After trying “everything” for constipation treatment, are you becoming “okay” with it? If yes, then let me tell you chronic constipation is a serious health problem. Do you know it’s the root cause of almost all the health problems starting from unwanted weight gain, hair loss, dull skin, acidity, bloating, brain fog, irregular periods for women to even life-threatening diseases like cancer?
Yes, not kidding. So instead of shying away or masking the problem with laxatives or purgatives, it’s high time to focus on constipation treatment. This blog is all about giving you a complete guide step by step.
Constipation treatment is essential…but what is chronic constipation?
Do you face a “tough times” in the morning? You may be constipated if you have infrequent, incomplete evacuation of hard, dried small amounts of stool. Among Indians, a person eliminating stool less than 5 times per week can be called constipated. (1) If anyone suffered from constipation for more than 6 months, he or she should be diagnosed as a patient of chronic constipation. (2) Chronic constipation not only invites several types of diseases but also greatly reduces the quality of life. (4,5)
Are you the one? The symptoms:
Depending on the type and severity of constipation, one may have any two or more of the following symptoms
• If you have less than three bowel movements in a week.
• If you pass a small amount of hard, dried stool
• If you have to strain during evacuation.
• If you are not satisfied after the evacuation, a feeling of incompleteness remains at the end of nature’s call.
• If you feel a fullness and tightness in your abdomen
• If you feel pain in the abdomen before and during the evacuation
• If you suffer from a lack of desire to eat
• If you experience a nauseating feeling (6, 7, 8)
No, you are NOT alone….
Throughout the world, a large number of people suffer from constipation. And our country is no exception. It is more common in metro cities. 22% of the Indian adults are suffering from the condition, with 13% complaining of severe constipation.
Chronic constipation is a common condition among older people, particularly those who are over 65 and women. (3,9,10) It does affect most women during their pregnancy particularly in the last three months and while approaching menopause.
If you are eliminating stool less than 5 times per week you are constipated. If you are suffering from constipation for more than 6 months, it is chronic constipation. Older people, women are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from constipation.
Why suffering from chronic constipation is not okay?
All undigested or digested unwanted foods, toxic metabolites which are not required in your system anymore are supposed to form your stool and flush it out from your body. Holding all such toxic materials inside creates an unhealthy atmosphere in the gut. Study shows that good bacteria in our gut enhance our immunity, improve the symptoms of depression, combat obesity and multiple other health benefits. (11) But a toxic gut environment not only kills most of the good bacteria but also encourages the growth of bad bacteria. When you are constipated all the metabolized hormones re-enter your body which inhibits the endocrine gland to produce fresh hormones creating a hormonal imbalance. (12)
Chronic constipation directly invites many serious diseases like
1. Colitis is the inflammation of the colon. The common symptoms of colitis are abdominal pain, mild to moderate diarrhea which may contain blood and/ or pus, flatulence, loss of appetite, general weakness, and weight loss.
2. Flatulence is a common problem of constipated patients. Flatulence is a condition in which excessive gas is generated in the stomach or colon. Due to bacterial fermentation of the stool in the stool, gas is formed, causing abdominal bloating.
3. Piles, hemorrhoids, and rectal prolapse are common problems of constipated individuals. Constipated patients are usually habituated to repeated straining which greatly increases the risk of piles.
4. The other problems arising from constipation include-
• Loss of appetite etc.
Besides these, chronic constipation also creates a favorable situation for hormonal imbalance, estrogen dominance, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer. (13) So if you blaming your PCOD or hypothyroidism for uncontrolled hair fall, dull skin, acne, pimple, or unwanted weight gain, start focusing at the core. It is evident that treating basic health issues gives way better results than your expectations.
Constipation directly leads to acidity, flatulence, headache, irritability, etc. Chronic constipation creates colitis, piles hemorrhoids. Pimple, acne, hair fall, struggle to lose weight are associated with the toxic gut environment. All the toxic unwanted substances retain in our gut during chronic constipation creating a favorable condition to trigger estrogen dominance, hormonal imbalance, suppressed immunity and even cancer.
Definition and meaning of Constipation and chronic constipation
Do you face a “tough time” in the morning? You may be constipated if you have infrequent, incomplete evacuation of hard, dried small amount of stool. Among Indians, a person eliminating stool less than 5 times per week can be called constipated. (1) If anyone suffered from constipation for more than 6 months, he or she should be diagnosed as a patient of chronic constipation. (2) Chronic constipation not only invites several types of diseases but it also greatly reduces the quality of life. (4,5)
Before focusing on constipation treatment…..find your reason:
I know that you must have tried “all” to get rid of constipation. Probably “nothing“ has worked for you. But have you ever tried to find out why are you chronically constipated? 99% of cases of chronic constipation can be completely cured if one gets to know the exact reason. Constipation is nothing but a lifestyle disorder. There is no rocket science behind it. Most of the time lack of simple, inexpensive, and basic factors makes you suffer from constipation. What’s your reason? One or more? Let’s find out.
1. Poor diet – Lack of fiber and micronutrients
Intake of a low fiber diet automatically puts you on a poor diet that lacks many other nutrients- such as vitamin B complex, vitamin C, etc. The soluble and insoluble fiber of our daily diet adds to the bulk of the stool and helps to keep the stool soft. Insufficient fiber in the diet and “ready to eat/cook” eating habits of the city-dwellers are largely responsible for the mild to moderate constipation among us. Following faulty dietary habits makes your diet lacking in fiber and other micronutrients –
• Avoids taking fruits and vegetables.
Many mothers complain that their kids don’t like to eat vegetables and fruits. This is an important factor causing constipation among school children and college students. This fact is applicable also for many offices going “grown-up kids”.
• Excess intake of bakery products
Bakery products like cakes, biscuits, puffs, etc. are generally prepared from refined wheat flour which lacks fiber. Students and working people usually consume bakery products on a regular basis during their snack time.
• Excess intake of street foods and/ or fast foods
A large number of students and working people like to eat various types of tasteful easily available fast foods during their break time or as an evening snack. These street foods are actually low-fiber, fast foods (like Maggie, noodles, rolls, etc.) having poor nutrient contents.
• Intake of refined cereals
Some people like to take refined cereals instead of taking unrefined cereals even at home. For example, there are families who prefer high-priced polished long rice over low-cost less polished rice or use refined flour instead of whole flour. This habit also reduces the intake of dietary fiber. Consequently, the risk of constipation increases.
2. Drinking insufficient water
Some people who stay outside the home for a long time and carry the drinking water from the home usually drink less amount of water than required. Water is almost fully absorbed from the small intestine for hydrating the body, passing a very small amount of water into the colon. Dehydration of the stool inside the colon leads to the formation of hard, dry stool which is difficult to eliminate.
3. Not following a daily routine: Irregular meal time, sleep time and elimination time
Lack of discipline in the day to day life is a major problem for students, businessmen, or even professionals with erratic working hours. No fixed sleep time and/or mealtime, late nights leave a great impact on their overall health and make them susceptible to many lifestyle diseases including constipation.
4. Lack of adequate sleep
In today’s busy life, lack of inadequate sound sleep is a common problem among generation X. Adequate night sleep is essential for setting the hormonal balance and for good elimination in the morning.
5. Excessive stress
Excessive stress is one of the major factors for constipation. From the very childhood, the kid is expected to do good both in academics as well as in extra-curricular activities. Later, a competitive job, relationship, rivalry, materialistic life put a constant excessive pressure to perform best. Have you heard of your brain and gut connection? Yes, your state of mind largely influences your digestion, metabolism, enzyme, and hormone production. Therefore stress leaves a huge impact and leads to constipation.
6. Lack of adequate physical exercise
A sedentary lifestyle and inadequate physical activity and exercise contribute to the development of mild to moderate constipation. You may have the following excuses for not exercising regularly –
• Lack of time
• General tiredness, laziness after working hours
• Lack of availability of space for a walk, or swimming pool, or gym in the nearby areas.
Or, is it because of your excessive addiction to mobile, laptop, or television?
7. Lack of physical activity – Excessive use of electronic gadgets
Physical activity and exercise are not the same. Forget about exercise, these days people have almost stopped being active even in their homes. The use of electronic gadgets like mobiles, computers, laptops, television, etc. for a long time is not healthy for people. Such people sit in the same place for a long time and are busy with the gadget. It causes a lack of movement and increases the risk of constipation.
Addiction to video games and social media confined the kids and students within the house. Excessive use of a mobile, computer, laptop reduces the movement of the working people. Addiction to never-ending T.V. serials greatly decreases the activity of the elderly.
Poor diet (Lack of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, B5, B 12, B9, vitamin C, magnesium), lack of sleep, activity, exercise and excessive stress are the major contributors of constipation. They look simple but very difficult to address. Adopting lifestyle modification is the best approach to handle the situation for sustainable benefits.
Few Ill habits you must correct to prevent habitual constipation
1. Too busy to respond to nature’s call in the morning
Most of us feel a hurry in the morning due to our busy schedules. And thus, many people avoid visiting the toilet in the morning on a regular basis.
Another group of people visits the toilet in the morning as a ritual but they spend too little time in the toilet, rush up in the next routine work, even before the complete clearance.
Both of these groups of people have increased the risk of constipation. So, guys, please avoid such types of mistakes. (14)
2. Too lazy to go to the toilet regularly?
Some people are too lazy to visit the toilet as a regular ritual. Even when they feel a mild urge to go to the toilet, they avoid visiting there. These people are also susceptible to constipation.
3. Avoid going toilet due to the fear of pain?
Many mildly constipated people avoid going to the toilet due to the fear of the pain. This avoidance of visiting the toilet further increases the severity of the disease and invites many other complications.
4. Putting extra pressure while pooping
Stop doing this. Straining does not really improve the condition, rather it is bad for your health. Actually, repeated straining invites many diseases like piles and rectal prolapse, hemorrhoids which may even require surgery. (15)
5. Regular use of medicines(Laxatives/ purgatives) to clear the bowel
Using laxatives or purgatives on a regular basis without a doctor’s prescription to clear the bowel is nothing but masking the problem. It does not help in any way rather it makes the situation worst. Purgatives may aggravate the condition gradually requiring a higher dose to produce results.
How many of the above-mentioned causes are applicable to you? One, Two…..or many?
Constipation is more common among the persons who live in cities than those living in rural areas because of faulty dietary habits and a lack of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Stay conscious of your causing factor and start working on it. You can easily treat constipation and improve your quality of life.
Do respond to your nature’s call always. Make a habit of visiting the toilet for a few minutes every day. Traditional Indian squat position for evacuation is the best. If you are using a western commode, then lean forward to put desired pressure on your rectal muscle. Don’t strain to pass out stool as that associates the risk of developing piles, hemorrhoids, etc. Don’t use laxative/purgative without doctor’s prescription.
Why you should not take laxatives/ purgatives on a regular basis?
Frequent use of such medicines may invite many problems.
• It may produce diarrhea, abdominal pain, thirst, etc.
• It largely increases the loss of potassium which may lead to a low blood potassium level
• It may cause electrolyte imbalance
• It makes your rectal muscle weak which means you gradually become unable to pass stool naturally
• It largely increases the risk of urinary tract infection.
How about using any bulking agent like psyllium/ isabgol to relieve from constipation?
These are basically dietary fiber. They are not digested in our digestive tract and reach the colon where they are fermented by colonic bacteria, increasing the bulk of the stool and making it soft and easy to eliminate. These bulking agents are comparatively safe. But sometimes it may cause bloating and abdominal pain if used in excess. (16)
What to do? 4 basic steps for constipation treatment at home
No more quick fix. No more masking the actual problem. Get into the root cause as described earlier and start working. Lifestyle modification is simple and quite boring to follow but it is the ultimate medicine to cure and prevent any lifestyle disorder. Don’t get upset. Let’s adopt 4 simple steps one by one to treat chronic constipation.
Constipation treatment at home Step 1: Modify your diet
Dietary modification starts from monthly grocery shopping and ends once you finish eating. So it’s better to categorize the entire process into 3 steps –
1. Shop wisely
Don’t fall for the food advertisements. No matter how healthy they claim like- “high in fiber”, “with extra calcium”, “fortified with vitamin A and D”, “low in calorie”, “multigrain”, “no trans fat” etc. Ignore every possible claim they are making. You have grown up, stop being excited with free gifts. Do not buy any packaged or processed food rather invest your money in whole grains and their products. Follow the table below to shop wisely-
Read – Top 6 food advertisements fool you everyday
|Category||Foods NOT to buy||Foods to buy|
|Cereals and |
Wild rice/Black rice/ Brown rice,
| Steamed rice, |
Semi polished rice,
Whole wheat flour,
Variety of pulses,
Steel-cut oats/ rolled oats
| Vegetables and |
| Exotic, imported fruits and vegetables, |
Packaged fruit juices
|Local and seasonal whole fruits and vegetables|
Namkeen and Bhujiya,
Salad dressing, Sauce
| Puffed rice, |
| Cold-pressed |
(Kachhi ghani) oil-
Mustard oil/ Groundnut oil/ Coconut oil,
Good quality ghee,
|Sugar|| Artificial sweetener, |
|Raw, wild honey, |
|Milk/ fish/meat/egg||Processed meat, |
Processed fish ball/fish finger
| Whole fish, |
Full fat milk,
Read further – Why not artificial sweetener?
White sugar vs brown sugar vs jaggery
Which is the best cooking oil in India
2. Cook smartly
Cooking is the smart “in” thing now. Start learning cooking. No, I am not asking you to cook an elaborate meal course but at least you should be able to cook your survival dishes. Try to eat homemade food as much as possible. Any food cooked at home is fine for you. So go guilt free and enjoy.
Read more– how to make your kitchen smart.
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3. Eat mindfully
Eat slow. No one is going to snatch your food. So relax. Take a deep breath and start eating. Enjoy your food, chew them well instead of gulping. Be careful about your portion size. Avoid overeating. Stop stuffing yourself with food. Concentrate while eating and stop eating just before you may feel full.
Also Read – Tips to control overeating
Tips to make eating out healthy yet fun
Why you must stop taking fast foods, packaged and processed foods?
Fast foods, packaged and processed foods are loaded with refined flour, refined sugar, refined salt, and refined oil. The deadliest combination to kill your gut health. These are empty calories with almost zero nutrition. They get digested very fast and shoot the blood sugar level. They are extremely addictive and have low satiety value. These foods increase the risk of constipation to many folds.
How to make the diet balanced, fiber and micro nutrient-rich?
1.Say no to fruit juice and yes to whole fruit
Whole fruits like apple, guava, papaya, etc. are a good source of dietary fiber, making those helpful to clear the bowel. Banana is a cheap, easily available fruit that has a great reputation to prevent constipation. Include it into the daily diet. Always eat fruits with skin whenever possible, especially, in the case of guava, apple, pears, etc.
Don’t encourage your family members to drink fruit juice, instead encourage them to take the whole fruits. Remember, when you prepare fruit juice for your kids, you are discarding the beneficial fiber, and, increasing the risk of constipation. So never do the mistakes. Fruit juice is only an occasional refreshing drink, it should not be a regular recipe in your daily diet. (17,18)
2. Include some dry fruits like prunes, raisins, figs, and dates
These dry fruits contain a b high amount of fiber, which helps to relieve constipation. (19)
3. Incorporate more greens in your family diet
Green leafy vegetables are good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so their inclusion of ease bowel movement. Increase the frequency of preparing recipes like methi paratha, kulcha, green chutney, etc
Apart from regular vegetable curry include boiled vegetables as a side dish in your daily menu.
Take at least one boiled vegetable with a little salt, butter, and green chili. Vegetables like green papaya, ripe pumpkin, etc help to prevent constipation.
Regular intake of at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit makes you free from the fear of constipation.
4. Reduce the intake of foods rich in saturated fats
Butter, cream, ghee, coconut oil, etc are rich in saturated fats. Recipes like pizzas, milk desserts, red meat recipes, etc. are rich in saturated fats. Scientific studies showed that excessive saturated fat intake increases the incidence of constipation. So, it is better for elderly individuals to restrict the intake of saturated fat-rich diets. (20)
5. Take more Probiotics
Consume curd (Dahi) and buttermilk regularly. These dairy products contain probiotics, which help to maintain the overall health of the digestive system and prevent constipation. Consume fermented foods like dosa, idli, overnight soaked rice, etc which act as prebiotic. (21)
6. Raw, wild honey is a natural laxative, which helps to relieve constipation
Raw honey has a reputation to clear the bowel. One spoon of fresh raw, wild honey mixed with the juice of half a lemon in a glass of lukewarm water taken first thing in the morning is very effective for constipation. Do it regularly. Remember most of the popular brands sell processed honey. So be careful. (22)
7. Drink a lot of water
Adequate intake of water is essential for good elimination on a regular basis. Drink at least 10 glasses of water daily. You should drink more water during the summer. Be careful to miss enough intake of water during the winter season, because you may not be feeling enough thirsty during cold days. Incorporate more high-fluid recipes on the daily menu. You can include more milkshakes, soups, buttermilk, etc. (23) But is water that important? Still in doubt? Read here.
Why brown rice/ wild rice/ black rice is not advised in daily diet?
Moderation is the key to a balanced diet. You are suffering from chronic constipation. That means you are also suffering from poor digestion, acidity, stomach pain, bloating, flatulence, etc. It is true that brown rice, wild rice, black rice contain a high amount of fiber. But remember your body is not in the position to digest that much fiber at this point. Rather take easily digestible semi-polished steamed rice which will be lighter on your stomach. By the way, do you know excessive fiber inhibits the absorption of calcium and iron in your gut? So before doing anything in excess think about it.
Read – White rice vs brown rice – which is the best?
|The home remedy you may try before bed/ next morning|
|2-3 tsp of Isabgul (psyllium husk) mixed in a glass of warm water or milk|
|Or, 2-3 tsp of Triphala (ayurvedic combination) powder mixed in a glass of warm water or milk|
|Or, ½ tsp of ajwain (carom) mixed in a cup of warm milk|
|Or, soak 6-8 black raisins overnight and eat the next morning|
|Or, soak 2 tsp of sabja seeds (sweet basil) in a glass of warm water and drink the next morning|
|Remember to follow all the 4 steps for complete results, following only home remedies is not going to be much effective in the long run.|
Stop consuming refined grain, refined flour, refined sugar & salt, and refined oil. That means avoid all kind of fast food, packaged and processed foods. Try to eat home made food as much as possible. Include fresh local fruits, vegetables, pulses, unpolished grains, nuts, seeds, milk, and other animal-sourced foods. Eat a balanced diet with optimal dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Overdoing on fiber is not going to help rather going to make the situation worst.
Constipation treatment at home Step 2: Start moving more and exercises
Your body is designed to move. So sitting at a particular place for hours is definitely going to create a problem in your body. No, I am not asking you to start jumping suddenly in the middle of the meeting. At least stay conscious to move your body whenever get some excuses. For instance, use the staircase instead of the lift. Fill your water bottle on your own. Stop ordering others to do a simple task like keeping a cup in the sink. Learn to stay active throughout the day.
Don’t get confused between exercise and activity. An hour of hardcore training cannot replace your daily activity. So both are essential. Exercise daily to substantially reduce the risk of constipation. Choose any form of exercise that you enjoy. Regular at least 30 minutes of exercise and staying active throughout the day will help you to poop better the next day. Try this out for a week. Not kidding. It works. (24,25)
Constipation treatment at home Step 3: Try to sleep well
If you are following steps 1 and 2, you will achieve step 3 very easily. Ample activity and physical exercise are going to make you tired to sleep like a baby after so many years. Quality sleep is not an option but essential for a healthy life. It’s sleep when your body starts repairing the damaged tissue, impart growth, do fat loss, developing muscle, set the hormonal balance. Your body needs this resting phase to run such essential activities. Set your sleeping routine. Go to bed at the same time every day. Go completely gadget-free at least 30 minutes before sleep. Sometimes only fixing the sleep cycle helps to cure many lifestyle disorders. Still not convinced? Consider reading this.
Constipation treatment at home Step 4: Relax, cut down stress
The day you will start following the previous 3 steps with complete honesty, you don’t have to work hard for the fourth step. Stress is inevitable in today’s life. In fact, a little bit of stress is good to keep you motivated, focused on your goal. Excessive stress leaves a negative impact on your gut-brain axis, disturbs the hormonal balance, enzyme activity, and creates constipation. It is best to become aware of your capacity and capability. Start saying “No” and let things go. You will be fine.
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Constipation is a silent health problem of modern society, particularly in city life. Diet and lifestyle play very important roles in constipation treatment. Regular intake of a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet, adequate sleep, daily activity & exercise, and controlling the stress level greatly reduces the risk of constipation. Remember to practice the 4 steps without fail. No, any 2 or any 3 will not help. Do follow all 4 with complete sincerity. It sounds simple may be boring but trust me they are most effective. Start adopting one by one and keep constipation at bay.