Quickly Relieve Constipation, Gas and Bloating Naturally
A Complete Guide
If you’ve suffered from constipation, gas and bloating, you’re probably looking for some natural relief. Look no further. This article explains exactly how to get fast natural relief and provides a long term strategy to avoid constipation, bloating and gas in the future.
Understanding Gut Function
Theres nothing quite like a good bowel movement is there? It feels good, because it’s a healthy way for our body to release waste and toxins on a daily basis. Our gastrointestinal tract plays an essential role in the natural detoxification process. The digestive system is a collection of organs which work together to break down food into small particles so we can absorb nutrients. Those nutrients will then be distributed throughout the body via the blood and delivered to each cell. The bowel is made of the small and large intestines. The small intestine is where most nutrients are absorbed with the exception of water. The large intestine is where water is absorbed and the remaining contents of the gut is prepared to be expelled. Normal bowel habits are important for discarding harmful toxins and food waste. Put simply, our gut aims to keep all the nutrients we need to thrive and discard the rest. When we become constipated, these waste products aren’t expelled properly and cause a build up of toxins in the body. Think about the process like this: if food waste isn’t being expelled, it must go somewhere! The only place toxins have to go is into the blood with all other nutrients. This is why daily bowel movements are essential to good health.
What’s Happening In Our Gut When We’re Constipated?
There is a muscular action which takes place along your entire intestinal tract called peristalsis. This is how your bowel moves food stuff through the intestine. Chewing, eating and drinking always stimulates peristalsis. If the muscular contractions slowed down, food moves slowly through your intestines and more water will absorbed in the large intestine. This causes hard or dry stools, which make it difficult to pass the stool. Abdominal bloating and discomfort usually accompany these changes in bowel movements. It’s important to keep in mind that every individual has unique bowel habits. For example one may visit the bathroom once a day, while others may go three times a day. Also the form, density and firmness of stools varies from one person to another. The type of stool will usually depend on the dietary habits of the individual.
Gas pain, bloating and flatulence are the most common symptoms of constipation. See this post about how to heal your gut naturally using prebiotics.
Normally, an adult emits gas between 13 to 21 times per day. Gas also known as “flatus”, is a normal part of the digestion process, but if it builds up in your intestines and you’re unable to expel it, you may start to feel bloated with or without pain.
You Might Also Like
The human colon is designed to hold a few pounds of stool in transit. But when a person gets constipated, the colon may hold more bulk than usual. However, it’s not about the weight it holds, but the volume of waste. Enlarged heavy stools can stretch out the colon, inhibiting normal peristaltic muscular action that moves waste through the large intestine. An extremely full colon can irritate the mucous lining, harming the anal canal and produce a build up of toxins.
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) issues in the United States. According to research conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Constipation has affected about 42 million people, or nearly 15 percent of the entire population. It’s a common GIT complaint in older adults. Studies have shown that the prevalence of constipation in older adult ranges from 24% – 50%. One of the common causes of constipation is an individual’s diet. Due to busy schedules, as a society we’ve become used to eating processed foods for convenience. Typically, highly processed or fast food have little nutritional value, are low in fibre, high in unhealthy fats, sugar and empty calories.
In most cases, constipation isn’t serious and is due to a poor diet with insufficient fiber, decreased fluid intake, lack of rest or sleep or side effects from certain medication.
Constipation may be an indication of a serious problem such as a colon cancer. Therefore, if you’re experiencing strange or unexpected changes in bowel habits, always seek medical advice.
Signs And Symptoms Of Constipation
Signs and symptoms of constipation may vary depending on its cause and other related factors. We can usually feel it in our gut if we’re “backed up”. There are also varying degrees of constipation. For example, incomplete bowel movements, can cause slight constipation. On the other hand, you may have no bowel movements at all, leaving you completely constipated.
Signs and Symptoms of Constipation:
- Irregular bowel movements. Healthy bowel habits happen at about the same time each day in most people
- Straining when passing a stool (can be a sign of dry, hard stools)
- Passing bulky, hard or small compacted stools
- Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen – a feeling of heaviness
- Abdominal bloating
- Excessive gas!
- An urge to poop, but unable to completely empty your bowel
Chronic constipation is considered when you’ve had repeated episodes for a period of three months. In most cases, even chronic constipation can be treated with proper diet and exercise habits, fibre rich foods, and probiotic therapy. Usually small, daily dietary changes will solve the problem. When using dietary changes to cure constipation, consistency is key!
What Causes of Constipation?
Lifestyle Habits Contributing To Chronic Constipation
- Poor diet – eating foods low in fiber
- Inadequate fluid intake – not drinking enough water.
- Too much caffeine and alcohol intake – these are diuretics which induce excessive urination and relatively lead to dehydration.
- Poor bowel habits – putting off a visit to the loo
- General stress or worry – our emotions play a role in the movement of our gut. Worry is a cause of irritable bowel syndrome when no other cause can be found!
- Use of some medications
- Lack of sleep – our Gut is most active at rest. This is why visiting the bathroom first thing in the morning is common
- Lack of exercise. Balance between movement and rest will promote healthy peristalsis and bowel habits
- Travelling can cause temporary constipation due to changes in daily routine or sleep disturbances such as jet lag.
Foods That Contribute To Constipation
Although there are several causes of constipation, the most common cause is a poor diet. Always keep in mind that some food could worsen your constipation. In order to avoid such occurrence, these are foods to be avoided when you are constipated.
1. Dairy products
Excessive intake of dairy products can cause constipation. It contains lactose in which some people cannot easily digest, thus causing abdominal bloating and gas.
2. Processed Foods
Where there is no fiber, there is no bulk which is necessary for normal muscular contraction of the gut. Processed foods are generally deficient in fibre because during processing, the fibrous part of the plant food is removed. These foods inhibit the growth of good bacteria in the gut, and slow the peristaltic action in the intestinal tract due to a lack of bulk.
Constipation is common for those who are intolerant to wheat and gluten products. If you suspect an intolerance, simply avoid all grain based foods for a couple of months and see if your bowel habits change. If you eliminate gluten and grain products, and increase nuts and seeds as a replacement, your bowels will likely become more efficient and you’ll relieve constipation naturally.
Excessive intake of alcohol, or binge drinking can trigger constipation because it causes dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means when you drink alcohol, you produce more urine. The more urine, the less water remains in your body which will contribute to dehydration leading to constipation. On the other hand, if you consume only one or two standard drinks before bed, this can sometimes cause increased bowel movements the following morning due to relaxtation. Balance is the key! Healthier types of alcohol such as red wine, in moderation may help to relieve stress, aid in sleep and therefore ease constipation due to increased peristaltic muscular contractions in the intestinal tract.
5. Fried foods
Fried foods are high in saturated fat but low in fiber. Oily foods moves sluggishly through the digestive tract and are very difficult to digest if they’re not combined with vegetables, nuts or seeds. When consuming fried foods, simply add some fibrous foods to the meal to create a balanced meal.
Excessive consumption of meat without a balanced amount of fibrous foods upsets your colon. Meats are great sources of protein, B vitamins and minerals. However if you’re following a diet high in meat products without additional vegetables, nuts and seeds to provide bulk and fibre, you’ll likely become constipated.
Caffeine is a tricky substance for the bowels. It’s a stimulant, and therefore can increase intestinal movement, causing a bowel movement. Caffeine causes your kidneys to flush water from your circulation. This means too much caffeine will cause dehydration and leave you with hard stools, causing constipation. Again, balance is key!
8. Refined Sugar and bad bacteria
There are numerous reasons to avoid excessive intake of sugar as it’s closely tied with certain health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Sugar feeds yeast and promotes the growth of bad bacteria in our colon. Having a healthy bacterial colonisation in the gut will aid in healthy toilet habits.
9. Iron Supplements
All iron supplements will cause constipation. Period. If you need iron supplementation you might consider taking a vitamin C or magnesium supplement as well. High intakes of vitamin C and magnesium help to relieve constipation naturally. Be careful though, as too much of either vitamin C or Magnesium will cause diarrhoea. Unfortunately iron is so important for health and wellbeing, that living with the constipation that comes with supplementation is necessary. Drink plenty of water, follow a healthy, fibre filled diet and get plenty of rest to aid in healthy bowel habits.
How To Develop Healthy Toilet Habits
Healthy toilet habits should be a daily routine. You should visit the bathroom every single day, at least once. The more food you consume, the more you’ll need to expel to avoid toxic waste building up.
Tips to develop healthy toilet habits include:
- A good toilet position – While sitting on the toilet, lean forward with a straight back and forearms on your thighs. Raise your feet so that your legs are slightly upward and away from your body. This should resemble a squat position. A squatting position naturally allows complete opening of the bowel.
- Go as soon as you feel the urge!
- Relaxation is key. Don’t rush your bathroom visit. Allow your abdominal muscles to relax so complete emptying is accomplished.
- If you consume enough fibre, you’ll notice your bowel movement will be easier and cleaner without the need for excessive wiping afterwards.
Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Bloating and Gas
After eating, some of us experience abdominal bloating. Abdominal bloating can be caused by excess gas or food intolerances. It’s easy to see a bloated abdomen. The tummy will feel bigger than normal, hard and can be painful with stomach sounds. Most people describe bloat as feeling full. Some foods for example onions or beans, can cause excessive gas which is normal. Intolerance to certain foods in some individuals can also cause bloating and excessive gas due to improper digestion. The main culprits are gluten and dairy intolerance.
When partially undigested food travels through the gut, gas is built up in the digestive tract which leads to abdominal bloating. Eating or drinking quickly, gum chewing, smoking or wearing loose dentures can cause some people to swallow more air than normal, which can contribute to gas build up. Normally, air gets released from our body through burping and flatulence. If you find yourself burping or farting a lot, you need to look at the causes of improper digestion and address the issue. In some cases digestive enzymes can help with excessive burping as they aid proper digestion in the stomach and small intestine. If you’re farting excessively, look at the types of foods you’ve been eating, address any possable intolerance and consume more fibre and water. Iron supplementation can also cause excessive gas and abdominal bloating, along with general constipation.
See This Video For an Overview of Digestion
How to Relieve Constipation Quickly
It’s normal for everyone to experience constipation once in a while, especially if you consume a modern diet which is low in fiber. However, there are numerous natural remedies to prevent and relieve constipation. The first thing to do is make slight adjustments to your diet. Natural remedies can be used, and you’ll have to practice healthy lifestyle habits on a daily basis to avoid becoming constipated again.
Some of the remedies that will help relieve and prevent constipation include:
- Drinking more water – It will be easier to pass hard and dry stools, when you drink plenty of water. Our body needs a constant supply of water because it’s excreted via urine, sweat and even from breathing! Therefore, the amount of water that we lose should immediately be replenished. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the recommended total fluid per day is about 3.7 litres (or 125 ounces) of fluids for men and about 2.7 litres (or 91 ounces) for women. This accounts for the total sum of fluids from water, other beverages and about 20% usually comes from the food we eat. Food, especially unprocessed foods contain quite a lot of water!
- Increase daily fiber intake – Fiber is a natural laxative. Both soluble and insoluble fibre combined with water creates a healthy stool. A healthy stool with be made of bulk from insoluble fiber, and soluble fibre creates a softness due to water retention. This combination helps the stools to move smoothly through your colon. Studies suggest that you need at least 20-30 grams of dietary fiber per day. However, if you consume mostly unprocessed foods you’ll be consuming more fibre than this. Foods such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables contribute the best types of fibre. Grains contribute to fibre however most are genetically modified and highly processed so are not always the best choices.
- Prunes – Prunes are rich in fiber. Prunes naturally contain sorbitol which is a stool-loosening sugar alcohol that can naturally help relieve constipation. Prunes should take effect within a few hours; therefore it is important to wait until it passes through your intestines before consuming more. Too much prune consumption can also lead to diarrhoea. Due to the sugar content of prunes they’re not the best option for diabetics.
- Natural bulking agents – There are numerous herbs that can bulk up and help soften stools. These supplements are usually available at your nearest health food stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. Use psyllium husk or psyllium husk powder as a natural bulking agent, combined with inulin or benefibre as a stool softener. This is a natural combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Other options are flaxseeds, chia seeds or natural aloe vera.
- Start practicing healthy lifestyle habits – Prevention is better than cure. Get enough rest. Drink water. Eat high fiber foods and lower consumption of sugar to promote good bacteria in the gut. Include yogurt or other fermented foods in your diet for the natural probiotics or live bacterial cultures. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Exercise such as walking stimulates proper digestion and increased absorption of nutrients. A sedentary lifestyle will do the opposite. Make sure to exercise at least 3-4 times a week. Learn to acknowledge your body rhythms. Don’t delay a bowel movement, as the stool will become hard from excess water absorption in the large intestine, which will then cause constipation.
Dangers of Long-term Laxative Use
Prolonged use of laxatives is not recommended. The process of muscular contraction in the intestinal tract is called peristalsis. This is where food stuff is moved through the intestines to be digested and absorbed before finally being moved toward the large intestine for excretion. With regular use of laxatives, the normal peristaltic actions in the gut become disrupted. Which can cause some to rely on laxative use because their gut simply doesn’t move as it should any longer. The muscles in our gut need to be worked just like any other muscle to stay healthy.
Too much laxative consumption can lead to laxative abuse and can cause serious conditions, such as:
- Damage of bowel’s muscular function (peristalsis)
- Laxative resistance
- Electrolyte imbalanced to excessive water and mineral loss
- Severe dehydration due to laxative induced diarrhoea
- High risk for colon cancer
Some over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives are dangerous especially when dosing instructions are not strictly followed.
How Over The Counter Laxatives Work
Constipation has numerous causes. Laxatives work in two ways to alleviate constipation. Some laxatives work to soften your stool by drawing water into the intestinal tract. Some laxatives cause increased peristalsis in the intestinal muscles to cause increased movement of the stool. Others work on a combination of both actions to relieve constipation. Depending on how often you use laxatives, and how harsh the ingredients are, some laxatives are a better choice. It’s best to talk to your doctor regarding which type of laxative will suit your needs.
- Osmotic’s (Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, Miralax) – in order to allow easier passage of stools, it works by drawing water into the colon.
- Bulk formers (Benefiber, Citrucel, FiberCon, Metamucil) – it absorbs water forming soft, bulky stool and stimulates normal contraction of intestinal muscles.
- Stool softeners (Colace, Surfak) – Adds stool moisture allowing strain-free bowel movements
- GIT stimulants (Dulcolax, Senokot) – Eliminates stool by triggering rhythmic contractions of intestinal muscles – peristalsis.
- Rectal suppositories (Dulcolax, Pedia-Lax) – works the same as GIT stimulants. The only difference is that this is being administered inside the rectum.
Laxatives also have their side-effects. So make sure you read the labels correctly, strictly follow the correct dosage and use with caution. These may temporarily relieve constipation but seeking medical advice is recommended if the problem persists.
Some supplements can be used to cause bowel movements. Supplements include magnesium oxide, high doses of vitamin C or ascorbic acid, and caster oil. Start with smaller doses and work your way up until you get the desired effect. It’s best to try for a couple of days in a row, rather than many times in a single day. Both magnesium and ascorbic acid have an absorption point. This means once your body can no longer absorb more of these nutrients, you’ll get diarrhoea. Take these supplements first thing in the morning followed by a warm drink for the best results. Then wait at least 4 hours for a bowel movement. If after 4 hours you have no relief, you can take another dose. Side note: If your body absorbs the vitamin C or magnesium, and you don’t have a bowel movement, this is an indication that your slightly deficient.
Warning: Do not use this method all the time as causing diarrhoea will dehydrate you and cause electrolyte imbalances. This is a “only if needed” therapy, like any laxative!
Supplement Dose: Magnesium oxide: 1200mg. Vitamin C: 2g should be enough. Caster oil: 15-20ml or a tablespoon should be enough. Use only one supplement to relieve constipation, not a combination!
Healthiest Alternatives to Laxatives
Constipation makes you feel uneasy and annoyed. It’s natural to want this feeling to pass as soon as possible. If you’d like to avoid OTC laxatives and instead focus on natural remedies there is hope. Fortunately, there are some foods that you can eat to get your digestion back on track. Try adding these natural fibre foods into your recipes to naturally boost fibre intake. Natural alternatives include:
- Chia seeds – When soaked in water, Chia seeds turn into a gel- like consistency. It helps lubricate the intestines and helps promote regularity. Here’s a great recipe for chia seed shake.
- Psyllium husk or psyllium husk powder in a big glass of water 2-3 hours before bed.
- Inulin or benefibre mixed with tea or coffee during the day. Inulin is a natural soluble fibre which is tasteless and odourless. Its best mixed with an insoluble fibre such as flax or psyllium.
- Aloe Vera – Is known to be the most popular remedy because of its immediate laxative effect. It draws water into the intestine and increases peristalsis. It also helps soothe the digestive lining because of it cooling effect which can contribute to the improvement of your digestion.
- Flaxseeds – Naturally relieve constipation by producing bulky stools. Flax seeds are great for making healthy recipes! Here’s an example of a great flax recipe.
- Dark Leafy Vegetables – Such as spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens are rich in magnesium. These also contain soluble and insoluble fiber which helps in increasing waste movement in your colon. Magnesium is a natural relaxant, responsible for retaining water in the intestines which increases its mobility and making stool soft and easier to pass.
- Fruits Containing Pectin – Apples for example contain pectin, a natural fiber that helps stimulate bowl movements.
Cautions When Using Fibre Supplements
Certain diets such as a strict keto diet may require extra fibre supplementation. Natural fibre does not contain any digestible carbohydrates or calories and therefore does not contribute to your total carb count. Daily therapy can be very effective for treating constipation naturally, or to boost fibre intake where the diet is inadequate. If you’ve never used a natural fibre supplement such as psyllium husk or chia seeds before, it’s best to start slowly. These fibres are insoluble and add bulk to the stool by drawing water into the fiber. Be sure to drink plenty of water with any natural fibre supplement, and do not take large doses, as this can cause too much bulk in the intestines and cause more constipation initially. Your body needs to get used to having more fibre gradually over a couple of weeks. Start with 1 tsp daily in a large glass of water, then work up each week until you’re satisfied with the dose. You shouldn’t need more than 3 or 4 tsp of fibre and this is only if your diet is very low in fiber. Too much fibre can also contribute to malabsorption of some minerals, because dietary fibre carries the food stuff through your gut more quickly. Balance is the key. You need enough fibre for a healthy gut, but not too much that its hindering absortion! Aim for about 30g of fibre per day for a healthy balance.
Home Remedies For Relief Of Bloating and Gas
Abdominal bloating is often associated with constipation. So, here are some of the best and natural home remedies against abdominal bloating, it includes:
- Peppermint Tea – the antispasmodic and relaxant nature of peppermint relieves gas and spasms.
- Chamomile Tea – it helps with stomach bloating and flatulence through soothing and relaxing properties.
- Fennel seeds – relieves stomach gas and abdominal bloating by exhibiting antispasmodic properties.
- Baking soda – is an antacid which relieves indigestion. Warning: do not take too much as baking soda is an alkaline and can cause electrolyte disturbances. See more information about side effects here.
- Ginger – Contains carminative properties which help expel gas and relieve cramps.
You can try these home remedies for mild cases of bloating. However, if symptoms persist, make sure to see your doctor.
How To Have A Healthy Gut With Daily Fibre Therapy
When taking fibre supplements it’s best to mix both soluble and insoluble fibre together. An example of this is inulin and psyllium husk. This will help with both bulk and softness of stools for good elimination. Adding a probiotic supplement to this therapy can also help build a healthy gut long term. The good Bacteria in your gut live on fibre among other things. In order to provide a favourable environment for bacterial growth, you need constant fibre intake. As your gut bacteria multiply, you’ll notice less constipation, less bloating, less gas and a nice flat healthy tummy. Your immune system will get a nice boost, and you’ll have more energy.
Fibre Therapy Instructions:
Follow these instructions two hours before bed each night.
- 1tsp psyllium husk powder.
- 1tsp benefibre.
- Mix both together in a large glass of water until smooth.
- Drink the fibre mixture quickly as it will be thicker fast.
- Take a quality probiotic.
- The following morning have a glass of warm water with lemon juice, or cup of tea or coffee.
This will stimulate your bowels to start moving.
Serious Causes of Constipation Which Require Medical Attention
Colon or rectum obstruction is a serious concern and must be address immediately by a medical doctor. Colon or rectum obstruction may either slow or eventually stop stool movement.
- Bowel Obstruction – obstruction of the intestines preventing the normal digestion process
- Colon Cancer – cancer of the large intestines
- Colonic Stenosis – part of the colon is very narrow resulting to complete or partial blockage
- Other abdominal cancer that presses on the colon such as ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and rectal cancer
- Rectocele – bulging of the rectum’s front wall into the vagina’s back wall
Neurological Disorders Causing Constipation
Neurological problems can also affect the nerves surrounding the colon and rectum causing muscles to contract and transport stool through the intestines. Causes include:
- Autonomic neuropathy – injury to the nervous system that is responsible for our everyday body functions, may impede peristaltic actions
- Multiple sclerosis – a nervous system disease affecting your brain and spinal cord
- Parkinson’s Disease – a long term degenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain eventually affecting movements
- Spinal Cord Injury – an injury to the spinal cord that cause changes in its functions
- Stroke – a medical condition that occurs when there is a poor distribution of blood flow to the brain
Muscle difficulties involved in elimination
Problems with pelvic muscles which may cause chronic constipation.
- Anismus – the failure of the pelvic floor muscles to relax normally during defecation
- Dyssynergia – uncoordinated pelvic muscles
- Weak pelvic muscles relating to pregnancy, childbirth, prostate cancer treatment and obesity