Natural Laxatives To Ease Constipation
Constipation can be a total drain and a very frustrating issue, both physically and mentally. Your body is meant to rid itself of waste on a daily basis and pooping is one of the primary ways it does this.
When you are constipated, even temporarily, the body has to work harder because your digestive system is slowed down, or worse, has come to a complete halt. You end up recycling tons of junk including toxins and hormones back through the digestive system when you don’t poop at least daily. And your energy takes a total plummet.
A Common Solution – Laxatives
Relying on store bought laxatives is not a good strategy for long-term health. These laxatives are not solving the problem and often times lead to dependence. Regular use of laxatives can cause weakening of the colon and atrophy of the cells because they are no longer required to do their job.
Relying on laxatives will also cause a weakened digestive system over time and one of the most important parts of your body is your digestive system! This is where you breakdown and absorb all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy, disease free and feeling great.
There are a number of issues that can occur with laxative overuse:
- electrolyte imbalances
- acid/alkaline base changes
- reduction in digestive enzymes
- dizziness and light-headedness
- water retention
- damage to the colon and digestive organs
- alternating diarrhea and constipation
- complications with the cardiovascular system
There are so many natural “quick fixes” to help you along, so forget the over the counter laxatives. But remember, you must also work on the long-term strategies through diet and a healthy poop routine, to get your body to a place where it is pooping on its own daily. Just because something is natural, don’t treat it as though it means it is ok to take it definitely. Use them temporarily and then solve the problem!
The Three Musts to Solve Constipation
I feel like this one is a no-brainer, but I am often still surprised by how many people I see who just aren’t drinking enough water. Even people who consider themselves healthy and knowledgeable when it comes to what their body needs. If you have been drinking less water than your body needs, your body will adapt, and you will not be thirsty.
hear people use this as their excuse as to why they don’t drink more than 20-30 ounces a day. Once you start to drink an adequate amount of water: ½ your body weight in ounces a day, you will feel SO much better. Stools will normalize, your energy will increase, your skin will feel better and so much more.
Fresh Vegetables and Fruit
There are many foods that will help to regulate constipation, first and foremost are fresh vegetables and fruit which are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water to keep your bowels moving along. In order to prevent constipation, fresh fruits and veggies must be a part of your mealtime routine, preferably at every meal.
Eat lots of leafy green veggies; berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry); starchy veggies such as carrots, beets, and winter squashes. A rainbow of veggies including peppers, eggplant, celery, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash are a must. Really the list could go on.
Also, nuts and seed such as almond, pecan, walnut, sunflower, pumpkin, chia and flax will help keep stools normal.
Quick Fix Tip
Fresh pressed vegetable juices are a great way to rid yourself of constipation fairly quickly. Make a fresh juice of beet, carrot, celery, ginger, apple, and lemon and you’ll be in the bathroom before you know it, ridding yourself of that sluggish stool.
The Good Bugs
Probiotics from food are the second best way to keep yourself regular and preventing constipation. You can eat any combination of fermented and cultured foods that you tolerate. Eating some fermented and cultured foods at every meal is the best way to keep yourself healthy. Not just to keep your bowel movements regular, but to support your immune system and whole body health. Over 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract and those probiotic rich foods are going to keep your body stay healthy and strong.
Naturally fermented/cultured foods include kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, hard cheeses, non-vinegar pickles and olives (must be salt or lactic acid fermented), beet kvass, kefir, yogurt, nitrate free salami, natto, tamari, miso, and so on. Fermented and cultured foods should come from organic, grass-fed and natural sources for optimal health and healing.
Other things that will keep you regular over the long-term:
- daily exercise
- fresh air and deep breathing
- walking after meals
- drinking herbal teas such as peppermint and fennel after meals
- reducing stress, eating in a calm place, not in front of the TV or at your desk
Of course, if you have constipation that does not resolve with natural strategies including the above suggestions, you likely need to work with someone to understand if you aren’t producing enough hydrochloric acid, bile or digestive enzymes. Being deficient in any of these will definitely slow down digestion!
From time to time you may need to get something to help your digestive system, if you do experience constipation. Remember though the goal is not to rely on natural laxatives either. If you need to use them temporarily, that is fine, and work to get your digestive system eliminating daily through your diet and lifestyle.
- Restorative and mildly laxative herbs
Aloe vera contains anthroquinones which act as a natural laxative. Aloe has been approved by the German Commission E for its use as a laxative and has research to support its effectiveness in this category. It will also support the immune system through its polysaccharide content which will help reduce inflammation.1
Triphala is a powder consisting of three berries Emblica officinalis, Terminalia belerica, and Terminalia chebula, traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve bowel movements and restore normal function to the digestive system. It has also been shown to possibly benefit dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol) and lower blood pressure in animals.2
Plantago seed, otherwise known as psyllium, has been shown to improve defacation in numerous studies. It appears that the action of this seed is mainly due to improving the movement of the stool along the digestive tract, rather than working on increasing peristalsis or pulling water into the bowels.
This would provide clues as to psyllium being a less habit forming laxative as it is primarily working similarly to fiber from the diet. A note: if you do not drink enough water with laxatives such as psyllium (fiber like) then you can actually worsen your constipation. Another reason to make sure you are drinking adequate water levels.3
Althea officinalis has mucilage in it which can be both healing to the mucus membranes of the digestive tract, which can aide in stool movement. Marshmallow also has polysaccharides which support the immune cells of the digestive tract, which can reduce inflammation that may be caused from constipation.
- Strong laxatives, short term use
Senna has chemicals in it, called sennosides, which irritate the lining of the colon and force contractions in the bowel. Using herbs like this can often time be painful, but they do the trick to get your bowels moving if you really are constipated and nothing seems to be working. It is not advisable to use this herb for more than two weeks because of dependence issues and numerous other side effects including dehydration and electrolyte disturbances.4
In the research, Senna has mainly been studied for laxative use in special populations including:
- hospice setting5
- children with malformations in their lower digestive tract6
- opioid induced constipation (a very common side effect of opioid use)7
- procedures where clearing of the bowels is needed such as colonoscopy8
While traditionally Senna may have been used as a laxative, there is little current day research to support its use on an on-going basis in generally healthy individuals. This is likely why it is not recommended to use Senna for longer than two weeks.
Other herbs that fall in this category include: Rheum palmatum, Cascara sagrada, and Frangula alnus. Often these will be found in combination in over the counter medicinal teas to relieve constipation. Remember that none of these should be used for longer than 1-2 weeks due to dependence and unwanted side effects.
Magnesium: the best kind for constipation, in particular, is magnesium citrate and magnesium sulfate. So it is not surprising that a magnesium-rich mineral water was shown to reduce constipation and hard stools in women when drank daily.9
While constipation can feel like a big problem when you are living with it, there are many solutions that can get you the relief you need without having to rely on over the counter medications. Remember if you struggle with constipation on an on-going basis, you deserve to work with someone who can help you get that figured out. Otherwise, use the natural laxatives to get you going, and work on your diet and lifestyle to improve your long-term bowel habits!
- Ulbricht C, Armstrong J, Basch E, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of Aloe vera by the natural standard research collaboration. J Herb Pharmacother. 2007;7(3-4):279-323. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18928148 Published 2007. Retrieved April 24, 2017
- Baliga MS, Meera S, Mathai B, MP Rai, Pawar V, Palatty PL. Scientific validation of the ethnomedicinal properties of the Ayurvedic drug Triphala: A review. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. December 2012, Volume 18, Issue 12, pp 946–954. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11655-012-1299-x Published December 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
- Ashraf W, Park F, Lof J, Quigley EM. Effects of psyllium therapy on stool characteristics, colon transit and anorectal function in chronic idiopathic constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1995 Dec;9(6):639-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8824651 Published December 1995. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
- Senna MedLine Plus https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/652.html Published February 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Tarumi Y, Wilson MP, Szafran O, Spooner GR. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral docusate in the management of constipation in hospice patients. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2013 Jan;45(1):2-13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22889861 Published January 2013. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
- Santos-Jasso KA, Arredondo-García JL, Maza-Vallejos J, Lezama-Del Valle P. Effectiveness of senna vs polyethylene glycol as laxative therapy in children with constipation related to anorectal malformation. J Pediatr Surg. 2017 Jan;52(1):84-88. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27836356 Published January 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
- Marciniak CM, Toledo S, Lee J, Jesselson M, Bateman J, Grover B, Tierny J. Lubiprostone vs Senna in postoperative orthopedic surgery patients with opioid-induced constipation: a double-blind, active-comparator trial. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Nov 21;20(43):16323-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25473191 Published November 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
- De Salvo L, Borgonovo G, Ansaldo GL, Varaldo E, Floris F, Assalino M, Gianiorio F. The bowel cleansing for colonoscopy. A randomized trial comparing three methods. Ann Ital Chir. 2006 Mar-Apr;77(2):143-6; discussion 147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17147088 Published March 2006. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
- Dupont C, Campagne A, Constant F. Efficacy and safety of a magnesium sulfate-rich natural mineral water for patients with functional constipation. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Aug;12(8):1280-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24342746 Published August 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
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