I can really sympathize with those that are suffering from this very uncomfortable problem as I had many experiences with it during my university days.
When I was constantly on my way to the doctor’s office, they often advised that prevention with a good diet and healthy eating habits is best. They said it is the ultimate solution to solve this problem in the long run or even for the rest of my life.
However, at that time, it was not easy for me to alter my diet and lifestyle without some major changes that I could not do or was not ready for.
My experiences taught me much about constipation which is why I am confident in the remedies I will be recommending in this post. It took me some time and quite some pain to identify them.
I did not like the use of pharmaceutical drugs including laxatives because of their possible harmful effects such as being too harsh on the digestive system, creating dependency on the drugs, decreasing or hindering the digestive system function and effectiveness, etc.
Some of the drugs I was given actually worsen constipation if you use them over a period of time. as you can see, this is not an option for me. the one that is frequently dealing with this. let us begin with a brief explanation on constipation.
What is contipation?
Constipation can simply be explained as the uncomfortable, difficult or inability of passing a bowel movement or stool that persists for several days or weeks.
Though bowel movement frequency varies from person to person, but on average, once a person has less than three (3) bowel movements in a week, then one can assume that he/she possibly has constipation.
It is caused when the stool or waste moves too slowly in the intestine hence most of the water is absorbed or when the digestive system has difficulty in removing the waste from the rectum.
It can also be the intestine absorbing too much water from the waste that was formed. This leads to the stool becoming hard and dry making it difficult to pass through the anal passage. You can read more about its causes, symptoms etc. at mayoclinic.
This condition makes one feel bloated, uncomfortable, nauseous, have abdominal pain, headache, hard stools, painful stools, etc. These symptoms can make for a very uncomfortable life indeed.
For some, sitting properly can even become a problem because of the hard stool in the rectum.
Constipation can be a constant companion due to some lifestyle and dietary factors. But remember, when it starts to become a constant companion which occurs every week or month, it can lead to a more severe health problem which is hemorrhoids or piles as we call it in Nigeria.
Constipation is best prevented because it has the potential to keep occurring almost all the time unlike many other common ailments such as common colds, diarrhea, and fever. Its duration can last for just some few days or it can last up to several weeks which can be dangerous for our health.
Causes of constipation
Factors that allow for the development of constipation in the digestive system are:
- Lack of proper hydration
- Poor diet and lifestyle e.g over consumption of junk foods, smoking etc.
- Drugs and medications e.g abusing laxatives
- Traveling or constantly seating
- Lack of exercise
- Hormonal issues, e.g diabetes
- Some health conditions such as surgery, IBS, Pregnancy
- Old age
- Not going to the toilet when you need to etc.
In Nigeria particularly in the past, constipation wasn’t a common problem in our lives but because of the adoption of the western lifestyle and diet, we have become more sedentary and eat less healthy foods.
From my primary and secondary school not to exaggerate, I can count the number of times I have had constipation but once I started college, my diet and lifestyle changed which was how I became well acquainted with Constipation.
Diet and Lifestyle advice
There are some dietary and lifestyle practices that you need to abide by if you want to kick this problem out of your life for the long haul.
Once you start to feel constipated, think back on your dietary and lifestyle choices for the past week or so. Most of the time, you can see a pattern of poor diet and exercise as a factor for your condition. Then, try and do better immediately as explained below:
You might know that piles (an advanced form of constipation) is a common health problem in Nigeria for drivers, tailors, and those confined to a wheelchair.
They are known to have it often because they are constantly seating in one place and don’t move or exercise much due to their profession and condition.
Our bodies are meant to work which is why lack of exercise can be a leading contributor to many health problems and diseases.
These illnesses were not common in the past when people had to farm, harvest, and process their foods because they are constantly moving and thereby exercising.
That is part of the reason why they are healthier than us who now live a sedentary life.
It is important that you engage in some of exercise such as walking, jogging, working in the home (vigorous housework), going to the gym, home workouts, etc. You should choose which exercise is most suitable and convenient for you.
If you are already constipated, it is important that you try and do some vigorous exercises that will get you sweating and out of breath even if it is just brisk walking outside in your neighbourhood for about an hour.
This will increase blood flow to your abdomen and you will feel better and poop better. (God willing).
The Proper diet
Our diet as we know is very important in maintaining a healthy body. Often, diets are a factor is most of the diseases in the world today.
Constipation arises from a lack of proper balanced diet where one tends to consume more of less nutritious foods that are not helping our body in its daily function probably for convenience, cost factors, etc.
Especially for Nigerians, we might be eating too much of rice, semovita, gari, white bread and starchy foods such as yam and potatoes etc. that are not very nutritious. As we stated earlier, eating a proper balance of fruits, raw and cooked vegetables, whole grains and legumes is important for our health and preventing constipation.
Some of us are probably tired of hearing about the importance of balance diet, fruits and vegetables but that is because it cannnot be understated so just bear with me. An example of foods for a good diet include:
- Grains and legumes:
- Wheat, Fonio, beans, bambaranut, guinea corn, millet etc.
- Sugar cane, oranges, banana, pawpaw, watermelon, dates, apples with their peel, pineapple, grapes, pear, mango, guava, sour sop, etc.
- Leafy green vegetables, carrots, cabbage, okro, green beans, peas, pumpkin, avocados, cucumber, garden egg etc.
- Coconut, groundnuts, cashew nuts etc.
Avoid the following in excess especially if you usually eat them almost daily and avoid them all together when constipated. Instead, eat from the listed options above.
- Meats e.g beef, sausage, chicken, processed meats etc.
- Processed foods e.g junk foods, packaged foods, white flour etc.
- White rice
- Diary foods e.g milk, cheese etc.
- White bread
- Caffeinated drinks e.g coffee, nescafe etc.
- Soda and other soft drinks and so on.
Other advice for constipation beyond food and exercise include:
- Squatting and not sitting for your bowel movement on the toilet when constipated. This is because the natural and best position for passing waste is squatting which straightens the passage of the waste. Sitting down actually curves the passage which makes it more difficult and requires more effort for the already hard stool to pass. Some are lucky to have squatting toilets and not sitting toilets. If you cannot squat on the toilet seat, then just lean back and raise your feet a little to straighten the rectum.
- Do not read phones, books, and other reading materials while on the toilet seat for it can distract you from your business.
- Know foods that constipate you by being vigilant and maybe keeping a diary just in case you have some food intolerance.
- Go to the toilet once you feel the urge. Letting the stool to stay longer in your body will make it harder and more difficult to pass with time
Home remedies for constipation
Here are the home remedies that I have used and those around me have also testified on their effectiveness for getting rid of constipation in a day or less. They include:
yeah. I am sure you know this but i need to remind some of us.
Water is about 70% of the body and is necessary in almost all body functions especially in the digestive system. As we mentioned earlier, the stools are hard because of the lack of water or the over absorption of water in the intestine.
This might be because the body is not well hydrated with enough fluids hence the little water in the water is absorbed by the body because it is needed.
What tends to happen when we just drink lots of water within a short period of time is the constant trips to the toilet to pee which can be very inconvenient sometimes.
Remember, the optimal amount of fluids for proper hydration differs between people. Some need more water and some less so just be sure that you are actually properly hydrated. This can prevent the over absorption of water in the stool by the intestine. Then, no more hard stools and no more constipation!
Tamarind is a fruit easily found in the market and is a natural laxative that doesn’t harm the stomach. It is traditionally used as a food and for health issues such as constipation in African cultures because of its beneficial acids. It contains large amounts of tartaric, malic acids and potassium.
How to use:
- Soak about 1 long bean of the tamarind in half a liter of water and it will soften and dissolve on its own.
- Remove the seeds and sieve the tamarind juice
- Drink the juice.
Note*Those with ulcer and other illnesses that are not compatible with acids should probably avoid using this remedy and select others from the list.
Pawpaw (also called papaya) is well known for its benefits for the stomach and the digestive system. The Papain enzyme of papaya is key to easing digestion and constipation in the digestive system. It is also used to soften meat in the food industry.
How to use:
You will need to eat a whole papaya think of it as a meal or take as much as you can of a ripe pawpaw and it will loosen your stool and clean your stomach.
Orange fruit juice
Orange is found throughout the year thank God. Orange is rich in water, vitamin and pectin and naringenin compounds which are very useful in removing blockages and act as laxatives. Oranges are used not just for constipation but for other digestive problems too.
This is usually my go-to remedy when I am feeling a little constipated because it works for me well especially before the problem becomes advanced (a week old or more constipation).
How to use:
Juice squeeze about 7-10 oranges at a time and it will give you about 1-2 mug-sized cups of juice. Do not take more than 3 cups of juice in a day so that it does not cause you harm. Those with ulcer should be careful and I will advise that they pick from other option on the list such as dates, papaya etc.
Fiber rich foods
It is well agreed in the health sector that fiber is key to preventing and treating constipation. This is because fiber absorbs water in itself during digestion and the water in the fiber does not get absorbed back in the body by the intestine. This prevents the stool for getting hard and dry in the first place.
If you are already constipated, eating fiber rich foods soften the stools and and make them easier to pass out of the body without much straining. Good sources of fiber in Nigeria include oat cereals from the market, fonio, wheat, banana, black eyed beans etc.
How to use:
Prepare some oat, grain or whatever fiber rich food that you have chosen as a soup, porridge or any meal by itself without addition of other grains or foods. Make the meal without adding diary sugar, oils etc. make it as plain as possible. Eat this meal and just wait for your signal to go to the bathroom.
Castor fruits are actually poisonous and should not be eaten but its oil can be ingested but not in big quantities because it can also be dangerous for your health. This is best used to chronic constipation or the constipation that has lasted for weeks and you are at your wit’s end in pain and discomfort.
I need to properly caution you because it is very powerful and potent oil as it kind of flushes everything in the stomach and digestive system and if not careful, it can lead to other health issues such as diarrhea and other digestive issues
A big caution to pregnant women. You are not advised to take this oil for constipation but feel free to try from the other options mentioned in the post. As I said earlier, it flushes the digestive system and is also taken to induce labour by some. This can be very dangerous for you and the baby so just stay safe by staying away from it.
How to use:
Take a table spoon not more than once a day and wait for your bowel to soften and move.
Note: Castor oil tastes horrible so you have to be brave to take it. Best of luck.
Other people recommend fish oil and coconut oil. Though I have not tried them, they are safe for oral application but I cannot vouch for their effectiveness. If you have tried them, do let me know of your experience in the comments below.
Dates are rich in fiber and contribute to the formation of stools in the digestive system. They are also always available in the market in nigeria and beyond. They are best eaten on an empty stomach though but if you have just eaten, then give at least 30 minutes-1 hour before eating the dates..
How to use:
Eat about 15-30 pieces of dates at a time preferably with at least one cup of warm water and wait for some time about 30 mins. It really helps loosen the stools in your rectum and there is no limit to the amount of dates that you wish to eat.
Those with diabetes might want to stay away from dates because of its sugar content. .
Remember that constipation has different stages of severity from the normal to the very extreme condition that might require surgery. Be watchful if your constipation gets too painful to continue your daily activities, bloody stools, etc. then, It is time to go and see the doctor to properly examine your condition and so that you can get the proper treatment.
In some cases of constipation, it’s not about diet or lifestyle such as pregnancy and other conditions. Then, it is important that you try and keep a good diet while applying the appropriate remedy for relief while constipated.
Just know that the constipation might not stop completely due to your condition, but it will get better with the remedies.
I have tried and known people who testify of the effectiveness of the compiled remedy list above. If one of them is not effective for you or not suitable, then pick another one. That might be because everybody’s system is different and constipation has levels of severity depending on some factors.
I believe using this list, you can get rid of constipation in most cases so far you couple the remedies with a proper diet and healthy habits.
All of these listed remedies are not difficult to get wherever you are even in Nigeria. I hope you have much success in treating your constipation not just for now but you now have the secret to avoiding constipation for most of your life.
I hope you enjoyed your time here with me. Please rate this article down below and let me now in the comments section if there are other remedies that worked you in the past that are not part of this list.
Until we meet again, bye for now.