Constipation is a very common digestive disorder that affects people of all ages.
Constipation is medically defined as having three or fewer bowel movements in a week. In case of severe constipation, it reduces to less than one bowel movement in a week.
It is caused by difficulty in passing stools mostly because the colon has absorbed more water from the food in the colon, making the stools very dry and hard. This may even lead a person to strain too much to empty the excessively hard stools.
Some of the main causes of constipation are a poor diet with low fiber intake, insufficient water intake, irregular defecation habit, lack of physical activity, pregnancy, aging, changes in routine, weakness of abdominal muscles, hemorrhoids, stress, intake of certain medications, laxative abuse, and certain disease conditions.
This problem can be very frustrating aside from causing discomfort. There are many home remedies to enhance the functionality of your digestive system and treat constipation. These remedies are very easy to follow and very powerful.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for constipation.
Lemons are always handy at home not just to make food tangy or lemonade, but also for many emergency medicinal purposes like weight loss, skin care, proper digestion, eye care, peptic ulcers, respiratory disorders, etc.
Lemons, or more specifically the juice from lemons, can treat constipation. This is one of the simplest and most effective treatments that you can try at home.
The flavonoids present in lemon oil stimulate the digestive system and increase the secretion of digestive juices, bile, and acids, and gets things moving. The surplus acids from lemon help clear the excretory system by washing and cleaning the digestive tract. The fiber content of lemon helps ease constipation (1).
- Extract the juice of half a lemon and add it to a glass of warm water. You can also add a pinch of rock salt or one-half teaspoon of table salt and a little honey to it. Drink this nutritious lemon water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. You can also drink a glass of this tasty drink in the evening. Follow this remedy daily to treat constipation within a few days.
- Alternatively, take 1 or 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice along with a pinch of salt daily for a few days to get relief from constipation and cleanse your system.
Figs are very high in fiber and act as a natural laxative. Figs are rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols (2).
It is used in traditional medicine for gastrointestinal and inflammatory disorders. Those suffering from chronic constipation should include figs in their diet. For the treatment of constipation, both fresh and dried figs can be used.
When fresh figs are available, eat them with their skin on. The skin contains most of the fiber and calcium. Fig paste has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment against constipation in animal models (3, 4).
- Take two to three almonds and dried figs.
- Soak them in water for a few hours.
- Peel the almonds and grind the ingredients.
- Take this paste with one tablespoon of honey at night.
3. Castor Oil
Being a stimulant laxative, castor oil stimulates the small and large intestines and improves the bowel movement.
The chemical constituents of castor oil are flavonoids, fatty acids, amino acids, terpenoids, phenolic compounds, phytosterols, etc. These compounds are responsible for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects.
Different parts of the castor plant are used for medicinal applications like abdominal disorders, arthritis, muscle pain, constipation etc (5). Castor oil should be taken only for severe cases of constipation. In fact, castor oil also benefits skin and hair care and is used in the cosmetic industry.
Simply swallow one to two teaspoons of this beneficial castor oil on an empty stomach. To improve the taste, you can take it with a fruit juice like orange juice. Within a few hours, you will notice a huge improvement in your condition.
Note: Castor oil can be toxic when taken in large doses. It can cause abdominal cramping when stimulating a bowel movement. You must not repeat this remedy for a prolonged period as it can cause side effects.
Honey is highly beneficial in relieving constipation as it acts as a mild laxative.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995 has reported that the laxative effect of honey observed in healthy volunteers is due to the incomplete absorption of fructose in the body (6).
You can have it daily to prevent as well as treat constipation. Raw, organic, local honey is the most preferred honey.
- Consume two teaspoons of honey three times a day.
- You can also mix one tablespoon each of honey and lemon juice in a glass of warm water. Drink it every morning on an empty stomach.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with ½ or 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Take it 15 to 30 minutes before meals in order to prepare the digestive system for digestion.
Flaxseeds have many medicinal properties and are one of the richest plant sources of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
They are also high in phenols, vitamins including vitamin E and K, minerals like magnesium and potassium. Flaxseeds have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and also act as demulcents.
A paper published in 2015 revealed the dual action of flaxseeds as an effective treatment for constipation and diarrhea (7). The laxative property of flaxseeds can be very useful in curing mild to very serious cases of constipation.
- Grind 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds in a coffee grinder. Mix the powdered flax seed with 1-2 cups of water and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before drinking. Drink the water daily before going to bed. In the morning, your bowel movement will be much better.
- Alternatively, you can simply eat two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseeds with a glass of water.
Note: When you eat flaxseeds, please drink a lot of water as it can cause abdominal discomfort.
Prunes or dried plums are widely accepted as a remedy for constipation in traditional medicine.
This is assumed to be due to the high fiber content of 6 gram/100 gram. The insoluble and soluble fibers present in prunes increase the bulk and water content of stools induce digestive secretions and bowel movement.
The sugar alcohol sorbitol and other phenols which are present in prunes are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and have a laxative effect (8). So eat prunes regularly if you suffer from a tendency of constipation.
A random trial study done and published in 2011 concluded that prunes were safe, palatable, and more effective than the current standard psyllium therapy (9).
- Have 1-2 plums daily if you don’t have prunes or have 3 to 4 prunes daily.
- Blend 2-3 prunes in some warm flax or almond milk and drink at night for extra fiber and relief from constipation.
- Take 3-4 chopped prunes and have it with a cup whipped yogurt daily.
Magnesium is the fourth important essential abundant mineral in the body. It is vital for bone development. Although this mineral is abundant, many people are magnesium-deficient.
A recent study published in 2017 showed that natural mineral water rich in magnesium and sulfate improved bowel movements in subjects with constipation (10).
You can get your daily requirement of magnesium from dietary food sources like healthy nuts like almonds, avocados, vegetables like broccoli, squash and green leafy vegetables or legumes like black beans. Magnesium can also be taken in the form of magnesium supplements like magnesium citrate.
Magnesium citrate tablets (300mg), is a great laxative. Take 1 tablet daily.
Caution: Magnesium is safe when taken orally. Do not take more than 350mg of magnesium for adults. Consult your doctor before taking this and for the right dosage and time period. Those with bleeding disorders, kidney problems, restless leg syndrome, pregnant, children, elderly etc. should not take magnesium supplements without the recommendation of a physician.
Spinach is really good for the digestive tract, especially when you are suffering from constipation.
It is rich in fiber and oxalic acid. Spinach is rich in calcium and phosphorus. Among other vegetables, spinach has high vitamin content (11). Raw spinach has various components that can cleanse, reconstruct and regenerate the whole intestinal tract.
- To get rid of constipation, you must include spinach in your diet. You can eat it either raw or cooked, depending on how you like it.
- If you have severe constipation, drink a mixture of a one-half glass of raw spinach juice and one-half glass of water, twice daily. Within a few days, you will get much relief.
Molasses is one of the best natural laxatives to get your bowels moving.
Blackstrap molasses is rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium and vitamin B6.
In a study published in 2014 showed that molasses is safe and effective when used as emergency enemas for the management of constipation (12).
- Eat one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses before going to bed. If you do not like the taste, you can mix it with milk, fruit juice or prune juice. If the problem persists, increase the dosage to one to two tablespoons.
- Another remedy is to mix two to three tablespoons of molasses with an equal amount of peanut butter and eat it in the morning.
As molasses contains high calories, you must not follow these remedies on a daily basis.
10. Water and Fiber
Most often, the cause of constipation is lack of fiber in the diet. Fiber is a kind of material that binds to water in the intestine. This adds volume to the stool and the water softens the stool (13).
It is essential to eat high-fiber rich foods like beans, potatoes, carrots, brown rice, prunes, wheat germ, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, all kinds of nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, peas, and so on.
You can also opt for fiber supplements.
Also, when suffering from constipation, it is very important to drink enough fluids. Make sure to drink about 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.
To reap maximum benefit, put water in a copper vessel overnight and drink it first thing in the morning. This will stimulate bowel movements and give you good results within a few days.
Along with water, you can also drink fresh vegetable juice and fruit juice throughout the day. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, as both cause dehydration and can make your condition worse.
Here are two bonus remedies for all our faithful readers!
Fennel seeds are useful in treating issues like indigestion, bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome as they encourage smooth muscle movement in the digestive tract.
The essential oils from fennel seeds are mainly composed of anethole, fenchone, limonene, and camphor (14).
It is used in traditional medicine as a laxative in cases of mild digestive disorder complaints. A randomized trial study published in 2003 demonstrated that fennel seed oil treatment was superior to the placebo treatment in alleviating infantile colic symptoms (15).
- Take one cup of fennel seeds and dry roast them.
- Then, grind them and sieve the mixture.
- Store this tasty and digestive powder in a jar.
- Take half a teaspoon of this powder daily with warm water.
Grapes contain insoluble fiber that helps produce regular bowel movements.
- Eat a small bowl of grapes or half a glass of fresh grape juice daily.
- Another option is put 10 to 12 dry seedless grapes in milk, boil it for a few minutes and drink the solution in the evening. This particular remedy works great for young children who have constipation and to prevent future episodes of it.
If fresh grapes are not available, then eat raisins soaked in water for a day or two. You must eat the soaked raisins along with water on an empty stomach in the morning.
Note: Grapes is not a good option for those who are diabetic due to its high sugar content. Wash the grapes thoroughly with water containing vinegar before consuming them, as they can be loaded with pesticides. It is preferable to use organic grapes.
Remember that you need to follow the remedies for some time to find out which suits you best. If, however, the problem is not resolved with these natural treatments, contact your doctor.
- Mohanapriya M, Ramaswamy L, Rajendran R. Health and medicinal properties of lemon (Citrus limonum). Int J Ayurvedic Herb Med J Homepage. 2013;31095(1). http://interscience.org.uk/index.php/ijahm. Accessed February 8, 2018.
- Oh H-G, Lee H-Y, Seo M-Y, et al. Effects of Ficus carica paste on constipation induced by a high-protein feed and movement restriction in beagles. Lab Anim Res. 2011;27(4):275. doi:10.5625/lar.2011.27.4.275.
- Gilani AH, Mehmood MH, Janbaz KH, Khan A, Saeed SA. Ethnopharmacological studies on antispasmodic and antiplatelet activities of Ficus carica. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;119(1):1-5. doi:10.1016/J.JEP.2008.05.040.
- Lee H-Y, Kim J-H, Jeung H-W, et al. Effects of Ficus carica paste on loperamide-induced constipation in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012;50(3-4):895-902. doi:10.1016/J.FCT.2011.12.001.
- Marwat SK, Rehman F, Khan EA, et al. Review – Ricinus cmmunis – Ethnomedicinal uses and pharmacological activities. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2017;30(5):1815-1827. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29084706. Accessed February 8, 2018.
- Ladas SD, Haritos DN, Raptis SA. Honey may have a laxative effect on normal subjects because of incomplete fructose absorption. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;62(6):1212-1215. doi:10.1093/ajcn/62.6.1212.
- Hanif Palla A, Gilani A-H. Dual effectiveness of Flaxseed in constipation and diarrhea: Possible mechanism. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;169:60-68. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2015.03.064.
- Halmos EP, Gibson PR. Dried plums, constipation and the irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;34(3):396-397. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04719.x.
- Attaluri A, Donahoe R, Valestin J, Brown K, Rao SSC. Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;33(7):822-828. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04594.x.
- Bothe G, Coh A, Auinger A. Efficacy and safety of a natural mineral water rich in magnesium and sulphate for bowel function: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Eur J Nutr. 2017;56(2):491-499. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-1094-8.
- Hanif R, Iqbal Z, Iqbal M, Hanif S, Rasheed M. USE OF VEGETABLES AS NUTRITIONAL FOOD: ROLE IN HUMAN HEALTH. 2006;1(1). www.arpnjournals.com. Accessed February 8, 2018.
- Wallaker K, Fortuna E, Bradin S, Macy M, Hassan M, Stanley R. Milk and Molasses Enemas: Clearing Things Up. J Emerg Nurs. 2014;40(6):546-551. doi:10.1016/J.JEN.2013.08.012.
- Cummings JH, Dunn FRCPMRC. Constipation, dietary fibre and the control of large bowel function. Postgrad Med J. 1984;60:811-819. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2418066/pdf/postmedj00129-0102.pdf. Accessed February 8, 2018.
- Picon PD, Picon R V, Costa AF, et al. Randomized clinical trial of a phytotherapic compound containing Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Sambucus nigra, and Cassia augustifolia for chronic constipation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010;10(1):17. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-17.
- Alexandrovich I, Rakovitskaya O, Kolmo E, Sidorova T, Shushunov S. The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Altern Ther Health Med. 9(4):58-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12868253. Accessed February 8, 2018.