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Try These 5 Home Remedies for Constipation Relief

Feeling clogged up? Here are a few home remedies for constipation to help you let loose.

Man with a towel wrapped around his neck straining while sitting on a toilet bowl and holding his stomach with his right hand.

Struggling to release the poop Kraken? You’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an intake of 25 to 38 grams of dietary fibre is ideal. But, more than half the Malaysian population eat a mere 19 grams of fibre daily. Simply put, insufficient fibre intake will make it difficult for you to have regular bowel movements.

Fortunately, there are a few home remedies for constipation that can help. The possibility of developing several health complications due to irregular bowel movements will make your stomach churn. These include: 

  • Pelvic floor muscle damage 
  • Diverticulitis: An infection of the pouches (diverticula) that form in the intestines  
  • Haemorrhoids: Inflammation and swelling of the veins in the rectum 
  • Anal fissure: A tearing of the lining of the anus 
  • Faecal impaction: An excessive accumulation of stools in the anus and rectum 

Read on to discover how constipation happens and the natural remedies that can be used to take the weight off your digestive system.

So, How Does Constipation Transpire? 

Under normal circumstances, the food you eat passes through the digestive tract and enables the absorption of nutrients. The partially digested food that remains will then move from the small intestine to the colon (also called the large intestine). The colon pulls water from food, producing solid matter called stool. 

If you have constipation, the passage of food through the digestive tract may take longer. The colon will be allowed more time to absorb water from the partially-digested food. Your stools, consequently, will harden, become dry, and be difficult to excrete.

Be mindful of the potential reasons behind constipation: pregnancy, lifestyle choices, medication use, and previously diagnosed health conditions. 

Pregnancy 

If you’re pregnant, you may also experience constipation during the third trimester. During this stage, your foetus will be at its heaviest, thus putting maximum pressure on your bowel.

Constipation may happen during all three trimesters. One reason for this is progesterone production, which indirectly signals the bowel not to work as hard to squeeze waste products out of the body.

Excessive absorption of iron, too, can make it harder for the bacteria in your bowel to break down food. As a result, the waste will start to build up, causing you to become constipated.

If you’re pregnant and looking to try herbal remedies to ease bowel movements, it’s best to seek consultation from a licensed TCM practitioner to ensure the herbs are safe for you and your baby.

Lifestyle choices

Girl pulls a string of cheese from a puff she’s holding in both hands.
Eating too much cheese can make you constipated.

Some of the most notable lifestyle causes of constipation are: 

  • Stress 
  • Delaying a bowel movement 
  • Not getting enough exercise 
  • An insufficient intake of water and fibre-rich foods 
  • Changes to your normal daily or weekly routine 
  • Eating or drinking large quantities of cheese and milk 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that constipation stems from a lack of hydration and eating too much spicy food.

“A small stomach can also prevent large food chunks from being digested, leading to constipation in children. Spleen and stomach weakness, too, can make it difficult for them to have bowel movements.” 

Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Yoong Zi Yi

Medication use 

Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications with various functions may see you experiencing constipation as a side effect of use. Examples are pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers, and antidepressants. 

Existing or underlying health conditions 

Being diagnosed with specific illnesses or disorders may prevent you from having regular bowel movements. These include:  

  • Colorectal cancer 
  • Diverticular disease 
  • Neurological disorders 
  • Endocrine-related conditions 
  • Outlet dysfunction constipation 
  • Irritable and lazy bowel syndromes 
  • Diseases that affect multiple organs 
  • Structural defects of the digestive tract 

Internal imbalances 

There are four types of body constitutions that relate to a struggle with constipation: Cold, Heat, Qi (vital life force) Stagnation, and Deficiencies. 

A Cold body type is characterised by dry stools that are difficult to pass. Excessive Heat depletes body fluid, impairing the free movement of your bowels.

Having a tough time passing stools is also a sign of Qi Stagnation, despite having the urge to. Likewise, Deficiencies may also provoke the need to clear the bowels, but you’ll have to push very hard to release stools. 

What are Some Home Remedies for Constipation? 

A couple jogging outdoors side by side
Being active and fitting in regular exercise helps increase blood flow and lessens the likelihood of constipation.

Dietary and lifestyle modifications are the most direct approaches to relieving constipation.  

Get your body moving! 

Regular physical activity and exercise promote bowel movement by activating the abdominal muscles and increasing blood flow to the intestines.

Prioritise an intake of high-fibre foods 

Foods rich in fibre can bulk up your stools, helping them to move through the intestines faster. In addition, fibre supplements can add weight and size and soften stools.

These supplements may come in the form of powders, thins, capsules, and gummies and may include psyllium, methylcellulose, and plant-based prebiotic fibre. 

Get a cup of Joe to go 

Studies show that coffee is a more potent stimulant of the muscles in the digestive system than water or decaffeinated coffee.  

Use laxatives

There are two types of laxatives: osmotic and stimulant laxatives.

The former softens stools by pulling water into the intestines, while the latter moves stool through the intestines by stimulating contraction. 

Use herbal remedies 

Cup of tea garnished with peppermint leaves, a spoonful of sugar on a jute fabric, and peppermint leaves tied together.
Peppermint tea is a herbal beverage that supports bowel movement.

A Cold body constitution will weaken the large intestine. Chinese Angelica (dang gui, 当归) can help correct the imbalance by dispersing Cold and tonifying blood. It can also help moisten and unblock the organ system. Excessive Heat can be regulated with herbs like rhubarb (da huang, 大黄) and aloe vera (lu hui, 芦荟).

Herbal ingredients such as Astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪) and Codonopsis (dang shen, 党参) may help tonify qi in all regions of the body, especially the digestive system. Peppermint (bo he, 薄荷) tea can be drunk daily or weekly to support qi circulation and encourage bowel movement.

Other supplements you can take to help are honey (mi tang, 蜜糖) and a juice containing plums, prunes and grapes.

Constipation due to Deficiencies is common among the elderly and women who just went through childbirth. Hemp seed oil is a good option for tackling this by lubricating the intestines.

Easy and regular bowel movements will naturally occur if you prioritise proper nutrition and regular physical activity. Take comfort in knowing that home remedies for constipation may help you get unstuck. Herbal ingredients can also address the problem but must be deemed suitable by a licensed TCM practitioner before use.

References

  1. New Straits Times. 2017. Common and chronic. [online] [14 November 2022] 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnancy Constipation. [online] [14 November 2022]  
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Constipation. [online] [14 November 2022] 
  4. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. 8 Home Remedies for Constipation. [online] [14 November 2022] 
  5. Holistic Anti-Ageing Project. CONSTIPATION TYPES AND REMEDIES IN CHINESE MEDICINE. [online] [14 November 2022] 

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