Constipation can often be resolved by making a few simple lifestyle changes and/or by using a simple home remedy.
Note that if the remedies in the table below don't sufficiently resolve the problem, it's worth paying a visit to your doctor.
Remember: being constipated for too long can have a negative impact on your health.
How it works
This is one of the most popular home cures for constipation. Prunes have a high amount of fibre and contain sorbitol, which draws more water into the intestines. Soak 2-3 prunes in hot water overnight; then drink the water and eat the prunes in the morning.
Studies have shown that prunes are safe and effective for the treatment of mild to moderate constipation.
This is one of the most common home remedies for constipation. It stimulates the digestive system, which helps to get things moving through the colon. Have 1 tbsp of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach. Optional: mix it with a little bit of lemon juice to lighten the flavour.
Some short-term studies have shown that olive oil is an effective treatment for constipation.
Fresh lemon in water
The citric acid in lemon juice acts as a stimulant for the digestive system, and can also help flush out toxins and undigested material that may have built up along the walls of the colon. Squeeze 1 lemon into a cup of warm water and sip.
Some studies show that lemon juice stimulates the bowel.
Many people use coffee to get them moving in the morning. It’s a natural stimulant for the digestive system. Just remember that coffee is a diuretic that makes you urinate more frequently. If you drink it in excess, it can cause constipation by drawing out water that would normally soften your stool.
More studies have indicated that coffee intake may cause constipation.
Whether you use flaxseeds (linseeds), whole, ground, soaked or boiled, or flaxseed oil, this is a simple remedy for constipation. Flaxseeds increase the amount of fibre, thereby helping relieve constipation. The oil lubricates and stimulates the bowel.
Studies have shown that flaxseeds help for both constipation and diarrhoea, although the exact mechanism is unknown.
Aloe is commonly used in the treatment of constipation. It’s been used to improve bowel movement frequency, consistency of stools and laxative dependence. You can either use the gel straight from the plant or try commercial aloe juice.
There are studies that point to the laxative effect of aloe, but there isn’t enough information available for the FDA to establish safety.
Epsom salts contain magnesium, which stimulates the bowel muscles to contract, and salt, which draws water into the bowel. Dissolve 2 tsp of Epsom salts in 1 cup of water or juice.
Studies on sulphate-rich mineral water have been shown to improve the consistency of stools and bowel movements.
Dandelion tea is used as a mild laxative. Drink up to 3 cups of dandelion tea per day.
No studies have been performed to test its safety or efficacy.
Molasses that contains vitamins and minerals (known as blackstrap molasses) is thought to help relieve constipation due to the magnesium level. Have 1 tsp of molasses pure or mixed into water or tea.
There are no studies using molasses to test its effect on constipation.
Bicarbonate of Soda
Many people swear by baking soda. It’s a bicarbonate, which neutralises stomach acid, and pushes air to come out of you (front or back!), relieving the pressure. Mix a tsp of bicarbonate with ¼ cup of warm water and drink.
There are no studies available.
Many people use reflexology to relieve constipation. There are step-by-step instructions to activate the reflexes in the intestines and bowels. Click here to view the technique.
Reflexology isn’t a medical cure and has only been shown to work for mild constipation.
Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical (Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology. December 2017.