Constipation is an infrequent or a difficult bowel movement. It is a symptom, not a disease, and is defined as having a bowel movement less than 3 times a week. If you do not have a bowel movement daily it does not mean that you are constipated. Normal bowel movements could happen 3 times in a single day, or even 3 times in a week. When a person is constipated the stools will usually be dry, hard, small in size, and very difficult and painful to eliminate. Everyone experiences constipation at some time in their lives.
As the digested food moves through our colon, the colon absorbs nutrients and water from it, forming the stool to be eliminated. Muscle contractions help the stool to move further and get eliminated from the body. Constipation usually occurs when too much water has been absorbed by the colon and the stools get dry and hard. The muscles find it difficult to pass them through the colon.
The main blame for constipation almost always goes to a poor diet and lifestyle. There are many other causes for constipation which could include one or more of the following.
- Lack of fiber in diet
- Not consuming enough liquids
- Consumption of excessive milk/milk products (could also cause diarrhea in some)
- Certain medications
- Excessive use of over-the-counter laxatives
- Advanced stages of pregnancy
- Change in body clock due to erratic or frequent traveling (particularly to different time zones)
- No physical activity
- Postponing having a bowel movement when the urge arises
Many feel that they must have a bowel movement daily. If this does not happen, they tend to overuse laxatives which in time becomes a compulsive habit. Even the overuse of painkillers, antidepressants, iron supplements, and antacids can cause constipation.
Constipation cures in most of the cases would be as simple as changing the way you eat and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle which can help eliminate constipation.
Fiber is the most important ingredient that can help in natural constipation relief. You should eat as much fiber as you can. It helps in forming a soft and bulky stool. Good sources of fiber are most of the fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables. Excellent sources of fiber are broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, all eaten raw or thawed. Spinach, beans, whole-grain cereal all cooked are excellent sources. Fruits such as apples, peaches, tangerines, and raspberries will help increase the fiber content. Limit foods that contain no fiber such as processed foods, ice-cream, excess cheese and meat.
Increase Water Consumption
Consuming enough fiber without following it with enough fluids will be of no use. The best fluid that you can consume is plain natural water. Drink plenty of water daily. You can also include fresh fruit and vegetable juice. Clear vegetable soups by itself or just before a meal will help aid digestion. Avoid having drinks in excess that contain caffeine or alcohol.
Coffee had a couple of times daily could be invigorating and beneficial, but when it becomes an addiction and you have to have a cup every hour, will increase acidity, cause poor digestion and only worsen your constipation. The benefits of alcohol when had in very small amounts is well-known. But if it is an addiction and it is gulped down in excess it can cause innumerable problems such as indigestion, liver and kidney problems, and either excessive constipation or diarrhea.
Limit Sugar Consumption
Persons who love to eat anything with sugar in it will find themselves constipated most of the time. Keep sugar intake to a minimum. If you are a normal person without problems such as diabetes, it is perfectly normal to use natural sugar; but in limit. Limit your intake of ice-creams and sugar filled pastries.
Flax seed as Laxative
Many natural cures for constipation make use of the flax seed. Mix equal parts of flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. The flax seeds are most important. If one of the other two seeds are not available you can substitute it with almonds. Lightly roast the seeds to remove moisture if any. Let it cool, then grind them into a fine powder. Have two teaspoons of this powder when you wake up in the morning and just before going to bed at night.
Follow this with a full glass of mildly warm water. You could even mix this with your cereals or salads, but it is best taken plain with mildly warm water. The more water you drink after consuming the powder the better. Never eat more of this powder than is suggested. It could have a reverse effect.
Add one tablespoon flax seed to two cups water and boil for approximately 10 minutes till it gets a slight jelly-like consistency. Add to this a tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar. Have a cup of this as soon as you wake up in the morning. In a few days bowel movement should normalize.
Other Home Remedies
There are also many home remedies for constipation. A good home remedy is to have a glass of warm water mixed with two teaspoons sour lime juice (you can add a pinch of salt or a little sugar for taste) first thing in the morning. Keeping this regular will make a difference.
Eat fruits such as prunes, grapes, pears, oranges and papaya whenever you can (do not eat papaya if you are pregnant). Two teaspoons of natural honey in a glass of warm water had first thing in the morning will help relieve constipation.
Points to Remember
The following are a few points that one must remember to reduce the chances of getting constipated.
- Eat well-balanced meals that are high in fiber; these could include beans, whole grains, bran, fresh fruits and vegetables (avoid the canned varieties as far as possible)
- Consume a lot of fluids - water being the main, the rest could include fresh fruit juices and liquid soups (avoid canned soups and fruit juices)
- A good constipation remedy is to exercise regularly (even short regular walks will do)
- Avoid excessive coffee and alcohol
- Keep sufficient time aside for bowel movements; do not just rush through the process
- Never ignore the urge to have a bowel movement (the occasional time when no option is available is OK, but do not make this a habit)
- If you are on medication and suspect it of causing constipation, ask your physician. If that is the cause, the physician could replace the medication.
If you have tried maintaining a fiber-rich diet with plenty of fluids and still notice a sudden change in the frequency of bowel movements or hardness/softness of stools which does not return to normal, it is time to visit your physician to get the problem diagnosed.