Constipation is a condition where a person is unable to pass stool regularly and faces difficulty in doing so. World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) calls constipation a symptom and not a health condition. While there can be varied presentations of symptoms such as straining while passing the stool, hard pellet-like stools, infrequent defecation, or inability to defecate when desired, the bottom line is that if there is any change in the pattern of bowel movement then it is a sign of worry.
Read more about constipation here
Ayurvedic texts explain constipation as vibandha (sanskrit term for constipation) or mala vibandha says Dr Vishwanath Chatti, ayurvedic physician from Bengaluru. Vata (air element) is of five types. One of which is called apana vata (responsible for excretion of urine and feces) causes constipation when disturbed, says Dr Chatti.
Ayurvedic experts list out various causes such as eating dry, ultra-processed foods, lack of hydration, fasting, lack of physical activities, staying awake till late at night, and old age.
Recommendations from ayurvedic experts
Cause of constipation may vary from person to person. Dr Chatti says one may get relief if one avoids the habits that cause constipation.
Adopting healthy eating habits such as eating when hungry, eating mindfully, making conscious choices of foods, eating seasonal foods, following an ayurvedic daily routine, exercising (Vyayama), and maintaining good hydration are key to avoiding health conditions, especially constipation.
Read more about the ayurvedic approach to drinking water here
Additional recommendations from National Health Portal (NHP)
- Walking for at least 30 minutes a day
- Including fibre-rich foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits, and brown rice in the diet
- Not to suppress the urge to defecate
- Spending at least 10 minutes every day at the same time in the washroom to regularise and induce bowel movements
Constipation does not always need laxatives or purgatives
Correcting digestion process and absorption is essential, says Dr Chatti. Not everyone needs laxatives or purgatives. Modifying lifestyle from inactive or sedentary to active is the first option to counter constipation.
While speaking about herbal medicines, Dr Chatti says, “Do not self-medicate or use home remedies mindlessly, rather visit a physician and get help.”
Read more about the limitations of home remedies here
The naturopathic view
Naturopathic experts consider constipation as the root cause of all the gut related health conditions, Dr Vinutha Rao, principal, MVM College of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, Bengaluru tells Happiest Health . The management plan mainly focuses on dietary and lifestyle correction.
Lifestyle measures and diet
Dr Rao recommends
- Including fat in the diet
- Increasing water intake
- Inculcating physical activities like yoga and walking
- Not holding on to urges
- Reducing stress levels and anxiety
- Avoiding smoking, caffeine, and alcohol
Some home remedies to try
- A glass of warm water with lemon and honey
- Warm water with a few drops of castor oil before going to bed
- ½ cup fresh aloe vera juice every day on an empty stomach
- A glass of buttermilk with a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
It is always advisable to visit a physician and seek prescription.
Naturopathic experts advise hydrotherapy, if required. Moreover, one can manage constipation through colon hydrotherapy and enema as prescribed by the doctor.
Role of exercises
Exercises boost peristaltic function of bowels and makes pelvic and abdominal muscles stronger, says Dr Rao. Thus, any form of exercises helps to manage constipation.
Experts believe that yoga postures have been known to improve digestion and bowel movement. Here are some yoga postures recommended by Dr Rao to relieve constipation:
- Paschimottasana (seated forward bend)
- Halasana (Plough pose)
- Dhanurasana (bow pose)
- Shalabhasana (locust pose)
- Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
- Pranayama techniques such as bhastrika (bellow’s breath) and anuloma- viloma (alternate nostril breathing)
- Yoga mudra (Hand gestures)
Here are some recommendations from Sakshi Gandhi, nutritionist from Universal Diet Academy & Clinic, Mohali, Punjab.
- Consuming ground or soaked prunes (three-four) with water early in the morning daily
- Consuming soaked chia seeds in the morning
- Including oats or millets in breakfast
- Increasing fibre-rich foods
- Consuming half teaspoon of ghee in luke-warm water before going to bed
- Avoiding deep fried, baked, and frozen foods