Constipation is a gastrointestinal problem that causes difficulty in emptying the bowels and is usually associated with hard stools. This condition is pretty common with 27% of the population being affected. In the United States, constipation is caused by a diet combination of high saturated fat and low fiber [R].
Constipation is often associated with symptoms such as stomach pain and straining. This can be frustrating, but luckily, synthetic over-the-counter laxatives are not the only solutions. You can also try the following 5 natural at-home treatments that are backed by research.
In 2011, a randomized, controlled trial was done with 40 patients with constipation where one group was given 50 g of prune daily and the other was given a natural bulk laxative called psyllium. The prunes proved to be more effective, and as a bonus, they were healthier and tastier [R].
The laxative effect of prunes is attributed to its fiber content of 6.1 g per 100 g. Even prune juice has a laxative effect despite its lack of fiber [R].
Sorbitol is a component of prunes that works as an osmotic laxative because it is slowly metabolized by the body [R].
Sorbitol can be bought over the counter, but it is also present naturally in peaches, pears, apples, and prunes [R].
Probiotics are live yeast and bacteria that are good for your gut. They are commonly found in kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods. Some strains can even be used as laxatives [R].
A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial with 36 healthy females found that probiotics, specifically Bifidobacterium animalis, caused the subjects to have more frequent and regular bowel movements [R].
In another double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, 3 strains of probiotics (Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium breve, B. animalis) were administered to 300 constipated adults for a month. As a result, the participants noted an alleviation of their constipation. They also noted a decrease in symptoms, such as stomach aches, bloating, and discomfort [R].
There was also one pilot study done on the effects of a probiotic drink called kefir. This study found that the drink reduced constipation by improving stool frequency and stool consistency, and decreasing the use of laxatives [R].
3. Olive Oil
Olive oil works as a laxative by lubricating the intestinal walls, making it easier for stools to pass [R].
A double-blind, randomized controlled study was conducted with 50 adults with constipation for 4 weeks. It was noted that olive oil was more effective in alleviating constipation symptoms than flaxseed oil [R].
In another randomized, controlled study done with 120 patients, olive oil was found to be an effective pre-colonoscopy preparation treatment. It completely evacuated the patients’ bowels and was even the most pleasant treatment administered [R].
4. Organic Apples
Apples are rich in sorbitol, insoluble fiber, and pectin, making them great natural laxatives for constipation treatment. Pectin is a gel-like soluble fiber that is used in making jellies and jams to give it its thick and gel-like texture [R].
In 2014, a randomized, controlled trial was done with 80 patients with constipation. They were treated with 24 g of pectin per day for 4 weeks. It was reported that the group treated with pectin had faster bowel transit and more healthy bacteria in their guts [R].
A medium-sized apple contains 4 g of fiber, half of which is in the form of water-soluble pectin [R].
In a double-blind, randomized, controlled study done on 48 patients with chronic constipation, a laxative treatment mixed with powdered ginger caused an increase in weekly bowel movement frequency [R].
Additionally, one study done indicated that ginger caused muscle spasms in guinea pig intestines, making it a stimulant laxative [R].
Genes can play a part in chronic constipation; however, lifestyle and diet as influenced environmental and socioeconomic factors are also considered. In cases of extreme and chronic constipation, it is best to consult your physician.