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12 Natural Remedies and Tips for Constipation shares ideas that are easy to add into your busy lifestyle. These DIY approaches address the different causes of constipation with … effective solutions!
What is constipation
If food moves normally through the digestive tract, nutrients are absorbed. The food waste that remains moves from the small intestine to the large intestine, also called the colon. The colon absorbs water from this waste, which creates a solid matter called stool.
Constipation means partially digested food moves too slowly through the large intestine. This gives the colon too much time to absorb water from the waste. This stool becomes hard in consistency and difficult to push out of the body.
How common is constipation
Statistics say that between 16 to 33% of the population struggle with this condition. Constipation is dangerous because it forces toxins to recirculate throughout the body and may also cause colon cancer.
But, it’s a common symptom, especially among Americans. 2.5 million Americans seek their doctor’s help for this condition each year.
Many are struggling with compromised gut health. The colon is the final length of the gut where imperfections will often make themselves known.
During my gut-healing journey I have worked with some excellent practitioners, a few of whom have contributed to my knowledge in this area. One even educated me that the colon changes shape permanently. She said long term constipation can not be “healed”, only managed.
If that’s the case for you, our goal here is to help you manage it well, so you’re always regular.
Those of you who struggle with this problem, or have in the past, know what I mean when I say, pooping is a great feeling! It’s funny, but true. There is nothing, just nothing, like your body working and performing this function properly.
What causes constipation
Causes of chronic constipation include:
- Aging — As we age, we tend to be less active, have a slower metabolism and less muscle contraction strength along our digestive tract.
- Pregnancy — Being pregnant and after childbirth can often cause changes in a woman’s hormones making us more prone to constipation. Physiologically, the baby in the womb pushes the intestines, slowing down the passage of stool; and childbirth can even change the shape of the colon.
- Not eating enough fiber-rich foods — High-fiber foods help move food through the digestive system.
- Lack of hydrochloric acid — From antacids, PPIs, aging, overeating, etc.
- Certain medications or iron supplements
- Motility — Slow transit through the large intestine may be caused by abnormalities of the enteric nerves.
- Gluten, soy or dairy intolerance (Eating gluten or dairy, especially milk and cheese)
- Not enough water
- Not enough exercise
- Resisting the urge to go when your body tells you to
- Travel or other changes to your regular routine
- Other specific neurological or digestive disorders, including infections.
Some of the solutions below take more effort than others.
But several are as easy as taking a new probiotic or making a special smoothie!
12 Natural REMEDIES and TIPS FOR CONSTIPATION
1. A “new” probiotic
Probiotic-10 50 Billion is an inexpensive probiotic that contains important and impressive strains: B. longum BI-05, L. acidophilus La-14 and B. lactis BI-04, as well as Lr. rhamnosus Lr-32, L casei Lc-11 and L. plantarum Lp-115.
Those special letters and numbers in the name of each probiotic are actually really important indicators of the quality you’re getting.
The first letter, like “B.” or “L.” (or word) in the name of a probiotic is the genus, or broader bacteria name.
The second word is the species. Different species of probiotics have different abilities and serve different functions.
The final number-letter combination is the most important; it’s the specific strain. This detail gives the most unique identification of the bacteria type and is a major indicator of quality probiotics.
Specific strains have been tested for their effect! Oftentimes combining multiple strains brings about the best benefits. Without knowing the strain of the probiotic you’re taking, you won’t know its effect on your body.
Conversely, if you choose a probiotic designed to relieve constipation … you can hopefully expect that benefit!
Speaking from personal experience, and the feedback of others as well, I highly recommend Probiotic-10 50 Billion to relieve constipation! Of course, this probiotic may not work for everyone, but I believe most people will see an improvement, oftentimes significant, with this supplement.
You may also like this Bowel Support probiotic, if you struggle with additional digestion issues.
2. Constipation Smoothie
One of my all-time favorite recipes, this Constipation Smoothie works for most people.
The ingredients are well-researched to provide the body with both soluble and insoluble fiber. The same article discusses the pros and cons of using psyllium husk or acacia fiber.
Beets are discussed at length in that article.
Beans are another great high-fiber food that actually help keep many people regular, while also aiding detox. Learn more about how to pre-digest and add beans into your diet here.
What high fiber foods are the most helpful for you? Berries, oats, seeds and nuts, pears and several other foods help some people. But don’t miss the smoothie recipe for hard to resolve constipation.
One of the best things it provides is steady, consistent bowel movements — instead of stools that are too loose, too hard or too infrequent.
3. Fiber supplement
If you need fiber from a soluble fiber supplement, another great option that I’ve found helpful is SunFiber. It’s actually a gentle low-FODMAP product. Start slowly, and increase to the full scoop in water over several days. Don’t increase beyond the dosage recommendations.
Take this product at night before bedtime.
4. Certain whole grains
If you’re following a grain-free diet, this one won’t work for you. But after being on a detox diet for a year or less, I was able to reintroduce certain nutrient-dense high fiber grains.
When I did, I was amazed at the benefits of fiber — that I’d been missing by being grain-free.
Specifically, oats and sprouted spelt have been amazing for restoring my bowel movements to how they were when I was young.
My naturopath told me my poops would never be the same again after having kids. Well! She was wrong. After reintroducing oats and sprouted spelt, they are! And it’s amazing and encouraging.
Everyone is different in terms of how grains affect them. For me, I do best with one serving of each, daily. Most days, I have oatmeal for breakfast and homemade Sprouted Spelt Bread for lunch and/or dinner.
That’s it, and it works.
Don’t overdo whole grains, though, either, or it can have the opposite effect. More is not necessarily better. I can have more than one piece of spelt bread, but for me, two bowls of oatmeal isn’t always helpful.
4B. Eliminate rice
Have you ever heard of eating rice to slow down diarrhea? Rice indeed slows things down, and can even cause alternating IBS symptoms: both constipation and diarrhea.
If rice is a staple in your diet, consider eliminating it, and replacing it with the high fiber grains listed in this section: oats, sprouted spelt, or even buckwheat.
5. Food intolerance
I have written on this topic before and can’t emphasize enough its importance.
If there is one food group in your diet that your body can’t digest well, it may be sabotaging your entire digestive process. Find this food, eliminate it, and voila. The gateway opens up and your intestines and colon begin performing as they are supposed to, or at least improving.
To find out your primary and secondary food intolerances, you need to order the evaluation in the mail, which is $175. I do not benefit financially, or in any other way, if you choose to do the evaluation. But it has made a HUGE difference in my wellness journey, with the surprise benefit of my bowels improving.
This doctor can do the evaluation through the mail. Call and request a food evaluation, if you’re interested. Here’s more information on the food evaluation in general.
6. Constitutional hydrotherapy
This simple treatment stimulates blood flow and the elimination of toxins. With one evening home treatment, it is common to have a perfect bowel movement the next morning.
Three weeks of treatment, 5 days a week, yields overall and lasting improvement.
Firmly entrenched constipation of the worst kind will need dietary changes as well, which are almost always necessary and certainly ideal.
Constitutional hydrotherapy involves hot and cold towels, a wool blanket and ideally a helper, although there is a way to do hydrotherapy alone. Here are more complete instructions. (I recommend watching a good movie during the process. The cold towels are pretty extreme when they’re first applied. A movie can be the perfect distraction and incentive to keep up with the nightly commitment.)
7. Castor oil packs as a remedy for constipation
When you do a castor oil pack, you absorb castor oil through the skin that signals the smooth muscle of the intestines to move. This action works through the nervous system by stimulating the nerves in the skin.
Castor oil packs also reduce inflammation.
Look for castor oil kit materials here. Consider doing castor oil packs about 4x a week.
Warning: Castor oil packs are not recommended if you are pregnant.
8. Vitamin and mineral supplementation
Having the right balance of certain vitamins and minerals is key for the body to function properly.
Here are ones I’ve found to directly correlate with the body’s ability to expel toxins through the gut:
- Vitamin D: from the sun (more on this below).
- K2: from egg yolks, butter, raw milk, emu oil, ghee, wild-caught fish, chicken, grass-finished beef and traditional sauerkraut (more on this below).
- magnesium: Thyroid expert Dr. Izabella Wentz Pharm.D., FASCP recommends oral magnesium capsules when constipation is present, and I have found this brand, that she recommends, to work well. 1 to 4 capsules can be used, starting with less (taken before bed) and increasing the dosage as needed.
- potassium: This one came as a big surprise to me, but also works for a few other people in my life. I started with an 1/8 teaspoon of Potassium Chloride in the morning, and ended up taking the same amount again in the evening for the best benefit. Some people increase the dosage well beyond this. Consider a hair mineral analysis to find your correct dosage, and monitor how you feel and how your bowels change with potassium supplementation. I really like this solution, and it’s new to many of us to know we may be potassium deficient! I stir mine into a full glass of water and drink.
Combined intake of both supplemental magnesium and vitamin K2 from certain foods has a great effect on vitamin D levels. You may need almost 250% more vitamin D if you’re not getting enough magnesium and vitamin K2. Sensible sun exposure is the best way to optimize vitamin D levels. I now use a vitamin D lamp (found here) each winter and used to responsibly use a mostly UVB tanning bed in the winter months, 1 to 3x weekly.
- certain B vitamins: Choline, specifically, is part of the B vitamin family and has been linked to motility. (Egg yolks also contain choline.) Many B vitamins support the overall detox process and wellness.
- and trace soil minerals: Mineral deficiencies are common. Supplementing with a soil mineral (I like this one) is an easy solution. All vitamins need minerals to be absorbed and work in the body. Making up for dietary imbalances allows the body to utilize the nutrition it needs to function properly.
Pour liquid soil minerals into daily water to help provide the minerals that were once rich in our soils.
Other specific vitamins and minerals often deficient in those with constipation include selenium and zinc. Trace minerals not only contain some of these nutrients, they also contain amino acids needed for the repair of the gut.
- Hypothyroidism is a frequent cause of constipation. Discuss with your doctor the supplementation of thyroid medication, selenium, magnesium and zinc, as they relate to your thyroid and regularity.
9. Prebiotics and resistant starch as remedies for constipation
While probiotics and their benefits have been well-touted, prebiotics are just beginning to get the publicity they deserve.
What do flora, being a living entity, require for proliferation? Do probiotics eat?
Yes, probiotics eat prebiotics.
There are many foods in the human diet that contain prebiotics. Resistant starch is a prebiotic which feeds the good flora in our bodies, promoting a healthier digestive tract and regular bowel movements.
Resistant starch is easy to include in one’s diet and directly affects the colon’s motility! By adding in a daily dose or two of resistant starch, you may notice an immediate difference in your bowels! Read more about which foods contain resistant starch, and find recipes, here.
Consuming sources of resistant starch on a daily basis took me from having pretty good daily bowel movements to having great and ideal ones. I love this easy remedy and hope you’ll try it (in addition to other dietary changes).
10. Consume gelatin
Glutathione, an antioxidant needed in intestinal cells, is often deficient in those with constipation issues. Two components of glutathione are cysteine and glycine.
Chris Kresser, functional medical doctor, adds,
Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements. (source)
Add cysteine and glycine to your diet to potentially improve the integrity of the gut lining and remedy constipation.
Similarly, glutathione (this is the one I take and love) helps to relax the nervous system, repair gut lining and support a healthy gut microbiome.
11. Taurine for constipation
Frequent or chronic constipation can be a sign of poor bile flow. Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. It’s secreted to aid digestion. The main role of bile acids is to enhance the digestion of fat.
Taurine is an amino acid and a major component of bile. It protects our cells from the toxicity of bile acids but also stimulates digestion in a myriad of ways.
When enough taurine is available, we can expect more bile and a gentler digestive process.
How taurine reverses constipation:
- It enhances gastric acid and enzyme production, which increases bile flow. (source)
- Taurine increases and improves motility by stimulating muscle contractions for digestion. (source)
- It protects and improves gut health. (source)
Taurine is also known to heighten the benefits of other minerals. Accordingly, it can be taken at night with magnesium. Taurine is often compounded with magnesium in certain supplements. When Mg absorbs well into the human body, this mineral passes into the large intestine and draws water with it. Water in the large intestine results in more moisture in stools.
Tip: If taking Magnesium and Taurine helps to relieve your constipation, be sure to take any iron-rich foods or supplements separately. Iron interferes with the absorption of Mg.
Side benefits: Taurine is a terrific mood booster and provides great energy. Like other amino acids I’ve written about, if your body needs it, you’ll likely notice the benefits!
Warning: Those with active IBD flares may not do well with taurine. Specifically those with ulcerative colitis don’t do well with sulfur-based amino acids.
Dosage recommendations are 500 mg for children and up to 4000 mg for adults, spaced throughout the day.
12. Exercise for constipation
Jogging, rebounding and trampoline jumping are forms of exercise that make us bounce! This action tones the colon and increases detoxification — by stimulating the lymphatic system!
I bought a rebounder several months ago and love it. It’s a great investment, very gentle, even if you’re not a fitness guru, (which I am not!) — and great for the kids in your life, too.
Daily jumping, starting with just 3 minutes and working your way up, will make a difference. For someone with extreme, long-term constipation, jumping will not be enough, although it may be helpful.
On an emotional level, I recommend a larger outdoor trampoline. For those with good outdoor weather, who get bored with monotony, or who have kids with whom to jump — the big tramp is way more fun! (Or watch a movie while you rebound.)
SHORT TERM Remedies for Constipation
If you have badly entrenched constipation and you need immediate relief, there are two methods that are helpful, but relatively uncomfortable:
This supplement is sourced from Cape Aloe mill leaf resin from the South African Aloe ferox plant, and sold in small gelatin capsules.
The first time I used this supplement (years ago) I thought I had food poisoning. I took one pill in the morning, and by evening I started having intestinal spasms of sorts. I got sweaty, sat on the toilet and waited. Eventually the flood gates opened, and I felt totally better, all cleaned out. I had been backed up, which made the process uncomfortable.
I continued to use the product, timing it to when it was the most convenient to have a bowel movement. I’d take one pill at night to go in the morning. The intestinal discomfort still occurred but MUCH more mildly, just a wave of discomfort, and then I’d go.
This pill works. And it’s natural. But, it’s not solving the cause of the problem (and may be a bit harsh), which is why it should be a temporary fix.
In the past, we have used this remedy for constipation liberally in our home. In my experience, this solution is temporary.
My husband did nightly coffee enemas for many months. While they gave him relief, they did not give insight into the cause of his constipation or solve the problem. He was dependent on the process.
Seek out the root cause of the issue.
I do believe having an enema kit in one’s home is an excellent idea. It helped us to avoid appendicitis. And it’s an excellent tool for circumventing illness or expediting the healing process.
If used for too long, enemas disturb the equilibrium of gut flora. Adding probiotics to enema water helps to restore flora to the region.
(Always be sure to clean your enema bag and tubes well with hydrogen peroxide or bleach. This is necessary to avoid mold.)
Honorable Mention Remedies for Constipation
There are other methods that have helped people who suffer from constipation. I’ll mention a few of these briefly:
- Pathogen overgrowth can cause alternating constipation and diarrhea. If you suspect gut dysbiosis consider herbal treatments to regain gut flora balance.
- Dandelion root has laxative effects.
- Vitamin C is often helpful. Recommendations for constipation say to start with up to 4 grams; and taper down to 1 gram daily.
- Olive oil protocol: ¼ to 1 teaspoon of olive oil 4x a day for 4 days. Take a break for 3 days, then repeat. Olive oil’s laxative effects are said to come from its ability to stimulate bile release, lubricate the colon, soften stool and promote gut health.