Constipation is an uncomfortable abdominal condition where the stools become hardened and bowel movements become less often. This occurs because the muscles in the colon slow down and there may be reduced fluids, making the stool hard. It can also make bowel movements difficult to completely pass through the colon into the rectum. Symptoms of constipation include: stools that are hard to pass, straining, less than three bowel movements every week, needing to remove stool with a finger, the feeling that not all the stool came out with a bowel movement and sensation of blockage.
Causes of Constipation
Constipation can be caused by a number of factors from illness to poor diet and lifestyle habits. Some of the causes include: pain medications, low fluid intake, not enough fiber in the diet, spinal cord injuries, low thyroid hormones, too little exercise, laxative use (the body may become addicted), pregnancy, holding in a bowel movement and obstruction in the colon.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle for Constipation
- Take OTC Laxatives. You can try saline laxatives, stool softeners, fiber supplements, and lubricants, osmotic and stimulant laxatives.
- Drink Plenty of Water. It is a known natural fact that stool needs plenty of water for easy passage. Your body needs 8 or more glasses of water every day and more is better when you are constipated.
- Try Blackstrap Molasses and Honey. Take 1 Tbsp. Honey straight from the jar up to three times daily as a laxative. You can also try 2 Tbsp. Blackstrap Molasses at night before at bedtime. These two can also be mixed together for extra strength.
- Snack On Sesame Seeds. Sesame seeds can bulk up and soften the stools. Just remember to drink extra water with them. Use up to and no more than ½ ounce daily on your foods or by themselves.
- Take Vegetable Oils. Use 2 or 3 Tbsp. of soybean, safflower or sunflower oils in vinegar for salad dressing or take it straight if you can tolerate the flavor.
- Try Coffee. Coffee can naturally cause the digestion tract to speed up and cause a bowel movement.
- Keep a High Fiber Diet. You should eat at least 6 ounces of grains daily such as bread and cereal that contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Plant based fiber is also important so be sure to eat lots of fruits and vegetables including; apples, oranges, prunes, spinach and sweet potatoes. Beans are also a very high source of fiber. Your body needs at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily to keep the bowels working well.
- Reduce Refined Foods. Refining foods removes most of the fiber. For example, a serving of popcorn contains 2.5 grams of fiber compared to 0.6 grams of fiber in potato chips. Don't overcook vegetables; it breaks down the fiber content. Try buying whole grain versions of breads and cereals, rather than the highly processed varieties.
- Do Exercises Regularly. Regular exercise will help keep your intestinal muscles contracting and move your digestion right along.
- Watch Your Medications. One side-effect of medications such as; narcotic pain relievers, blood pressure medications, decongestants and antacids with calcium is slowing down or drying out the stool.
- Train Yourself to a Daily Routine. Get your body to have a bowel movement at the same time each day. Make a point to go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet at regular times every day.
- Don't Suppress the Urge. Take the time to use the restroom when you feel like you need to have a bowel movement. Holding it in can cause blockage and chronic problems with constipation.
Medical Treatments for Constipation
- Try Prescription Medication. There are a few prescription medications that may be able to help constipation such as; lubiprostone that helps draw water into the bowels and soften the stool and 5-HT-4 agonists that can help speed up the movement of bowels, but 5-HT-4 agonists have some safety issues and not used in the United States.
- Accept Procedures. The doctor may have to manually or surgically remove stool blockages. They may put a glove on and try to break up stool with the finger and lubricant. Major impactions may actually surgically removing part of the colon.
Other Remedies for Constipation
Some alternative remedies might be effective in relieving constipation. These treatments include acupuncture and massage therapies. With acupuncture, the practitioner inserts tiny needles into areas of the body that are believed to stimulate the bowels. With massage, acupressure applied to the stomach muscles may be effective in stimulating the intestines.
When to See a Doctor
People of all ages from childhood to the elderly experience occasional constipation. Most of the time simple home remedies are effective in bringing relief. There are times when you may need to seek medical care for constipation from a doctor. Areas of increased concern are: pain in the rectal opening, no bowel movement for more than three days even with home treatment, weight loss with constipation, bloody stools, extremely severe pain in the abdomen, thin stools and diarrhea with constipation.