home remedies

Top Home Remedies for Constipation – Natural Relief Without the Risk

  • Home remedies for constipation experts guide is taken from our Life Changing Lessons series remedies section

Home remedies for constipation

Constipation is one of the most common bowel problems in the western world, impacting 63 million Americans.
Due to the many side effects and known risks of laxatives, more people and health practitioners prefer to use natural home remedies for constipation in order to relieve constipation and ease constipation symptoms.

Before you use home remedies for constipation however, it is very important to find out what exactly is causing your constipation, as the needed treatment may be completely different. Using the wrong remedy, even if it is a natural one, can cause more harm than good, so choosing the correct remedy your body needs is vital.

This is exactly what this expert guide is all about. Our experts cover the most safe and effective home remedies for constipation, problematic constipation remedies you should avoid, and the most common causes, symptoms and risks of constipation.

Table of content

Top Home Remedies For Constipation
Problematic Home Remedies For Constipation
Before Using Home Remedies For Constipation
  • 1 – What is constipation
  • 2 – Laxative dependency
  • 3 – Constipation symptoms
  • 4 – Constipation complications
  • 5 – Top constipation causes
  • 6 – Constipation treatment

Natural Home remedies for constipation

Oxygen colon cleanse

Pros: very effective, safe and easy to use, doesn’t lead to dependency
Cons: must be taken on an empty stomach

Since its introduction in the late 90’s, colon cleansing using oxygen have become the preferred choice of many natural health practitioners and one of the most popular natural home remedies for constipation.

Oxygen colon cleanse (Oxy-Powder ®) as it name suggests, releases oxygen in the colon to soften and loosen dry stool, undigested food particles, hard waste buildup and other toxins so they can be flushed out naturally by the body through normal bowel movements.

It is a very straightforward concept: overtime accumulated waste buildup in the colon becomes drier and harder and sticks to the colon wall making it hard for the body to eliminate it. As a result the colon becomes sluggish and constipated, which lead to constipation, bloating and other unpleasant discomforts. The released oxygen can effectively loosen this waste, so that the body can easily eliminate it through normal bowel movements.

This is done in a completely natural and gentle way, doesn’t cause dependency and it has shown to be very beneficial even in severe cases of constipation.

To use Oxygen colon cleanse for constipation:

  • Home remedies for constipation oxypowderTake 4 capsules of Oxy-Powder with 8 oz spring or distilled water on an empty stomach before bedtime away from any foods or other supplements
  • Expect the next day to have a series of bowel movements. Most people feel a significant relief with their constipation and other related symptoms
  • If you have never taken oxy-powder before, start with 2 capsules and gradually increase if needed
  • Adding the juice of ½ organic lemon to the water can increase the effectiveness

What to expect during the oxygen colon cleanse

Most people who use Oxy-Powder feel a significant relief of their constipation issues very quickly after starting the oxygen colon cleanse. Common reports include a sense of “great relief”, increased energy, higher clarity, clearer complexion and significantly better bowel movements and digestion, with constipation, bloating, body odor, gas and other digestion problems greatly improved. These improvements are not surprising considering that the hard waste weight that accumulates in the colon can be 10-20 pounds and sometimes even more.

Probiotics for constipation

Pros: can significantly improve constipation symptoms and other digestion issues
Cons: may take several weeks to notice full effect

Using probiotics for constipation is one of the most important home remedies for constipation, although there are many misconceptions about the way probiotics can benefit constipation.

The connection between probiotics and constipation

Home remedies for constipation Probiotics Probiotics for constipationOur body’s ability to properly digest, absorb and convert the foods we eat into energy and nutrients is strongly dependent on the population of the good bacteria in our gut.
Probiotics supplements work by populating the intestinal tract with good bacteria. Several studies have clearly demonstrated that using probiotics can relief the symptoms of constipation by improving the intestinal tract transit time, stool frequency, stool consistency, and by promoting regular bowel movements.

Choosing probiotics products for constipation

It is very important to make sure that the beneficial organisms that are included in the formula are effective for constipation and are also gentle and safe.
We get many questions from people that were surprised to learn that their probiotics supplements actually made their constipation worse! additional side effects reported included bloating, gas (flatulence), diarrhea, abdominal pain and even acne. For this reason, when choosing probiotics, always look for data on their effectiveness and safety to make sure they are the right ones for you.

The Bacillus laterosporus BOD strain (Latero-Flora) is a great example of a probiotic strain that was shown in research to be very effective for constipation and other related digestive problems. In fact, according to one study, 90% of the participants in the study reported relief from their constipation symptoms.
Safety testings have shown it is completely safe with no indications of toxicity, even at extremely high dosage.
The Bacillus laterosporus strain is highly stable and can easily pass the stomach acids and become very active in the body. The fact that it is stable in room temperature and doesn’t need to be refrigerated also means you can take it with you wherever you go.

It is important to note that the benefits from probiotics go beyond probiotics and constipation:
The population of good bacteria in the gut is one of the most important factors for a healthy immune system function, since 70% of the immune system resides in the gut.

Fiber for constipation

Pros: may address the cause of constipation, can help prevent constipation 
Cons: you may have to change your diet which might take some time

Home remedies for constipation fiber for constipationPerhaps one of the most known home remedies for constipation, fiber and constipation are usually tightly related:
having the right amount of fiber your body needs can prevent constipation or ease the symptoms of constipation; on the other hand, not having enough fiber, consuming too much fiber, or getting fiber from foods you are sensitive to can lead to constipation.

Fiber and constipation – The two type of fiber you should know

Most whole foods contain two type of fiber, both can be very beneficial for constipation:

  • Soluble fiber – is fiber that forms a gel-like consistency when mixed with liquid. This can be very beneficial for digestion by making the stool more moist and softer, so it can pass through the gut more easily.
    Foods that are high in soluble fiber that are also low in carbs include chia seeds and flax seeds; just add water to them and see how quickly the water turns into gel. These seeds are used in many recipes as egg replacements, natural thickeners, to help ingredients stick together or when a gel consistency is preferred.
    We took advantage of this property in our awarded Coconut Chocolate Chia Mousse Miracle recipe.
  • Insoluble fiber – is fiber that doesn’t dissolve in water, and typically pass through the gut largely intact. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool which can help to promote regular healthy bowel movement and in many cases prevent constipation. Good examples of low-carb sources of insoluble fiber include nuts, seeds, vegetables, leafy greens and low carb fruits such as avocados, and bell peppers. The insoluble fiber is usually the rough part that is found in the outer skin of foods.
How to use fiber for constipation

The ideal way to use fiber for constipation is to make sure you have the right amount of fiber your body needs from the foods that agree with your body. There are many fiber supplements that may seem like an easy way to get more fiber although it is best and quite easy to get your fiber from whole foods. This way you are also getting the other nutrients found in these foods.

Here are a few guidelines that may help you to use fiber for constipation properly from whole foods:

  • How much fiber – the daily recommendation of fiber is typically 25 to 30 grams a day from foods, although this may vary between people, as our digestive system and nutritional needs are different. The best way to tell is by looking at your stool and observe how you feel. If the stool appears dry, hard or too small, you may need more fiber. On the other hand, if the stool seems large, bulky and hard to pass, you may need less fiber.
  • Gradually increase your fiber consumption – observe how that affects your bowel movements, constipation symptoms and general feel.
  • Watch for food sensitivities – when adding new fiber-rich foods to your diet, introduce each food by itself to rule out food sensitivities. This also makes it easier to evaluate how these foods make you feel.
    Symptoms such as gas, bloating, running nose, excessive mucus build-up or even skin rash may be signs of food allergies. A good example are wheat and whole grains that can be helpful for constipation for some people, but may cause issues and sensitivities to others.
  • Soluble fiber vs. insoluble fiber –  while it is possible to get very technical and measure each, it is usually not needed when you consume enough whole foods. Aim for vegetables, low-sugar fruits, greens, whole raw sprouted nuts and seeds, and sea vegetables as these contain both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

The Problem with eating wheat and whole grains for constipation

We get many questions on whole grains and wheat that are very popular fiber-rich foods often recommended for constipation due to their high fiber content.

Home remedies for constipation grains wheatMany people are unaware that they have sensitivities to gluten (the wheat protein) or difficulties in properly digesting grains. This can trigger a reaction in the body leading to inflammation, digestive problems and other health issues. For this reason, if you have a history of constipation and are looking to increase your fiber consumption, we recommend to get your fiber from other sources that may be much easier to digest such as vegetables, fruits, limited amounts of raw sprouted nuts and seeds and sea vegetables.

The list of whole wheat and grains include many common foods such as bran, barley, rye, oats, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, high-fiber cereals made from whole grains or wheat, brown rice, different whole wheat pastas and high-fiber bars.
Whole wheat and grains can be found in many prepared foods, so it is important to read the label and see where you get your fiber from. Learn more about the issues with grains and wheat

Magnesium for constipation

Pros: safe and effective when it comes from foods  
Cons: some types of magnesium supplements can cause side effects and laxatives dependency

Using magnesium for constipation is one of the most common home remedies for constipation. Magnesium has a laxative effect in the body that can help to relieve constipation by two primary mechanisms:

  • Stool Softener – Magnesium increases the amount of water in the intestinal tract making the stool softer and easier to pass
  • Regular bowel movements – Magnesium supports the intestines muscles contraction and relaxation function, which is essential for regular bowel movements
Low Levels of magnesium and constipation

It is estimated that most Americans do not get enough magnesium from their diet. The magnesium constipation connection was shown in one study, where low consumption of magnesium was associated with constipation.
This means that if you have constipation and are low in magnesium, increasing your magnesium consumption may help to relief constipation.

It is important to note that magnesium plays a key role in many of the body’s functions and it is essential for good health. Making sure you have enough magnesium in your body goes beyond magnesium and constipation; it can benefit your overall health as well.

Getting Magnesium for constipation – Foods vs. Supplements

Home remedies for constipation Magnesium for constipationBefore using dietary supplements of magnesium for constipation, you may want to include foods that are high in magnesium in your diet and see if this helps to relieve your constipation.
Taking magnesium supplements can be beneficial short term and relieve constipation, although it is usually better to get your essential nutrients from natural whole foods if possible, and not from supplements.

Interestingly, many foods that are high in fiber are also high in magnesium, and since getting enough fiber can help with constipation as well, we recommend to modify your diet first, and take magnesium supplements only if needed.
Foods that are high in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, sea vegetables, and fish.
Good examples of healthy recipes that are high in magnesium (and fiber):

Using magnesium supplements for constipation – side effects and risks

When using magnesium supplements for constipation, it is important to pay close attention to the laxative magnesium forms that should only be used short term. The risks when using laxative magnesium types may include diarrhea and dehydration that can lead to mineral imbalances. Ongoing use can also lead to laxatives dependency. Common laxative magnesium forms that are typically available over the counter include Magnesium Hydroxide (milk of magnesia), Magnesium Sulfate (epsom salt), and magnesium citrate.

Chocolate and constipation
Is chocolate constipating?

Home remedies for constipation Chocolate and constipationHigh quality raw cacao is very rich in magnesium and may be a convenient (and yummy) way to get more magnesium in your diet. There is some evidence that chocolate may contribute to constipation in some people (study), although the cause of it is unknown. Whether the reason is due to the other ingredients that are usually found in commercial chocolate such as dairy and processed sugars, or due to poor quality of cacao used, the data is limited. If you still want to enjoy a healthy chocolate and see how it makes you feel, you may want to look into our home made chocolate recipes that are also high in fiber and other health promoting nutrients:

Olive oil for constipation

Pros: natural and safe
Cons: for mild cases of constipation

Home remedies for constipation Olive oil for constipationUsing olive oil for constipation is probably one of the safest natural home remedies for constipation that may be beneficial for mild cases of constipation.

Olive oil laxative effect is believed to be related to two properties of olive oil: it lubricates the bowels which can add moisture to the stool, and it also increases the production of certain digestive enzymes which can promote healthy digestion.

The short term effectiveness of olive oil for constipation was shown in various studies along with other healthy oils. According to one study, using flaxseed oil for constipation was found beneficial as well.
For this reason, if you have mild constipation, you may benefit from using both olive oil and flaxseed oil as a safe home remedy that may provide a natural constipation relief.

Using olive oil for constipation:
  • Only use extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, preferably organic
  • Take 5-15 ml of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach (1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon)
  • Optional: squeeze the juice of ½ organic lemon or grapefruit and mix with the olive oil
  • Diarrhea, abdominal cramps may occur, especially if more then 1 tablespoon is used
  • Adding olive oil as a salad dressing or mixing it with your meals may help as well. Make sure not to cook or heat the olive oil, as this may alter its fatty acids and potetnial benefits
  • Using olive oil for constipation is only recommended for adults

Coffee and constipation

Pros: a quick way to promote bowel movements and fast constipation relief
Cons: doesn’t work for all people, may cause side effects in some people

Home remedies for constipation Coffee and constipationDrinking coffee has been one of the most popular home remedies for constipation for a very good reason: many people experience a bowel movement minutes after drinking coffee. This reaction can help to maintain regular bowel movements and also provide a quick constipation relief. In fact, according to one study, caffeinated coffee was shown to stimulate colonic activity similar to a 1000 calories meal! this study also showed that caffeinated coffee effect on colonic activity was 60% stronger than water and 23% stronger than decaffeinated coffee.

The coffee constipation connection

It is believed that coffee laxative effect is mainly related to its caffeine content. Since caffeine has also a strong diuretic effect, it may cause dehydration which can lead to constipation. In addition, not all people respond the same to coffee with some people experience many negative side effects from drinking coffee. This is the reason of the somewhat controversial coffee constipation connection: some people who drink coffee experience an immediate constipation relief, while others see no benefits or in some cases, drinking coffee make their constipation symptoms worse.

Drinking coffee for constipation
  • The quality of the coffee matters! Prefer organic low-acid coffee. Drinking high acidic or low quality coffee can actually damage your gut!
  • Do not add milk, cream or other dairy derived ingredients to your coffee as they may cause constipation and also weaken the effectiveness of the coffee
  • Use coffee strategically: drink the minimum amount of coffee needed that trigger a bowel movement, ideally not every day
    • Drinking large amount of coffee or drinking coffee several times a day may cause your body to get used to the coffee and is known to weaken its effect. It can also increase the chances of getting dehydrated which can lead to constipation
  • Increase your water consumption throughout the day to prevent dehydration
  • If you notice that drinking coffee makes you jittery or cause other discomforts, reduce the amount, replace the coffee type or stop drinking coffee. According to research, some people may have a negative reaction to coffee and do not feel or get the benefits from it.

Black tea and constipation

Home remedies for constipation tea for constipationDrinking black tea for constipation has also been one of the controversial home remedies for constipation. Black tea consumption has been linked to constipation since it may cause dehydration related constipation in some cases (study).
This means that if you are a regular black tea drinker and suffer from constipation, you may want to stop drinking the tea to see if it may be related to your constipation. In addition, the type of tea and quantity matter and are important factors to consider when drinking teas, so if you suspect that your black tea is the reason for your constipation, you may want to replace it with other type of teas and see if this helps.

Exercise for constipation

Home remedies for constipation Exercise for constipationMost home remedies for constipation involve taking something to relieve constipation or stop consuming certain foods that may cause constipation.
Exercise falls under a completely different category: the concept of moving your body in order to feel better.

Is exercise good for constipation?

The benefits of exercise for constipation are well known and have been extensively studied. According to research, these benefits may be related to the following effects of exercise on the body:

  • Lack of activity and constipation – Constipation has been linked to lack of physical activity or a sedentary lifestyle (study). This connection between exercise and constipation was further demonstrated in various studies where inactive people that had chronic constipation were able to relieve their constipation symptoms after they started to exercise. In these cases, exercise was shown to improve the elimination of waste from the digestive tract or the transit time of food in the colon (study).
  • Exercise may improve the frequency of bowel movements – A study that evaluated the effectiveness of abdominal exercise, breathing exercises and abdominal massage for constipation, found that the combination of these led to higher frequency of bowel movements (study).
  • Exercise can improve constipation symptoms – Exercise was shown in various studies to decrease the severity of bowel symptoms and increase the quality of life of people with constipation (study).
Best exercise for constipation

The best exercise for constipation should match your individual fitness level, state of health and also your preferences. It has to be enjoyable so you keep doing it and take advantage of the many benefits exercise has to our physical and mental health.

If you are unsure where or how to get started, the good news is that even mild physical activity such as brisk walking for 10-30 minutes a day can be very beneficial. Other activities that involve movements and stretching such as yoga, pilates, weight training, dancing and others may also provide similar benefits for constipation.

Enema for constipation

Pros: can provide instant constipation relief
Cons: invasive, may cause infections, discomforts, side effects and complications

Perhaps one of the oldest home remedies for constipation, enemas have been practiced for centuries since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.
Using enema for constipation works by injecting liquids into the lower part of the colon through the rectum in order to loosen and release trapped stool and waste. This typically triggers one or more bowel movements, helping to flush out the trapped stool and waste.
This entire process of using enema for constipation usually takes 10-40 minutes, making enema one of the fastest acting home remedies for constipation that can provide instant constipation relief.

To use enema for constipation
  1. hang the enema bucket or bag with the liquid above you. If this is your first time, you may want to use distilled water
  2. the liquid temperature should be around your body’s temperature
  3. lie on your sides or stomach; choose the position that is the most comfortable for you, relax and breath deeply
  4. using coconut oil, lubricate the enema tube
  5. insert the enema tube into your rectum gently. If you find this difficult, try twisting the enema tube as you insert it
  6. slightly release the enema clamp so the liquid begins to run in a slow pace
  7. if you feel cramping or other discomforts, you can close the enema clamp and breath deeply for a while
  8. when the bag or bucket are empty, take out the enema tube from your rectum
  9. try to hold the liquid for 5-15 minutes or until you feel an urge to go, and can’t easily hold the liquid anymore
Enema risks and side effects

Using enema for constipation may provide fast relief, although it is not recommended on a regular basis.
Frequent use of enemas may cause injury and infections. If the liquid used contains additional ingredients other than water, direct infection or toxicity from the ingredients may occur as well (study).

Other side effects and risks from using enemas may include rectal bleeding, vomiting, anal irritation, nausea, dizziness, abdominal pain, and electrolyte imbalances such as hyponatremia (low levels of sodium in the blood).

When to use enema for constipation relief

If you suffer from occasional constipation and are familiar with enemas, doing water enema may provide a quick relief. On the other hand, if you have never done enemas before, you may want to consider other less invasive options for constipation relief; doing enemas properly requires practice where you learn how your body responds to the process, and adjust it based on your experience. Doing enema for the first time when you are desperately looking for a quick constipation relief, may not provide you the results you are looking for.

Suppository for constipation

Pros: can provide instant constipation relief
Cons: invasive, may cause side effects and laxative dependency

Suppositories are another type of home remedies for constipation that are taken through the rectum.
Unlike enemas which use liquids, suppositories for constipation work by inserting a solid medicine into the rectum. Once inserted, the medicine begins to melt in the colon leading to an urge to have a bowel movement, usually within 15-60 minutes.

The actual mechanism, effectiveness and safety of suppository for constipation depends on the medicine used.
Glycerin suppositories are very common over the counter (OTC) home remedies for constipation that are found in many stores. Glycerin, the medication in these suppositories, is classified as a hyperosmotic laxative that works by attracting water into the intestines making it easier for the stool to pass. This can help to promote a a bowel movement within 15 to 60 minutes.

When to use suppository for constipation

Using suppository for constipation may be beneficial in cases where other oral home remedies for constipation didn’t work, or could not be taken effectively such in cases of constipation in children, where compliance may be an issue.
For this reason, suppositories may be used as home remedies for constipation in kids where a quick constipation relief is needed. It is important to remember that using suppository for constipation should not be used on an ongoing basis, as laxative dependency and other issues may occur.
We strongly recommend to consult with your doctor before using suppositories, or giving your child any medicine for constipation.

Suppository risks and side effects

Ongoing use of suppository for constipation can impair normal bowel function and lead to a laxative dependency. This means that you won’t be able to make regular bowel movements without the use of laxatives.
Other side effects may include abdominal pain, rectal irritation or rectal burning, and diarrhea.

Best Foods For Constipation

One of the most important part of any treatment for constipation is knowing what foods cause constipation and choosing the right foods to help constipation. Sounds easy right?

The first part, constipation foods to avoid is easy. Simply stop eating these foods for awhile, especially the most common ones:

Foods that cause constipation list
  • beef and red meat
  • dairy: milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt
  • eggs
  • wheat, grains, gluten, rice, bread – despite being high in fiber, they are known to cause food sensitivities to many people. Most health practitioners consider them as constipation foods to avoid
  • processed foods, fast foods
  • fried foods
  • unripe fruits such as green bananas are known to cause constipation and many digestion problems while ripe fruits are among the best foods to relieve constipation. See the fruits for constipation section for more details.
  • foods that are high in processed sugars
  • alcohol
  • snacks such as chips

The problem is usually with the second part – foods that help with constipation; not all people respond the same to these foods; the same food that may benefit some people, can harm others. Even foods that are considered very healthy. The reason for this is that people bodies, especially the digestion system tend to differ from each other, due to genetics, gut’s flora, environmental diversity, and many other factors.
You have to make sure your body agrees with these foods and that you do not have sensitivities or allergies to them.
This is a very common misconception about the constipating foods connection, and diets in general.

Fruits for constipation

Home remedies for constipation Fruits for constipationEating fruits for constipation can be very beneficial and is considered one of the top home remedies for constipation. Most fruits are high in fiber, very easy to digest and are known to promote healthy digestion and bowel movements.
Eating fresh fruits is also an effective way to hydrate your body due to their high liquid content; this can be very beneficial for constipation especially since dehydration is a very common cause of constipation.

Best fruits for constipation

Eating fruits for constipation can be very beneficial as long as they are consumed properly. Here are a few helpful guidelines so you can enjoy these benefits and avoid side effects:

  • Prefer high-fiber lower-sugar fruits -Apples, asian pears, berries and kiws are great examples
  • Eat fruits on an empty stomach – Fruits pass the stomach very quickly compared to other foods and only get broken down in the small intestine. This means that if the stomach isn’t empty, the fruits can stay trapped in the stomach by the previous meal. When this happens, the fruits start to rot and can cause many issues such as bloating and gas. If you have ever had watermelon as desert after a BBQ meal, you will know exactly what we are talking about!
  • Eat fruits by themselves – do not mix with other foods
  • Do not mix different type of fruits – Different fruits tend to have different digestion times and can interfere which each other digestion
  • Only eat ripe fruits – unripe fruits are hard to digest and in most cases are not ready to be consumed. In fact, eating unripe fruits is a known cause of constipation! This is the reason why many people believe that bananas cause constipation where the reason they had constipation was due to eating unripe (green) bananas.

The fruits topic is covered extensively in our free eBook.

Dried fruits for constipation

In addition to fresh fruits, eating dried fruits for constipation can also be very beneficial, considering their high fiber content and their ability to promote bowel movements. Good examples of dried fruits for constipation are prunes (dried plums), figs, apricots, raisins and dates. Prunes are considered by many the best dried fruits for constipation and the top foods that relieve constipation. They are covered in more details in the next section.

Prunes for constipation

Home remedies for constipation Prunes for constipationPerhaps one of the most popular foods for constipation and home remedies for constipation, prunes (dried plums) and prune juice have been widely used to relief constipation.
Prunes are rich in sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that has a natural laxative effect in the body and are also a good source of fiber. Eating prunes or drinking prune juice can help to soften the stool, increase its size, and promote healthy bowel movements.
The effectiveness of prunes for constipation was also shown in various studies; one study found that consuming 50 grams of prunes per day significantly improved the number of complete bowel movements per week and stool consistency.

Before using prunes for constipation:
  • If you have never taken prunes for constipation, you may need to experiment with the dosage, as it varies from one person to another. When it comes to sorbitol and fiber, more is not better. Consuming too much of each or both can cause side effects such as diarrhea, bloating, gas and other digestive discomforts
  • You may also want to compare how eating prunes make you feel compared to drinking prune juice for constipation. Some people get better results from drinking the juice, while others prefer to eat the prunes.
How many prunes does it take to relieve constipation?
  • Start by eating 3-6 prunes in the morning on an empty stomach (1-2 ounces)
  • As an alternative: drink 4-8 ounces of prune juice in the morning on an empty stomach. Note that prune juice contains less sorbitol and less fiber than prunes
  • Increase your water consumption throughout the day
  • If there are no improvements the next day, you may want to increase the serving size
  • Make sure the prunes used are unsulfured, preferably organic, and that no added sugars or additional ingredients are used.

Figs for constipation relief

Home remedies for constipation figs for constipationIn addition to prunes, eating figs for constipation has also been one of the most known traditional home remedies for constipation. The effectiveness of figs for constipation was also suggested by research where eating figs was shown to provide constipation relief; figs were able to reduce the colon transit time and improved stool type and abdominal discomfort (study).

The reason figs can can benefit and relieve constipation is due to their laxative effect; it is reported that fig laxative effect comes from their high fiber, phenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins content (study).

How many figs should I eat for constipation?
  • Start by eating 1 ounce of dried figs or 3 ounces of fresh figs in the morning on an empty stomach away from other foods or fruits
  • When eating dried figs for constipation, some people see more benefits of figs soaked in water overnight
  • Increase your water consumption throughout the day
  • If there are no improvements the next day, you may want to increase the serving size
  • Make sure the the dried figs are unsulfured, preferably organic, and that no added sugars or additional ingredients are used.

Problematic Home remedies for constipation

Mineral oil for constipation

Pros: may help relief constipation
Cons: not natural, may contain chemicals and toxins, can lead to laxative dependency

Using mineral oil for constipation has been a common practice for many years and it is one of the well known home remedies for constipation.
When using internally, mineral oil has a lubricant laxative properties; mineral oil can help to soften and lubricate the stool by coating the stool with moisture and water, which makes it is easier to pass the stool.

What is mineral oil?

Mineral oil, also known as paraffin oil, is an oil that is typically made as a by-product when making gasoline from petroleum. This means that mineral oil is not natural and may contain chemicals and toxins, which is one of the biggest concerns of using mineral oil internally for constipation. In addition, ongoing use of mineral oil may lead to loss of normal bowel function, creating a dependency, so you will need to keep using it in order to make a bowel movement. Other potential risks with using mineral oil internally may include:

  • Mineral oil may interfere with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins
  • Potential risk of lipoid pneumonia as a result of mineral oil aspiration (study)

Due to these potential risks and the fact that mineral oil is not natural and may contain toxins and chemicals, we do not recommend using mineral oil for constipation, as it seems a clear case where the risks outweigh the potential benefits.

Castor oil for constipation

Pros: may help provide quick constipation relief
Cons: potential side effects, may lead to laxative dependency

Using castor oil as a laxative is one of the oldest home remedies for constipation, yet many people and health providers prefer other methods due to castor oil’s potential risks, side effects and unpleasant taste.

Home remedies for constipation Castor oil for constipationCastor oil constipation benefits come from its stimulant laxative properties; castor oil trigger a bowel movement by stimulating the muscles of the intestinal walls to contract and push the stool.
This mechanism of castor oil can speed up the rate the body makes bowel movements which may help provide fast constipation relief, but it also comes with a price – as a stimulant laxative, ongoing use of castor oil can weaken the muscles of the intestinal walls leading to chronic constipation and laxatives dependency.
Other side effects when using castor oil for constipation may include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, and low levels of potassium in your body.

Due to these potential side effects, we do not recommend using castor oil for constipation, especially when there are other natural home remedies for constipation that are safer and more effective.

If you decide to use castor oil for constipation, we highly recommend to consult with your health provider.
To use castor oil for constipation:

  • Take 5-15 ml of castor oil in the morning on an empty stomach  (1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon)
  • 15 ml of castor oil is commonly used for constipation. If you have never taken castor oil for constipation, you may want to start with a lower dosage to asses your tolerance and the way your body responds to the oil
  • In order to help with the taste of castor oil, use capsules or mix the oil with juice
  • Using castor oil for constipation is not recommended during pregnancy or for children

Before Using Home Remedies for Constipation

Reminder: Before you use home remedies for constipation, either natural ones, over the counter constipation medicine, or any fast acting constipation relief prescription laxative, it is very important to identify your constipation causes as the needed constipation treatment may be completely different.

What is Constipation

Constipation is one of the most common bowel problems in the western world, impacting up to 20% of the US population(63 million Americans), yet one of the biggest issue with constipation is that many people are unaware they have constipation and continue to live with the many side effects of constipation.

Constipation definition

The definition of constipation includes one or more of the following common symptoms of constipation:

  • Less than 3 bowel movements a week
  • Difficulties having a bowel movement with straining or pushing in order to make a bowel movement
  • Hard, dry, small or lumpy stool that is painful or difficult to pass
  • Feeling as not all stool comes out during bowel movements

The 3 facts you should know about Constipation

  1. Constipation may be a symptom or caused by an underlying medical condition
  2. Ongoing chronic constipation can lead to serious health complications
  3. Many remedies for constipation, either natural home remedies for constipation, herbs, medication work by forcing your body to make a bowel movements which can cause laxative dependency.

Constipation and Laxative Dependency

When it comes to home remedies for constipation, most people focus on home remedies for instant constipation relief. While many remedies such as strong laxatives may work faster than others to alleviate constipation, they may not address the root cause of the constipation.
Furthermore, ongoing use of laxatives, even natural ones, can lead to laxative dependency.
This means that you won’t be able to make regular bowel movements without the use of laxatives; unfortunately, it is a very common problem that many people have to deal with after overusing laxatives.

Home remedies for constipation laxative dependencyWhat happens when you are constipated?

  1. When you have constipation, the food you eat remains in the intestines much longer than it should
  2. As a result, the food gets rotten and is broken down by bacteria and other pathogens which typically releases gas and other undesirable byproducts
  3. This slow transit of food creates a vicious cycle where the digestion process is impaired by the already constipated digestive tract
  4. The result: the food you eat (even healthy food!) remains in your colon for a long time and become toxic, causing more gas and other digestive problems.

Constipation Symptoms

The most common symptoms of constipation typically include one or more of the following signs of constipation:

  • Irregular or infrequent bowel movements
  • Difficulties having a bowel movement with straining or pushing in order to make a bowel movement
  • Hard, dry, small or lumpy stool that is painful or difficult to pass
  • Feeling as not all stool comes out during bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain

Overtime, ongoing or chronic constipation can lead to additional constipation side effects, that may include:

  • Acne, breakouts
  • Back pain, low back pain
  • Fecal impaction – hardened dry stool that is stuck in the rectum or lower colon, where it is difficult for the colon to push the stool out through normal bowel movements. This may cause many discomforts including belly cramping, bloating and stool leakage
  • Cramps
  • Skin rashes, eczema
  • Bloating, swollen abdomen, distended stomach, belly pain – the bloating and constipation connection is usually very common, yet not many people are aware that their bloating issues are caused by constipation
  • Gas or in some cases inability to pass gas which may cause painful constipation
  • Body odor
  • Constipation diarrhea issues are a very common problem that is related to the usage of laxatives, where you constantly go from diarrhea after using laxatives to constipation where laxatives use is stopped

Constipation Complications

Constipation complications that can be caused by ongoing constipation, may include:

Hemorrhoids

The repeated straining while having a bowel movement (one of the most common constipation symptoms), can cause Hemorrhoids (piles), which are swollen and inflamed veins around the rectum and anus.
Common hemorrhoids symptoms:

  • Painless rectal bleeding during bowel movements
  • Painful lump around the anus
  • Itching, irritation, pain and discomfort around the anus
  • Pain or discomfort
Rectal prolapse

The straining while having a bowel movement can also cause rectal prolapse, which is a condition where a part of the large intestine slips outside the anus. As a result, rectal prolapse may lead to difficulties in controlling bowel movements, causing stool to leak from the rectum.

Anal fissure

Anal fissure (anal ulcer) is a painful small tear in the lining of the anus, that can be caused when passing hard or large stools, (a very common symptom of constipation). An anal fissure can cause pain and bleeding during bowel movements.

What Causes Constipation – Top 4 Common Causes

The most common causes of constipation may include:

1 – Diet that causes constipation

Diet is one of the most common causes of constipation, especially when it comes to the following key factors:

  • Eating foods that cause constipation such as processed or junk foods, dairy products, gluten, high consumption of foods with dry or hard consistency, foods that are very high in iron or calcium (such as red meat or dairy), fried foods.
  • Food Sensitivities – Eating foods you are sensitive to may trigger constipation, and usually come with additional symptoms on top of the constipation signs, such as gas, bloating, even skin issues. If you suspect you may have sensitivity to certain foods you eat, try to eliminate them from your diet for a few days and see if there are any improvements with your constipation symptoms. Learn more about food sensitivities
  • Not enough fiber in the diet – it is estimated that most people do not meet the daily recommendation of fiber which is 25 to 30 grams a day from food (not supplements).
    • Note: when it comes to fiber – more is not always better! eating too much fiber can soak up water and cause hard dry stool, or stool that is too large and hard to pass leading to constipation.
      Gradually increase your fiber consumption and observe how that affects your bowel movements and constipation symptoms. Some people need much less fiber than others. The fiber and constipation topic is covered in detail in the fiber for constipation section.
  • Dehydration or lack of fluids – it is estimated that 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration which is a very common cause of constipation. Not drinking enough or ongoing consumption of stimulants or caffeinated beverages that have a diuretic effect on the body are usually the main causes of dehydration related constipation.

Popular diets that cause constipation may include:

  • High protein – low carb diets – low carb diets typically include many foods that cause constipation: foods that have a drier consistency, fatty meats, foods that are high in iron-calcium such as dairy and red meat, and others. These foods tend to be lower in fiber as well. Some people are used to eat this way and they do great with this type of eating, but many people who follow high protein low carb diets suffer from constipation. If you experience constipation while on a high protein – low carb diet, these guidelines may help your current diet for constipation:
    • consume enough fiber. Whole foods that are high in fiber and also low in carbs include greens, non-starchy vegetables, avocados, coconuts, sprouted nuts and seeds and sea vegetables
    • drink enough water throughout the day but not with your meals as it may dilute stomach acids and impair digestion
    • consider replacing a portion of your dairy and animal meats that are usually hard to digest with vegetarian proteins that may be easier to digest such as raw hemp seeds, sprouted organic tofu or others
  • Low calorie diets – the reason many low calorie diets are linked to constipation is that they usually don’t have enough volume of foods in order to promote healthy bowel movements. In some cases, low calorie diets also lack essential nutrients that are necessary for many vital body functions, including proper digestion and healthy metabolism. If you decide to go on a low calorie diet, make sure it is not low in nutrients so you still meet the daily recommendation of all the essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Fasting – fasting is also linked to constipation since the body tend to slow the metabolism as a response to the long time without food consumption. If fasting is a part of your lifestyle:
    • drink enough liquids to prevent dehydration
    • observe what is the ideal fasting time for your body. When done correctly, short fasting such as intermittent fasting (typically less than 24 hours) may actually improve digestion.

2 – Lifestyle & Habits that cause constipation

The following lifestyle and habits are known causes of constipation and are much more common than many people think. In fact, in a lot of cases, they are the main reasons for constipation issues:

  • Lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle
  • Ignoring the urge to go, hold or delay bowel movement – a common cause of constipation in children
  • Not giving yourself enough time during bowel movements
  • Ongoing high level of stress or anxiety
  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality with problems falling or staying asleep, insomnia
  • Travelling

3 – Medical conditions and medication that cause constipation

Medication that causes constipation include many prescription drugs and over the counter medicine (OTC).
For this reason, it is very important to pay close attention to changes in your bowel movements and other symptoms of constipation when starting to take a new medicine.

Many people make this mistake by taking laxatives on top of their medication, ignoring the fact that their medication is the cause of their constipation to begin with!

Common medication that can cause constipation may include:

  • Allergy medication
  • Antacids
  • Antibiotics
  • Anticholinergics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Asthma medication
  • Cold medicines (antihistamines)
  • Diabetes medication
  • Diuretics
  • High blood pressure medicines
  • Laxatives (ongoing use can create dependency in order to make a bowel movement)
  • NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, Naproxen
  • Pain relievers
  • Parkinson’s medication

Medical conditions that can cause constipation may include:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Diverticulitis (diverticular disease)
  • Hirschsprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
  • Hormonal imbalances (which is why constipation is very common during pregnancy)
  • Hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease

If you or your child have constipation, and any of these medical conditions or medication apply to you, we highly recommend that you consult with your health provider prior to taking any home remedies for constipation.

4 – Supplements that cause constipation

Certain dietary supplements can cause constipation as well. Many people are surprised to learn that their multivitamin is the cause of their constipation issues due to high usage of iron or calcium in it. Excessive intake of iron or calcium supplements is a very common cause of constipation.
The most common supplements that can cause constipation may include:

  • Calcium supplements – excessive consumption of calcium and constipation have been shown in many studies to be related (study), so it is important to view your overall intake of calcium from foods and supplements
  • Vitamin D (high dosage)
  • Iron Supplements
  • Laxatives (ongoing use can create a dependency, so you can’t make a bowel movement with the use of laxatives)
  • Stimulants such as caffeine found in many pre-workout and energy supplements may cause dehydration related constipation

Constipation Treatment

It is commonly agreed by most medical professionals that constipation treatment should not be based on medication alone. Treatment for constipation typically includes two primary steps: relieve constipation and prevent the constipation from reoccurring. The most important component of any constipation treatment however, is to identify what causes the constipation to begin with, as the needed treatment may be completely different.
Constipation may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, so it is vital to cover the root cause of your constipation issues in order to cure constipation for good and prevent further health complications.

While the causes of constipation may differ from one person to another, the majority of the cases of constipation are caused by diet and lifestyle, and as such they are usually core parts of the treatment for constipation.

To learn more, see the relevant section:

  • Diet : Diet for constipation
  • Lifestyle : Lifestyle and constipation

FAQ – Home Remedies for Constipation

Do bananas cause constipation?

Eating unripe bananas can cause constipation due to their high resistant starch content that may take a long time to digest. As bananas ripen, their resistant starch content decreases and they become easier to digest. Eating ripe bananas does not cause constipation, although ripe bananas are not considered the best fruits for constipation, since they still contain some resistant starch.
How to tell if a banana is ripe? The color of ripe bananas is yellow with a few brown spots, where unripe bananas color is green. As a reminder, for optimal digestion, fruits should always be eaten when they are ripe, on an empty stomach away from other foods. Combining fruits with leafy greens or with the same type of fruits works fine for most people.

Are grapes good or bad for constipation?

Eating grapes (red, green, black) may help to relieve constipation for most people due to the following properties of grapes:

  • grapes are good source of insoluble fiber which is known to add bulk to the stool and can help to promote regular healthy bowel movements
  • grapes are very high in water content which helps to hydrate the body. This can be very beneficial for cases of constipation as a result of dehydration

To use grapes for constipation:

  • Eat grapes on an empty stomach – grapes should be eaten on an empty stomach preferably in the morning, away from other fruits or foods. Eating too much grapes can cause diarrhea or loose stools
  • Prefer organic grapes – it is highly recommended to prefer organic grapes, as conventional grapes are considered very high in pesticide residue (source, EWG – the Environmental Working Group)
  • Watch the sugar content – when using grapes for constipation, it is important to take into consideration their high sugar content, so if this is a concern for you, you may want to look into fruits with lower sugar and higher fiber content such as berries, apples, and Asian pears. Like most whole fruits, grapes are good source of fiber, but compared to other fruits, grapes are not considered fruits that are very high in fiber
  • Watch for food sensitivities – some people do not respond well to fruit sugars and in these cases, other home remedies for constipation are preferred
  • Do not drink grape juice – grape juice is not recommended for constipation as in most cases the juice has significantly less fiber (or no fiber at all) than fresh whole grapes. It may also cause blood sugar spikes very quickly.
Raisins vs. Grapes for Constipation

Raisins which are dried grapes are one of the most popular home remedies for constipation due to their fiber content. Fresh grapes have the additional hydration benefit due to their high water content. Both raisins and fresh grapes are considered natural laxatives and may provide constipation relief for many people; for some people raisins work better, for others grapes do. A well known traditional ayurvedic medicine remedy for constipation is to have the raisins soaked in water overnight and eat them in the morning.

Is chocolate constipating?

There is some evidence that chocolate may contribute to constipation in some people (study), although the cause of it is unknown. Whether the reason is due to the other ingredients that are usually found in commercial chocolate such as dairy and processed sugars, or due to poor quality of cacao used, the data is limited.
High quality raw cacao may be a different story, as it very rich in magnesium and fiber, both known for their ability to relieve constipation. If you are a chocolate fan, you can include raw cacao as your list of foods that help constipation and see how it affects your constipation.
For simple healthy recipes with raw cacao, see our home made chocolate recipes: