8 Remedies To Relieve Constipation – Bladder & Bowel Community
How to encourage a bowel movement when constipated
How to Encourage a Bowel Movement when Constipated
If you find yourself having difficulty going to the toilet and emptying your bowels, there are a number of non-medical methods to encourage a dormant gut to relieve you of constipation. In this article, we cover some ideas you can try at home to remedy constipation and encourage bowel movements.
Firstly, if you notice a change in your regular pattern, you shouldn’t start to worry. If you make a few simple changes, you are likely to find yourself getting back to normal habits.
How To Empty Your Bowels Every Morning
If you are in need of immediate constipation relief, you may consider one or more of the following to encourage your gut to get back to normal (though we acknowledge prune juice may not be to everyone’s taste).
Natural Constipation Remedies to Empty Your Bowels
- Lemon juice – a cleansing way to encourage bowel movements is to try taking a glass of water mixed with the juice of half a lemon before bed and when you wake up. You may want to drink with a straw as you could find your teeth becoming sensitive after a regular course of lemon water.
- Olive oil – consuming a teaspoon of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach can encourage stool to flow through the gut. The oil acts as a lubricant in the digestive system, meaning it’s easier for solids to slide through. It also softens up the stool, making it easier to empty your bowels completely.
- Prune juice/dried prunes – one of the more traditional remedies for constipation. Prune juice lacks the fibre of the dried fruit, but both are high in sorbitol content. Sorbitol passes through the gut undigested and draws water into the gut, which bulks up the stool and stimulates a bowel movement.
- Stewed apricots – a flavoursome favourite to help relieve constipation. De-stone and chop a punnet of apricots in half. Put in a saucepan with 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar, add two tablespoons of water and turn to a low-medium heat. Stew until they begin to soften then take off the heat and leave with a lid on to cool. These are delicious for breakfast and go fantastically with yoghurt and granola.
- Fluids – There are a million and one reasons why it’s great to drink water. Aiming for 2.5 litres/12 glasses a day will ensure you’re refreshing your system and helping to break down any food in the gut. A mug of hot water is great for settling the stomach and encouraging the peristaltic process.
- Hot beverages – Whilst we all tend to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee as a refreshment or pick-me-up, they do have a diuretic effect. Diuretics increase the production of urine, meaning we have to visit the loo more than usual. Bear this in mind when drinking coffee to help encourage a bowel movement. Tea and Coffee work in a similar way to hot water in that the heat helps to break down solids. A particularly good option for constipation relief is Senna tea which is a stimulant laxative that helps the digestive tract contract.
- Avoid foods with a high-fat content – The body has a hard time processing fat. Especially with Western diets, the bile-producing gallbladder (the material that helps break down fat) is stretched to its limit. It’ll do the entire body some good to cut down on the fried food, as well as relieve constipation.
- Ginger – A popular natural food in many kitchens. Ginger helps with constipation because it reduces the pressure on the lower intestines. It can also help decrease other symptoms that often accompany constipation, such as cramping, bloating and nausea.
- Clear soups – Naturally healthy, clear soups add moisture to stools, which can help to make them softer and bowel movements easier. Warm foods, such as soups, are also generally easier for the body to process.
- Apples and pears – Containing high levels of fibre, fructose and sorbitol, apples and pears are popular fruits that help you to empty your bowels. Also, apples and pears contain high levels of water content, which helps with digestion and with avoiding constipation. For best results, eat them raw.
- Fennel – A natural laxative that is mild and has a pleasant smell. You can add roasted fennel to warm water for a tasty evening drink. Fennel seeds help stools to move through the colon by increasing gastric enzymes in the digestive system.
- Kiwis – A popular fruit which improves digestion and is one of the better tolerated natural remedies for constipation. Kiwis contain actinidin, which promotes movement in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
- Blackberries and raspberries – High in fibre and water, blackberries and raspberries are great fruits to help ease constipation. These are best consumed raw and washed before eating.
- Sauerkraut – Not as well known as some other natural methods to encourage bowel movements. However, sauerkraut contains probiotic bacteria that may help to reduce constipation.
- Omega-3 oil – Contained in many oils, including hemp seed oil, fish oil and flaxseed, omega-3 oils help with constipation because they lubricate the intestinal walls. A diet which includes fish, avocados, hemp products and flaxseed can help to increase levels of omega-3. If you are unable to obtain enough omega-3 oil from your diet, supplements are also readily available.
- Pulses – Another popular source of fibre, which promotes good digestion and reduces constipation, are pulses such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas. They are high in other nutrients which can help encourage bowel movements, such as zinc, folate, potassium, and vitamin B6
- Yoghurt & kefir – Probiotics are contained in many dairy products, including yoghurt and kefir, and help you to empty your bowels by softening stools. They also improve general gut health.
- Grapes – A delicious fruit and a natural source of fibre; grapes also contain a lot of water, both of which help with constipation.
- Whole wheat bread, pasta, bran and cereals – Adding weight to stools to speed up passing through the intestines, whole wheat foods are a great way to encourage bowel movements. A clever way to add even more fibre to your diet is to choose whole wheat bread and cereals that contain nuts and seeds.
- Positioning – If you have felt the urgent need to relieve yourself but arrived at the toilet only to find you can’t go, you may find adjusting your toilet positioning helpful. It’s imperative you stay patient and don’t force it, as this could cause damage. Have your knees higher than your hips, and keep a straight back. You may find it handy to keep a toilet stool in the loo. When the time comes, tense the stomach to help empty your bowels rather than the rectum.
Constipation Relief Through Prevention
As a rule, eating more high-fibre foods can prevent constipation. Be aware though, that if constipation is a result of Colitis or Crohns disease, increasing fibre intake could have a detrimental effect – if in doubt, speak to your GP before making any changes to your diet.
There are two different types of fibre; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in the intestines to form a gel-like substance which helps food move along the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre is not dissolvable and moves through the intestines without being absorbed, and adds bulk to bowel movements and helps to relieve constipation.
Further Information On Constipation Relief
If you don’t notice a change and your constipation problem continues for an extended period of time despite dietary changes, you should see your GP or healthcare professional to find out if there is anything they can suggest to help relieve your constipation.
You may also find it helpful to read the resources below to help you manage your bowel movements.