Let’s just start off on the right foot here: I’m not a doctor or health professional, and I won’t be able to treat, cure or heal your constipation – naturally or otherwise.
That said, I hope some of these ideas from our gut healing diet make you poop, which should cause some relief.
They worked for me!
Update 2021: Find out my new favorite remedy to help with constipation!
Natural Home Remedies for Constipation
Most of these natural remedies – and of course choosing the right foods for constipation – will be fine for both kids and adults, but I’ll also follow up with a special collection of reader ideas for constipation in toddlers.
Constipation was a surprise to me. I actually thought I had nearly perfect digestion until I started reading about the Bristol stool chart and realized that, although bowel movements typically come many times daily, I’m actually constipated.
It’s about how long the stool putrefies in my intestines, how compact they are, and the fact that I don’t really eliminate fully, ever.
When my husband and I embarked upon a gut healing diet called Gut Thrive in 5, constipation was one of my issues to tackle.
At first, and then again in the pathogen purge, I became more constipated in spite of cutting grains out of my diet. Not a fun surprise in my opinion, as I expected that elimination alone to make a big impact. I had to resort to more targeted means to alleviate the constipation.
Let’s run through them from the least to most commitment, both for your time and budget in true Kitchen Stewardship® style:
Just Stop & Breathe – Free and Quick (and really works!)
This is actually the newest technique I’ve tried, but it definitely deserves the top spot.
I just listened to a talk by Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo, a chiropractor and internationally recognized nutrition and health authority, called “End Hormone Havoc: The Gut Hormone Connection” (part of the Heal Your Gut Summit). She explained a bit about digestion and one reason we Americans in particular might be constipated.
Digestion is a parasympathetic process, meaning that the body needs to be at rest. When we’re stressed, our cortisol levels go up, which is the “fight or flight” hormone. That puts our body into sympathetic mode – if we need to run away from a tiger, we need our bodies to be ready to jump, and we don’t want energy going to digestion at that moment. If we’re chronically stressed, low on sleep, or physically running around while we’re eating, our body can’t get into parasympathetic mode to digest our food properly. Blew my mind!!
To combat this, all you have to do is stop. Sit. Take some slow, deep breaths. Be grateful.
I explained this to my kids at the next meal after I heard the talk and told them I thought it was so awesome to see how God puts systems in place to keep us healthy – because bowing one’s head in prayer and genuinely being grateful is the key to good digestion! So grace before meals even has a physical health purpose. God is so good!
I’ve been working hard to sit down, to actually pray well, not just a drive-by grace to check it off my list as I bustle around the kitchen. What an easy strategy, right!?
Dr. Loscalzo emphasized that it doesn’t have to be a half hour of meditation, just one minute will do. Hooray!
Warm Ginger-Lemon Water
I talked a lot on social media this spring about starting our day with lemon water, the first new habit we picked up from the gut healing diet.
The simple addition of some grated fresh ginger and using warm instead of room temperature water is a potential relief for constipation, and definitely the easiest and least expensive remedy to implement.
I keep ginger in the freezer all the time anyway and would just grab my microplane grater in the morning while the teapot was going. If the water boils (or even gets genuinely hot), you’ll need to add or start with cool water, because you don’t really want the lemon juice and ginger to go above 110F. That would kill beneficial enzymes.
Gargling or Singing Opera
This one is WEIRD but free, so I’ll share it.
Apparently certain actions can stimulate the gut-brain connection, and one of the causes for chronic constipation can be a disconnect between one’s gut and brain. Therefore anything that facilitates the gut-brain connection is good for relieving constipation.
- Gargling: just regular water, gargle a whole glass and try to make each gargle last long enough to be slightly uncomfortable. That won’t take long.
- Singing opera: If you regularly do this, it doesn’t count, but otherwise hop in the shower or alone in your car and belt out some tunes that will cause your throat to open up wide.
- Yogic breathing: The deep, throat-open breathing that yogis teach also helps the gut-brain connection.
- Gagging: Using a tongue depressor, gently press on the back of your tongue, just enough to gag but not enough to vomit. Personally, I went with gargling because the thought of making myself gag 1-3 times daily was not worth it. Ick.
Cutting Grains from your Diet
Although it didn’t work for me this time, I’ve previously had success with softer stools by omitting grains completely. It’s not always an easy lifestyle change, but with an elimination diet meal planner, it can be done and may have many other health benefits for you.
Be sure to start by also cutting corn and legumes, with the potential of re-introducing legumes if you see success, because then you’ll be able to test whether legumes impact you negatively or not.
Aloe Vera Juice
This product is not very expensive (found on Amazon, although I ordered mine at Thrive Market) and all you have to do is drink about 2 oz. (a shot glass) of aloe vera juice at night before bed. You can also begin your meals with it.
I didn’t notice a particular effect from this, but I admit I wasn’t very consistent and was also trying other things at the same time, so it’s definitely worth trying.
Aloe vera juice doesn’t have a very strong flavor, but it’s also not very pleasant. Make sure you buy edible, not something for making skincare products! You might try mixing with juice or even diluting with water or you can have fun solving your constipation woes these constipation smoothies!
Most Americans are deficient in magnesium (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!), and that’s something that, when out of balance, affects many systems. Simply having sufficient magnesium in your body can help ease constipation, and it’s not that hard to do.
You can make a magnesium spray using the flakes (use the code KS10 for 10% off!) or buy it pre-made, and apply at least once a day at bedtime – we did it as often as we could remember. It can make you itch or even burn/tingle a little, which is a sign that you are deficient. If that happens, use less and/or apply 20 minutes before a shower so you can wash it off.
Magnesium supplements are also available, but it’s very important to get the correct kind that’s bioavailable. Cheap supplements are going to be worthless. Ours are from Orthomolecular Products so that’s the only one I can recommend, but they’re only available through health professionals, not ordering online sadly. My OB-GYN recommended them. They are a blend of magnesium malate, citrate, and lysinate glycinate chelate.
- Here’s one on Amazon that is malate
- Here’s one that is a very good brand that is glycinate
- And magnesium citrate, which is actually the one most recommended for constipation but may interfere with the absorption of iron and copper, something to keep in mind.
For more information on supplements pro/cons and what to consider my friend Heather has a more in depth review here.
Baths for Constipation
Helping your body get rid of toxins without asking more of your liver and kidneys can be a relief to all systems and also a good bath often includes magnesium, see above. 🙂
The Gut Thrive diet recommended 2 pounds of baking soda and 2 pounds of Epsom salts but holy cow that’s a lot! My husband and I would typically use more like a pound of each (Costco sells a 13-pound bag).
- Make the water as hot as you can stand and add to it regularly to keep it hot.
- Add baking soda and Epsom salts.
- Soak for 20 minutes or more.
- For best results keep children at a distance of at least twenty feet. 😉
You can also add bentonite clay for additional minerals and drainage action from the adsorption qualities of clay.
Herbs & Supplements for Relieving Constipation
One of the (many) supplements we took via Gut Thrive in 5 was called Triphala. Depending on the consistency of your stool, we were to take between 1-4 each night of the intro and Pathogen Purge phase. More triphala until you had 2 bowel movements a day, a complete elimination (about 2 pounds of waste).
Triphala is pretty powerful from what I understand, and you’re not supposed to take it longer than six months. Proceed with caution as I am NOT a health professional and literally just shared with you everything I know about this remedy.
(Note: this link takes you to a search on Amazon; the brand we used through Gut Thrive is not available there so I have no idea what to recommend.)
Here’s a new protocol I’ve been on with my practitioner:
- Motilpro capsules: 4 caps mid-morning and mid-afternoon away from food, starting with 1 and working up to 4
- Iberogast drops: 20 drops with every meal
A reader says that Oxycleanse made by Earth’s Bounty is very effective.
RELATED: Why I don’t use Kids Miralax.
Have you heard of this contraption?
It’s going very mainstream, even sold at Costco in a two-pack!
The science behind this stool meant to go around/under your toilet is that the body’s natural intestinal shape that is most conducive to movement is bent in a squatting position. When we sit on a toilet, we are generally more like 90 degrees.
Bending the knees upward by placing feet on the Squatty Potty allows both gravity and your system to more easily eliminate waste.
Of course, if you have kids who use a stool to get to the sink anyway, you may be able to just grab that. The benefit of the Squatty Potty is that it’s designed to remain out of the way, around the toilet, exactly where you need it, when you need it – and no stubbed toes!
Get one here with free shipping or on Amazon…
This is the most surprising and effective technique to alleviate constipation symptoms that I tried, but unless you happened to buy your 4-year-old a mini trampoline, it’s slightly more pricey than the rest.
Rebounding, a fancy word for jumping around on a trampoline, is a way to get the lymphatic system moving which apparently also gets the bowels moving quite efficiently.
For a few weeks, I was very good about jumping on the tramp in our basement for ten minutes each morning, and seriously? I’d almost always have a satisfying elmination within 20 minutes after finishing. It was uncanny!
I used the time to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is almost exactly ten minutes.
I happened to have this tramp in the house anyway, but it’s only rated to 150 pounds, so many adults would need something more heavy-duty like this one found on Amazon, or another rebounding option. (I found this one too that looks an awful lot like ours but might be less expensive!)
It’s worth a try, and if you have a child struggling with constipation, this is the very first thing I’d experiment with because there are no side effects, nothing to ingest, and an awesome opportunity to “get the wiggles” out and get exercise. Stacked with benefits!
Am I really going to go here?
But not for long.
Here’s the deal: enemas obviously clean you out. 100% chance you’ll get immediate relief from constipation!
Whether coffee enemas in particular are better than a regular old enema is up for debate. And whether they’re safe over the long term or could cause your body to become dependent on them is a question that needs to be answered.
But they’re on the table…er…in the bathroom – as an option.
If you want to try them, I recommend this bucket, good organic coffee (here’s one made specifically for enemas that we ordered), and checking out Dr. Jay Davidson’s posts on coffee enemas on his site because I’m 100% not qualified to say anymore (and I don’t want to).
Poop Early, Poop Often
My final tip? Try to create some time and space for a bowel movement in the morning.
When you get your bowels moving early, you’re more likely to be able to continue throughout the day. I know if I get an hour after breakfast and haven’t yet pooped, I probably won’t have a good bowel day.
I’ve tried every one of these constipation relief home remedies, and I did see some success. The absence of effort has caused…well…I’m all stopped up with genuine constipation. Lovely. Just call me your crash test dummy of digestion, and my crash is your gain.
Time to get back on the porcelain horse and re-implement rebounding, aloe vera gel, and baths!
8 thoughts on “Natural Alternatives to Beat Constipation”
I’m surprised you didn’t mention senna pod tea. Senna pods are a natural plant, dried and made into a tea of any strength that suits the user. You can make it mild or strong according to your “need.” My mother introduced me to senna pod tea as a child, and I introduced it to my husband. After a lifetime of over the counter methods, he now prefers senna pod tea. It tastes good and works gently to relieve constipation. Because it is dried and lightweight, you can get a pound of pods cheaply, and they will last a very long time. Check Amazon or elsewhere on the net. I highly recommend it.
Very cool tip Michelle – I’ve never even heard of senna pod tea. Thanks! 🙂 Katie
I’m not sure about senna POD tea specifically, but I want to caution about using senna tea too regularly or you may not be regular on your own. Senna acts as an irritant inside the colon. It keeps more fluid in the gut which softens the intestinal contents, then it enhances contractions of the intestines and stimulates the bowels to empty. When contents move too quickly through the intestines, you can end up with gas, bloating, cramping, and/or diarrhea. It works, yes, but for some people and/or situations, it is not the best option. Your body may also become dependent on it after a couple weeks of routine use.
Thank you for your reply to my comment Jaclyn. As I mentioned, I’ve been using senna tea since I was a child. Of course I don’t take it on a sustained and regular basis. Any anti-constipation medicine taken too often can create the condition you described. Because of a good diet, I am rarely constipated myself. But the blessing of senna tea, over other over-the-counter anti-constipation medicines, is that this tea can be made at varying strengths. An individual may not need a strong solution to do the job, and the effects that you mention can be avoided with a milder tea. But thank you for your comment. Many people don’t understand that anti-constipation medications can cause these problems.
If you recommend coffee enemas I would highly suggest getting enema coffee or roasting it yourself! If the coffee is burnt at all, which is very common, it is carcinogenic in an enema. You can also use cooled boiled water with a bit of homemade yogurt. I had read about the health benefits of them for 6 years before I was ready to do it. My daughter explains it the best, “happy poo!” Have no fear!
No worries Rebecca – the linked source is special enema coffee. 🙂 Which in itself is a little freaky, but we’re already way out of the realm of what most consider normal! 😉 Katie
For me, food choices make the biggest difference. I’ve never tried cutting out all grains; sticking to whole grains instead of refined does the trick, along with lots of legumes, vegetables, and fruits (other than bananas) and NO CHEESE. I’m not sure if yogurt, eggs, or meat have any effect, but cheese definitely does: Eating a lot of it will stop me up and cause gas; if I’m already having trouble, eating cheese makes me more uncomfortable and prolongs the problem.
I take a magnesium supplement every day because it helps me reduce migraines and PMS. I only skip it if I get diarrhea.
We have sometimes used psyllium fiber to treat constipation. I kind of liked the orange flavor Metamucil (although it’s artificial flavor) but then they stopped making it with sugar, and all the flavored varieties are artificially sweetened!! I can’t tolerate artificial sweeteners. So we found an unflavored, organic psyllium and just mix it into juice. The texture takes some tolerating, though!
Becca – cheese! That’s interesting. That one doesn’t make a difference for me, but I bet food groups are very person-specific. Good tip about the fiber! 🙂 Katie