Already drank enough water and nothing is moving? Are you tired of depending on a laxative pill every time you’re feeling backed up? Certain foods contain bowel stimulating properties and this article explores natural options to ease constipation and provide relief from the associated pain accompanied, like excess gas and bloating. You may be surprised to learn that many of these natural remedies can be found in your own kitchen!
Apple Cider Vinegar
This powerful vinegar has been used for centuries to treat a multitude of ailments including constipation. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic and malic acid which are important for the formation of stool and support the gut microbiota (1). To try this remedy, add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and drink! Drinking this mixture on a consistent basis can improve long term constipation. However, drinking this on an empty stomach is not recommended since it is highly acidic and could cause an adverse reaction. If you find that you can’t handle the smell or taste, there are other ways to find relief.
Warm Lemon Water
Lemon juice is “rich in pectin, which is an indigestible carbohydrate” (2), highly acidic and aids in pushing out toxins through stimulating bile and digestive juices in your stomach. The pectin in the lemon is very important: “For more than fifty years pectin has been shown to be an adjuvant in controlling constipation. So actually citrus fruits can be useful in the treatment of constipation” (2). Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into an 8oz cup of warm water. Does the water have to be hot? In short yes, warm water specifically helps push out the stuck and hardened stool. For better results, drinking a cup on an empty stomach can increase the effectiveness. However, sipping room-temperature lemon water throughout the day can equally support your digestion and prevent your system from being backed up.
Papaya is a vitamin C rich, sweet and juicy fruit which has enzymes that break down proteins in your large intestine. It can be used as a laxative but can also be highly beneficial for long term digestive health. Former clinical studies gave this fruit to the participants who suffer from constipation and found “the papaya preparation (Caricol®) contributes to the maintenance of digestive tract physiology” (3). Papaya can be used for immediate alleviation or utilized as a preventative measure to keep the colon moving on a daily basis.
“Historically, ginger has a long tradition of efficacy in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gases) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract)” (4). This spice has multiple uses other than adding flavor to your dishes, and can be used to make a natural laxative that can be made right in your kitchen. Simply cut up a few pieces and add it to boiling water, let it steam over the stovetop for 15 minutes, then drink! You can also consume ginger by freshly grating it and mixing it with juice or adding it to your smoothie.
If you don’t have any of the items mentioned above, movement is an efficient way to gently get things going. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels in the body that is responsible for moving waste throughout the body (5), and the waste only moves if you move. In other words, running, sprinting, sit ups or any form of aerobic exercise increases the ease of a bowel movement. A clinical study examined a group of inactive women who suffered from chronic constipation. The results implied that physical activity, “improves both the defecation pattern and rectosigmoid or total colonic transit time” (6). A set of twenty jumping jacks can be impactful. If this particular move does not work for you, try jumping up and down while standing in place for 30 seconds. The best part is that you can do this right now, wherever you are!
DISCLAIMER: The items mentioned above have limited evidence on their effectiveness and should be used with caution. Constipation is a symptom rather than a disease, and the underlying cause should be investigated. Consider speaking to a medical professional if you need further assistance.
- Georgiou, Claire. “The Apple Cider Vinegar Cleanse: Lose Weight, Improve Gut Health, Fight Cholesterol, and More with Nature’s Miracle Cure.” Google Books, St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 21 June 2016, books.google.com/books?id=0tclDgAAQBAJ
- Bellini, Massimo et al. “Irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation: Fact and fiction.” World journal of gastroenterology vol. 21,40 (2015): 11362-70. doi:10.3748/wjg.v21.i40.11362
- Muss, Claus et al. “Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders.” Neuro endocrinology letters vol. 34,1 (2013): 38-46. PMID: 23524622.
- Bhatt, N., Waly, M. I., Essa, M. M., & Ali, A. (2013). “Ginger: A functional herb”. In Food as Medicine (pp. 1-29). Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
- Moore, James E Jr, and Christopher D Bertram. “Lymphatic System Flows.” Annual review of fluid mechanics vol. 50 (2018): 459-482. doi:10.1146/annurev-fluid-122316-045259
- Anneke M. De Schryver, Yolande C. Keulemans, Harry P. Peters, Louis M. Akkermans, André J. Smout, Wouter R. De Vries & Gerard P. Van Berge-Henegouwen (2005) Effects of regular physical activity on defecation pattern in middle-aged patients complaining of chronic constipation, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 40:4, 422-429, DOI: 10.1080/00365520510011641
Edited by PreRD Intern, Lauren Gatto