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Digestive health centre

Home remedies for constipation

Constipation is a very common condition that affects people of all ages, from babies to the elderly. Twice as many women are affected as men.

A Western lifestyle, especially eating at irregular times and a poor diet, are considered the main causes of constipation.

Pregnant women experience constipation due to the change in hormones and some will continue to do so after childbirth.

Babies and young children can have painful episodes of constipation that are associated with soiling.

Some medical conditions, for example, underactive thyroid, can cause constipation.

Certain supplements and drugs can cause constipation as a side effect, for example, iron supplements, antidepressants or pain medication containing codeine.

Changes to your lifestyle and diet can help you manage your constipation.

Tips to help with constipation:

  • Eat a diet high in fibre and eat regularly. Bulk up your diet with fibre from eating fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes, cereals, whole-grain breads and pastas. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Include fruits that act like a laxative, for example, prunes or dry apricots as they contain sorbitol. Do not skip breakfast.
  • Increase your fluid intake. Aim for six-to-eight glasses of water a day or 1.2 litres a day.
  • Exercise regularly - ideally 30 minutes every day. Older people in particular should try to keep active to improve the movements of their bowels as often they are taking medication, have a poor diet and poor bowel habits, which contribute to constipation.
  • Take your time to open your bowels regularly.
  • Do not ignore the urge to go to the toilet.
  • Learn relaxation techniques, as stress can contribute to constipation.
  • Set a daily routine for going to the toilet, for example, 30 minutes after a meal.

If your constipation is not improving, talk to your GP about medication such as laxatives.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 17, 2017

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