Constipation: The symptoms and natural remedies you need to know about

Constipation. It’s one of those incredibly common health conditions but for some reason, we don’t really like to talk about it.

But if you’re suffering from this incredibly uncomfortable and often painful feeling, then it’s important to know the symptoms of constipation and how to relieve constipation so that next time it hits, you know what to do – whilst avoiding any embarrassing situations!

Here we will explain the causes of constipation, the signs to look out for, together with a selection of the best ways to stop constipation fast, including natural laxatives, foods for constipation relief and other natural remedies to cure the blight of a constipated bowel.

What is constipation?

Constipation is very common and actually affects people of all ages (although the severity can vary from person to person). It can either mean you’re not having regular bowel movements, or that you’re unable to empty your bowel completely. This may result in the stools being hard, lumpy, unusually large or small, and may even cause pain.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

Not sure if you’re suffering from constipation? There are a number of symptoms you may be experiencing if you have the condition. A usual amount of time to go to the toilet does vary from person to person – some people may go more than once a day, while for others it’s normal to go only every three or four days. As a rule, passing stools may have become more difficult and less frequent than usual for you.

Other symptoms may include stomach pain and cramps, feeling bloated, sick and losing your appetite.

If you’re visiting the toilet a lot less frequently, then you may be suffering from constipation

What are the causes of constipation?

Identifying the exact reason why you might be suffering from constipation could be tricky, as there are many lifestyle factors that could be causing the condition. The main factors that could be causing constipation are:

• Not eating enough fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals
• Changing your routine or lifestyle (particularly your eating habits)
• Ignoring the urge to pass stools
• Immobility or an inactive lifestyle
• Pregnancy
• Side effects of certain medications
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Anxiety or depression

Constipation remedies

The good news is that it can be extremely simple to help constipation and in many cases some simple lifestyle changes, and eating foods for constipation, can make a huge difference and avoid the need for medication or a visit to the doctor.

This does also mean that the best cure for your constipation might not be the same as the next person – so you need to try out these suggestions and see what works best for you.

1. Fibre

If you’re suffering from constipation, it’s important to increase your daily intake of fibre. Aim to eat at least 18-30g of fibre a day. High-fibre foods include fruit, vegetables, bran-based cereals, wholegrain and wholemeal rice and bread, as well as nuts and beans.

2. Drink up

Dehydration is one of the main causes of constipation, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough water to keep the condition at bay. Aim for 1.6 litres of fluid a day and you’ll be feeling benefits in more ways than a healthy digestive system!

3. Exercise

We’re not necessarily talking running a marathon here, but if you shy away from getting any sort of exercise then that could be a key reason for why you’re suffering from constipation. Try to introduce a little exercise to your day, whether it’s getting off the bus early and walking, or taking the stairs at work instead of the lift, any time of movement could help stop constipation.

4. Routine

According to the NHS, having a routine around your toilet trips can make a huge difference when it comes to stopping constipation. ‘Work out a routine of a place and a time of day when you are comfortably able to spend time on the toilet. Respond to your bowel’s natural pattern: when you feel the urge, do not delay’, they say.

5. Change position

Giulia Enders, author of ‘Charming Bowels’, says we’ve been going to the toilet all wrong. She told the Guardian that squatting is much more effective, and helps constipation, because the closure mechanism of the gut is not designed to ‘open the hatch completely’ when we’re sitting down: it’s like a kinked hose. We can iron out this kink by sitting with our feet on a little stool and leaning forward!

6. Oil

Did you know that pure olive oil can also help relieve constipation as a natural laxitive? It’s thought that the oil works to stimulate your digestive system and get things moving through your colon (and what’s more, it can be taken regularly if you suffer from constipation a lot). Knock back a tablespoon first thing (before eating anything else) – you can add a little lemon juice to disguise the flavour if you like!

7. Get fruity

The high citric acid content in lemons makes them great at getting things moving in your digestive system. Try adding the juice of one lemon to a glass of water – you’ll be getting the fluids you need to keep constipation at bay while adding a kick of stimulation from the lemons.

8. Caffeine fix

Coffee is a tricky one and should be approached with caution if you are constipated, the simple fact being that because it’s a diuretic, having too much of it can make you wee more, therefore dehydrating you and making it more likely that you will become constipated in the first place. Having said that, caffeine is a natural stimulant for the digestive system and will make you go, just don’t overdo it!

9. Prune power

An oldie but a goodie, it’s almost the law that when we think of toilet troubles we think of prunes as THE food that can relieve constipation fast! That’s because as well as being high in fibre, prunes also contain ‘dihydroxyphenyl isatin’, a compound which gets the colon working.