Home remedies for constipation

Constipation, nobody wants to talk about their bowel habits, that’s why today I’m sharing 8 home remedies for constipation.

By constipated, I mean not having a bowel movement at least every 48 hours. 

I have had so many patients over the years show up and tell me their digestion is great and then when I ask how often they have a bowel movement they say, “once a week, maybe every two weeks”.  

Beyond digestive discomfort, constipation can affect energy levels, cause brain fog, lower motivation, and lead to skin issues. I even had a patient when I was doing clinical rounds in medical school that would get heart palpations when she got backed up.

Generally speaking, the ideal stool should be soft, easy to pass, look like a brown banana and shouldn’t require any straining. A bowel movement really should feel like an automatic, hands off process.

Increasing fiber intake may not be the solution

Many times you will hear “just increase your water and fiber and this will take care of your constipation”. 

If you eat a Standard American Diet devoid of fiber and consume coffee and soda pop as your fluid of choice then increasing your water intake by 30-40 ounces and increasing your fiber intake from whole foods by 30-40 grams could produce amazing results.

However, more and more I’m finding that the constipation people are experiencing is not due to a lack of hydration and stool bulk. 

The underlying mechanism is an autonomic response that has been thrown out of rhythm by anxious thoughts, worry, poor sleep hygiene, an on-the-go lifestyle and poor nutrition.

In many cases, I find that most fiber supplements just increase gas/bloating with minimal effect on satisfying bowel movements.

So my suggestion when it comes to bowel movements, is to play the long game. Please don’t get heated about the fact your bowels did not move today. Yelling at them will not help.

Home remedies for constipation

  • Aim to decrease the number of times you snack in the day
  • Aim to give yourself 4-6 hours between meals
  • Aim to get as much fiber as you can from your foods (fruit, cooked vegetables, buckwheat, oats, ground flaxseed, chia seeds soaked in water, ground hemp seeds)…rather than supplements. It is not just the fiber, it is the phytochemicals that build the flora in these foods that are beneficial and even more so than the fiber itself.
  • Before each meal take 2 minutes and breathe deeply, allow your parasympathetic nervous system to kick into gear.
  • Make a point to sit down and eat (no meals on the run).
  • Take 2 minutes each morning to sit on the toilet like you are expecting a bowel movement to come.  If it doesn’t come, no big deal, but you are training this rhythm into your being just like you have been training the “I don’t have time to have a BM” by all of your racing around for the last 10 years.
  • Start doing cardio, especially running or speed walking. A 2019 study showed that aerobic exercise demonstrated significant relief from IBS related constipation. A hard run is one of the best antidotes for constipation as it stimulates the contractions of the intestinal tract.There are also specialized hormones and digestive enzymes that are secreted into the digestive tract during running that are also thought enhance motility.
  • Dates and prunes are great as they can form a gel-like substance that softens the stool and promotes bulk to the stool, but they also feed beneficial flora making it that much more likely that your bowels will function better in the future. One study showed that consuming 7 dates per day for 3 weeks significantly increased bowel movement frequency in constipated individuals. There was also a big reduction in stool ammonia concentrations. Ammonia is associated with intestinal inflammation. Pretty wild, that so much benefit could be obtained from just 7 dates a day for 3 weeks.
Have you tried any of these home remedies for constipation? I’d love to hear how they work for you in the comments below.

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