10 Home Remedies for Constipation

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Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems in the United States. It is common across all ages and populations. In fact, an estimated 16% of U.S. adults experience constipation symptoms.

Certain people are more likely to become constipated. Women—especially during pregnancy—are at greater risk. Low-fiber diets, some medications, and certain health conditions are also causes of constipation.

And, older adults, ages 60 and older, are more likely to have symptoms of constipation with approximately 33% of older U.S. adults experiencing constipation symptoms.

Not only are irregular bowel movements uncomfortable, but they also can cause health complications. Regularity of the digestive system is important for getting rid of excess waste.

If you are experiencing symptoms of constipation, some home remedies may be helpful to get your digestion back on track. Here is what you need to know.

Causes of Constipation

Constipation is characterized by having infrequent bowel movements. According to Cleveland Clinic, some causes of constipation include lifestyle factors, medications, and health conditions.

Lifestyle Factors

Dietary fiber is an important part of a balanced diet, and it plays a critical role in the digestive system. Yet, many people do not get enough fiber in their diet, making constipation a reoccurring issue.

Without adequate fiber, especially insoluble fiber, stools become hard to pass. Other lifestyle factors that contribute to constipation include dehydration, lack of exercise, travel, stress, eating large amounts of dairy products, and resisting the urge to use the bathroom.

Medications

Various medications can cause constipation as a side effect. Some drugs that have this effect include antidepressants, NSAIDs, antacids, antihistamines, and more.

Additionally, some supplements such as iron can cause constipation as well. Check with your pharmacist or a healthcare provider if you are concerned that your medications are causing constipation.

Health Conditions

Many gastrointestinal diseases or health issues related to the colon are associated with constipation as well. These include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colorectal cancer, lazy bowel syndrome, and diverticular disease. Other health conditions that can cause constipation include pregnancy, endocrine problems, and multiple organ diseases.

Home Remedies for Constipation

Depending on the cause of your constipation symptoms, you may be able to find some relief with home remedies. However, you should always consult with a healthcare provider before trying any home remedy. Not all home remedies are right for everyone.

Additionally, some remedies can interfere with medications or worsen certain health conditions. Talk to a healthcare provider to determine what is right for you.

Coffee

Coffee—especially caffeinated coffee—can have a laxative effect on some people. A small study with six participants found that drinking a cup of coffee can help empty the stomach quickly and stimulate a bowel movement.

In some people with IBS, coffee is a trigger that worsens symptoms, though. Although coffee may increase the urge to have a bowel movement, more research is needed.

Water

Dehydration is a risk factor for constipation, so increasing the intake of fluids is usually recommended to encourage more frequent bowel movements. Drinking more water does not cure constipation, but it can soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Exercise 

Exercise is recommended as a treatment for many health issues, and it may be a solution for those with constipation. Long-term inactivity is associated with the onset of constipation. Scientific research suggests that exercise therapy may be an effective treatment option for constipation patients, but more research is needed.

Fiber

Increasing the intake of fiber is usually the first step to alleviate constipation, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Fiber is associated with many health benefits, and it has a vital role in the digestive system.

High-fiber foods help soften stool and increase its size, so it is easier to pass. Fiber can also add bulk to runny stools. Though an increase in fiber can cause negative side effects in some people, it can help increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.

Prunes

Eating prunes or drinking prune juice is a common home remedy for constipation, and it is backed up by research. A randomized control trial in Clinical Nutrition found that prunes significantly increase stool weight and frequency in people with infrequent stool habits.

Senna

Senna is a natural herb that is often used to treat constipation. It is available over-the-counter in tablet and tea form.

It has been shown to be an effective treatment for constipation and typically produces a bowel movement in 6 to 12 hours when taken by mouth. But it can be effective in as little as 10 minutes when taken rectally.

When used to treat constipation in adults, research shows senna is effective when used alone or in combination with psyllium according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Likewise, senna generally is safe to use for children as well, but you should contact your pediatrician to be sure.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that is naturally found in many foods. It’s also taken in supplement form for various health benefits, including constipation relief. A placebo-controlled study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility demonstrated that magnesium oxide is an effective treatment for improving chronic constipation.

Probiotics

Probiotics are a combination of live bacteria and yeasts that have been shown to have beneficial effects on gut health. Certain strains of probiotics are associated with improving symptoms of constipation.

Psyllium Husk

Many over-the-counter fiber supplements are made with psyllium husk, a source of fiber with high water solubility. As a source of soluble fiber, psyllium draws water into stools and slows digestion. It is a widely used and effective treatment option for people with constipation.

Castor Oil

As a vegetable oil with many purposes, castor oil is commonly used to treat constipation in older patients. Researchers have concluded that castor oil packs can be used to control symptoms of chronic constipation. The results are usually quick.

Please keep in mind that castor oil is not right for everyone. For instance, pregnant people and children should refrain from using castor oil. Additionally, using castor oil long-term can damage the muscles in the colon and cause chronic constipation.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

It is important that you do not let constipation continue, especially if your symptoms have lasted 3 weeks or more. Plus, if you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to contact a healthcare provider right away.

  • You have not had issues with constipation before.
  • There is blood in your stool.
  • You are unintentionally experiencing weight loss.
  • Your bowel movements cause severe pain.
  • Your rectal muscles will not relax to allow you to have a bowel movement.
  • Your constipation has lasted 3 weeks.


A Word From Verywell

Constipation is a common and uncomfortable condition that affects many people. Aside from the discomfort, infrequent bowel movements can have a negative effect on overall health. Some home remedies can help alleviate symptoms of constipation, but they are not always the answer. 

If you experience symptoms that last for 3 weeks or longer, you should contact a healthcare provider. And, do not be embarrassed to talk about your symptoms. Having normal bowel movements is an important part of overall health and wellbeing.

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15 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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