Let’s just break the ice – we’ve all dealt with constipation at some point in our lives. So, let’s talk about some of our favorite natural constipation remedies.
You don’t need us to explain to you why constipation no fun. However, many people don’t realize that constipation can cause bloating and, when chronic, can lead to bacterial overgrowth and hormonal imbalances. Recurrent constipation is also a huge red flag that something else is off – whether it’s as simple as diet or lifestyle, or more complex like thyroid or adrenal dysfunction. That is why it is incredibly important that you have daily bowel movements. (However, do not freak out if you miss a day every now and then due to travel, change in routine or acute stress).
This article is going to assume that you – like most of our clients – have already nailed the basics. You’re eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, drinking tons of water, and exercising regularly. We’re also going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are working with a functional medicine practice that specializes in gut health (like Birchwell) to uncover and correct the root cause of your constipation.
Meanwhile, we’re going to give you some natural constipation remedies so that you can start feeling better as soon a possible. We’re going to talk a lot about supplements here so, as always, please keep in mind that you should always consult your qualified healthcare provider before starting any new supplements. If you would like to purchase supplements, we encourage you to buy from a clinician dispensary to ensure quality control. You can find professional-grade supplements at discounted prices by joining our virtual dispensary here.
1. Magnesium citrate
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that is needed for 600+ reactions in the body. Most Americans do not meet the dietary requirements for magnesium, which don’t even take into account that many have elevated needs due to stress, medications, etc. While you can get some magnesium from food (nuts/seeds, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, etc.), it’s very hard to get enough – and often, supplementation is needed.
Different forms of magnesium are quite unique and have varying effects on the body. Magnesium citrate has a slight laxative effect by pulling some water into the intestines, making it one of the best gentle yet effective constipation remedies. Take 30-60 minutes before bed and start slow with 120mg, working your way up to 240-480mg depending on your size and needs. Back off or stop taking magnesium citrate if it causes loose stools. Our favorite brand for magnesium citrate supplements is Pure Encapsulations.
Kiwis may seem cute and innocuous, but they are our secret weapon when it comes to staying regular. Sure, they are high in fiber (yet low in FODMAPs) and rich in water – but there’s more to the story. Kiwis contain actinidin, an enzyme that aids in protein digestion and improves gastric emptying. There’s actually some interesting research using two daily kiwis as a therapeutic intervention for constipation. Bonus points: kiwis contain polyphenols, which help promote a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. Extra bonus points: you can eat the skin for a bonus dose of fiber and other antioxidants.
There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is not digested and forms the bulk of stool, acting as a broom in your intestines; it’s found in the roughage of plants. Meanwhile, soluble fiber binds with water to swell into a gel, making your stools easier to pass. Good sources of soluble fiber include avocados, oats, and chia seeds. Normal bowel movements require that you have a balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet, yet many people lack sufficient soluble fiber.
Sunfiber is a soluble fiber that is processed in such a way that it does not cause gas or bloating, which tend to occur once dietary fiber ramps up to high. As a result, supplementing with sunfiber can help regulate bowel function without negative side effects. It is clinically proven and blends easily and tastelessly into foods or beverages. It also can help feed beneficial bacteria, further promoting gut health. Take 1 scoop, which is 7 grams, daily – ideally with breakfast.
Name one gut issue that ginger can’t help with, we dare you. Ginger can help with constipation because it is a prokinetic, meaning that it can help promote movement throughout your digestive tract. When we recommend ginger for constipation, we’re not just saying to sip on some ginger tea or chew a piece of candied ginger; I’m talking about supplementing with powdered ginger in therapeutic doses.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate ginger for our clients is by making a ginger drink. In a cup of water, add 2 grams of powdered ginger, 1.5 ounces of apple cider vinegar (for an extra digestive function boost), and cinnamon and/or stevia to taste. Drink this twice a day before breakfast and dinner. Be consistent; it might take a few days for you to notice the benefit. Stop taking it if it causes or worsens acid reflux or symptoms.
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C at very high doses can have a laxative effect. Yes, you can get plenty of this antioxidant from fruits and vegetables – but for therapeutic purposes, you have to supplement. We recommend starting by trying 1,000-2,000mg of vitamin C at night before bed. If you’re still struggling to go, or in urgent need of help, you can try doing a bowel flush. This involves starting on an empty stomach (so, first thing in the morning) with 2,000mg of vitamin C and waiting 20 minutes to see if you go to the bathroom. If you still haven’t, you repeat the process. Most people find relief around 6,000mg of vitamin C. We want to stress that this technique really should only be used under supervision of a healthcare professional and as one of your second-to-last resort constipation remedies.
Hydration is not just about chugging water – it’s also about ensuring optimal electrolyte balance. Being mindful of electrolytes is particularly important if you are sweating frequently (whether that’s due to exercise or simply hot weather) or drinking water that filters out minerals (e.g. reverse osmosis). The main electrolytes are potassium, sodium, and magnesium; they work synergistically to keep bodily processes moving smoothly, including digestion.
It should be a non-negotiable for everyone to take some form of magnesium supplement (whether that’s citrate, glycinate, threonate, etc.), eat potassium-rich foods (i.e. leafy greens, avocados, tomatoes, etc.) and salt your meals (yes, we mean what I said – unless you have high blood pressure or a medical condition that requires you to salt restrict… don’t!). However, oftentimes that is still not enough, in which case it’s time to supplement. Our favorite electrolyte supplement is LMNT both ingredient and taste-wise.
Coffee – particularly, the caffeine – contracts and releases intestinal muscles, helping you go. Also, drinking a warm beverage early in the morning can help wake up the digestive system. That is why many people use coffee as one of their regular constipation remedies. We recommend alternating sips between hot coffee and cold water (with trace minerals added) within the first hour of waking to help produce a morning bowel movement.
If you’re working on healing anxiety, adrenal dysfunction and/or acid reflux – skip the coffee, it’s probably not for you. For former coffee addicts, decaffeinated coffee can be helpful because it has a psychosomatic effect. Instead, you can try doing matcha – which has less caffeine plus the added benefit of relaxing l-theanine. Or, you can just do hot water with a squeeze of lemon.
8. Olive oil
We’re sorry for whoever I will offend with this analogy, but you can think of oil as “grease on the wheels”, lubricating your digestive tract. We find that low dietary fat is one of the most overlooked triggers for constipation. Try doing 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a fruit smoothie prior to bed, and repeat in the morning if necessary. Coconut oil or MCT oil can work here, too. Please avoid this if you have gallbladder problems or bile duct congestion.
9. Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera juice (or aloe vera “water) contain some combination of aloe vera gel (pulp), latex (the layer between gel and skin), and green leaf parts. The inner leaf is rich in mucilages, which can help sooth the GI tract and reduce inflammation. Juice made from the whole-leaf aloe (including the latex and green leaf parts) contain anthraquinones, which have a laxative effect. For constipation relief, we recommend beginning with 4 tbsp of whole leaf aloe vera juice, about 15-20 minutes before each meal (up to 8oz per day).
Prunes are higher in sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that helps loosen stool. They also provide other vitamins, minerals and polyphenols that can help support gut health. Try taking five before bed and repeat the following morning. Choose the whole, dried fruits instead of the juice for a little extra fiber. As with all dried fruits – watch the portion as it’s easy to overdo it, and drink plenty of water alongside them. Also, if you have blood sugar issues, pair with a fat and/or protein like nut butter and yogurt to help prevent a glucose spike and crash.
Natural Constipation Remedies – Final Thoughts
We constantly hear stories from my clients with digestive problems that their doctors diagnosed them with “IBS”, told them that their issues were caused by stress, and/or gave them a prescription that did not help. All of these “solutions” are lazy and problematic. Sure, stress exacerbates gut problems – and some people’s digestion is more likely to be affected by it than others. However, there are actionable constipation remedies that you can take to stay regular, even when life gets wonky.
At Birchwell – we give you the tools to make sustainable and effective improvements to your gut health and, as a result, quality of life. We team you up with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in functional medicine. They take the time to understand your health from the inside out using advanced lab testing, nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle changes.
Interested in learning more? Book a non-obligation, complimentary discovery call to chat with one of our practitioners and see if our functional health consulting is right for you.