Natural Methods to Alleviate Constipation

Our doctors at Illinois Gastroenterology Group want people to know there’s a wide range of variability when it comes to bowel movement frequency. However, most experts agree that having fewer than three bowel movements a week warrants investigation.

If you have infrequent or difficult-to-pass bowel movements that persist for weeks, you need to come in to see us for a medical evaluation. But if your constipation is less severe, it’s a good idea to try some natural at-home ways to get your bowels moving with more regularity.

How do I know if I am constipated?

Constipation is one of those things where what’s considered normal for one person may signal a problem for someone else. There is no “normal” number of bowel movements per day or week. For some individuals, having three bowel movements a day is normal, while others may have three bowel movements per week.

Establishing a baseline

Diet, activity level, and age are just a few factors that influence bowel frequency. A young, active person who eats a high-fiber diet is likely to have more bowel movements than a sedentary senior.

Considering what is normal for you is key. If you usually have two bowel movements a day, and then you’re suddenly moving your bowels only twice a week, you’re dealing with constipation.

Once you’ve established that you are indeed constipated (brief changes in bowel habits are rarely a cause for concern), you can take steps to get things moving. Here’s what our experts suggest.

Boost your fiber intake

Fiber is the indigestible part of plants that promotes digestive health. You get two types of fiber in your diet: soluble and insoluble. The latter absorbs water from the gut and helps to form stool, adding bulk and moisture so that stool passes with ease.

Fiber is essential, and most Americans are failing to get the recommended 25-35 milligrams each day. Eating more foods that are rich in fiber -- like whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, and veggies -- is an excellent way to boost your fiber intake.

Drink more water

Dehydration puts you on the path to constipation in no time. The body needs adequate water for an array of functions, including processing and eliminating waste from the food you eat. If you’re skimping on your intake of unsweetened beverages, it could explain your bowel infrequency.

A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight of water in ounces each day. That means if you weigh 170 pounds, you should aim to drink roughly 10 glasses of water daily. Of course, if you’re losing fluid through sweat from physical activities or summer heat, you’ll need even more water to keep things balanced.

Take senna, a natural laxative

For brief bouts of constipation, it is okay to take an over-the-counter laxative. Senna is considered safe for short-term use. This flowering plant contains compounds called sennosides that stimulate the gut, promoting bowel movements.

And again, keep in mind that if you’re experiencing persistent constipation, you should see one of our digestive specialists.

Why you shouldn’t ignore constipation

Constipation isn’t just about bowel frequency. You may have regular bowel movements, but if they’re difficult to pass and you find yourself straining, it’s wise to seek medical advice. Constipation may signal an underlying issue. Irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain medications are associated with constipation.

What’s more, some serious, potentially life-threatening issues, such as bowel blockage, can cause constipation and require immediate medical intervention.

Our specialists at Illinois Gastroenterology Group have extensive experience diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the digestive system, including constipation. Our doctors can perform the necessary evaluation and recommend a treatment plan to help you get relief. 

To get started, call the office nearest you to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Elgin, South Elgin, and Lake in the Hills. New and existing patients can also request an appointment online using our web form.

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