When you have your bowels in a serious knot and are having a hard time staying ‘regular’ with your toilet schedule, the immediate relief from laxatives seems like the perfect solution. If only they didn’t have such awful side effects…
Over the counter (OTC) laxatives are inexpensive, provide immediate relief and can be found in every pharmacy. The problem is that these laxatives can come with debilitating side effects and reports show that 28-75% of people that them are not satisfied with the results.
Even worse is when you’re relying on daily use of laxatives to keep you regular. Excessive OTC laxative use causes diarrhea, nausea, severe fluid loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, leaving one weak and feeling ill.
Most of these laxatives work by encouraging more bowel movements, but they do not actually solve the problem. Instead they create a daily dependency in those with chronic constipation.
Don’t cop out for only half a solution – instead take a look at some of these awesome ways to stay regular naturally!
Note: For immediate bowel relief, skip down to the section on Vitamin C. Also, don’t miss out on the Bowel Mover Green Smoothie recipe at the end of the article!
Did you know that there are two types of fiber? Soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber works by bulking up the stool and increasing the number of bowel movements. This is the type of fiber that is typically used in bulking OTC laxatives. The majority of people already get enough of this type of fiber in their diets in the form of wheat, bran or corn.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, gathers water from the digestive tract, making ones stool softer and easy to pass along. This is the fiber that people usually do not get enough of in their diets. It is one of the biggest secrets to staying regular without needing laxatives!
These soluble fibers are also readily fermentable in the digestive tract, which makes a huge difference!
In those who suffer from chronic constipation, it has been shown that they have less bile to aid digestion. Easily fermentable soluble fibers require less acids to break down, making the transition in your gut smoother.
The below list of foods is rich in soluble fiber, as well as other great properties that are geared towards staying regular!
The husks of the Psyllium seed are a rich source of soluble fiber and contain a small amount of insoluble fiber as well. Many studies have shown the power of these little guys, maintaining bowel regularity in patients with IBS-C and Parkinson’s Disease.
It’s best to take smaller doses and work your way up with psyllium husks. Make sure you always have it with a full glass of water!
Prunes, also known as dried plums, have been used for centuries to treat constipation. In later years, studies have revealed that these delicious dried fruits contain a high concentration of sorbitol, which is a natural sugar that’s great for getting things moving.
That’s because sorbitol is digested slowly and it also holds water inside the intestines, adding to the effects of soluble fiber. Prunes are also an excellent source of polyphenols, which are healthy antioxidant compounds that protect us from free radicals and inflammation.
Ahha! Avocados are world famous for their many health benefits, but more importantly they contain a decent dose of soluble fiber. When paired with its antioxidant components such as Vitamin B-6 and healthy fats, we have ourselves a truly potent ally!
Moreover, they are a rich source of magnesium and Vitamin C, with exceptionally high levels of potassium. As discussed in sections below, all three of these nutrients are capable of single-handedly alleviating constipation.
Believe it or not, kiwis are loaded with unbelievable health benefits, including keeping our bowels regular. The green fuzzy variety is especially good for achieving this.
Aside from that, eating a kiwi a day should become your daily medicine, as they are full of Vitamin C, E, K, carotenoids, folate, potassium, soluble fiber and many more antiaging phytonutrients that provide total body support!
Legumes are one of the most fibrous groups of food, most of them containing a healthy balance between soluble and insoluble fibers.
The legumes listed below have some of the highest soluble fiber contents and should be included in your diet where possible.
Dried fruits have higher fiber contents than fresh fruits and can be used like fiber supplements when in need. Plus, they make delicious, sweet, healthy snacks.
These dried fruits have higher fiber contents than many other kinds, with prunes particularly being brilliant for keeping regular.
Both nuts and seeds also contain vast amounts of both kinds of fiber. Many of them are also very low on the Glycemic Index, making them suitable for diabetics.
Here are some nuts and seeds with the highest fiber contents:
Most people think of grains when they think of the fiber in their diets and that generally boils down to wheat.
Wheat is actually low in soluble fiber, but very high in insoluble fiber, which means it can possibly contribute to your problems.
Instead of wheat, try these grains instead which are high in soluble fibers:
Of course, when it comes to staying regular without laxatives – it’s not just about what you eat…
To get the best results from all this soluble fiber you’ll now be eating, make sure to drink enough water!
Water is required to unlock the potency of soluble fibers in the digestive tract, allowing these fibers to soften up the stool and make digestion a smooth process. It has been documented that drinking water alone can sometime be a simple cure for constipation.
Over and above this, people who are dehydrated tend to have reduced bowel movements. This is yet another reason why OTC laxatives become increasingly more destructive over time, stimulating excessive bowel movements on top of dehydrating you with the runs. No thank-you!
The gut’s microbiome has gained a lot of attention in the last decade, particularly in regards to being the underlying trigger as to why one’s digestive system either over or under functions. Probiotics have shown to alleviate constipation in IBS-C.
To ensure our microbiome is healthy, taking a liquid probiotic supplement is highly recommended. A usual protocol is to have 1 tablespoon 15 minutes before every meal for a minimum of 10 days. If this is too much, you can always add a once-a-day probiotic pill to your routine.
And of course, supplements aren’t even necessary if you can add foods that help the good bacteria in our microbiome stay in balance, such as:
These fruits all have enzymes in them that help to break food down and get our digestive enzymes going.
Fermented food such as sauerkraut and probiotic yogurt are both great examples of food that can help enrich the microbiome. Kimchi is a tasty addition to meals as well.
And it doesn’t stop with foods – kefir and kombucha are full of beneficial enzymes and yummy to boot.
Mucilages are typically seeds that have fibers in their outer shells which form a mucous-like layer when moistened. Just like soluble fiber, they increase the moisture of the stool. They also have prebiotic properties, lining our guts with this mucous-like membrane which promotes healthy digestive functioning.
The best mucilages are these two:
Both of these seeds are not only mucilaginous, but they are high in healthy omega-3s and other protective phytonutrients!
Chia seeds in particular have a full balanced set of amino acids and just 2 tablespoons provide enough protein for your daily requirements.
Inulin is a starch that has prebiotic properties and acts like soluble fiber in the digestive tract. The below foods are rich sources of inulin.
Magnesium is yet another nutrient that everyone needs in order to be healthy. This potent antioxidant has laxative effects by drawing water into the intestines, just like soluble fibers.
Foods that have the highest sources of magnesium are black beans and pumpkins seeds, but dark leafy green vegetables take the cake! One cup of cooked spinach contains just under 40% of your daily dose of magnesium.
Everyone knows that eating too many fruits can cause you to have an upset tummy! But why is that? Fruits usually contain large amounts of Vitamin C, which has laxative effects on top of bolstering your immune system.
For immediate relief from constipation, find a powdered formula that contains Vitamin C and magnesium in combination together.
One teaspoon, containing 4500mg of Vitamin C and 250mg of magnesium, has been proven to give relief in 30-90 minutes, when had on an empty stomach with plenty of water. Alternatively, one can use a potassium and Vitamin C powdered formula for the exact same effects.
You may wish to try a lesser dose up front if you don’t have severe bowel irregularity, as it may cause diarrhea if you OD. However, this is much safer than using OTC laxatives – without the negative side effects.
Potassium is known for aiding us when we have a cramp, but it is also used by the body for several important processes that link to digestion, such as bowel movements and balancing our acids and bases.
Our bodies cannot hold in potassium without magnesium, so it is vital that you take a magnesium supplement with potassium.
On the other hand, why not just include a lovely balance of the below potassium-rich foods alongside magnesium-rich leafy greens, like…
A really effective way to stay regular without altering your diet that much is by making some delicious green smoothies with many of the foods listed above!
Experiment with making your own smoothies and decide what you like best.
Bowel Moving Green Smoothie Recipe (makes 4-6 servings):
Simply whizz these in your blender until smooth!
For an even greener smoothie, add in a cup of leafy greens, like spinach or kale.
Alternatively, one can freeze the ingredients to use at a later stage, which makes it a convenient go-to for even those of us who’re short on time.
A freshly made smoothie will last 1-2 days max in your fridge. If you only want one serving per day, freeze the rest in serving sized portions and take out one cup to defrost each time you want your dose!
In a nutshell, staying regular without laxatives amounts to eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water. Make sure you look after your microbiome, eat enough soluble fiber and fruit, as well as lots of those delicious cruciferous vegetables – Bon appetit!