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Natural Ways to Relieve Constipation

author image Lillian Downey
Natural Ways to Relieve Constipation
A sandwich on whole grain bread served with a salad and a glass of water. Photo Credit: Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images

Bowel movement frequency varies from person to person. In general, you should eliminate stool regularly -- three times per week or more. If you go less frequently than this, or if your stools are hard and cause you to strain and push during bowel movements, it's a condition called constipation. This condition can be normal, and happens to 80 percent of Americans at least once in their lives. There are several natural ways to relieve this condition and prevent it from recurring. See your doctor if your constipation lasts longer than 3 weeks. Seek immediate medical attention if you have blood in your stool.

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Drink Plenty of Fluids

Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Your body needs an adequate amount of liquid for stool formation. Too little and your stool can become hard, impacted and difficult to pass. Aim for 64 oz. water per day, or eight glasses containing eight oz. It's best to spread water intake throughout the day rather than drinking it all at once. Food can also contribute to hydration. Fruits and vegetables, especially, are high in water content.

Consume Enough Fiber

Fiber is like a broom that sweeps debris through your intestines. It also adds bulk to your stool and helps move it through the colon. You need a minimum of 25g to 30g per day. This fiber is best when it comes from foods, rather than supplements, but fiber supplements can also help relieve constipation once it has set in. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Sugary and fatty foods eaten in excess may contribute to constipation, so eat these in moderation.

Stimulating Bowel Movement

There are two ways to stimulate your bowels to move. The first is exercise. Various motions performed through exercise gently move and massage the digestive tract, helping to move stool through it. Exercise also delivers a fresh, oxygenated blood supply to the organs needed for elimination. The second method is massage. This stimulates and relaxes bowel and intestinal tissue, which can lead to a bowel movement.

Change Vitamins

Iron supplements -- taken on their own or as part of a multivitamin -- can cause constipation. This commonly occurs in pregnant women who begin prenatal vitamins. If this is the case, switch to a vitamin with a lower iron concentration, a slow release mechanism or no iron at all. Eat plenty of lean meats and green leafy vegetables to keep your iron intake at safe levels.

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