It can be caused by foods you eat or avoid, lifestyle choices, medication or disease.
But for many people, the cause of their chronic constipation is often unknown. This is referred to as chronic idiopathic constipation.
Constipation is characterized by less than three bowel movements per week.
However, it can also involve other unpleasant symptoms, such as discomfort when going to the bathroom, abdominal bloating and pain due to stools being hard, dry and difficult to pass.
Unfortunately, constipation can have a serious negative effect on quality of life, as well as your physical and mental health.
There are many natural ways to help relieve constipation. You can do these in the comfort of your own home and most of them are even supported by science.
Here are 13 natural home remedies to relieve constipation.
Being dehydrated regularly can make you become constipated. To prevent this, it’s important to drink enough water and stay hydrated.
When you’re constipated, you could try finding relief by drinking some carbonated (sparkling) water to help you rehydrate and get things moving again.
Some studies have found sparkling water to be more effective than tap water at relieving constipation. This includes people with chronic idiopathic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
However, don’t start drinking more carbonated drinks like sugary soda, as they’re a bad choice for your health and may make your constipation worse.
Bottom line: Dehydration can make you constipated, so make sure to drink enough water. Sparkling water may be even more effective.
People who are constipated are often told to increase their fiber intake.
This is because increasing fiber intake is thought to increase the bulk and consistency of bowel movements, making them easier to pass.
In fact, one recent review found that 77% of people with chronic constipation benefited from supplementing with fiber.
However, some studies have found that increasing fiber intake can actually make the problem worse.
Other studies have found that while dietary fiber can increase the frequency of bowel movements, it doesn’t help with other symptoms of constipation. These include stool consistency, pain, bloating and gas.
This is because the type of dietary fiber that you add to your diet is important.
There are many different dietary fibers, but in general, they fall into two categories:
Studies examining the effects of insoluble fiber as treatment for constipation have been inconclusive.
This is because insoluble fiber can make the problem worse in some people with a functional bowel problem, such as IBS or chronic idiopathic constipation.
Some fermentable soluble fibers may also be ineffective at treating constipation, as they are fermented by bacteria in the gut and lose their water-holding capacity.
The best choice for a fiber supplement when constipated is a non-fermentable soluble fiber, such as psyllium. Various brands are available online.
To prevent constipation, you should aim to consume a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers. The total recommended fiber intake per day is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
Bottom line: Try eating more fiber. You can also supplement your diet with a soluble non-fermentable fiber such as psyllium.
Studies on the effect of exercise on constipation have shown mixed results.
In fact, many studies have shown that exercise does not affect the frequency of bowel movements.
However, a recent randomized controlled study on constipated people with IBS found some interesting results. It found that exercise significantly reduced symptoms.
Other studies have also found similar results for this group of people.
While many studies have found that exercise does not affect the number of times people go to the bathroom, it seems to reduce some symptoms of constipation.
If you are constipated, then try going for regular walks. It’s definitely worth a try.
Bottom line: Exercise may reduce the symptoms of constipation in some people, although the evidence is mixed.
For some people, coffee can increase the urge to go to the bathroom. This is because coffee stimulates the muscles in your digestive system.
In fact, one study found that caffeinated coffee can stimulate your gut in the same way that a meal can. This effect is 60% stronger than drinking water and 23% stronger than drinking decaffeinated coffee.
Coffee may also contain small amounts of soluble fibers that help prevent constipation by improving the balance of your gut bacteria.
Bottom line: Coffee can help relieve constipation by stimulating the muscles in the gut. It may also contain small amounts of soluble fiber.
The herbal laxative Senna is commonly used to relieve constipation. It is available over-the-counter or online, and can be taken orally or rectally.
Senna contains a number of plant compounds called glycosides, which stimulate the nerves in your gut and speed up your bowel movements.
It’s usually considered safe for adults to use Senna for short periods of time, but you should consult with your doctor if your symptoms don’t go away after a few days.
Senna is usually not recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Bottom line: The herbal laxative Senna is a common remedy for constipation that is available over-the-counter. It can stimulate the nerves in your gut to speed up bowel movements.
Probiotics may help prevent chronic constipation.
People who have chronic constipation have been shown to have an imbalance of bacteria in their gut.
It’s thought that probiotic foods could help improve this balance and prevent constipation.
They could also help treat constipation by producing lactic acid and short-chain fatty acids. These may improve gut movements, making it easier to pass a stool.
A recent review found that probiotics seem to treat functional constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements and improving stool consistency.
To include probiotics in your diet, try eating probiotic-containing foods. Examples include yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi, which contain live, friendly bacteria.
Alternatively, you could try a probiotic supplement. It is usually recommended to take it daily for at least 4 weeks to see if it has any beneficial effects.
Bottom line: Probiotics may help treat chronic constipation. You can try eating probiotic foods or taking a supplement. Supplements should be taken daily for at least 4 weeks to see if they work.
You can speak to your doctor or pharmacist about choosing an effective laxative.
They may recommend one of the following types:
However, most of these laxatives shouldn’t be taken on a regular basis without first speaking to your doctor.
Bottom line: Try speaking with your doctor or pharmacist about an effective laxative. There are many types of laxatives that can work.
Constipation can be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The low-FODMAP diet is an elimination diet that’s often used to treat IBS. It could be effective at treating your constipation if IBS is the cause.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-saccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. The diet involves limiting high-FODMAP foods for a period of time before reintroducing them to determine which ones you can tolerate.
However, if you have constipation-predominant IBS, the low-FODMAP diet alone is often not enough.
You will probably need to pay attention to other aspects of your diet, such as getting enough water and fiber, to experience relief from your symptoms.
Bottom line: If you have IBS, following a low-FODMAP diet may help your constipation. However, that alone may not be sufficient to provide relief.
Glucomannan is a type of soluble fiber. It has been shown to effectively treat constipation.
One study in children found that 45% of those taking glucomannan experienced relief from severe constipation, compared to only 13% in the control group.
However, another controlled study found no significant effects.
As well as improving bowel movements, glucomannan has been shown to function as a prebiotic and improve the balance of good bacteria in your gut.
If you’re constipated, try including more glucomannan in your diet. You can achieve this by taking a glucomannan supplement or by eating shirataki noodles, which are made with glucomannan.
Glucomannan supplements vary in their benefits by brand, so it is important to compare them before making a purchase.
Bottom line: Glucomannan may effectively treat constipation in some people. You can get it by supplementing with glucomannan or eating shirataki noodles.