Laxatives help soften stools and improve bowel movements. They are usually recommended for treating and preventing constipation, a very common digestive problem. Constipation causes fewer than three bowel movements per week and hard stools that are difficult to pass.
Constipation can usually be relieved with over-the-counter laxatives or natural laxatives that you have at home.
Natural laxatives are food products that contain good amounts of water and fiber. In addition to trying these natural remedies, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
In fact, it is important to drink sufficient water when taking high-fiber foods like flaxseeds and psyllium husk. Otherwise, increasing your fiber intake, especially when you are not used to it can cause further gastrointestinal discomfort.
Here are the top 10 foods that work as natural laxatives.
Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, are a good natural laxative. According to 2015 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the mucilage in flaxseeds exhibits laxative activity.
In addition, flaxseeds are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids that promote a healthy digestive system. They also aid smooth passage of food through the intestines to keep you regular.
- Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in a glass of water and drink it. You can also add it to your breakfast cereal or plain yogurt.
- Do this twice daily, once before going to bed and once during the day.
Prunes, also called dried plums or munakka, act as remarkable natural laxative. A 2011 study published in the journal Aliment Pharmacol & Therapeutics found that regular intake of prunes ensures complete, spontaneous bowel movements per week and better stool consistency.
Prunes are high in insoluble fiber that helps maintain bowel regularity. You can use prunes and prune juice for treating constipation.
- Eat 6 or 7 prunes a day.
- Another option is to drink ½ to 1 cup of unfiltered prune juice in the morning on an empty stomach. You can also drink another cup later in the day.
3. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk, obtained from the seeds of the plantago ovata plant, is another excellent natural laxative. In fact, it is the one of the main ingredients in many over-the-counter laxatives. It contains insoluble fiber that helps the stool soak up water in your intestine to make your bowel movements easier.
Plus, it is good for your overall digestive health and even prevents flatulence.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of psyllium husk in a glass of warm water or milk. Gradually increase the dosage to 1 or 2 teaspoons per cup.
- Drink it before going to bed.
- Repeat daily for smooth bowel movements.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel has powerful laxative properties. In fact, the dried latex from the inner lining of the plant’s leaves is one of the main ingredients in oral laxatives. This laxative property aids digestion and improves bowel movements.
In addition, aloe vera gel contains more than 75 nutrients including minerals, vitamins, amino acids, phytonutrients, enzymes and, of course, water that help treat constipation.
- Add 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel to a cup of water or fruit juice and blend it in a blender.
- Drink it on an empty stomach every morning.
5. Castor Oil
Castor oil, made from castor beans, is a well-known natural laxative. It lubricates your bowels without absorbing any moisture from the small intestinal walls. This aids easy elimination and prevents constipation.
However, castor oil should be used in moderation as its overuse can damage the bowel muscles, nerves and tissues.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of cold-pressed castor oil in a cup of orange or cranberry juice. For small children, use ½ teaspoon.
- Drink it on an empty stomach.
Note: Pregnant, breastfeeding and menstruating women should not use castor oil. Moreover, never take castor oil without consulting your doctor first, as it may interact with certain medications.
Papaya fruit as well as juice have great laxative properties. This remarkable fruit contains an enzyme called papain that helps digest proteins in the large intestine.
In fact, it is beneficial to take papaya after eating protein-rich meals to aid in digestion. Plus, it has high water and insoluble fiber content, and is rich in nutrients like vitamins A, C and E.
- Eat ½ papaya fruit daily in the morning.
- You can also drink papaya juice on a regular basis.
Figs are another food that has a natural laxative effect. Both fresh and dried figs have laxative properties that help treat constipation and keep your bowel movements regular. In addition, they are rich in fiber, which promotes smooth digestion.
- Eat 2 to 3 fresh figs with their skin. The skin contains most of the fiber and calcium.
- If eating dried figs, soak them in water for several hours before eating them.
Both the fruit and its juice work as natural laxatives and help reduce the amount of time you spend in the bathroom every morning.
Apples are rich in digestive fiber that helps soften stools. It also contains pectin, which stimulates bowel movements and adds bulk to your stools.
- Eat 1 to 2 apples daily to keep your digestive system on track. Make sure to eat it with the skin.
- You can also drink freshly extracted apple juice daily.
For treating constipation, use only organic apples.
Pears are a great natural source of sorbitol, a well-known natural laxative that works by drawing water into the colon. This fruit is also a rich source of fiber that your body needs to regulate bowel movements.
- Eat 1 to 2 organic pears daily. Be sure to eat the fruits with the skin to get the full benefit.
- You can even drink a glass of pear juice, extracted at home.
The slimy texture of okra contains an extraordinary laxative property that ensures regular and smooth bowel movements. Its mucilage lubricates and soothes the intestinal tract to facilitate painless elimination of waste materials.
It is also a good source of dietary fiber, which benefits your digestive health.
To treat constipation, eat 1 to 2 cups of okra daily. Steam, bake or boil okra to preserve most of its nutrients.
- As already mentioned increase your fluid and fiber intake to prevent and treat constipation.
- Regular physical activity and exercise can also help maintain regular bowel movements.
- Do not hold back bowel movements for too long as it may ultimately lead to constipation. In fact, it is best to make it a habit to take your meals at fixed times and also answer the nature’s call at a fixed time every day.
- Certain medications and medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and inflammatory bowel disease can also contribute to constipation. Check with your doctor if any of these are causing problems for you.