What is Constipation?
Constipation is defined as having less than one bowel movement in a 24-hour period. This means that you might have a bowel movement one day but then not have one for the next two (or more) days.
What are the Symptoms of Constipation?
The stools of those who are constipated are typically dark in color; small round balls in form; and dry in texture. They often look something like rabbit turds. Oddly enough, it can take a lot of straining to pass these stools. There may be accompanying gas, abdominal pain, and bloating of the abdomen. Some people even have slow transit time of food and fecal matter through the small and large i ntestines—ie: it takes a long time for the food that is eaten to come through the gut and out the other end.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation can have several root causes. Primary is an excessive amount of dryness in the body (ie: excessive Vata Dosha or Air Element), which results in dryness of the colon. It is the colon’s job to resorb excess water from fecal matter before passing it out of the body. If the body is dehydrated, it needs more moisture resorbed in the colon than is usual. The resulting problem, though, is that the stools are now much drier than is optimal for moving down the colon and out into the world. The lack of moisture means that there is inadequate lubrication to move the stools along. Additionally, there is insufficient bulk (ie: physical size or mass) of the stools to create the necessary muscular peristaltic contractions to move the stools along; it’s as if the are so small that they go undetected.
What to Do?
At its most basic, it is fairly simple to keep the digestive system functioning optimally. Specifically, when working to clear constipation, there are several easy, natural, low cost remedies at your disposal. Some of these remedies work specifically to resolve constipation, and some of these tips are things you can implement into your daily life and diet to keep constipation and other digestive upsets from occurring in the first place.
- Triphala powder consists of three Ayurvedic fruits: Haritaki (Chebulic Myrobalan), Amla or Indian gooseberry (Emblica officinalis) and Bibhitaki (Bellirica Myrobalan). This combination of herbs is a laxative and assists in regulating bowel movements while toning the muscles of the colon. Take one teaspoon of this mixture with warm water or mix it with honey. Capsules are also widely available. Taking this mixture before going to bed on an empty stomach is effective at relieving constipation. This herbal remedy is not habit-forming and is a completely natural alternative to chemical laxatives.
- Castor oil has been used for many years as a sure remedy to relieve constipation. Castor oil also has an ability to address intestinal worms. Take one to two soup spoonsful just before going to bed to relieve constipation.
- Flax seeds are known for their fiber content. You may mix flax seeds in your cereal every morning or just take a handful of them with warm water early in the morning. Flax seeds have a demulcent effect: they contain noticeable amounts of mucilage which moistens, cools, decreases inflammation, and often stimulates local immune response.
- Raisins are packed with fiber and perform well as a natural laxative. Soak a handful of raisins in water overnight and take them first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This remedy is very effective for third trimester pregnant women. Raisins are also effective natural energy boosters.
- Lemon juice is recommended by most Ayurvedic practitioners as a simple and quick remedy for treating constipation. A warm glass of water with the juice of half a freshly-squeezed lemon plus a pinch of salt mixed in it taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach acts as a cleansing agent for the intestines.
- Guavas have both soluble fibre (in the pulp) and insoluble fiber (in the seeds). They assist with mucus production in the anus and with peristalsis (a series of rhythmic contractions of the intestinal muscular lining which assists the passage of food in the your intestines). Eating guavas are also natural and effective immunity boosters.
- Apples provide a large amount of fiber. Eating warm applesauce (perhaps with some cinnamon on it, which is a demulcent herb) or drinking apple juice is an easy and enjoyable way to relieve constipation.
- Figs, either ripe or dried, are packed with fiber and act as a great natural laxative. To relieve constipation, boil a few figs in a half-cup of milk. Allow this mixture to cool till warm and drink just before bedtime.
- 9. Spinach has properties of cleansing, rebuilding, and renewing the tissues of the intestinal tract. Aside from eating it in your diet, you can take approximately 100 ml of spinach juice mixed with an equal quantity of water twice daily. This home remedy is an effective method to cure even the most stubborn cases of constipation.
- 10. Oranges are not only a good source of Vitamin C but also have a large amount of fiber content. Eating two oranges daily, once in the morning and once in the evening, can provide you great relief from constipation.
- 11. Seed mixtures with two to three sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and almonds ground together to a fine powder can assist in relieving constipation. Take 1 tablespoon of this mixture daily for one week. You can even add this mixture into your cereal or put it on a salad.
Diet Tips to Avoid Constipation
It is essential to make healthy food choices so that you avoid constipation in the first place—and to resolve it as soon as possible when it does crop up. By implementing a few routines in your daily life you can easily avert and work to resolve constipation.
- Avoid foods that contain white flour, white sugar, other processed foods.
- Eat light regular meals, and make sure that the last meal is you eat is at least three to four hours before you go to bed. Regular meals not only keep constipation at bay, but they also enhance metabolism and assist in weight loss.
- Include fresh, local, organic, in-season fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.
- Incorporate flavorful and aromatic digestive herbs such as black pepper, fennel, cumin, coriander, and ginger to your cooking.
- Stay hydrated by taking in, on average, a half ounce per pound of body weight of water, daily. Thus, for a person who weighs 150 pounds, this would mean drinking 75 ounces of water per day. Drink warm water is much preferable to drinking cold water; leave the ice in the freezer!
- Get to know the food combinations that make digestion difficult (and thus promote constipation):
- Avoid combining two different protein groups in one meal (ie: meat and eggs; chicken and tofu).
- Avoid eating proteins and complex carbohydrates in the same meal (ie: fish and rice; chicken and noodles). Proteins and carbohydrates use very different digestive processes and digestive enzymes. The digestive system can not work on both at the same time; one food group (the carbohydrates) putrefies while the other is tended to.
- Avoid combining dairy products with sour or acidic fruits, animal proteins, and grains.