Constipation is a gastrointestinal problem that occurs when you may have fewer than three bowel movements in a week, stools that are dry or difficult to pass, or a feeling that you haven’t passed all the stool. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 16 out of 100 adults have symptoms of constipation. Among those ages 60 and older, about 33 out of 100 have symptoms of constipation.
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Certain risk factors such as aging, pregnancy, dietary supplements, certain medication, weakened pelvic muscles, and certain health problems like thyroid disease, can increase your risk of suffering from constipation. Other main risk factors for constipation include being dehydrated, insufficient fiber in your diet and certain nutritional deficiencies.
It can be very painful to pass out hard, dry stool. Also, suffering from constipation can be tough, because it can affect your daily life and give you great stress.
Many people look for over-the-counter medications to soften their stool. However using such products can cause side effects like bloating, cramps, nausea, gas and other gut problems.
There are a number of safe and natural remedies to both relieve and prevent constipation.
8 Ways to Soften Your Stools Naturally
Here are the top 8 ways to soften your stools naturally.
Water is very important for the digestive system to function properly. Insufficient intake of water can be responsible for hard stools. Stool becomes hard when it doesn’t have enough water content as it enters the colon. Low fluid consumption decreases the mass and frequency of stools.
A study published in 2013 in the Malaysian Journal of Nutrition reports that inadequate consumption of dietary fiber and fluids are associated with high symptoms of constipation.
So, when you have hard stools, increase your fluid intake. This becomes even more important if you start eating more fiber.
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Apart from water, you can drink healthy fluids like coconut water, lemon water and homemade fruit or vegetable juice. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can cause dehydration.
The very first thing that you can do to soften your stools naturally is to increase your intake of fiber. Fiber is a natural laxative and experts recommend that you get at least 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber daily.
According to a 2012 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, dietary fiber consumption can increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are essential for healthy bowel movements. Soluble fiber soaks up the moisture in food and slows digestion, which helps keep your bowel movements regular. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and can help relieve constipation.
- Some good sources of soluble fiber are apples, carrots, oranges, oatmeal, barley, and flaxseeds.
- Some good sources of insoluble fiber are seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, unprocessed grains and dark leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale.
Prunes are another good remedy for constipation. Prunes contains insoluble and soluble fiber that increases the bulk and water content of stools, which in turn helps to promote smooth bowel movements. The sugar alcohol called sorbitol and other phenols present in prunes have a laxative effect.
You can eat 1 or 2 fresh plums or 3 or 4 prunes daily. Alternatively, you can blend 2 or 3 prunes into some warm almond milk, and drink it at night before going to bed. You can also add 3 or 4 chopped prunes to 1 cup of whipped yogurt, and eat it daily.
Mineral oil is a lubricant laxative that can play a vital role in softening stools naturally. Mineral oil can promote bowel movements by coating the stool as well as the bowels in a waterproof film when taken orally. This helps the stool pass easily without causing any problem.
A 2012 study published in Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery reports that mineral oil is an indigestible lipid compound that provides lubrication and emulsification of the fecal mass. Though, long-term use can cause malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins, seepage, and incontinence. You need to combine mineral oil with a liquid, such as milk, juice or water, to consume it. Consult your doctor before taking mineral oil.
Castor oil is generally considered safe for relieving symptoms of constipation. However, castor oil should be taken only for severe cases of constipation. This oil can stimulate your intestines and lubricate your bowels to guarantee effortless bowel movements. Simply swallow 1 to 2 teaspoons of castor oil on an empty stomach. You can take it with orange juice to improve its taste. Castor oil should not be taken by pregnant women.
A psyllium husk supplement can be helpful to soften your stools naturally. It is a type of insoluble fiber that works as a bulk-forming laxative that helps enlarge stools, making them easier to pass.
It absorbs water in your intestines, swelling and forming a gel-like mass that helps soften and move waste through your digestive tract. Mix ½ to 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk into a glass of warm water.
Drink it once daily at night before going to bed. If taking the caplets, follow the instructions properly. Seek medical advice before taking psyllium husk for constipation. Drink lots of water when taking psyllium husk to prevent bloating.
Fennel seeds are also helpful in softening your stools and preventing constipation. Fennel seeds encourage smooth muscle movement in the digestive tract, leading to healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Dry roast 1 cup of fennel seeds. Grind them and sieve the mixture. Store the powder in a jar. Take ½ teaspoon of this powder daily with warm water.
Including probiotics in your daily diet is another effective way to soften your stools naturally. Greek yogurt contains live bacterial cultures that create the right environment for your digestive system to remain.