6 Natural Remedies for Constipation

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6 Natural Remedies for Constipation
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Constipation can be very nasty, frustrating, and often uncomfortable. A constipated person suffers from hard, dry feces that are very difficult to expel or passes bowel infrequently. What is regarded as normal bowel frequency varies from person to person. For instance, some can have bowel movements three times a week, whereas others one or two.

Constipation is not a disease in itself, but a symptom. Generally, constipation happens when stool moves slowly in the colon. In medical terms, one is considered constipated if he or she meets at least two of the following criteria over the preceding 3 months:

1. Fewer than three bowel movements per week.

2. Straining.

3. Lumpy or hard stools.

4. Sensation of obstruction in the anus and/or rectum.

5. Sensation of incomplete bowel movement.

6. Manual maneuvering required to pass stools. [1]

The pharmacologic management of constipation comprises non-stimulant laxatives, stimulant laxatives, enemas, and suppositories. In some very serious or complicated cases, surgery may be necessary. [1] Nevertheless, a wide range of simple but effective remedies can help relieve constipation.

1. High-fiber fruits, vegetables, and grains – The natural treatment for constipation lies in your kitchen. Grab a bite of foods high in fiber, and see your constipation problems fade in the end. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on the effect of dietary fiber intake on constipation from the Department of Clinical Nutrition, The First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, China, has proven this. This study had established that a diet high in fiber can clearly increase the frequency of bowel movement among constipated patients. [2]

There are several benefits a constipated person can derive from fiber. In the colon, fiber increases the bulk of stool and holds water. It can further increase stool bulk by serving as a substrate for colonic microflora, increasing bacterial and water content. Moreover, fiber decreases transit time and produces softer stools. [3] Among the foods high in fiber content include grains such as corn, wheat, rice, and oats; beans such as navy, white, French, and kidney beans; nuts such as almonds, pistachios, and pecans; fruits such as raspberries, apples, pears, and figs; and vegetables such as artichoke, broccoli, and carrots.

2. Water – An adequate intake of water and other fluids helps soften one’s stool. Drink as plenty of water as one can, preferably around 1.5 to 2 liters of liquids daily. Even carbonated water can help. Results from a 2011 Korean study suggest that an intake of carbonated water is effective for the intervention of constipation. [4] A study from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Italy, has provided evidence that carbonated water decreases satiety and improves indigestion, constipation, and gallbladder emptying among patients involved in the study. [5] While carbonated water is recommended, caffeinated beverages such as coffee are not. Caffeine has a dehydrating effect on the body, particularly in significant amounts. Depleting the body of water only hardens the stool and worsens constipation.

3. Exercise – A regular exercise or physical activity helps stimulate intestinal activity and thus establish a regular bowel movement. If you are constipated, try moving around your house or perform activities.

Constipation is a symptom, and sometimes those afflicted with it also have other medical condition. If on a wheelchair, perform change positioning often, and if on bed, do abdominal exercises and leg raises. [6]

4. Stress management – An island-wide, questionnaire-based, cross-sectional survey conducted by researchers from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, found a higher incidence of constipation among those exposed to stressful events. The study included 2699 children and 416 (15.4%) of them had constipation. The study explains that modulation of gut motility through brain-gut axis probably alters colonic transit and anorectal functions, causing constipation. [7]

As elucidated by a number of studies and research, stress will eventually take its toll. Stress somehow disrupts normal bowel movement and intervenes with the relaxation of the body. When one gets so worked up, passing stools can almost be impossible. Hence, when going to the toilet, allow yourself to loosen up and relax. Afford yourself some time and privacy. Eventually, you’ll be passing stools comfortably.

Where constipation becomes a seemingly persistent concern, the problem may perhaps be how you poorly handle the stressful events in your environment. Identify the possible sources of your stress, and try to control, minimize, or avoid these. Cope healthily and identify a relaxation technique that you are agreeable to. When in stress, some people resort to activities that only worsen their constipation, for example, drinking coffee or eating tons of fatty, low-fiber foods. Avoid doing so. If needed, seek consultation or advice from an expert.

5. Abdominal Massage – Some studies reveal the effectiveness of abdominal massage against constipation. Abdominal massage decreases the severity of constipation and abdominal pain. Moreover, abdominal massages relieve one’s stress, which may be the root cause of constipation, and renders constipated persons “more comfortable with their bowel function.” [8] A study from Sun Moon University, South Korea, provided evidence on the effectiveness of two kinds of massage in the relief of constipation in college women. The first kind was abdominal aroma massage using a massage oil containing lemon, lavender, rosemary, and cypress essential oils (in a base oil). The second kind was “meridian massage” which is given at accupressure point that are traditionally regarded as influential on intestinal function. [9]

6. Magnesium – A cross-sectional study from the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tokyo, Japan, has associated a combination of low water intake (from foods that are not water rich), relatively low fiber in the diet and low magnesium with an increase occurrence of functional constipation in this sector of the population. [10] Magnesium aids in digestion by keeping one’s fluid and electrolytes in balance (and thus preventing dehydration, which aggravates constipation) and pulling water into one’s digestive tract to help pass stools. A low level of magnesium means reduced water in the digestive tract, making bowel movement difficult. To keep constipation at bay, consume a diet adequate in magnesium content. Such diet consists of nuts such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts; fish, especially halibut; produce, beans, and lentils; and fruits such as banana. [11]

References:

[1] Basson M. D. (2013). Constipation: Practice essentials. Medscape Reference. Retrieved 14 July
2013 from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/184704-overview

[2] Yang J., Wang H. P., Zhou L., & Xu C. F. (2012). Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis.
World Journal of Gastroenterology Editorial Board, 18(48): 7378-7383. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23326148

[3] Taylor R. (1990). Management of constipation. 1. High fibre diets work. British Medical
Journal
, 300(6731): 1063-1064. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1662756/?page=1

[4] Mun J. H. & Jun S. S. (2011). Effects of carbonated water intake on constipation in elderly patients
following a cerebrovascular accident. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 41(2): 269-275.
doi: 10.4040/jkan.2011.41.2.269. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21551998

[5] Cuomo R. et al. (2002). Effects of carbonated water on functional dyspepsia and constipation.
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 14(9): 991-999. Retrieved 14 July 2013
from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12352219

[6] Dugdale III D. C. (2012). Constipation. MedlinePlus. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003125.htm

[7] Devanarayana N. M. & Rajindrajith S. (2010). Association between constipation and stressful life
events in a cohort of Sri Lankan children and adolescents. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 56(3):
144-148. doi: 10.1093/tropej/fmp077. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19696192

[8] Lämås K., Graneheim U. H., & Jacobsson C. (2012). Experiences of abdominal massage for
constipation. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 21(5-6): 757-765. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-
2702.2011.03946.x. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22098585

[9] Chung M. & Choi E. (2011). A comparison between effects of aroma massage and meridian massage
on constipation and stress in women college students. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing,
41(1): 26-35. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2011.41.1.26. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21515997

[10] Murakami K. et al. (). Association between dietary fiber, water and magnesium intake and functional
constipation among young Japanese women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61(5):
616-622. Retrieved 14 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17151587

[11] Coffman M. A. (2011). Magnesium deficiency and constipation. LiveStrong. Retrieved 14 July
2013 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/470141-magnesium-deficiency-and-constipation/

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