Constipation is a common problem that many people suffer from at some point in their lives. It typically resolves after a week or so and simple dietary and lifestyle changes can often help. In addition to this, you may want to try some natural remedies or supplements which can help to aid digestion and alleviate constipation.
Natural remedies for constipation
- Practice mindful eating – this helps to calm the stress response in the body. Being in a state of ‘fight or flight’ can hamper the digestive process and cause many gut symptoms including constipation. Simple things like preparing and cooking your own food, eating at a table without distractions and taking few deep breaths before a meal can all help digestion.
- Chew your food thoroughly – similar to mindful eating, chewing your food thoroughly to a baby food consistency helps to break down food properly. This helps food to move more quickly through the digestive system and encourages optimal nutrient absorption, decreasing your risk of constipation.
- Abdominal massage – massaging the abdomen can help to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with constipation and stimulates muscle contractions to encourage more frequent bowel movements. You can do this simply at home – see instructions below. Other helpful massage techniques can include colon massage, reflexology (foot massage), back or perineal massage. It may be advisable to seek support from a qualified massage therapist to help you with these therapies.
- Keep moving – exercise and activity will encourage the bowels to keep moving by speeding up the amount of time it takes for food to move through the large intestine. Regular exercise helps to improve muscle tone which is important for regular bowel movements. It doesn’t have to be high intensity cardio workouts, keeping active with walking, stretching, yoga or Pilates can all help to keep your bowels moving and alleviate constipation. Gentle exercise, particularly walking outdoors in nature or practicing yoga, also helps to reduce stress which can otherwise slow down digestion and cause constipation.
- Epsom salt baths – Epsom salts contain the mineral magnesium sulfate which is known to be beneficial in helping constipation due to its laxative effects. By taking regular Epsom salt baths, this provides a good source of magnesium sulfate which is easily absorbed through the skin and well tolerated for those with digestive issues. Taking a hot bath also provides a source of relaxation which may help to reduce stress which is another way of helping to relieve constipation.
Supplements for constipation
- Magnesium citrate – this form of magnesium has been shown to be beneficial for constipation due to it’s laxative properties. It is an osmotic laxative, meaning it relaxes the bowels and helps to draw water into the intestines to help soften and bulk up the stool. This helps to regulate bowel movements and make the stool easier to pass. It is well tolerated but be careful not to take too much as it could cause an upset stomach and diarrhoea. Taken at bedtime with a glass of water, 300-500mg of magnesium citrate is a standard dose to produce a good bowel movement the next morning. Speak to a registered Nutritional Therapist for safe supplement recommendations.
- PHGG (partially hydrolysed guar gum) is a type of prebiotic fibre which supports a healthy gut. It nourishes the healthy gut bacteria and has been shown to relieve gut-related symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. It is well tolerated in sensitive individuals and may be particularly beneficial for those suffering with digestive disorders such as constipation-predominant IBS. A typical dose is 1 tsp per day mixed into food or drink.
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryoptophan) is a compound that is made naturally in the body but also available in supplement form from the seeds of the African Griffonia simplicifolia plant. In the body it is manufactured from tryptophan which is found in foods such as turkey, salmon, seeds and eggs. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin, our ‘feel good’ or ‘happy’ hormone and is well-known for its beneficial effects on mood disorders. A group of anti-depressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin receptive inhibitors) work by influencing this process. Because of its beneficial effects on mood, 5-HTP has been found to be helpful in gut motility and associated symptoms like constipation by relieving stress or other mental health problems which can affect digestion. Some research also suggests that serotonin plays a direct role in the gut by triggering the nerves that produce a bowel movement. Anyone taking SSRI anti-depressant medication should always strictly avoid 5-HTP supplementation.
- Digestive enzymes – digestive enzyme supplements mimic the effects of the body’s natural digestive enzymes – amylase, protease and lipase. They work by breaking down food, helping to keep things moving well in the digestive system and supporting regular healthy bowel movements. Some digestive enzyme supplements also contain probiotics to help to maintain a healthy balanced gut microbiome which can alleviate issues such as constipation. Digestive enzymes are usually taken just before or with each meal.
How to Perform Simple Abdominal Massage For Relief From Constipation:
- Using both hands to put gentle pressure on your abdomen.
- Start at the right lower side and slowly massage in a clockwise direction.
- Use the palm of your hands, alternating left and right hands, to apply light pressure to the inside of the hip bones and under the centre of your ribs.
- Using the fingertips of both hands, lightly press into your abdomen and pull upwards. Repeat these steps a few times but do not overdo it!
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