You really want to go to the bathroom but can’t. Your bowels are raring to get rid of waste, but nothing comes out. Days have passed and nothing. If you do finally ‘go’, it may be after much painful pushing. Who hasn’t been plagued by the discomfort and humiliations of constipation?
Constipation is a sign that something is wrong with your system. Although the digestive system is what suffers, that’s not always where the problem begins. Most of us do not eat enough natural foods, we don’t exercise or drink enough water, and god knows stress has become a way of living – all ripe ingredients just perfect for a disastrous bout or two of constipation. What’s worse is that it leads to breakouts, lack of skin lustre, headaches, nausea, acidity, bloating and depression. Constipation is not something you should have to live with. It’s not only uncomfortable it’s downright unhealthy. Your waste is literally rotting inside you! Eventually, the toxins caused by constipation will end up in your blood, leading to worse and worse complications the longer your digestion troubles last.
Remedies for Constipation
Although there is help at hand when constipation hits, know that the ideal scenario is to avoid constipation altogether. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can find relief from the trials of constipation. Preventing constipation is merely a matter of making the dietary and lifestyle changes below a regular part of your routine.
Eating Foods to Promote Constipation
Your first instinct is for instant relief so you may want to go with laxatives. However, your best course of action is to use natural remedies for constipation. The first step is to take a serious look at your diet and make the necessary changes immediately. This is not something you can put off till ‘after the holidays’. If you want relief from constipation, get cracking on dietary changes right away.
Increase your portions of fruits and vegetables. If you never had them in your diet in the first place, it’s high time you started if you want to keep constipation at bay and make your current bout of it disappear. However, if you normally do not have many fruits and veggies, do not increase your intake immediately as this will make your body react badly. Not to mention that the thought of suddenly eating more fruits and veggies can put you off. Start with a portion size that would fit in your palm – like a handful of berries or half an apple. All kinds of berries are great for constipation relief by the way. Other fruits and vegetables good for constipation include cabbage, broccoli, licorice, carrots, flax seeds, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, spinach, pears, grapes, papaya, orange and pineapples. All fruits and vegetables help to clean out your system and will definitely make a difference in your fight against constipation so don’t limit yourself to these alone.
Nuts and dried fruit are also wonderful for constipation, especially dates, apricots and prunes. Dried figs and raisins are two other yummy dried fruit snacks which can help with constipation. Walnuts and peanuts are known to help too. The higher the amount of raw foods in your diet, the quicker you’ll find relief from constipation. The extra bulk, water and fiber in them will help to soften and push out the accumulating waste in your colon.
As far as your meals go, fill up mostly on the raw fruits and veggies accompanied by beans, whole grains, lightly cooked vegetables and high-protein, low-fat meat like chicken and fish without the skin.
Meanwhile, steer clear of red meat, sweet bakery goods, dairy and all kinds of fast foods. The latter in particular are known to cause chronic constipation in addition to drastically delaying relief. Also try to minimise your intake of tea and coffee since both are quite dehydrating and will deprive your body of the water it needs to help you get rid of constipation. Reduce intake of processed and refined foods. A simple rule of thumb is to fill up your grocery basket with more fresh foods than packaged ones.
*Note of Caution – Although all these foods are great for constipation relief, the idea is to supply them to your body in small portions (except for vegetables – pig out on them if you want to), not gigantic ones that will tax your already-reeling digestive system. It’s a good idea to decrease the quantity of food you eat too. Opt for smaller meals five to six times a day rather than the conventional three square meals. This will limit the amount of stress on your digestive system and may also ease the discomfort associated with constipation.
Water, fluids and more water
No need to tank up like there’s a drought coming but do go ahead and make your water bottle your best friend which goes everywhere with you. Fresh fruit juices (sans the nasty sugar) can be alternative hydration options. Extra fluid can help to soften stool and will make passing it easier.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Long-celebrated in natural-remedy circles as one of the healthiest items in your kitchen for everything from dandruff and drying up acne to weight loss, apple cider vinegar is also an excellent constipation remedy. Stir two large table spoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. Drinking this about three to four times a day will show results soon. This is because apple cider vinegar contains pectin, a fiber that aids in digestion.
You’ve probably seen psyllium powder sold at drug stores. This over-the-counter herbal remedy is great for constipation. Simply mix into water as per the instructions on the packet and drink. It will act as a natural laxative. Psyllium is, in fact, an ingredient in several commercial laxatives too but best avoid the latter until you’ve tried all the natural constipation remedies at your disposal first.
If you cannot find psyllium powder, head to your health food store or organic store for psyllium seeds. Simple crush these and mix with some water. Or you can just add a spoonful or two of the seeds to hot water, let it sit for about ten minutes and then drink the resulting tea after straining out the seeds (although you can safely ingest them too if you don’t mind).
Have before bed time and you’ll usually find relief the next morning if your constipation is not too bad. You may need to have it more often if your constipation is chronic.
Just before you go to bed – and at least three hours after your last meal – down a couple of table spoons of castor oil. It will work on your intestines through the night and help to push out stool by morning. For best results, incorporate the constipation-relief foods into your diet during the day so that they can work with the castor oil.
Aloe vera and senna are both known to make a huge difference for constipation sufferers. Aloe vera juice is easily available. As for senna, you can look for a herbalist or natural foods store who sells the tincture. Take about 20 drops at bed time. This is a pretty powerful natural laxative so do not overdose.
Get a bit of exercise
Who has the time to exercise everyday anymore? Few people have the determination to do so. Your whole system suffers as a result and constipation is just one of the side-effects of your body going to pot. Try to cram in a few minutes of exercise a day here and there if you find an exercise schedule impossible. A ten-minute walk on your lunch hour, another 5 walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator and a final ten or fifteen later in the evening after your meal all add up and will help the stool pass through the body faster in addition to strengthening the nerves and muscles of your anus, thus easing the pain of passing hard stool.
In extreme cases, your doctor may suggest an enema or a colon cleanse.
*Another note of caution – Never try to force stool out of your system by pushing too hard. This could result in nerve damage and cuts on your anal passage – very painful and much harder to treat than constipation. Chances are that the forceful pushing will not help with your constipation either so you’ll be stuck with the double whammy of constipation and anal fissure – a dreadful combination.