Constipation is a condition where stool becomes hard or dry and difficult to pass. This often happens because of poor digestion, lack of fiber, dehydration, and stress.
Symptoms of constipation include painful defecation, bloating, abdominal pain, and difficulty passing stools. In some cases, constipation can also result from certain medications, medical conditions, and other causes.
If constipation persists over time, it can cause serious health problems such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and even appendicitis. It's best to relieve constipation as soon as you start experiencing symptoms.
This article will take a look at several ways to relieve constipation.
1. Drink Plenty of Fluids, Especially Water
Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep your body hydrated. Dehydration makes the stool harder to pass, which leads to constipation.
If your body doesn't have water to absorb, it will absorb water from your stools. That leads to dryer and harder stool that will make it more difficult to pass stool.
Water is essential for healthy bowel movements. It flushes out toxins in the colon, lubricates stool, and keeps the intestines clean. Aim for 8 cups of water per day for optimal bowel function.
2. Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. It adds bulk to the stool, which helps to soften it. The more fiber you eat, the easier it will be to pass stool.
These are great fiber-rich foods:
- Fruits and vegetables - These contain soluble fibers that help move food through the digestive tract.
Whole grains - Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat breads are full of fiber.
- Rice and Beans - Rice and beans are both good sources of insoluble fiber.
- Nuts and Dried Fruits - These are great snacks that are rich in dietary fiber.
It can be difficult to get the FDA-recommended 28 grams of fiber every day, so taking a daily fiber supplement can help.
Exercise can also improve bowel function by improving blood flow and stimulating the digestion system.
Taking a walk after meals can help with digestion. Walking stimulates the muscles in your stomach and intestines, helping to encourage a bowel movement.
4. Drink Coffee
Caffeine in coffee can stimulate digestion and increase energy levels. A cup of coffee can help relax the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract.
Caffeinated teas and soda also contain caffeine, but may not work as fast as coffee will.
But if you're not constipated, also be careful of drinking too much coffee. Too much caffeine can lead to diarrhea.
5. Take Probiotic Supplements or Eat Probiotic Foods
Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote gut health. They can help restore balance to the intestinal flora (microbial population) when there is an imbalance.
Probiotics are good bacteria that will help soften your stool, reduce the pH levels in your colon, and help you pass stool more easily.
The most common probiotic strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. You can find these in yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and other fermented foods.
6. Try Herbal Laxatives
Senna is a popular herbal laxative used to relieve constipation. Senna contains glycosides that help to encourage bowel movements by stimulating the digestive system.
Senna is not recommended for pregnant women or those with health conditions. It's best to consult with a doctor before using senna.
7. OTC Laxatives
There are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives on the market today that will help offer quick constipation relief. These popular remedies for constipation can come in pill or liquid form.
Stimulant laxatives include the active ingredient bisacodyl to increase colon muscle contractions in the digestive tract. This leads to faster passage of waste.
These should not be used long-term as they can lead to a laxative dependency to have a bowel movement. Too much of the stimulant laxative can also cause excessive muscle contractions that lead to abdominal pain.
8. Use a Stool Softener
A stool softener works by coating the surface of the stool and adding moisture to make it easier to pass through the digestive tract.
A stool softener will help with passing stool and preventing constipation, but they won't stimulate muscle contractions in the colon like a stimulant laxative does.
Look for products that contain sodium docusate as its active ingredient.
9. Try an Enema or Suppository
An enema is another way to induce a bowel movement by using water to flush out the bowels. Enemas are usually administered via rectal insertion. A suppository is placed into the rectum and left to dissolve.
Enemas and suppositories work by cleaning the lower parts of the colon and encouraging a bowel movement. That offers faster constipation relief than just drinking liquids or taking laxatives.
Enemas and suppositories are only appropriate for short term use. If you need to go longer than two weeks without going to the bathroom, talk to your doctor about trying one of the above methods.
10. Take an Osmotic Laxative
An osmotic laxative absorbs fluids to have softer stools and make them easier to pass through the colon. Osmotics also help prevent dehydration.
Osmotics may take one to three days to start working, so it's not as fast-acting as some of the other options mentioned here.
The other benefits of osmotic laxatives are that they help give bloating and gas relief. They're considered safe and effective, but it's also important not to take too much. That can lead to diarrhea and dehydration.
11. Acupressure and Massage Therapy
Acupressure and massage therapy can be helpful when dealing with constipation issues. These techniques involve pressure points along the body where energy is believed to flow.
Massage therapists can apply pressure and massage the abdomen to stimulate a bowel movement.
An acupressure practitioner can apply pressure to specific pressure points on the body to help with digestion issues.
The San Jiao 6 (SJ 6) is a common pressure point that's used for constipation relief. Located on the outside of your arm, three finger widths from your wrist, applying pressure to this point will help stimulate the small and large intestines.
12. Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are food ingredients that feed probiotics and beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics can help improve digestion and boost immunity.
These prebiotics can be found in foods such as bananas and oatmeal.
Prunes, dried plums, are high in fiber and low in calories. They're often used as a natural remedy for constipation because they soften the stool.
Prune juice can also help with constipation and colon conditions.
14. Try a Squat Position to Poop
Adjusting your body position on the toilet when you poop can help ease constipation. When you squat down to do your business, you'll encounter less straining when your legs are in a higher position.
Use a footstool to place your feet on when sitting on the toilet. This helps keep your knees slightly bent and relieves pressure to allow easier stool passage.
How to Prevent Constipation from Happening
If you're experiencing chronic constipation or even semi-regularly, there are daily habits that can help prevent constipation.
1. Watch Your Diet
Make sure you eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber. Increasing your fiber intake is a core component to help prevent constipation.
These foods provide fiber and essential nutrients that support healthy digestion and prevent constipation. They are also high in water content, which makes them easy to digest.
2. Make Sure You are Properly Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water keeps your digestive system hydrated and prevents constipation. Staying hydrated allows for stool to absorb water to soften.
3. Physical Activity
Exercise is great for your overall health, including your digestion. Regular light exercise like walking, swimming, yoga, and dancing can all help relieve constipation.
The more physically fit you are, the better your digestion will function. Exercise also increases blood flow to the intestines, helping to flush out toxins and waste.
4. Never Hold Your Poop
Holding your bowel movements inside can cause inflammation and irritation. It can also cause blockages or even lead to more serious colon conditions.
5. Watch Your Stress Levels
Stress can affect our bodies in many ways, including causing constipation. If you feel stressed, try taking deep breaths and relaxing.
When to See a Doctor for Constipation
If you're pregnant or have other medical conditions, you need to consult your doctor about your constipation. Some conditions can make movement of stool difficult or painful.
You should see a doctor for chronic constipation if it lasts longer than two weeks or if relief options are not helping. They may prescribe laxatives or other procedures to treat constipation.
If you have regular episodes of constipation, be sure to visit your doctor to diagnose if there could be an underlying condition causing the constipation. They can see if you might have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal condition.
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/constipation-relief-tips
- Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318694
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/how-to-make-yourself-poop
- National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29079312