How to Relieve Constipation Naturally
Learn about the best natural treatments for relieving constipation
If you are having fewer than one to three bowel movements per day, you have a constipation problem that needs to be corrected. Following are the four safe, effective, and natural treatments I recommend to keep your bowel in good condition and relieve constipation.
For those with constipation problems, I suggest including oats and oatmeal regularly in the diet. Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber—8 grams in one cup of uncooked oatmeal. In addition to containing the most soluble fiber of any food (55 percent), oats contain 45 percent insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, the portion of the plan that can't be broken down by your digestive system, absorbs water and swells, making the stool bulky, soft, and easy to pass—relieving constipation. (This is why you always need to increase your water intake when you increase the fiber in your diet.)
When you buy oats, don't get instant oatmeal, which has already been partially cooked and often contains sugar, salt, or other ingredients. "Old-fashioned oats" take a little longer to cook, but the fifteen minutes will be well worth the wait. Also, I wouldn’t buy oats in large quantities. The beneficial fats in oats can go rancid with time. Fresh oats should smell fresh. Generally, if they are in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark area, you can expect them to last about two months.
Opening of the Ileocecal Valve
Constipation symptoms can sometimes be caused by an ileocecal valve that isn't working properly. The ileocecal valve, which is located between the small and large intestine, serves two purposes. First, it acts as a block that prevents the toxic contents of the large intestine from backing up into the small intestine. Second, it keeps the food products in the small intestine from passing into the large intestine before the digestive processes have been completed. When this valve sticks shut, feces stays in the small intestine, unable to move any further. This back-up causes constipation.
There are a few common reasons why the ileocecal valve doesn't always work right, resulting in constipation symptoms. Sometimes spicy or roughage-type foods will irritate the valve and cause it to get stuck. Stress and emotional trauma can also cause the valve to malfunction. And I've personally found that those who have had their appendix removed seem to have more problems with the valve than others. Luckily, there are a couple of simple things you can do to open up an ileocecal valve that is stuck closed and causing constipation symptoms.
- Massage your ileocecal "reflex" points. By rubbing out the points illustrated below, you can unstick the valve to relieve constipation. The areas illustrated should be massaged with firm pressure for about 10 to 20 seconds each (it is not beneficial to rub the points any longer than that. In fact, it may negate the effect).
- Detoxify the toxic food products that are backing up in the intestines, causing the constipation symptoms. The best method to do this is to use chlorophyll, which is easy to obtain at any health food store. Initially, either two capsules or tablets or a ½ teaspoon of chlorophyll liquid should be taken every two hours for about six to eight hours and the same amount with each meal for the next three or four days.
- Modify your diet to relieve constipation. Eliminate spicy foods, alcohol, cocoa, chocolate, and caffeinated products for a week or so. Also, take in additional calcium and vitamin D.
Flaxseed has been known as one of the best ways to relieve constipation for centuries. The whole seeds contain anywhere from six to 12 percent mucilage. Mucilage is a slimy, gum-like compound that provides a temporarily soothing and protective coating along the entire digestive tract. It provides both bulk and softness to the stool. These properties make it an excellent tool to relieve constipation, as well as stomach and intestinal inflammation.
Flaxseed is inexpensive and you should be able to find it at your local health food store. Keep in mind that if the seeds aren't crushed, ground, or broken, they will pass through your system intact and you'll lose the benefits. Except for decorating the outside of bread loaves or muffins, I would recommend grinding the seeds in either a small grinder or a blender. Small, inexpensive coffee grinders work well for this purpose. (If you intend to use a blender, adding a bit of water or liquid to the seeds will make the blending process much easier.) Grind the seeds just prior to using them. If you don't consume the ground powder rather quickly after grinding, you risk the chance of the precious oils oxidizing and going rancid.
Finally, any time you consume ground flaxseed, you need to make certain that you are drinking plenty of water. The fiber in flax soaks up water like a sponge. While this action is great for promoting soft stools and relieving constipation, it could actually cause constipation without adequate consumption of liquids.
Researchers at Siriraj Hospital have reaffirmed the effectiveness of the medicinal plant Senna (Cassia angustifolia and Cassia acutifolia) in relieving constipation. Their double-blind study involved 80 adult patients, admitted to five community hospitals and one provincial hospital, with constipation symptoms of at least 72 hours.
When compared with placebos and other remedies, an oral preparation of senna at bedtime, proved the most effective in eliminating the constipation problem within 24 hours.
While senna has always been effective at relieving constipation, it can have some minimal self-limited side effects. Since it is quite powerful, it may also cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, heartburn, and/or nausea. By combining other herbs with senna you can often counteract its minor side effects. The following is a combination herbal tea very often used to relieve constipation.
Bring one quart of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Then, add ½ teaspoon of each of the following: caraway seeds, fennel seeds, peppermint leaves, and senna leaves. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes and then filter the residue using a cheesecloth or other method. Having one cup in the morning and another at night is the recommended dosage to relieve constipation.
More Dr. Williams Advice on Constipation
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For more than 25 years, Dr. David Williams has traveled the world researching alternative therapies for our most common health problems—therapies that are inexpensive and easy to use, and therapies that treat the root cause of a problem rather than just its symptoms. More About Dr. Williams
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