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Using Natural Laxatives to Relieve Constipation

Dr. Maisie M
Given the fact that chemical laxatives cause drug dependency and reflex constipation in the long run, natural laxatives are the only reliable option for relieving constipation. Simple things like improving lifestyle and dietary habits are good enough to treat constipation.
Constipation is a common gastrointestinal ailment that affects everyone at least once in their lifetime. It is a condition characterized by incomplete excretion of the bowel or passage of hard and dry feces.
A person is considered to be constipated if he/she is having less than three bowel movements per week. Today, it has become a common health problem due many factors ranging from wrong eating habits, drug (diuretics) side effects, poor intake of water and high-fiber foods, etc.
Most alternative forms of medicine emphasize on proper functioning of the intestine to be the foundation for good health. A clogged intestine is home to various toxins that can cause nutritional deficiencies and diseases like arthritis, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, etc.
Natural laxatives help in increasing the peristaltic effect on the large intestine to get rid of the digested residue. Regular colon cleansing therefore is beneficial to improve digestion, absorb nutrients and also raise your energy levels.

Why Opt For Natural Laxatives?

  • In addition to relieving constipation, it helps strengthen the colon
  • Are safe to use over a long period of time
  • Cause no side effects like stomach cramps or diarrhea
  • Do not cause weight gain even if used for a longer time
  • Dosage doesn't increase gradually like medicinal purgatives
  • It's a holistic way to colon cleansing
  • Natural remedies cause no irritation to the intestine, whereas chemical laxatives may lead to a 'cathartic colon.'

Natural Laxative Options

Natural laxatives are basically those substances or food items that are high in soluble fiber. When anything that is high in soluble fiber is ingested, the fiber absorbs water and swells up in the intestines. This increases the bulk of the stool and facilitates bowel movements.
Flaxseeds are high in soluble fiber, thus, are helpful in relieving constipation. For maximum benefit flaxseeds have to be ground before use. They must be freshly ground in a coffee grinder, however, can be ground and stored in the freezer for convenient use.
Some use flaxseed oil as a laxative. However, there is no scientific research that backs the laxative properties of flaxseed oil.
How to take it...

➦ Take 2 tbsp. of freshly ground flaxseeds and add it to a cup of yogurt. Have it early in the morning or before going to bed.

➦ Add 2 tbsp. freshly ground flaxseeds and add it to your bowl of oats or breakfast cereal.
➦ Sprinkle 2 tbsp. freshly ground flaxseeds on salads or add it into the breakfast pancake.

➦ Prepare flaxseed tea by adding 1 tsp. flaxseeds into 1 cup water. Simmer till the quantity reduces by half. Add some honey and sip it hot.
➦ Flaxseed oil capsules are also available.

➦ Mix 1 to 2 tbsp. of flaxseed oil in a glass of fruit juice and drink it every morning.
Psyllium Fiber
The outer coating/husk of the seeds of psyllium plant is called psyllium fiber. This psyllium fiber is very high in fiber content, and very helpful in alleviating constipation. Native to the Middle East, the seeds of this plant have been used for providing constipation relief since several decades.
However, taking too much of psyllium or drinking less water, can backfire and result in worse constipation.
How to take it...

➦ 1 tsp. of psyllium fiber is to be dissolved in a glass of water/juice and consumed in the morning. One must drink lots of water throughout the day to keep the bowels moving.

➦ Psyllium supplements must be taken as per the instructions on the bottle.
Senna Leaves
The leaves of the senna herb are well-known for their medicinal properties. Although senna leaves are in general safe, the American Herbal Products Association does not recommend long-term use of these leaves. Nevertheless, it is often used as a short-term solution for constipation.
The chemicals, called sennosides in senna leaves trigger bowel contractions, thereby stimulating bowel movements.
How to take it...

➦ Senna tea can be prepared by adding ¼ tsp. of senna leaves in one glass of boiling water and allowing it to steep. You can add a tea bag of another flavor if you find the tea too bitter to drink.

➦ Senna capsules are available, which have to be consumed as per the directions on the label.
Senna leaves can have deleterious effects on the body, thus, must not be taken without the supervision of a nutritionist or health expert.
Castor Oil
The oil obtained from the seeds of the castor plant is very useful in treating constipation. Ancient Egyptians used this remedy to treat constipation. Clinical studies have proved the effectiveness of castor oil in treating constipation.
Castor oil prevents absorption of fluids from the intestines, thereby facilitating bowel movements. It is seen to help with chronic constipation.
How to take it...

➦ Add 1 tsp. of castor oil to a glass of orange juice and drink it early in the morning.

➦ Add 1 tsp. of castor oil to one glass of warm milk, and drink it before going to bed.
Since large amounts of castor oil can prove to be toxic, only consume castor oil after consulting your health care provider.
Dandelion Leaves
The leaves of the dandelion plant have diuretic effect, thus, used as a remedy to treat constipation. Its diuretic properties have been attributed to its ability to increase bile production, thereby assisting digestion and speeding up bowel movements.
How to take it...

➦ You can chew a few freshly-picked dandelion leaves.

➦ You can prepare dandelion tea by allowing a teaspoon of dried dandelion leaves to steep in a cup of boiling water. Add a spoon of honey to reduce the bitterness.
➦ Dandelion juice can be prepared by blending an apple, dandelion leaves and a little lime juice.
Triphala, an ayurvedic herb is the most common herb used for intestinal cleansing. It consists of three herbs as Amalaki (Indian gooseberry), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica). Besides providing constipation relief, triphala also benefits the whole digestive system.
This herb mix is not considered a laxative, but more of a intestinal cleanser, which is why it is safe for long-term use.
How to take it...

➦ To get effective results, you can mix triphala powder with water and keep it overnight. Drink it the next morning.

➦ Triphala capsules are available, which need to be consumed as per the instructions on the bottle.
The other herbs that have laxative properties are turkey rhubarb, alfalfa, aloe vera gel, buckthorn bark, cassia pulp, cascara sagrada, and guar gum.

Lifestyle and Diet Changes

Although natural laxatives are effective, they must not be continued for a long period of time. Chronic use of natural laxatives makes the body dependent on them. The body won't be able to cope well in the absence of a laxative, which is why it is important to make certain changes in one's lifestyle and diet, so as to prevent constipation in the long run.
Lifestyle Changes
An inactive lifestyle is a primary contributory factor that increases the risk of constipation. Here are a few things you can follow to reduce constipation in the long run.
➦ Following a daily exercise routine is the best way in which you can alleviate constipation. A simple activity like speed-walking for 30 minutes daily is enough to ensure healthy bowel movement.
➦ Do not eat unless hungry.

➦ Drink lots of water, warm water is more helpful.
➦ Exercise helps proper supply of nutrition and blood circulation to the bowels.

➦ Sleeping during the day or immediately after consumption of food should be avoided.
➦ Do not ignore the normal urge of the body to defecate. Suppression of an elimination urge can lead to chronic constipation.

➦ Relaxing the body by ways of meditation, music, or humor, can help eliminate undue stress and in turn aids proper digestion.
Foods that help relieve constipation
A diet low in fiber is the main cause of constipation hence, foods high in fiber should be included in the daily diet. These insoluble fibers pass through the body, remain unchanged and give stools bulk and soft texture, which enable them to pass easily.
➦ Consume a high-fiber diet, comprising leafy-greens, salads, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Fruits like prunes, apples, apricots, figs, plums, pears, etc. help prevent constipation. Moreover, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, peas, squash, carrots, beans, etc. also facilitate bowel movements.
➦ Dried fruits and nuts like almonds, figs, dates, raisins, etc. if consumed in small amounts on a daily basis will help prevent constipation.

➦ Having oats, which is high in fiber content everyday for breakfast helps keep constipation at bay.
➦ Consume more of whole grains and unpolished rice.
➦ The juices are natural colon cleansers and should be used either before bedtime and/or early morning. Fresh fruit juices will not only replenish for the lost water content but also provide body with necessary vitamins and minerals. Prune juice, orange juice, apple juice, carrot juice, etc. help prevent constipation.
➦ Cooking foods with spices like ginger, black pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, fennel, asafoetida, etc. will also help proper digestion.

➦ Fatty foods, greasy foods and refined foods must be avoided or eaten in moderation, because they can cause constipation.
➦ High-fiber diet is recommended for treating constipation, however, it is important to increase the fiber content gradually. Sudden increase in fiber foods can result in gas, bloating, and indigestion. Thus, allow your body to cope with the dietary changes on a gradual basis.
The use of natural laxatives is the safest and effective way to deal with constipation. But, it's always better to make the necessary changes in one's diet and lifestyle to prevent constipation in the long run.
Moreover, always consult your health care professional before taking any natural laxative. Natural laxatives may not suit everybody, and some may have side effects.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.