Constipation’s no joking matter.
It makes you feel bloated and miserable. But even worse, when you don’t move your bowels every day that waste sits in your colon exposing you to toxins that can harm your health.
Experts estimate that around 14 percent of adults are affected by constipation and it’s responsible for over 3 million doctors’ visits every year in the U.S.
While constipation can have a variety of causes, the goal is always the same… to get things moving again as quickly as possible.
That’s why so many folks turn to harsh chemical laxatives to get the job done. Unfortunately that’s a big mistake that can add to your problem in the long run.
When you repeatedly use laxatives they can affect the nerve cells that line your colon. Eventually you can become laxative dependent and unable to have a bowel movement without taking one.
But there are gentle, natural alternatives that can help to relieve your constipation without the danger of becoming dependent on them. If you’re bound up don’t reach for the harsh laxatives, give one of these all-natural solutions a try instead.
Top 10 constipation relieving foods to try
Healthy bowel movements begin with your diet. Making certain foods a part of your regular routine can help you avoid becoming constipated in the first place.
And these same foods can come to the rescue if things are already backed up.
Besides the tried-and-true prunes and prune juice (both of which ARE great for getting rid of bowel back-ups) here are 10 more constipation relieving foods you can give a try at the first sign of constipation:
- bananas (go for the ripe ones, skip them if there’s any green)
- figs (a great substitute for prunes if you’re not a fan!)
- rhubarb (contains a natural laxative compound)
Don’t fall for this fiber fake out
Everyone knows that fiber plays an important role in digestion (in fact that’s why some of the foods in the list above can be so effective). But did you realize the KIND of fiber you’re getting is just as important?
Besides loading up on lots of naturally fiber-rich veggies and some choice fruits every day, pay attention to the grains you’re eating.
When most people see the word “grains” on a food label they stop reading, assuming they’ve got what they need.
But you need to look closer, because while there are lots of “multigrain” products on the market today many of them fall short.
When picking a bread or cereal product to eat you should chose the ones that say they contain whole grains.
It’s the foods made with the whole grains that help keep things moving along. The others might look wholesome and healthy on the store shelf, but they’re generally made with “enriched” or “refined” grains that have been stripped of most of their healthy natural fiber.
Load up on the right fiber and relief shouldn’t be far behind.
Fiber drinks can help in a pinch too, but it’s best to avoid taking them every day because they can work “too well” continually flushing out your system putting you in danger of vitamin deficiencies. Choose some fiber-rich foods instead.
Fill up on fats for fast constipation relief
Getting enough essential fatty acids (EFAs) can keep constipation at bay.
But if you’re already backed up they can also help “lubricate” your bowels to help get things moving again.
Prostaglandins, hormones which help regulate your digestive system, require EFAs to form. Which means if you’re running low topping your levels off can help quickly get things back on track.
Fish oil, borage oil, extra virgin olive oil and flax oil are all good choices for raising your EFAs. Olive oil is delicious added to your meals and either a supplement or 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of any of the other oils daily should do the trick.
Support your digestion with supplements
There are several supplements that can help you get things back on track when constipation strikes.
If you’re not already taking a probiotic you might want to start. Beneficial bacteria can help relieve occasional constipation. Studies have found that probiotics increase the average number of bowel movements by 1.3, and equally as important they soften stool making it easier to pass.
We typically recommend taking a daily probiotic that contains a variety of strains and billions of active units of healthy bacteria daily. Look for one containing Bifidobacterium (one we like is Probiotic Performance Plus from our associates at Best Health Nutritionals), which has been shown to be particularly effective.
Not having enough digestive enzymes—often a result of the Western diet which tends to be lacking in raw fruits and vegetables—can lead to constipation. Replenishing those enzymes with a supplement can help get things moving again.
Look for a “full spectrum” supplement which will contain proteolytic, lipolytic and amylolytic fractions. And take one capsule after breakfast lunch and dinner.
Psyllium, flaxseed or chia seeds:
These soothing herbs can act as gentle laxatives. They work by absorbing fluids like a sponge, and then gently sweeping out your intestines as they move through them. Just make sure to drink PLENTY of water or these supplements can have the opposite effect.
Slippery elm has been used as a digestive aid for thousands of years. It acts as a gentle stool softener helping to ease constipation. To make slippery elm “tea” pour boiling water over a couple tablespoons of the powdered bark, and allow it to steep for several minutes before drinking. Look for it online or in your local health food store.
Toss out those harsh chemical laxatives and give these natural constipation relievers a try instead. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water every single day.