Do you feel bloated, yet have trouble relieving yourself? You’ll need to know how to relieve constipation.

Not being able to visit the bathroom can leave you miserable. You lose your appetite and have a perpetual heaviness in your stomach. Bloat can be one of the most uncomfortable feelings a person can experience, but you can ease it with simple ingredients you can find in your kitchen. We’ll introduce you to them, and a few recipes, as well as a number of lifestyle changes that will help you achieve relief.

However, before we begin, we should look at what constitutes constipation.

What Is Constipation?

Before you begin attempting to alleviate constipation symptoms, it’s important to understand what constitutes irregular bowel movements.

Constipation refers to irregular or hard-to-pass bowel movements. Patients often pass out dry or hard stool. The condition leaves people feeling that they have not relieved themselves completely. The side effects of constipation include hemorrhoids and anal fissure.

Although it may not always be the most pleasant subject to discuss, constipation is a condition that negatively affects the lifestyle of individuals worldwide. In Australia alone, studies suggest that one in five adults over the age of 30 have experienced constipation, with around two-thirds of surveyed women reporting periodical constipation.

What Causes Constipation?

what causes constipation

You probably know a few reasons for gut trouble. Others, however, are quite surprising. We introduce them to you.

1. Hypothyroidism

First of all is hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. It slows the body’s metabolism. Not everyone with hypothyroidism experiences constipation. That said, it is a trigger for the condition.

2. Painkillers

Also, painkillers, especially narcotics, can cause stools to harden. This study details the various treatments used to prevent Opioid-Induced Bowel Dysfunction (OIBD). It discusses how potent opioids are.

3. Chocolate

A few studies reveal that chocolate can cause constipation. Others claim that our favorite sinful delight can remedy the problem. Research on several foods concludes that chocolate hardens stools.

4. Minerals

Minerals are another cause of constipation. They tighten the bowels when taken in excess. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is one of the symptoms of Hypercalcemia (too much calcium).



5. Overuse of laxatives

An overdose of laxatives can lead to dependence and hence, constipation. You cannot move your bowels without them. Do follow your doctor’s instructions when taking laxatives and other medication.

6. Dairy

Dairy, which is low in fiber and high in fat, can slow your digestion. According to this research, children prone to Chronic Functional Constipation (CFC) experienced the condition after drinking cow’s milk.

7. Antidepressants

The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), present in many antidepressants, can cause constipation. Take a gentle stool softener if you experience this side effect.

8. Antacids

Antacids relieve heartburn but harden stools. Those that contain calcium or aluminum are especially guilty. Avoid overstuffing at mealtimes instead of relying on medication. Also, you may refer to your doctor for another Antacid of a particular brand triggers constipation.

9. Blood Pressure/ Allergy Medication

Hard stools are a possible side effect of blood pressure or allergy medication. Diuretics remove urine and therefore lower blood pressure. That said, such medicines harden the stool.

10. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

This condition has two forms, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Both can cause constipation, weight loss, and other health conditions. It is likely due to a blockage in the small intestine.



11. Inactivity

Also, you may become constipated if you’re inactive. Exercise, according to research conducted on teens from Hong Kong, increases blood flow to the muscles and keeps them moving. The condition worsens if you resist the urge to move your bowels.

Furthermore, you may have weak muscles in your digestive tract. Food may not pass through it as efficiently as usual. If this is the case, moving your bowels will be a task.

12. Stress

Stress suppresses the gastrocolic reflex, which regulates bowel movements. Since it redirects oxygen to the brain, it limits secondary functions like these. You will recall being too busy to visit the restroom. Stress may have caused you to resist the urge to poop. Stool hardens and blocks the rectum when this happens.

13. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders like anorexia may trigger the condition. A study of teens proves that it’s a complication of anorexia. Anorexia distends the colon, thus being one of the causes of constipation.

14. Pregnancy

Constipation is a common problem among pregnant women. The female hormone, progesterone, relaxes smooth muscles in the digestive tract, causing food to pass through it more slowly than usual. Hence, constipation arises.

15. Neurological Causes

People often ignore the neurological causes of constipation. It’s evident that a spinal cord injury will prevent bowel movements. Other conditions, like autonomic neuropathy and Parkinsons, are less so but restrict them as well.

The Symptoms

Don’t stress yourself over the number of bowel movements you’re supposed to have in a day because there is none. Having bowel movements between three times a week and three times daily is normal. As a guide, you probably have constipation if you move your bowels fewer than three times a week. If you have experienced these symptoms for more than three months, it is referred to as chronic constipation.

The symptoms of poor bowel movements include:

  • Hardened, lumpy stool
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Feeling the need for a bowel movement
  • A bloated abdomen
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

Note that it’s not uncommon for constipation to result from back pain. An illness like Irritable Bowel Syndrome may cause constipation and backaches.

How to Relieve Constipation with Foods and Natural Ingredients

how to relieve Constipation Relief

So what to do to achieve constipation relief? You have probably heard that dietary and lifestyle changes can relieve constipation, but what exactly does that mean? What are the dos and don’ts? That’s what we’re here to discuss today.

As constipation can be caused by a wide array of conditions and lifestyle factors, different methods of relieving symptoms will be more effective for different people. Below are some of the more common lifestyle and dietary changes associated with constipation relief.

Ironically, quick-fix laxatives often worsen the condition. So how to relieve constipation? These foods and ingredients may relieve your discomfort and are worth a try.

1. Oil

First of all, olive oil is more than healthy fat; it loosens bowels. The Omega-3 fatty acids in it rev up the digestive system and push food through the colon. They also encourage bile production and soothe the irritation in the colon.

Take a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil on an empty stomach when you get up in the morning. Avoid drinking any liquid for about an hour. You should see results if you follow this regimen for two weeks.

2. Lemon

Lemon juice contains citric acid, which kicks the digestive system into gear. It also eliminates undigested food residue in the colon. Mixing lemon juice with water will revive a sleepy digestive tract.

Take the juice of one lemon and mix it with a cup of warm water. Drink it to loosen your stool. Studies prove that it improves gut health and reduces blood sugar.

3. Molasses

Backstrap molasses improve seasonal or chronic constipation. Molasses is pure sugarcane juice that is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium. Mix the teaspoon of blackstrap molasses with either water or a cup of tea to relieve your constipation woes.

4. Coffee

Many people need their morning coffee fixes. Coffee gives off a heavenly aroma and rouses you.

Caffeine stimulates the digestive system and allows you to function for the whole day. That said, don’t overdose on this beverage because it will become a diuretic and drain your body of water. The dehydration causes constipation.

In all, a cup or two of coffee is acceptable and will get the food moving through your digestive tract.

5. Fiber

You will find this in natural foods like:

  • beans
  • apricots
  • broccoli
  • berries
  • nuts
  • fruits
  • and potatoes.

A healthy diet does wonders for your well-being. Our bodies process fruits and vegetables better than refined foods, and you can pass them out without difficulty. This systemic review proves that it increases bowel frequency.

Simply put, fiber is indigestible and behaves like a sponge. It draws water from the surroundings and softens the stool. Like coffee, it can cause constipation when taken in excess, so always drink plenty of water.

How much fibre should an adult consume

How much fiber should an adult consume?

The recommended daily dietary fiber intake for adults is 25g for women and 30g for men.

If you suspect you may not be getting enough fiber, it’s probably a good idea to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other plant foods, whilst also increasing your intake of water. It’s important to make these changes gradually, as increasing your fiber intake too quickly can sometimes cause wind and stomach pain.

How to achieve that every day?

To get enough fiber every day, the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) recommends that an individual eat at least 30g of fiber a day through fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruit, cereals, and whole grains.

As the benefits of fiber may be from the combination of nutrients working together, it is recommended that whole foods be consumed, rather than a dietary fiber supplement. Additionally, fiber supplements can sometimes aggravate constipation, especially if you do not increase the amount of water you drink daily.

Table 1. The average fiber content of different foods

Average fibre content of different foods

Table 2. An example of a diet with more than 30g fiber per day

FoodFibre (g)
2 wholewheat cereal biscuits3.2
4 slices wholegrain bread5.7
1 tablespoon peanut butter2.7
2 pieces of fruit (apple & pear)4.9
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables8.6
1 small boiled potato with skin, 100 g2.8
1 cup white cooked spaghetti2.5
2 wholemeal dry biscuits1.5
25 almonds3.0
1 cup whole fruit juice0.5
TOTAL35.4 g

What about children?

Children between the ages of 4 and 8 should consume 18g of fiber each day. Girls aged 9 to 13, and 14 to 18 years, need 20g and 22g per day respectively. Boys aged 9 to 13, and 14 to 18 years, need 24g and 28g per day respectively.

Whole food, rather than a dietary fiber supplement, is recommended.

6. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera soothes burns and your tummy. It’s best to use the aloe vera gel that comes straight from the plant because it’s more concentrated than commercially produced aloe vera juice. Researchers have provided evidence that it has laxative effects.

To create this remedy, you’ll need two tablespoons of pure aloe vera gel or a cup of aloe vera juice. Combine either with pure fruit juice and drink the mixture in the morning, or as needed.

7. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile remedy and does its job well. It is bicarbonate and encourages food to move through your stomach. This pastry ingredient revitalizes your gut and neutralizes the acid within it.

To create this remedy, you will need a teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter of a cup of warm water. Combine the ingredients and down the mixture. It works best when gulped.

8. Epsom Salt

Also on this list is Epsom salt, an efficient home remedy for constipation. It contracts the bowel muscles and allows you to pass stool quickly. It works better than table salt because of its magnesium content.

This remedy requires two teaspoons of Epsom salt and a cup of water. Dissolve the Epsom in the water and drink it all. You should experience bowel movement within four hours. You may take another dose if your stools are still hard.

9. Prunes

Prunes, or dried plums, can relieve constipation, according to this study. They contain phenolic compounds, which produce a laxative effect. Note that the juice has less fiber than the fruit.

10. Persimmon

Finally, persimmons, like bananas, have a high tannic acid content. The larger bananas have less tannin than smaller ones.

How to Relieve Constipation with Lifestyle Changes

You can relieve and prevent constipation with a few common-sense lifestyle changes. They don’t require much effort.

1. Change your routine

First of all, you can make positive changes to your day. Eat more high-fiber foods and gradually become less sedentary. For example, you could park where you must walk for some distance, and take a stroll at lunchtime.

Furthermore, eat your meals at appropriate times each day. Also, pack a piece of fruit to eat as a snack at work. Substitute white with wholemeal bread, and eat more cereal. Eat brown instead of white rice.

Get enough sleep and go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to do so. Schedule time during the day to move your bowels.

2. Exercise

exercise

Living a sedentary lifestyle can cause constipation, so get those muscles moving! Ideally, an individual should exercise every day for about 30 minutes. If you are limited by your capacity, just try your best to be as active as possible each day, as every little bit of effort counts.

Some tips to get started with exercise:

  • Make time and schedule it in
  • Set short-term and long-term goals
  • Build up gradually
  • Choose activities that are right for you
  • Plan physical activities with others. Invite your family, friends or colleagues; or join a group
  • Do not give up before you start to see the benefits
  • Have fun!

3. Make Sure to Drink Enough Water

water

Did you know water makes up about three-quarters of the fecal content? Or that constipation can occur with a high-fiber diet if not enough water is consumed? To sum up, adequate water intake is important to keep bowel contents soft and easy to pass. It’s particularly important to drink water when you rise and exercise.

Recommended daily fluid intake

Approximate adequate daily intakes of fluids (including plain water, milk, and other drinks) for women are 2.1 liters (about 8 cups) per day and for men is 2.6 liters (about 10 cups) per day.

What about children?

Below is a general guide for how much fluid a child needs per day:

  • Children 4–8 years – 1.2 liters (about 5 cups)
  • Girls 9–13 years – 1.4 liters (about 5-6 cups)
  • Boys 9–13 years – 1.6 liters (about 6 cups)
  • Girls 14–18 years – 1.6 liters (about 6 cups)
  • Boys 14–18 years – 1.9 liters (about 7-8 cups)

These adequate intake amounts include all fluids. However, it is preferable that the majority of intake is from plain water (except for infants where fluid intake is met by breast milk or infant formula).

Some drinks can make you lose fluids

Drinks that contain caffeine (such as tea, coffee, energy/ sports drinks) and alcohol are diuretic drinks. They make the body excrete and lose water. It is important to limit the intake of these drinks if you are constipated.

Foods to Avoid with Constipation

How to relieve constipation? The answer may be on your dinner plate. Here are a few foods to avoid when you feel bloated.

1. Dairy

First of all, stay away from milk and cheeses when your gut feels heavy. Experts like Mark Spielmann, a nutritionist at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, suggests that foods made from milk may cause constipation, particularly in toddlers. Substitute them with fruit sherbets.

2. Red meat

While beef itself doesn’t cause this illness, it replaces fiber. Too many servings of red meat may make it difficult to move your bowels. Furthermore, a review of several studies proved that it has associations with colorectal cancer. Make sure that your steaks come with fibrous foods like baked potatoes or salads.

3. Snacks

Also, snacks like potato chips automatically replace fiber. Because they are high in fat, they cause delayed digestion, a feeling similar to constipation.

4. Frozen dinners

A frozen dinner is a convenient meal solution, but like snacks, are high in fat. They are also high in sodium, which stops food from moving through the colon.

5. Cookies

Another favorite that you’ll sadly have to miss when you have constipation is that chocolate cookie. Cookies have refined carbohydrates which are difficult to break down. They lack fiber and a low in the fluid.

6. Bananas

We may have shocked you by putting bananas on this list of foods. Bananas are a double-edged food sword – they can cause or prevent constipation.

Ripe bananas help to push food through the digestive system while green, unripe ones may trigger constipation. Make sure that you eat ripe bananas if you want to know how to relieve constipation. According to this study, they have soluble fiber, tannins, and starch, all of which aid bowel movement.

7. Fried food

Your fried chicken drumstick is high in fat and extremely binding. It slows movement through the digestive tract. Therefore, it takes a long time to break down. Steaming is a preferred alternative to frying.

Activities to Avoid with Constipation

There are things you should never do when you have this condition. Keep away from these activities.

1. Not exercising

Roundabout as it sounds, this is essential advice. Keep away from not working out.

You probably visit the bathroom soon after you work out. Low levels of physical activity increase the risk of constipation because they limit blood flow to the gut. They also restrict digestion.

Conversely, exercise increases blood flow to the digestive tract. Any workout is helpful.

2. Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine

Drinking too much alcohol and coffee may limit your bowel movements. Coffee limits the antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and causes diuresis. This condition worsens the symptoms of constipation. A study shows a relationship between drinking and GI symptoms.

3. Taking too many calcium supplements

Calcium and iron supplements can cause this ailment because they prevent the gastrointestinal system from contracting. If you have to take them because of an existing medical condition, you can ask your doctor for alternative options.

4. Taking too many painkillers

If you struggle to go to the bathroom after taking over-the-counter painkillers, you may want to remove them from your medicine cabinet. Again, consult your doctor for alternative medicines.

When Dietary and Lifestyle Changes are Insufficient for Constipation Relief

There are circumstances where lifestyle and dietary changes are insufficient to relieve constipation, such as in the cases when it is caused by taking a medication. This is when the use of a laxative may be considered. Just remember to always read the label, use only as directed and see your doctor or healthcare professional if symptoms persist.

While different methods of constipation relief may have varying levels of effectiveness from person to person, it’s important to understand and acknowledge the link between lifestyle and gastrointestinal health.

It may not be the most pleasant of subjects, but in the end, your quality of life is always going to benefit from a healthy gut.

In all, if you want to know how to relieve constipation, take these simple steps. Changing your habits and eating well will ease your bowel movements. You can also beat constipation by avoiding foods and activities that will increase its risk.

Jamie Logie, B.Sc.

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