Natural Remedies for Constipation

Constipation is a common issue for many clients and it is usually defined as passing less than 3 bowel movements a week.

However, we really want to passing at least two bowel movements per day so less than 3 per week is very chronically constipated.

In fact, I was taught 3 meals a day = 3 bowel movements a day!

Other signs of constipation include straining, hard stools, bloating and that feeling that you still have a lot more stuck there!

As a naturopath I would be looking at underlying causes including digestion, hydration, thyroid function, medications and lifestyle.

However, there are some things you can try to:

  • Fibre

    • So some fibres can actually cause more bloating and wind which is why wheat bran is not everyone’s friend! It is important to mix soluble fibres such as oats, peas, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium which dissolve in water and can soften the stool rather than just the insoluble fibres found in wheat bran, rye, potatoes, some beans. Fibre acts as a prebiotic which feeds the bacteria in our gut. I like using PHGG in practise.
  • Abdominal Massage

    • Self-massage in a clockwise direction over the abdomen can go wonders to improve circulation to the digestive area and prevent constipation. What you can do is cycle both hands around your belly and apply gentle pressure for 5 minutes once or twice a day for prevention.
  • Add in probiotics

    • These all very popular for a reason, studies (and many of my clients) have found that taking probiotics has increased and improved their bowel movements. You can get a probiotic containing well-researched strains for constipation such as Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 & Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG  but I also recommend rotating through different probiotics so you get exposure to a broad spectrum of strains plus you can’t beat just eating more fermented food!
  • Add in movement

    • If you don’t exercise, then this is your reason too! Moving your body moves your bowels! Exercise has been studied as an effective relief for constipation. It does not need to be intense either, even something as gentle as QiGong can help move things along!
  • Castor Oil Packs

    • Ooh I love these! Applying warm castor oil to the abdomen with a flannel, so relaxing, therapeutic and breaks things up and gets things moving. I haven’t written a blog in this yet but Francesca Oddie, my astrology pal has.
  • Lemon Water

    • Simple is effective! As soon as you wake up drinking a big glass of water with the zest and juice of a lemon…does the trick dare I say better than a morning coffee? In fact all water will help! Forgot to mention hydration is key🗝️!
  • Magnesium Citrate

    • Magnesium citrate actually acts as a gentle laxative so a good one to have on hand- however, not one for long term use. I would probably go for Mag07 can be a nice one to take and although it contains magnesium, its actually the oxygen fizzing around your intestine that does the work to get things going.

Herbs for healthy bowels

Many people are familiar with laxative herbs such as Senna, Aloe or Cascara Sagrada but often we don’t need to use such powerful purgatives to get bowels moving. If you do use them, then it should be used in acute, very short-term situations.

Here are a few herbs that I love to work with:

  • Dandelion

    • Making a decoction of the root or the tincture. You can get dandelion root quite easily (both in shops or foraging!) and you can chop it up into small pieces and simmer a handful in a litre of hot water for 15-20 minutes then drink throughout the day. This could improve your health in so many ways actually- dandelion is super powerful!
  • Chamomile

    • Another popular herb that you can get hold of easily as tea.  My tip is to use more than one teabag to get the bitter, aromatic quality you need- I go for 3 teabags usually with teas! Or the best thing to do is to get your teas loose-leaf, they retain more of their properties this way and you can adjust the dosage. (I do have a range of loose-leaf teas!)
  • Marshmallow

    • This is a wonderful mucilaginous (slimy) herb that soothes our gut lining and . Another one to try is liquorice which can also be very soothing and will get your bowels going!
  • Blessed thistle

    • There are so many herbs I could list that could help you but I’m highlighting Blessed Thistle as this was the one for me that really supported my digestion. It is a wonderful bitter and like any bitter herb, it stimulates peristalsis to move your bowels!
  • Yellow Dock

    • Yellow Dock contains anthraquinones which stimulate the bowels like one the laxative herbs such as Senna BUT it is so much gentler and also very nourishing, supports the liver, helps with iron. Yellow dock is such a star!
  • Cumin, fennel, caraway seeds, all the aromatic seeds!

    • All these lovely seeds are known as carminatives (herbs which help you sing!) and ease gas and spasm as they are rich in volatile oils that soothe and settle the gut.
  • The mints! Mint, rosemary, lemon balm, motherwort, thyme, hyssop…

    • Pretty much every member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family will ease our digestion with their wonderful calming oils that make them the perfect after-dinner companion.

I hope that helps with some ideas if you end up a little bit blocked, having some herbs on hand will always help!

Top tip: I love sipping on Gut Tea for all round digestive support!