Having regular bowel movement is very important for your overall health. Chronic Constipation is listed at the top when it comes to digestive complaints. In desperation, many people resort to taking laxatives without realizing that this type of solution may not be the best. In fact, it may aggravate the constipation cycle. Using over-the-counter medications is fine for occasional bouts of constipation, but if your constipation is on a frequent basis, it may have something to do with your diet (e.g., poor intake of healthy fiber), lifestyle or probably an underlying medical condition.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a common condition characterized by infrequent, difficult, or incomplete evacuation of stool.Chronic Constipation can be in the form of:
- Infrequent evacuation of the stool – less than three times a week
- Dry, lumpy, hard stools that are uncomfortable or hard to pass
- Feeling you need help to empty your colon such as performing an enema
- Incomplete evacuation – when you feel you’re not passing the stool completely
Natural Solutions for Chronic Constipation
Struggling from Chronic constipation? The good news is that there’s no need to take over-the-counter medications to treat this condition. There are safe yet effective natural solutions that can address the root cause of constipation so it won’t occur again.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber. Plant-based foods are naturally high in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is a food component that is resistant to digestive enzymes. Although fiber is not digested in the stomach it is normally bundled with bioactive components such as vitamins, minerals, resistant starches, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Dietary fibers are recognized to have protective effects from a certain gastrointestinal diseases such as constipation, colon cancer, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), diverticulitis, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
There are two types of dietary fiber:
- Insoluble fiber: Mainly found in vegetables and whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat and nuts. This form of fiber works like a sweeper through the digestive tract. It increases bulk to encourage regularity and prevent constipation.
- Soluble fiber: Contains plant cells such as gums and pectin. When combined with fluid, it forms a gel-like substance that acts as a natural lubricant to soften the stool. Rich sources of soluble fiber are asparagus, avocado, oats, lentils, barley, and
The recommended daily intake of fiber according to the American Dietetic Association is 14 grams for every 1000 kcal, which is equivalent to 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men.
But if you are not used to taking considerable amounts of fiber, slowly increase your fiber consumption to prevent issues like flatulence, bloating, and stomach discomfort as your body adjusts.
Flax seeds are also a known remedy for constipation due to their mucilaginous content and natural oils. Flax seeds have a unique laxative effect. To consume them, it is best to grind the whole seed and add them to a variety of dishes and smoothies or eat them raw.
Fermented Foods. Miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and other fermented vegetables are loaded with beneficial bacteria. Probiotics can help promote healthy gut transit time, stool consistency, and stool frequency based on research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Herbal Teas and Bitters. Herbal bitters work by stimulating digestion, specifically boosting bile acid production, which is produced in the liver. Bile acts as a natural laxative that breaks down fats. To jumpstart your bile production, prepare a small salad of chicory, arugula, and other dark, leafy greens.
You may also drink teas made from dandelion, goldenseal, milk thistle, and peppermint to promote bile production. Peppermint’s anti-spasmodic effect has been proven in numerous studies. It can also help trigger anti-pain channels in the colon.
Other Important Self-Management Approaches for Constipation
Apart from dietary fiber, herbal remedies, and probiotics, water intake is a significant factor to prevent chronic constipation. Your body is made up of more than 60 percent water; hence water is essential in all bodily functions such as muscle contraction, digestion, and metabolism.
There are so many opinions on the recommended amount of water to drink, but the health authorities usually recommend eight 8-oz glasses per day. This is the ‘8×8 rule’, which is easy to remember.
Another key risk factor for constipation is inactivity. Experts all agree that exercise is important for a regular bowel movement. Simply get up and moving about daily can help ease your constipation. Have a regular walking routine of 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day to help the digestive system work optimally.
 Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822308015666
 Dimidi, E. et.al. (August 2014). The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2014/08/06/ajcn.114.089151.abstract