There's been some discussion lately regarding the plague that is constipation (particularly, my traveler's version thereof). But with the overwhelming number of comments and emails we've received, we realized that we've got an encyclopedia of cures.
There are, of course, plenty of practical suggestions: Drink more water, take more vitamins, up your intake of soluble fiber — or just have a couple of beers before bed (I remember this being quite effective, albeit unintentionally, in college). But now, thanks to comments and emails, we've got a plethora of other, more specific regimens, personal methods, and creative remedies such that it would be a public disservice to keep them to ourselves. And so we happily present you with the (practically) Definitive Guide to Constipation Relief. Suggested remedies, in no particular order:
"Growing up in México, I always heard about castor oil (haven't used it myself). It is included in this Wikipedia list as a preferred solution "when more complete evacuation is required." [Via]
"It's pretty much amazing if you catch your constipation early."
"My 7-year-old has been taking it daily for 3 years after a gastroenterologist prescribed it. It has been a lifesaver, and now you can get it over the counter."
"It's powder and tasteless and dissolves into anything. No cramps." [Via]
"But be careful if you try it. It can be, in my experience, more painful than the others mentioned. My experience has been to take smaller doses throughout the day, opposed to 1-2 per day. Be prepared to fart like crazy."
"It'll give your insides a quick and thorough scrubbing, without any too-funky after-effects." [Via]
CHILI AND CANOLA OIL
"For immediate action: Eat some chili (vegetarian is fine) and add about ¼ cup to ½ cup canola oil, depending on how adventurous you are." [Via]
MINERAL OIL, MAGNESIUM CITRATE CHASER
"If you need some colon dynamite, the recipe is 2-3 tablespoons of mineral oil followed by a bottle of magnesium citrate. Have a plunger handy." [Via]
FRENCH CHEWING GUM
"I spent two days doing the potty dance all over Paris before I realized that the unfamiliar sugar substitutes in the French gum were cleaning me out." [Via]
"I know it sounds New-Agey, but acupuncture (two sessions) and cutting out dairy for six months totally put my very cranky bowels into working like clockwork."
ESPRESSO AND A CIGARETTE
"A quick fix, especially if you don't usually smoke. It's the health advice your doctor won't give you!"
CUT THE GLUTEN
"Changed my digestive life. I used to be stopped up constantly, but since I stopped eating gluten 8 months ago, my stomach is flatter, I don't get crazy bloated andymore, and everything moves along as it should. It's amazing." [Ed: Some commenters noted this was also good for celiac's disease.] [Via
CHUG WATER IN-FLIGHT
"Before I get on a plane, I buy the biggest bottle of water I can find. I must drink the entire bottle before the plane lands. Once I adopted that method, traveler's constipation became a bit less of a problem." [Via]
"Get yourself a taco with some spicy salsa – it'll speed up your metabolism and get you all cleared up." [Via]
"Both the fruit and the juice. They are delicious, and if you like other fruit juice, I would highly suggest a mix of prune juice with something like white grape. Have some EVERY MORNING. If you drink that ice-ass-cold and then have some hot-ass coffee, you should be in business." [Via]
"Also, apples are good. Stay away from cheese, bananas, white carbs and red meat." [Via]
KASHI GO LEAN CRUNCH BARS/FIBER ONE BARS
"If they were truthful in their advertising, they'd call it 'Super Colon Blow.'" [Via]
"Plain old-fashioned dried fruit — apricots, raisins, dates, figs, prunes — 6 oz or so, every 3 hours or so, on your day of travel." [Via]
"Regular yogurt. Helps to keep the right bacteria in the tract at all times." [Via]
"Greek yogurt is the best. Do NOT have nonfat; you need that fat to help with the flow (it also helps retain vitamins that are fat soluble). Low fat or regular is perfect." [Via]
REST AND RELAXATION
"In addition to water, fiber, etc., the thing that works best for me is to just have some down time. When you get up in the morning, before you put anything else into your system, just hang out. Read a book, veg, etc." [Via]
GRAPE NUTS / RAISIN BRAN
"For the longer term, bran flakes aren't joking about that two week challenge." [Via]
"Does it every time." [Via]
"Run, do some pilates or abdominal workouts." [Via]
"Squats or anything that involves jumping." [Via]
"A random order of lunch from a street cart or a reuben sandwich from Katz's Deli on Houston." [Via]
A HOT BATH
"That will help relax the surrounding muscles that help push things along." [Via]
"Mixed with a tall glass of water." [Via]
OATMEAL AND AN APPLE
"For lunch. After the first week of eating this every day, I noticed that I was able to do a healthy number 2 — with no straining or anything — a couple times a week. The next week, I WENT EVERY DAY. I am still so sold on it and the relief it has provided me; the joy of having empty bowels on a regular basis, not feeling like my lower GI is packed with cement, doomed to die a shitty death. I hereby solemny swear to continue the routine and preach the practice to my fellow sufferers of Intestinal Overload." [Via]
"Constantly eat it before, during and after meals. You kind of feel like a cow chewing cud 24/7, but it works!" [Via]
SPECIAL FRUIT COMPOTE
"Equal parts dried prunes, dried apricots, and dried apple slices simmered in water with a stick of cinnamom, maybe a few cloves. When the apples break down and it becomes a bit like jam, you're done. Serve with yogurt or ice cream. Don't eat too much or you'll have the most potent gas. It really gets stuff moving and will solve your problem. Also pretty tasty." [Via]
AVOID AIRPORT/AIRPLANE FOOD
Under no circumstances consume peanuts, other on-board snacks, or airport food like Cinnabon, etc. Those things just invite disaster. [Via]
ALTERNATE SIPS HOT AND COLD WATER
"They taught it to me when I was training for Outward Bound, and I swear it works. Get a glass of cold water and a glass of hot water, and alternately drink them, sip by sip. You'll be running to the bathroom in no time." [Via]
FRESH LEMON AND WATER
"Ample glasses…One or two in the morning, then more throughout the day. It works." [Via]
VITAMIN C AND BUFFERIN POWDER
"Use sparingly. It will do the trick." [Via]
"Have them before bed; machine-gun poo by morning." [Via]
POPCORN AND GRAPE PRODUCTS
"A cup of grapes and two big bowls of popcorn." [Via]
"Air-popped popcorn with butter and an entire bottle of wine. Goes well with a DVD." [Via]
"ALWAYS take 2-3 tablespoons of ground flax seed (use your $10 coffee grinder) every single day — you can put it on whole-grain cereal or in a yogurt smoothie, or stir it into a glass of fruit juice. It's got a great nutty flavor and your plumbing will work beautifully every damn day. Arrowhead Mills is a good brand."
"About one-and-a-half tablespoons of flax a day (in salad, yoghurt, oatmeal, etc) should get you going in a couple of days. [Via]
SPECIAL K PROTEIN DRINK
"It has 5 grams of fiber. Have it for lunch." [Via]
MAGNESIUM AND CALCIUM
"Initially twice a day; now once a day. Changed my life." [Via]
"I usually mix it with some lemon juice and water — it's really clean-tasting and the bottle says it's 'good for digestive health'...we all know what that means." [Via]
HEATHER'S TUMMY FIBER
"I have irritable bowel solution. My solution? My miracle? My I-don't-care-how-much-it-costs? Heather's Tummy Fiber, an organic soluble fiber made from acacia trees. Soluble fiber solves both diarrhea and constipation by creating mucous that aids gut muscles in moving out bowel movements." [Via]
Green smoothie: fistful or two of spinach, a banana, and a little bit of orange juice. I drink one of these per day and *race* to the bathroom in the morning. Plus all those nutrients make your skin look amazing! [Via]
FISH OIL, OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS, OR GLUCOSOMINE
"They're great..uh..softeners. Take the supplements before bed." [Via]
COFFEE WITH CINNAMON
"In the morning, have a cup of coffee spiked with cinnamon. There's a reason cinnamon is part of the master cleanse. Trust me." [Via]
SUGAR AND HARD ALCOHOL
"I'm a big fan of just giving myself the sugar shits with whiskey/rum & coke. Have a few and pound some water before bed and when you get up." [Via]
"Once in the morning, once before bed, daily. I live by it." [Via]
"I'll poo within 10 minutes." [Via]
RAW WHEAT BRAN
"I mix about 2 tablespoons of it into my cereal every morning. It's yummy, and it pretty much cured my IBS (it even works despite hardcore iron supplements!)." [Via]
"Like Swiss Miss…random." [Via]
"Always carry them when traveling." [Via]
PROBIOTICS AND BREWER'S YEAST
"Sustenex is the bomb – I have shit every. single. day. since I started taking it daily. You can't skip days." [Via]
"Garden of Life probiotics and Bluebonnet yeast. Magic." [Via]
"GoodBelly (probiotic fruit drinks) did the trick for me." [Via]
"I get angry, angry anal fissures. I will do just about anything to avoid the dreaded constipation…[Amongst other things,] Benefiber in my water." [Via]
"Do a warm water enema — not a Fleet enema. If that doesn't work, then nuke it with a Fleet butt-bomb." [Via]
"The upside: They work in 15-30 minutes and are dirt cheap. Downside: It's a suppository." [Via]
STIMULANT LAXATIVES (DULCOLAX, SENNOKOT)
"I'm terribly sorry to report it, but take it from someone who tried everything for an agonizing 16 days without a BM, you just might have to go the medicinal route and take a sennoside (like Sennokot) or even something stronger (such as Dulcolax). I do not recall anything other than intense relief after using Dulcolax. I'm sure a number of gentler and natural remedies will probably work, but if you go for too long, save yourself the indignity of an enema and consider using a stimulant laxative." [Via]
ADVICE FROM DOCTOR MOM
My mom is an MD and explained to me once that there are four basic ways to get your colon moving:
1. Hydration: Get more water into the colon (drink enough water, eat soluble fiber like apples or Citrucel, milk of magnesia also does this).
2. Mechanical: Get more bulky stuff into the colon (as in, eat bulky high-insoluble-fiber foods — but you have to get enough water with them or this backfires).
3. Irritation: Irritate the colon a little bit (scratchy little psyllium husks or flax — like Metamucil. But that's too harsh for me though).
4. Stimulation: Chemical or physical stimulation (caffeine, senna, nicotine, taking a walk). Senna's perfectly good stuff, but using it too often can be a problem — you basically adjust to it." [Via]
THE GERMAN METHOD
"Hiyo from Southern Germany! Pooping = easy!
- 10 oz hot water with one squeezed lemon.
- 1 cup Magen-darm tee (really strong chamomile tea)
- 3 shots of espresso (Get a Moka, they're like 10 dollars. Try World Market or Amazon)
- Tummy massage starting at the navel, in a clockwise motion up to above your pubic bone for 2 minutes
- Touch your toes, then reach up into the air. Repeat for 2 minutes.
- For the long term, eat fresh, unsweetened, active-culture whole milk yogurt with raw Quaker oats for breakfast." [Via]
THE ROUTINE OF CHAMPIONS
"I have been flying cross-country for the long-distance love affair for over a year now, and spent the first couple of months visiting my guy, experiencing new love and awesome sexy-time, under a dark cloud of constipation hell. Here's what completely solved my problem:
- Raw-fermented sauerkraut eaten twice a day, starting at least two days prior to flying. Keep some in his fridge and eat daily.
- Probiotics taken each morning 20 minutes before eating.
- Crazy-strong organic coffee each morning, and lots of water all day.
- Digest Gold digestive enzymes (bought at Whole Foods), eaten with meals.
- Body-weight squats." [Via]
Earlier: I'm Constipated, Therefore I Am