Whether you suffer from occasional or chronic constipation, we’re sharing everything you need to know. From common causes and symptoms, to natural remedies for constipation, to high fiber foods that add bulk and soften stool, these ideas work for kids, women, and men, and many of them can be used during pregnancy as well!
What Is Constipation?
Constipation occurs when the passing of stool happens less than 3 times per week and/or the stool is difficult to pass. While most of us will experience occasional bouts of constipation in our lives, the condition can be chronic for some people, and can interfere with their day-to-day lives. Common symptoms of constipation include:
- Fewer than 3 bowel movements per week
- Feeling as though you cannot pass a bowel movement due to a blockage in your rectum
- Bowel movements that are hard and difficult to pass
- Straining to have a bowel movement
- Feeling as though you cannot fully empty your rectum
13 Common Causes of Constipation
There are many different causes of constipation, and while many are relatively minor and easy to rectify, chronic constipation can be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition, so be sure to discuss changes in your bowel habits with your doctor. Common causes of constipation include:
- Inadequate water intake
- Consuming a low-fiber diet
- Lack of physical exercise
- Delaying/resisting the urge to have a bowel movement
- Changes in routine
- Certain medications
- Problems with the colon and/or rectum
- Certain diseases
- Overuse of laxatives
- Eating disorders
When Should I Worry About Constipation?
It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor if you notice a change in your bowel habits, but be sure to seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- Sudden constipation that is accompanied by belly pain
- Complete inability to pass stool or gas
- Severe pain when passing stool
- Blood in the stool
- A drastic change in the size, shape, and consistency of your stool
- Constipation that has lasted more than 2 weeks
9 Natural Remedies for Constipation
While laxatives can certainly help relieve constipation, they can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, and dependence if not used correctly. Here are some of the best natural remedies for constipation to help prevent and relieve occasional constipation.
1. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. Before you try any of these natural remedies for constipation, be sure to talk to your doctor to rule out any medical conditions that may be making it difficult for you to empty your bowels. Are you taking any medication that causes constipation? Do you have any food intolerances or allergies? Do you have any tears around your anus (anal fissures) that are making bowel movements painful? It is absolutely essential to rule out any medical causes or concerns before trying to treat constipation at home.
2. DRINK MORE WATER. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of H2O. While the recommendation used to be to drink 8 8-oz glasses of water a day, recent research acknowledges that many factors need to be taken into account, such as a person’s gender, age, activity level, geographical location, and diet. A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to your thirst, and ensure your pee looks like lemonade – anything darker means you aren’t drinking enough.
3. CLEAN UP YOUR DIET. It’s no secret that a diet rich in fiber can help relieve constipation, but there are also foods you should avoid if you suffer from constipation, including dairy products, fast foods, processed foods, and prepared foods. If you’re looking for natural remedies for constipation, increasing the amount of soluble fiber in your diet is best as these foods absorb water, which softens stool and makes it easier to pass. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, and certain fruits and vegetables. Keep reading for a list of our favorite high fiber foods below!
4. PRIORITIZE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Regular physical activity helps stimulate your bowels, so if you’re looking for natural remedies for constipation, make sure you’re getting 30+ minutes of exercise per day. This can include things like walking, running, swimming, cycling, yoga and light housework – anything that gets you up and moving!
5. TAKE A PROBIOTIC. I’m a huge fan of probiotics as they boost our immune systems, improve digestion, and heal inflammatory bowel conditions, but they aren’t for everyone. Make sure to speak with your doctor before trying a probiotic supplement, and check out THIS POST for a list of probiotic foods to add to your daily diet.
6. AVOID DAIRY. A diet high in cheese and eggs can slow down your digestive system, so if you’re looking for natural remedies for constipation, try cutting back on these foods to see if you notice an improvement in your symptoms. If you find this helpful, you will need to find other ways to get the recommended daily dose of calcium in your diet, so be sure to talk with your doctor and/or a dietician for ideas.
7. ENJOY A CUP OF COFFEE. Yup, it’s true: coffee stimulates the muscles in your digestive system, making it one of my favorite natural remedies for constipation! Drinking a freshly brewed cup of coffee is a great way to get your bowels moving, but be sure to steer clear of caffeine if you suffer from IBS as it can make symptoms worse instead of better.
8. EXPERIMENT WITH A LOW FODMAP DIET. The Low FODMAP diet was created for people who experience IBS. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Dis-, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are carbs that are known to be poorly absorbed by the body and cause digestive issues. Eating a high FODMAP diet can lead to abdominal pain, bloating and other digestive symptoms like constipation. On the flip side, reducing certain foods from your diet can help improve digestive issues, which is where the Low FODMAP diet comes in. If you’re looking for nature remedies for constipation and suffer from IBS, THIS POST has lots of great information, including a 30-day meal plan to help you get started.
9. RETRAIN YOUR BOWELS. When constipation becomes chronic, some doctors and naturopaths will recommend doing a clean-out of your bowels followed by bowel retraining. This involves maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical exercise each day, and sitting on the toilet after each meal for a specified period of time. It can take months for your bowels to be properly retrained, but with consistency, you can help your body get into the habit of having a bowel movement at a certain time each day to prevent constipation.
9 High Fiber Foods for Constipation
If you’re looking for natural remedies for constipation, dietary changes can often be extremely effective. The trick is to find the right foods that will add bulk and increase stool frequency, while also softening your stool and decreasing the amount of time it takes for food to pass through your system. Here are some ideas to consider!
1. PRUNES. A list of natural remedies for constipation wouldn’t be complete without mentioning prunes, and for good reason! One prune has about 1 gram of fiber, and they also contain the fermentable sugars fructans and sorbitol, which can have a laxative effect. You can enjoy prunes on their own, add them to your morning cereal or smoothie, or give these Prune Breakfast Cookies by Recipe Runner a try.
2. OATMEAL. Oatmeal contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which work together to increase bulk in your stool while also softening it and making it easier to pass through your system. Oatmeal also helps control blood sugar and lower cholesterol, and is often touted as a great food for weight loss. THIS POST has 11 simple and delicious overnight oat recipes you can meal prep ahead of time so you have a nutritious, filling, high fiber breakfast at the ready to keep your bowels happy!
3. APPLES AND PEARS. If you’re looking for an easy grab-and-go snack that’s high in fiber, apples and pears are a great option. Just make sure to keep the skin on as that’s the most fibrous part! Slice them into pieces and enjoy with nut butter or cheese for a protein-packed snack.
4. GREENS. Green veggies such as spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are another easy way to add bulk to your stools and make them easier to pass. You can boil or steam them, or add them to soups or stews.
5. KIWI. If fruits high in fructose cause you to develop uncomfortable gas, kiwi is a great high-fibre food to consider as it will help alleviate constipation without adding abdominal bloat. I highly recommend this 2-Ingredient Kiwi Sorbet by The Honour System – it’s easy to make and oh so refreshing!
6. BEANS. Beans are another well-known high fiber food, but not everyone can tolerate them. They contain resistant starch that helps increase the time it takes food to move through the colon, but can cause gas and bloating. If you can tolerate beans, add them to your favorite chili recipe, or give these Fudge Black Bean Brownies by The Pretty Bee a try!
7. FLAXSEEDS. Like oatmeal, flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, adding bulk to your stool while also helping you feel full for longer. These Oatmeal and Flaxseed Breakfast Cookies by Mean Mommy Academy offer a delicious way to start your day with a good dose of fiber!
8. SWEET POTATOES. One serving of sweet potatoes contains about 4 grams of fiber, making them an excellent option if you’re looking for natural remedies for constipation. Enjoy them mashed with a little brown sugar, throw them into an air fryer to create heathy sweet potato fries, or give this Sweet Potato Black Bean Casserole by Kim’s Cravings a try!
9. BERRIES. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are chock-full of fiber, offering another simple way to increase your fiber intake. You can enjoy them on their own, blend them into a smoothie, or add them to your cereal, yogurt, or salad.
If you suffer from occasional or chronic constipation, I hope this collection of natural remedies for constipation helps! Remember to consult with your doctor to make sure your symptoms aren’t the result of an underlying medical condition, focus on increasing your consumption of water and soluble fiber, avoid dairy, make sure you’re getting enough exercise, take a probiotic, brew yourself a cup of coffee, and enjoy some of the high fiber foods and recipes included above!