You know what they say, sh*t happens. But for over 42 million Americans, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s right; we’re talking about constipation. In our mission to help the world poop better, we’ve compiled a list of quick at-home remedies you can use to alleviate constipation and get on with your life. Implementing these solutions in addition to adopting a natural pooping position using a toilet stool can unclog your colon and get your bowels moving again.
What is constipation?
If we want to consult the dictionary, constipation is “a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels.” Simply put, constipation is the struggle to poop. Chances are it has affected you or a loved one at some point, so we’ve all had some experience with constipation in one form or another.
Squatty Potty toilet stools are clinically proven to increase elimination and decrease strain. Most people don’t realize that pooping with your feet flat on the ground can cause a kink in your intestines, which can lead to significant blockage. Squatty Potty undoes this kink so you can do your business quickly and cleanly. Not sure which toilet stool is right for you? Use our guide to find the stool that best suits you.
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Meet the doctors
We asked real doctors about natural home remedies for fast constipation relief. In this article, we have compiled their responses so you can better understand the causes of constipation, prevent the stomach aches caused by clogs, use strategies for relief, and learn when to seek medical attention.
- Kristin Struble, MD, FAAP
- Talar Tejirian, MD, FACS
- Dr. Keesha Ewers
- Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
- Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT of Healthline
What are the primary causes of constipation?
There are many different causes of constipation. The most common cause is dietary, specifically not having enough fiber intake. However, there are many other causes and contributing factors when considering constipation, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, certain medications, increasing age, and not getting enough exercise.
Here are the most common causes, according to our medical experts.
Unbalanced Diet: Refined and processed foods, fried foods, and others that cause occasional constipation, when consumed excessively, can lead to chronic constipation.
Dairy: Cow’s milk and dairy products are largely responsible for the epidemic of constipation we face in this country. Contrary to popular belief, our bones won’t crumble without them. In fact, studies show excluding them can actually make our bones stronger.
Medications: Certain medications may cause chronic constipation. Be sure to read the side effects on labels. Medicines like aluminum-containing antacids, high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, anti-seizure medication, opioids like codeine and morphine, antihistamines like Claritan and Zyrtec, iron supplements, and anti-nausea medications can wreak havoc in your digestive system and cause constipation symptoms. ~Dr. Struble
Physical Ailments: It is less common but still possible to have a physical problem involving the intestines, the anal and rectal area, or the muscles that control pooping. Adding to this are the incorrect bathroom habits that have become part of our culture that contribute to the countless people that suffer from constipation. ~Dr. Tejirian
Disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anal fissures or hemorrhoids, intestinal obstructions, and pelvic floor problems can also cause constipation. Constipation can also be caused by a variety of medicines, such as pain medication, antidepressants, and antacids.
Poor Bathroom Habits: It’s important to go poop when you first have the urge. Delaying it causes more fluids (and salts) to be absorbed out of the stool in the lower intestine, so it just gets harder. Most people get constipated if they get too busy to go to the bathroom, especially kids. ~Healthline
Another improper bathroom habit many people have is pooping with their feet flat on the floor. People were made to squat on the pot, not sit. Using a toilet stool to assume a squatting position can help you have easier, more satisfying eliminations.
Hormones: Pregnant, menopausal, and postpartum women have higher hormone levels. These hormones, as well as poor diet and behaviors, incorrect defecation posture, and positioning can also contribute to constipation. ~Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Inactivity and Lack of Exercise: Staying active and fit is one of the best ways to prevent and relieve occasional constipation.
Altered Bowel Habits: Holding in bowel movements or ignoring the urge to go is one of the most common causes of occasional constipation. Holding it in every once and a while won’t cause any long-term problems, but doing so frequently may be creating a bit of a traffic jam in your intestinal tract.
Stress: If you don’t find a way to reduce your daily stress you may end up experiencing constipation. We all encounter stress throughout our day and react to it differently. Get the stress relief you need before it becomes a compounded problem. ~Dr. Group
Constipation can have any number of root causes. A primary cause of constipation is a diet consisting of foods high in fat and sugar. This type of diet deprives the intestines of dietary fiber that helps promote bowel movements. Other dietary causes of constipation include not drinking enough fluids, or eating large amounts of dairy products.
Our doctors seem to have a consensus about the causes of constipation. We can sum up these causes as being related to the following:
One of the most important ways to prevent constipation is to increase fiber in your diet. Fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest, which is a good thing. Fiber is found in different amounts in all plants that we eat. It passes through our digestive system, absorbs water, and increases the bulk of our stool making it easier to have a bowel movement.
Low fiber intake is the leading cause of most constipation and booty problems people experience. Keep in mind that fiber has even more benefits beyond improving bowel movements, including decreasing the risk for heart disease or type two diabetes, and helping you lose weight by making you feel fuller longer.
Remember that your body needs at least 25-40 grams of fiber a day. People that constipate often need higher amounts.That said, the average American eats less than half the suggested daily intake of fiber. You should come up with a daily fiber plan that works for you and leads you to have bowel movements that are quick and easy.
So how can you increase your daily fiber intake? The most obvious way is to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you find it difficult to eat a high-fiber diet (75% vegetables and fruits for meals and snacks), then adding a high-quality daily fiber supplement can help. It’ll be a welcome addition to your intestines. It is also important to make sure you drink plenty of water because adding fiber to your diet without adequate water can actually worsen constipation.
Your body may produce more gas as you increase the fiber, so it is best to increase your daily fiber slowly. It may take a few weeks to reach your goal amount, but the benefits you will have at the end will be priceless.
It is important to note that there is a difference between fiber and laxatives. Natural fiber acts as a bulking agent to help have smooth and easy bowel movements. There are many benefits to having a high-fiber diet. Laxatives, on the other hand, can increase bowel movements by stimulating the large intestine to move, drawing extra water into the large intestine, or acting as a lubricant to help the poop slide through more easily.
Some foods, such as prunes, are packed with fiber, but they also stimulate the colon; therefore, it is this laxative effect that makes people have a bowel movement after eating prunes or drinking prune juice. Occasional use of small amounts of a laxative is typically not harmful, however, using them often can make you develop a dependence or have negative, even potentially dangerous complications. It is very important to discuss all changes in your diet or medications you plan to take with your doctor.
At the same time as increasing fiber and water intake, you need to make sure you are pooping in the way our bodies were designed to poop. Putting a toilet stool under your feet while pooping can bring back the correct pooping position. Our bodies are meant to poop in a squatting position, as it straightens out our rectum, which is the final storage area of the poop. Straightening the rectum allows it to empty properly. This brings up your knees, puts you into more of a squatting position and helps you to more easily pass the stool, allowing it to flow out instead of having to push it out.
Learn more about the benefits of toilet tools
Finally, it is very important not to spend more than 1-2 minutes on the toilet. Make sure you only sit down on the toilet when the poop is ready to come out instead of sitting there and waiting for something to happen. ~Dr. Tejirian
Eat More Foods High in Fiber: By increasing your intake of foods high in fiber, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing constipation and other colon-related problems.
Drink Nutritional Fluids: Drinking purified water, green tea, organic/homemade fruit juices keeps your bowel lubricated.
Exercise Regularly: The more you move, the more your bowels move.
Stress Less: Mental strain can have a negative impact on your digestive system. Take some time off and do something for yourself.
Squat More: The most effective and efficient way to poop is to position yourself in a natural squat with a toilet stool.
Take a Probiotic Supplement: Probiotics will help introduce beneficial bacteria to your gut. ~Dr. Group
Five simple tricks to help you avoid constipation
- Hydrate with at least 8 cups of water a day.
- Move your body every day.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Spend time each day doing something that brings you joy and peace, such as meditation.
- Eat a whole foods diet that contains insoluble and soluble fiber, and at least 10 cups of vegetables that encompass the entire rainbow of color. ~Dr. Ewers
The best way to prevent constipation is to first adopt healthy dietary habits. Drink enough fluids (8 glasses a day), eat fiber, and exercise regularly. Try to consume about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. Poop when the urge comes, usually at the same time every day — most people go in the morning. Give yourself the time to poop. ~Healthline
If you want to prevent constipation, make sure to eat a diet that is high in fiber and that you stay well hydrated. Regular exercise, like walking, has been shown to increase the movement of the bowels and prevents constipation. ~Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Once again, we see a pretty general consensus among our doctors. In order to increase elimination, try the following:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet high in fiber
- Exercise regularly
- Stay hydrated
- Try to relieve stress
- Take a probiotic
- Poop in the proper posture with a toilet stool
What are the most effective home remedies for better elimination?
To help increase elimination, we’ve compiled 10 easy home remedies.
Probiotics: Yogurt and kefir make for an excellent breakfast, whether consumed as is or mixed with your favorite breakfast cereal or grain-free granola. The probiotic strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium encourage healthy bowels, which translate to easier evacuation. People who regularly consume probiotics enjoy increased frequency, better stool consistency, and a reduced digestive transit time.
Water: Staying hydrated facilitates digestion and supports muscle function. When the body receives enough water, the digestive system can process nutrients and move wastes along smoothly. But how much water is enough? Always get a drink whenever you feel thirsty. Generally, you should divide your body weight in half, take that number and drink that many ounces of water. You may need to alter this based on your individual needs and activity level.
Prune Juice and Prunes: Prunes are high in fiber and sorbitol, a carbohydrate the body digests slowly. As the fiber and sorbitol move along the intestines, they collect water which softens fecal matter. Start with an 8 oz glass of prune juice or 2-3 prunes. Give them a little time to work before trying more as too much fiber and sorbitol can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Magnesium-Rich Foods: Magnesium is critical to muscle health and peristalsis, or the movement of food along the digestive tract. Low magnesium consumption has been associated with increased incidence of constipation. Adequate magnesium intake directs water to the bowels, keeping the stool soft and easier to move. Nuts, fish and green leafy vegetables like spinach are high in magnesium.
Coffee: This morning brew, especially dark-roast coffee, stimulates digestion and contains fiber, oil, and water, all of which help keep the bowels moving. A cup or two will do the trick. Note that it isn’t recommended to use coffee as a continual solution to constipation.
Baking Soda and Warm Water: Mix one teaspoon of baking soda in a quarter cup of warm water. Supposedly, this mixture should relieve pain and pressure associated with constipation, and the bicarbonate is believed to reduce the symptoms associated with heartburn. The faster you drink it up, the more effective it seems to be.
Olive Oil: Try taking a tablespoon of olive oil before eating breakfast in the morning. As a nutrient-dense oil, it stimulates the digestive tract. It also lubricates the bowels and provides antioxidant protection at the same time.
Beans: Rich in fiber, a meal containing beans shares many similar benefits as one containing prunes. Fiber keeps stool soft, and the protein has added benefits for the growth and repair of bodily tissues. Beans are also rich in nutrients essential for muscle health and function.
Exercise: Movement encourages muscle health and stimulates digestion, so going for a walk after eating may help get things moving. For cases of occasional constipation, pelvic floor exercises have proven more effective than laxatives. Yoga, Pilates, and even running may encourage the movement of wastes along the intestinal tract.
Use a Toilet Stool: Most people don’t realize, but pooping with your feet on the ground can cause a kink in your colon, which can lead to major blockage. Using a Squatty Potty stool helps undo this kink so you can do your business quickly and cleanly.
Herbs: Flax seed, psyllium, and fenugreek are the herbs recommended to start with when it comes to fighting constipation. These are easier on the stomach and fall under the category of bulk laxatives. Purgative herbs such as senna, aloe, and buckthorn are also useful when it comes to constipation. Just keep in mind that these herbs are not for long-term use. ~Dr. Group
You can attempt a dairy elimination diet, but you must do this for at least one month. While doing so, increase fiber with bulking laxatives like Citrucel, Metamucil and/or use an osmotic laxative like Miralax. The intestinal tract is lazy and stretched when one has suffered from constipation for an extended period of time. Therefore, your goal for stool consistency should be like soft-serve ice cream to allow the colon to shrink back to its original and natural size and also to allow the stretched nerves responsible for moving it along. It is important to have this stool consistency for at least a month, too. You can go up or down on the amount of these non-habit-forming laxatives depending on your stool consistency( too loose, decrease; not loose enough, increase).
Once stools have been consistently loose, taper off the laxatives. You can experiment with adding dairy back (I don’t recommend milk in general), but if constipation creeps back in (hard balls, nuggets, straining to go, etc.), do your best to avoid it.
Citrucel and Metamucil are fine to take on a regular basis for fiber sources, but more natural fiber can come from ground flax seeds and chia seeds. Again, avoiding highly processed foods-(i.e. anything made in a food processing lab that comes in bags or boxes like chips, granola bars, cookies, candy, protein bars, breakfast cereal, etc.), will help tremendously. Go for food from the earth like those that grow on trees and in the ground.
Probiotics often can help some people achieve more regularity, too. ~Dr. Struble
The self-massage for constipation is simple and easy to perform. It consists of circular motions applied over a path of approximately ten spots in your lower abdomen to help move the bowel content.
Note: If you are a new mom and had a vaginal delivery, you can do this abdominal massage as early as a day or so after you delivered your child. However, if you had a cesarean section, you should wait for at least a month until your scars are well healed. In either case, it is best to wait until you have medical clearance from your doctor before doing this massage.
How to do Abdominal Massage
- Lie down in a comfortable spot like your bed. Place a pillow beneath your knees.
- Place 2-3 fingers on the lower right side of your abdomen, over the first massage spot (see the illustration below), and gently apply constant and moderate pressure. If you experience pain, lighten the pressure. Maintain this pressure as you move your fingers in a clockwise, circular motion for approximately 10 seconds.
- Note: Do not use counterclockwise strokes.
- Move to the next massage spot and repeat as above.
- Gradually continue the clockwise massage circles up towards your rib cage, then across to the left side of your abdomen, and down to the inner left side of your pelvis. Each massage path should last a total of 1 minute.
- Repeat the entire massage path from your right side to your left side 3-4 times, once a day. ~Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Additional relief tips
- Try a belly self-massage with castor oil every morning.
- Triphala Plus 2 caps twice daily,
- Magnesium 2 caps every bedtime
- Use a Squatty Potty to unkink your colon
- Avoid processed food, dairy, gluten, alcohol, processed foods, caffeine, and sugar
- Eat 1-2 TBSP of ground flax seeds daily
The best remedy for most people is to increase the intake of dietary fiber and water. Drink warm fluids such as coffee in the morning. This helps increase the muscle contractions that move digested food through your intestines, a process called peristalsis. Prunes are a good remedy and are recommended as a first option. Other good foods to treat constipation include uncooked vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, high-fiber cereals, and whole grains such as bran.
Abdominal massage can be an effective treatment for chronic constipation, and it’s a good alternative to laxatives. Biofeedback therapy has been found to reduce constipation in 70 percent of patients. Biofeedback training teaches you to relax pelvic floor muscles while pushing. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist for training. You can also find instructional videos online for both abdominal massage and biofeedback. ~Healthline
In addition to these elimination solutions, toilet stools are proven to help you enjoy more satisfying poops and alleviate downstairs bathroom issues. Propping your legs up on a bathroom stool allows your colon to straighten, providing extra space for your poop to exit smoother and more pleasurably.
Our panel of doctors have a variety of home remedies you can try. The most common remedies were related to the following:
- Add some constipation-fighting foods and supplements to your diet, including those high in fiber, magnesium, and probiotics.
- Give yourself a massage.
- Avoid highly processed foods and dairy.
- Be active and regularly exercise.
- Elevate your feet on a Squatty Potty to poop from a squatting position.
When should I seek medical attention?
Make sure the medical intervention is with a functional medicine provider. Otherwise, you will just get a prescription for a laxative. Seek medical attention if:
- You have not passed a bowel movement in over three days
- There is blood in your stool
- You are having other symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and gas. ~Dr. Ewers
People, especially older adults, often believe they are constipated when they aren’t. Bowel habits do change with age. The normal range for bowel movements can be from three times per day to three times per week. If you believe you have chronic constipation, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Call your doctor if:
- Constipation has persisted more than three weeks and you’re going three times a week or less.
- Your stool is hard and difficult to pass.
- You’re losing weight without trying.
- You have severe pain with defecation.
You have blood in your stool.
If you’re eating healthy and exercising regularly, but constipation symptoms persist, you might want to see your doctor to rule out more serious conditions like colorectal cancer or colon inertia. Your doctor may suggest medication to help overcome occasional constipation. ~Healthline
Even though many people’s constipation is not a sign of an underlying problem, sometimes it can be. Therefore it is important to see your doctor with all your health concerns. You should never be embarrassed to discuss constipation, problems pooping, or booty problems with your doctor. Seeing a physician knowledgeable about these problems to discuss your symptoms and get a good exam is invaluable.
There are some symptoms that may require additional investigating or testing. These symptoms include a change in your bowel habits (such as thinning stool, constipation, diarrhea),, blood in the stool, any problems in the anal area such as pain, bleeding, itching or a mass, no improvement in constipation with fiber and water, weight loss, or abdominal pain. Basically, anything that is a new or different problem needs to be discussed with your doctor. Additionally, if your doctor gives you a treatment plan that doesn’t work, then you need to report back and let her or him know. ~Dr. Tejirian
All of these are urgent reasons to visit a health care professional:
- If you or your family member have large stools (common clue: often large enough to clog the toilet)
- If you are constantly straining to go
- If with wiping blood is seen on the toilet paper or in poop
- If stool consistently becomes pencil-shaped or watery diarrhea
- If the stool turns black or white
- If unintentional weight loss occurs
If chronic abdominal pain is affecting your quality of life
If you experience severe abdominal pain, especially if it is intense enough to make you doubled over with pain, or accompanied by vomiting (green vomit in particular), seek urgent medical attention. ~Dr. Struble
If you are occasionally struggling to poop, try some of these home remedies. If your constipation problems are more severe and associated with intense pain, or if you see blood or strange colors in your stools, it’s probably time to seek medical attention.
The Final Turd
They say the best defense is a strong offense. Preventing constipation is always easier than treating it. If you find yourself in the painful clutches of constipation, try some of these home remedies for fast relief. Implementing these quick and easy tricks can help you avoid irregular bowel movements and prolonged constipation problems. In addition to consuming healthy foods and drinks, regular exercise, and assuming a squatting position with a toilet stool, can help increase elimination and make better bathroom habits. Doctor’s orders.
DISCLAIMER: As always, seek the advice of your own qualified physician or other healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding symptoms or a medical condition.