Have trouble passing your stool? Constipation is a common problem that happens when a person has dry hard stools that are difficult to pass.
Any person of any age can experience constipation.
Typically it resolves on its own, but if it happens frequently, there may need to be a change in habits.
In this article, we talk about home remedies for dealing with your constipation.
We also discuss when you should be concerned about constipation and see your medical provider.
What is Constipation?
Symptoms of constipation include:
- Dry, hard, or lumpy stools
- Fewer than three bowel movements a week
- Feeling like you can’t pass all the stool
- Painful bowel movements
Constipation has many causes, and there may also be more than just one cause for the issue.
Eating a diet full of processed foods and insufficient fiber can cause constipation.
Not drinking enough water is also a common cause.
Certain medications and supplements, like opioids and iron, can slow down your stool and cause constipation.
Surprisingly, taking too many laxatives can also be a source of the problem.
A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity leads to constipation, as does significant life changes such as pregnancy.
As a person ages, constipation also becomes more common.
Home Remedies for Constipation
If you are suffering from constipation, there are many things you can do on your own to remedy the problem, including the following home remedies.
Take a fiber supplement
The goal intake of fiber for adults each day is between 20-35 grams.
High-fiber foods you can eat include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans.
However, if you still aren’t getting enough fiber, consider a fiber supplement.
In a study on different types of fiber supplements, Metamucil and Konsyl were both found to help normalize stool.
In addition, products that include wheat bran, such as All-Bran, can have a laxative effect on bowel movements.
Eat foods for constipation relief
Fiber is a substance found in plants that your body cannot digest.
Because it is non-digestible, it moves through your digestive tract without much change and helps sweep the waste forward.
In addition, it adds bulk to your stool so your bowel movements can pass easier.
When adding fiber to your diet, do it slowly and allow your body time to adjust.
Adding too much too quickly can cause bloating and discomfort.
High fiber foods include:
- Whole grains
Being dehydrated causes your stool to dry out.
Adults need to drink between eight to 12 glasses of water a day.
Aim for your urine to be clear yellow. If it is dark, you need to drink more water.
Being in a hot environment, doing physical activity, and drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages increase your need for water.
Try sipping water frequently throughout the day to increase your water intake.
Always keep a water bottle with you.
Take a stimulant laxative
A stimulant laxative causes the intestines to contract and move the stool through your colon.
However, you should not use these medications regularly.
Instead, take them only for severe constipation after other methods have failed.
You should also note that they can work quickly, and sometimes only one dose is needed.
Stimulant laxatives come in liquid form, tablets, chewable, and powders.
- Bisacodyl (Dulcolax)
- Sennosides (Senokot)
- Castor oil
Take an osmotic laxative
An osmotic laxative is a medication that helps draw more water into the intestines. More water helps lubricate the stool and makes it easier to pass.
Try these laxatives only after you’ve added more fiber to your diet and still need help with bowel movements.
These medications come in liquid and enema forms. Examples include:
- Polyethylene glycol (Miralax)
- Magnesium hydroxide solution (Milk of Magnesia)
Lubricant laxatives coat the outside of your stool to make it more slippery.
Long-term use, however, is not recommended, as they can stop your body from absorbing fats as effectively.
A common lubricant laxative is a glycerin suppository.
Try stool softener
Stool softeners allow more water to pass into the stool, making it softer.
However, evidence for their effectiveness is conflicting.
You can find stool softeners as oral capsules, enemas, and suppositories. The most commonly used stool softener is docusate sodium (Colace).
An enema is when you gently inject a liquid, such as water, into your colon through the anus.
Specially made squeeze bottles for this purpose are available at most drug stores.
There are several different types of enemas, but the basic function is to cause rectal distention, which can cause a bowel movement. It’s best to be done near a toilet because it can work quickly.
Suppositories are medications inserted into the rectum to stimulate a bowel movement.
A small piece of solid material, such as glycerin or cocoa butter, contains the medication.
When inserted into the rectum, the solid material melts, and the medication is released.
Studies have shown that squatting while having a bowel movement can decrease the time and strain it takes to pass your stool.
For people who struggle with constipation, sitting in the squatting position helps the muscles relax and allow for the passage of stool.
A popular tool used to help people squat while having a bowel movement is called the Squatty Potty.
Studies have shown that colonic messages can help relieve chronic constipation.
The massage is usually performed by a healthcare professional.
While you lay on your back, the technician gently rubs their hands on your abdomen following the path of your colon.
For best results, perform a colonic massage daily with other lifestyle changes to relieve constipation.
Because seeing a healthcare professional daily is not always possible, there are massage devices that can perform a colonic massage for daily use.
Getting regular physical activity can help relieve your constipation.
If you aren’t used to physical activity, start slowly and gradually work up to more. Some movement is better than no movement.
If you have current medical conditions, speak with your primary medical professional about what types of exercise are safe for you.
Some ways you can start getting some light exercise include:
- Brisk walking
To help prevent constipation from being a problem, follow the following tips.
Eat more fiber
A good tip to remember when adding more fiber into your diet is to add it slowly.
Give your body time to adjust.
Great sources of fiber include:
- Legumes (such as black beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans)
- Fruits (such as apples, oranges, pears, and berries)
- Vegetables (such as carrots, green peas, collard greens, and broccoli)
- Whole grains (such as quinoa, farro, oatmeal, and bran cereals)
- Nuts (such as peanuts, almonds, and pecans)
Take probiotic supplements
Probiotic supplements introduce good bacteria to your intestines.
Having a gut full of good bacteria can help relieve several digestive problems including constipation.
Try a low FODMAP diet
However, if your constipation is not associated with IBS, following a FODMAP diet may not bring major results.
A low FODMAP is low in carbohydrates that irritate the intestines. To try it, avoid the following foods:
- Garlic and onions
- Honey and high fructose corn syrup
- Beans and legumes
- Fruits with pits such as avocados, apples, and cherries
Eat prebiotic foods
Prebiotic foods feed good bacteria in your gut.
Examples of prebiotic foods include:
- Flax seed
Always speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Exercise is a great way to help keep your bowel movements regular.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week (300 minutes a week is optimal). This includes brisk walking, biking, swimming, jogging, or dancing.
Participate in weight-bearing exercises, like working with weights or resistance bands twice a week.
Pick an activity you enjoy and get started.
Make goals for yourself and invite a friend to do this with you. Make your activity part of your routine, and remember, exercising doesn’t have to cost money.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you are having constipation, you should see your medical provider right away if you experience:
- Blood in your stool
- Blood in your rectum
- Pain in your abdomen that doesn’t go away
- Inability to pass gas
- Pain in your lower back
- Weight loss without trying
See your medical provider if you are experiencing frequent constipation and have a family history of colon or rectal cancer.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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High fiber foods. (2020).
Implementation of defecation posture modification device. (2019).
Low FODMAP diet. (2021).
Medical management of constipation. (2012).
Prebiotics: Definition, types, sources, mechanisms, and clinical applications. (2019).
Safety and efficacy of intermittent colonic exoperistalsis device to treat chronic constipation: A prospective multicentric clinical trial. (2020).
Tips for starting physical activity. (2017).
Water-Drink up! (N.D.)