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Last Updated on December 19, 2019

8 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Constipation

8 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Constipation

Being constipated is no fun! And yet it’s a surprisingly common affliction. Around one in five people are thought to suffer from it, with up to 8 million people visiting their doctor each year for a constipation cure.

However, medication isn’t necessarily the answer. Treating the cause is the only way to prevent the problem. In most cases, it’s a simple matter of figuring out what foods might be causing your digestion to malfunction, or whether your lifestyle is to blame. Medication or certain medical conditions can also contribute. It’s usually a combination of different things: constipation is rarely caused by a single factor.

Most doctors will define constipation as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. But because everyone’s bowel movements are different, this can vary from person to person. There may be other nasty symptoms, such as pain and straining when going to the bathroom, gas, bloating, and difficulty passing stools. Stools may be dry, hard and dark.

Luckily, there are plenty of natural constipation cures that can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. Most of these ones are even backed by science!

1. Take a Top-Quality Probiotic Supplement

When you have an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your gut, your digestion can become sluggish and inefficient. This is because the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast in your gut can trigger a response from the immune system, leading to inflammation of the GI tract and the subsequent inflammation in other parts of the body.

Imbalances in the gut like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or Candida overgrowth often lead to not only constipation but also inflammation, intestinal permeability and other symptoms.[1]

High-quality probiotic supplements are effective for both preventing and treating constipation. They deliver a quantity of live bacteria directly to your intestines, which is where your body breaks down food in a special process called fermentation. Here’re some recommendations: 7 Best Probiotic Supplements (Recommendation & Reviews)

Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria which work with your digestive enzymes in your intestines, helping your body to break down the food matter and absorb the nutrients within it. When your body lacks the right type of bacterial strains, your digestion can be slowed or impaired. This can mean the food you eat sits in your intestines for longer, ultimately leading to constipation.[2]

Two of the most effective probiotic strains for relieving constipation are Bifidobacterium infantis[3] and Lactobacillus plantarum.[4] Look for a probiotic that contains these strains, as well as a high CFU count and lots of other probiotic strains.

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Fermented foods can also be an excellent source of probiotics, but keep in mind that they can cause temporary constipation after you start eating them. This should pass fairly quickly.[5]

2. Drink More Water

One of the most obvious causes of constipation is also the last most people think of: hydration!

When you don’t drink enough water, your body quickly becomes dehydrated. This means any waste in your intestines will become hard and sluggish, simply because your body can’t add enough moisture to your stools. If this is the case, your stools will be small, hard, dry and difficult to pass.

Try to drink at least 2 liters of clean, filtered water daily. The easiest way to do this is by carrying a drink bottle with you everywhere, so you can sip it regularly. This will help to move food and waste through your body and keep everything flowing naturally.

Water can increase your metabolism and help you to lose weight too![6]

3. Eat More Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber is the type that can be dissolved (i.e., it is “soluble”) in water. When soluble fiber comes into contact with liquid, it absorbs the liquid and forms a gel-like substance. It acts like a sponge, absorbing fluid and making your stools softer. This allows your body to move them out of your digestive tract more easily.

Good sources of soluble fiber include oats and oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, fruits and vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots). Psyllium husk is an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. It’s a good remedy for constipation due to the way it stimulates bowel movements. Inulin is another good type of soluble fiber that you can buy from your health food store.

A study involving IBS patients found when they were given supplements containing soluble fiber (mainly psyllium husk), their symptoms improved significantly.[7]

Insoluble fiber may also help to ease constipation by increasing bulk in the stool and improving motility, but it can be too taxing on a sensitive gut.

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Non-fermentable soluble fiber is much easier to tolerate because it increases the water-holding capacity of the stool, softening it and making its movement through the intestines easier.

3. Get Active

Studies have shown that being sedentary is a common lifestyle factor in those with sluggish bowels.

An investigation into the link between constipation and sedentary behavior in adolescents found that constipation was often due to low physical activity and long periods of sedentary behavior. In most cases, when the adolescents were made to be more active, their constipation was far less frequent.[8]

Your colon responds to physical activity. The abdominal wall muscles and the diaphragm all play an important role in the process of moving waste out of the body. Good muscle tone helps to keep your bowel movements regular.

Any form of physical activity that moves your lower body can help. This includes running, walking, swimming and even trampolining!

4. Drink Caffeinated Beverages

Many people swear by coffee for making them need to go to the bathroom. As a stimulant, coffee triggers muscles in your digestive system, encouraging peristalsis (the wave-like movements in your intestines that push waste through to your colon).

One study showed that coffee has much the same effect on your gut as a meal and is 60% more effective than just drinking water. It’s also 23% more effective than decaffeinated coffee.[9]

However, because coffee is also a diuretic, it can cause dehydration – which will only make your constipation worse! Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day as well.

Non-caffeinated drinks like these herbal teas can also help to reduce digestive discomfort and alleviate constipation.

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5. Eat More Green Kiwi

Also known as kiwifruit and Chinese gooseberry, the kiwi is a very helpful constipation cure.

One medium-sized kiwi contains around 2.5 grams of fiber, along with a variety of nutrients. But the most important thing about kiwi is that it contains a protease enzyme called actinidine. Actinidine has been found to stimulate motility in the upper gastrointestinal tract, which helps to push waste along the intestines.

Another valuable nutrient in green kiwi is a peptide called kissiper. Kissiper has been found to work with specific ions to aid good digestion and improve peristalsis. One study showed that when adults with constipation ate just two kiwis a day, their bowel movements increased.

Kiwi is also a rich source of natural phytochemicals that can support the health of the gut. Because it’s technically a berry, you can even eat the hairy outer peel for extra roughage!

6. Try Senna

The herbal laxative Senna is commonly used to relieve constipation. It is available over-the-counter or online, and can be taken as pills or capsules, or drunk as a tea.

Senna contains a variety of plant compounds called glycosides, which stimulate the nerves in your gut and encourage faster bowel movements.[10]

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids or electrolyte replacement solutions while taking senna, as it can cause a rapid emptying of the bowels. Extra hydration will help to prevent you from losing too much fluid or electrolytes.

Although safe to use every now and then, prolonged use is not recommended. Talk to your doctor or a natural health practitioner if your constipation continues. Senna is not recommended for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have inflammatory bowel conditions.

7. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are tiny black and white seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

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The great thing about chia seeds is that they’re rich in soluble fiber, so they form a lubricating gel-like consistency when they absorb water. This gel can help to improve the formation of your stools, making them moist and easier to pass. The omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can help an irritated gut.

The soluble fiber in chia seeds is much gentler on the gut and should be a part of your daily diet. It’s easy to add chia seeds to cereals, baked goods, smoothies and yogurt for a fiber-rich snack or meal.

8. Prune Juice

Prunes have long been known for their ability to keep you regular. They’re absolutely packed with fiber and they are extremely effective in moving waste through your gut.

The other great thing about prunes is that they contain a type of sugar called sorbitol. Because sorbitol can’t be broken down by your body, it passes through your colon undigested and draws water into your gut. This helps to bulk up your stool and stimulate a bowel movement.

Studies show that sorbitol is a safe and effective remedy for constipation,[11] and it’s often a favorite with older adults. Prunes can increase the frequency of your bowel movements and improve consistency. If you really have no idea of what to eat when constipated, a handful of prunes could be the easiest remedy in the book.

Take care not to overdo the dried prunes though – they CAN cause some gas and bloating!

The Bottom Line

Chronic constipation can seriously impact your life. It can also take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Feeling uncomfortable is only the part of the problem; your body will also suffer due to poor nutrition and sluggish digestion.

With the above natural constipation cures, you will feel better and can even prevent constipation.

Featured photo credit: Michael Jasmund via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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