Degree in Publishing Studies from KNUST- Ghana.

Noah has a good interest in editing and translating books and videos into English and Asante Twi. In addition, he has volunteered in teaching English Language, Mathematics, and ICT in many basic and secondary schools in Ghana.

His hobbies are playing the piano, shopping, exercising, and reading.

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