5 Strategies to Combat Constipation Naturally
Given that the diet of most Americans is composed primarily of processed foods and that eating these types of foods contributes greatly to the problem, it is no wonder that over the counter constipation remedies are some of the best selling at pharmacies and grocery stores.
As many as 15-20% of Americans suffer from chronic constipation. Millions more have intermittent issues with it.
Some folks have little hope of going to the bathroom on any given day without their morning dose of Metamucil or a bowl of All Bran. This is a very unhealthy situation indeed!
Why Fiber is NOT the Best Constipation Remedy
Eating more fiber as suggested in conventional circles as a remedy for constipation is not a wise move. Fiber eaten in the quantities recommended can seriously damage the colon over the long term. Think of using fiber to resolve constipation as the “roto-rooter’ approach to solving the problem.
Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Fiber Menace, warns that high fiber diets produce large stools that stretch and damage the intestinal tract as well as upset the natural balance of beneficial bacteria. The end result of years of eating a high fiber diet as a band aid approach to constipation is more severe constipation, Crohn’s disease, IBS, hernias, colitis, and ironically, even hemorrhoids. Incidentally, he also warns against getting a colonoscopy which tends to do more harm than good!
Mr. Monastyrsky writes that it is simply unnecessary to consume fiber in order to have normal stools. In fact, many healthy traditional cultures ate diets that included little fiber.
Fiber from grain based foods is the most damaging of all. Consider yourself warned. The result of the USDA endorsed high fiber diet is long term digestive distress far and beyond the annoyance of constipation!
Natural Remedies for Constipation
As one gradually transitions from a high fiber to a low fiber, traditional diet, care must be taken to eat plenty of whole animal fats and bone broths that strengthen the intestinal environment. In addition, any temporary issues with constipation can easily be handled with the no fiber strategies outlined below.
Tip: As you are working to resolve slow moving bowels, witch hazel on a cotton pat will sooth and shrink the tissues to help heal rectal irritation, swelling or hemorrhoids.
Exercise has long been known to relieve constipation and promote regular bathroom habits. If jogging or being a gym rat is not your thing, however, it is easy to exercise in the comfort of your own living room with a simple rebounder or exercise ball.
Rebounding stimulates lymphatic activity extremely well and gets things moving very quickly.
Even better, if your kids have a trampoline in the backyard, spend some quality family time with them and tone up your colon at the same time by spending a few minutes bouncing with them each day!
There are many herbs that assist with elimination problems. Triphala and Slippery Elm are probably my two personal favorites, but in lieu of becoming an herbal expert, it is easier to just pick up some detox tea from the healthfood store. These teas have a number of different herbs in them and work brilliantly for that occasional colon sluggishness.
Taking a few detox teabags with you when you travel is also a good way to keep things moving when the stress of travel, changing of time zones, and sitting for long periods on airplanes or in cars can throw bathroom habits off schedule.
A good balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut is essential to a healthy colon that eliminates regularly and without straining. These probiotics are best consumed on a daily basis in frequent, small doses in the form of lactofermented foods and raw, grassfed dairy but when this is not possible, a probiotic supplement can be used instead.
Not all probiotics are created equal, however, so be sure to get a good quality brand. Check out my Resources page for vetted brand ideas.
A glass or two of fresh veggie juice can work wonders with softening up the stools and making elimination a breeze. Be aware that V-8 juice or any other type of vegetable juice in bottles is not helpful at all.
The juice must be fresh, ideally made no more than 20 minutes before consuming. As a result, vegetable juicing and refrigerating to drink later is not a good idea either.
Also use caution when drinking plain veggie juice on an empty stomach particularly if it is heavy on carrot juice which is high in sugars. Stirring in a bit of cream as traditionally done in France will significantly slow down the blood sugar spike from drinking fresh juice on its own and assist with absorption of the wonderful colloidal minerals from the vegetables.
When all else fails to relieve constipation, the tried and true enema works fantastically well.
The enema has been used since Biblical times and was even advocated in the Essene Gospel of Peace (from the Vatican library). Used to flush the colon of impurities and assist with regularity, this safe home remedy has been all but abandoned in recent decades in favor of over the counter drugs.
Many alternative cancer treatments make liberal use of the coffee enema to detoxify and cleanse the colon. However, a plain water enemas is simple, fast, and highly effective at treating an occasional bout with constipation.
Enema bags can be purchased at the drug store for about $10. Even easier, ready to use, saline enemas are available for about the same price. Be sure to get one without chemical additives, however!
What a simple, fast, and easy at-home answer to a series of high priced colonics with a hydrotherapist! These professional treatments can cost upwards of $75 each putting it beyond many people’s budgets and squeezed schedules.
Nothing literally illustrates the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” better than the old fashioned enema!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.