Home Remedies For Constipation

What you eat can affect your bowel habits, your gut microbiome and how you feel in general.

Constipation Remedies

Constipation is a difficulty passing stool. Chronic constipation occurs when the problem lasts for more than a few weeks. Most people experience mild cases of constipation on occasion and treat it at home. However, chronic constipation may cause life-disrupting symptoms that require more medical attention.

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • Having three or fewer bowel movements per week
  • Hard stools
  • Straining to go to the bathroom
  • Feeling a blockage in your rectum
  • The feeling that you can’t fully empty your bowels
  • Needing to press your hand on your abdomen to go to the bathroom
  • Needing to use your hands to help stool exit your rectum
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

Constipation Remedies and Treatments

Lifestyle Adjustments

  • Eat more fiber. Eating more fiber makes your stool more weighty, helping it to move through your intestines faster. It helps with constipation symptoms. It also lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, lowers the risk of colon cancer, and may help control blood sugar levels. High-fiber foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts. You can also take a fiber supplement to add more to your diet.
  • Exercise more. Exercise promotes healthy, regular digestion. Strong abdominal muscles play a role in improving your digestive process. Fitting in a bit of exercise every day may help your constipation symptoms.
  • Drink more water. Increasing your intake of liquids may improve constipation, especially when consumed in combination with a higher-fiber diet.
  • Avoid dairy products. Several studies show a connection between the consumption of dairy products and constipation. Some people believe this may occur in people with an intolerance to dairy, while others believe it has to do with certain components found in milk.

Take Laxatives

A laxative is a type of over-the-counter medicine that can help you with bowel movements. There are a few different options:

  • Stimulants. This type of laxative creates intestinal contractions to help you go to the bathroom.
  • Osmotics. Taking these laxatives increases the amount of intestinal fluid to make you go to the bathroom.
  • Lubricants. Mineral oil helps hard stool pass more easily through lubrication of the intestines.
  • Stool softener. These medications turn hard stool softer, making it pass more easily.

Use Enemas

An enema is a procedure that puts liquid into the rectum. It often clears out stool or other blockages. An enema with water and a bit of salt can relieve constipation. Some prepared enema solutions contain sodium phosphate, a compound that agitates the rectum, helping you to go to the bathroom.

You should use enemas for constipation only after trying other remedies.

Drink Coffee

Coffee can make you have to go to the bathroom. One study showed that it had a similar effect on the bowels as consuming a meal. It also showed that drinking coffee had a 60% stronger effect than drinking water alone, and a 23% stronger effect than drinking decaffeinated coffee.

Take Probiotics

Probiotics are supplements that introduce more “good” bacteria to the gut. This can help to balance the digestive system.

Studies show that taking probiotics, especially those containing the organism bifidobacterium, can increase the number of bowel movements you have per week by 1.3. However, larger studies are needed to solidify these results and figure out which methods are best to relieve constipation.

When to See a Doctor

Constipation is usually not an emergency. If you experience it frequently, you may try home remedies for a week or two. If symptoms do not subside, go to your doctor. If you are not usually constipated, then you may want to go to the doctor sooner, depending on your level of discomfort.

You should always seek medical attention when you have the following symptoms in addition to constipation:

  • Severe pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever
  • Unexplainable weight loss

Your doctor may suggest:

  • Prescription medications
  • Surgery to remove blockages
  • Surgery to remove part of the colon in more severe cases

Show Sources

Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: “Enemas.”

Cleveland Clinic: “How to Know When Constipation Is an Emergency.”

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: “Is coffee a colonic stimulant?”

Mayo Clinic: “Constipation.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Common causes of constipation.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Probiotics may ease constipation.”

Hepato-Gastroenterology: “Water supplementation enhances the effect of high-fiber diet on stool frequency and laxative consumption in adult patients with functional constipation.”

The New England Journal of Medicine: “Intolerance of Cow’s Milk and Chronic Constipation in Children.”

Nutrients: “Does Milk Cause Constipation? A Crossover Dietary Trial.”

University of California San Francisco: “Constipation Signs and Symptoms.”

10 Home Remedies for Constipation

Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.

Updated on October 12, 2021
Medically reviewed

Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and nutrition and exercise healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Tyra Tennyson Francis, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician and currently serves as the medical director of an outpatient clinic.

Woman holding her stomach

Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems in the United States. It is common across all ages and populations. In fact, an estimated 16% of U.S. adults experience constipation symptoms.

Certain people are more likely to become constipated. Women—especially during pregnancy—are at greater risk. Low-fiber diets, some medications, and certain health conditions are also causes of constipation.

And, older adults, ages 60 and older, are more likely to have symptoms of constipation with approximately 33% of older U.S. adults experiencing constipation symptoms.

Not only are irregular bowel movements uncomfortable, but they also can cause health complications. Regularity of the digestive system is important for getting rid of excess waste.

If you are experiencing symptoms of constipation, some home remedies may be helpful to get your digestion back on track. Here is what you need to know.

Causes of Constipation

Constipation is characterized by having infrequent bowel movements. According to Cleveland Clinic, some causes of constipation include lifestyle factors, medications, and health conditions.

Lifestyle Factors

Dietary fiber is an important part of a balanced diet, and it plays a critical role in the digestive system. Yet, many people do not get enough fiber in their diet, making constipation a reoccurring issue.

Without adequate fiber, especially insoluble fiber, stools become hard to pass. Other lifestyle factors that contribute to constipation include dehydration, lack of exercise, travel, stress, eating large amounts of dairy products, and resisting the urge to use the bathroom.

Medications

Various medications can cause constipation as a side effect. Some drugs that have this effect include antidepressants, NSAIDs, antacids, antihistamines, and more.

Additionally, some supplements such as iron can cause constipation as well. Check with your pharmacist or a healthcare provider if you are concerned that your medications are causing constipation.

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Health Conditions

Many gastrointestinal diseases or health issues related to the colon are associated with constipation as well. These include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colorectal cancer, lazy bowel syndrome, and diverticular disease. Other health conditions that can cause constipation include pregnancy, endocrine problems, and multiple organ diseases.

Home Remedies for Constipation

Depending on the cause of your constipation symptoms, you may be able to find some relief with home remedies. However, you should always consult with a healthcare provider before trying any home remedy. Not all home remedies are right for everyone.

Additionally, some remedies can interfere with medications or worsen certain health conditions. Talk to a healthcare provider to determine what is right for you.

Coffee

Coffee—especially caffeinated coffee—can have a laxative effect on some people. A small study with six participants found that drinking a cup of coffee can help empty the stomach quickly and stimulate a bowel movement.

In some people with IBS, coffee is a trigger that worsens symptoms, though. Although coffee may increase the urge to have a bowel movement, more research is needed.

Water

Dehydration is a risk factor for constipation, so increasing the intake of fluids is usually recommended to encourage more frequent bowel movements. Drinking more water does not cure constipation, but it can soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Exercise

Exercise is recommended as a treatment for many health issues, and it may be a solution for those with constipation. Long-term inactivity is associated with the onset of constipation. Scientific research suggests that exercise therapy may be an effective treatment option for constipation patients, but more research is needed.

Fiber

Increasing the intake of fiber is usually the first step to alleviate constipation, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Fiber is associated with many health benefits, and it has a vital role in the digestive system.

High-fiber foods help soften stool and increase its size, so it is easier to pass. Fiber can also add bulk to runny stools. Though an increase in fiber can cause negative side effects in some people, it can help increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.

Prunes

Eating prunes or drinking prune juice is a common home remedy for constipation, and it is backed up by research. A randomized control trial in Clinical Nutrition found that prunes significantly increase stool weight and frequency in people with infrequent stool habits.

Senna

Senna is a natural herb that is often used to treat constipation. It is available over-the-counter in tablet and tea form.

It has been shown to be an effective treatment for constipation and typically produces a bowel movement in 6 to 12 hours when taken by mouth. But it can be effective in as little as 10 minutes when taken rectally.

When used to treat constipation in adults, research shows senna is effective when used alone or in combination with psyllium according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Likewise, senna generally is safe to use for children as well, but you should contact your pediatrician to be sure.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that is naturally found in many foods. It’s also taken in supplement form for various health benefits, including constipation relief. A placebo-controlled study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility demonstrated that magnesium oxide is an effective treatment for improving chronic constipation.

Probiotics

Probiotics are a combination of live bacteria and yeasts that have been shown to have beneficial effects on gut health. Certain strains of probiotics are associated with improving symptoms of constipation.

Psyllium Husk

Many over-the-counter fiber supplements are made with psyllium husk, a source of fiber with high water solubility. As a source of soluble fiber, psyllium draws water into stools and slows digestion. It is a widely used and effective treatment option for people with constipation.

Castor Oil

As a vegetable oil with many purposes, castor oil is commonly used to treat constipation in older patients. Researchers have concluded that castor oil packs can be used to control symptoms of chronic constipation. The results are usually quick.

Please keep in mind that castor oil is not right for everyone. For instance, pregnant people and children should refrain from using castor oil. Additionally, using castor oil long-term can damage the muscles in the colon and cause chronic constipation.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

It is important that you do not let constipation continue, especially if your symptoms have lasted 3 weeks or more. Plus, if you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to contact a healthcare provider right away.

  • You have not had issues with constipation before.
  • There is blood in your stool.
  • You are unintentionally experiencing weight loss.
  • Your bowel movements cause severe pain.
  • Your rectal muscles will not relax to allow you to have a bowel movement.
  • Your constipation has lasted 3 weeks.

A Word From Verywell

Constipation is a common and uncomfortable condition that affects many people. Aside from the discomfort, infrequent bowel movements can have a negative effect on overall health. Some home remedies can help alleviate symptoms of constipation, but they are not always the answer.

If you experience symptoms that last for 3 weeks or longer, you should contact a healthcare provider. And, do not be embarrassed to talk about your symptoms. Having normal bowel movements is an important part of overall health and wellbeing.

15 Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition and facts for constipation.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Constipation.
  3. Iriondo-DeHond A, Uranga JA, Del Castillo MD, Abalo R. Effects of coffee and its components on the gastrointestinal tract and the brain-gut axis. Nutrients. 2020;13(1):88. Published 2020 Dec 29. doi:10.3390/nu13010088
  4. Akimoto K, Inamori M, Iida H, et al. Does postprandial coffee intake enhance gastric emptying?: a crossover study using continuous real-time 13C breath test (BreathID system). Hepatogastroenterology. 2009;56(91-92):918-920. PMID:19621729
  5. Iovino P, Chiarioni G, Bilancio G, et al. New onset of constipation during long-term physical inactivity: a proof-of-concept study on the immobility-induced bowel changes. PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e72608. Published 2013 Aug 20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072608
  6. Gao R, Tao Y, Zhou C, et al. Exercise therapy in patients with constipation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2019;54(2):169-177. doi:10.1080/00365521.2019.1568544
  7. American College of Gastroenterology. Constipation and defecation problems.
  8. Yang J, Wang HP, Zhou L, Xu CF. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(48):7378-7383. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378
  9. Lever E, Scott SM, Louis P, Emery PW, Whelan K. The effect of prunes on stool output, gut transit time and gastrointestinal microbiota: A randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2019;38(1):165-173. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2018.01.003
  10. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Senna.
  11. Vilanova-Sanchez A, Gasior AC, Toocheck N, et al. Are Senna-based laxatives safe when used as long term treatment for constipation in children?J Pediatr Surg. 2018;53(4):722-727. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2018.01.002
  12. Mori S, Tomita T, Fujimura K, et al. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial on the effect of magnesium oxide in patients with chronic constipation. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019;25(4):563-575. doi:10.5056/jnm18194
  13. Dimidi E, Christodoulides S, Fragkos KC, Scott SM, Whelan K. The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(4):1075-1084. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.089151
  14. Jalanka J, Major G, Murray K, et al. The effect of psyllium husk on intestinal microbiota in constipated patients and healthy controls. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(2):433. Published 2019 Jan 20. doi:10.3390/ijms20020433
  15. Arslan GG, Eşer I. An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011;17(1):58-62. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.04.004
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By Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.

8 Home Remedies for Constipation

An illustration of a person lying in bed holding their stomach in pain

We all poop. But there might be times in your life where it can be difficult to have a bowel movement.

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How often you poop varies from person to person — you might have a bowel movement one to two times a day or every two to three days.

But in general, if you have three or fewer bowel movements a week, hard stools or strain to have a bowel movement, then you may have constipation. Your stool can become dry and dense, it may feel like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels and it becomes painful to poop.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 16 out of 100 adults have symptoms of constipation, so you’re not alone.

So, is there anything you do to help you go?

Gastroenterologist Samita Garg, MD, shares ways to alleviate your constipation at home.

How to relieve constipation naturally

Here are some ways to tackle your constipation at home.

Take a fiber supplement

A fiber supplement can help relieve constipation.

“Fiber supplements are bulking agents,” says Dr. Garg. “They add weight, size and soften the stool, which helps move the stool through your intestines.”

There are many options available over-the-counter online or at stores. They come in different forms like powder, fiber thins, capsules and gummies. Options include psyllium (Metamucil®), methylcellulose (Citrucel®) or plant-based prebiotic fiber (Benefiber®).

Dr. Garg notes that fiber supplements can cause some minor cramping, as they’re gentle laxatives, but they’re generally well-tolerated.

And when it comes to how often you should use a fiber supplement, it depends on how often you have constipation.

“If your constipation is very mild and happens sporadically, you can just take it as needed. Be aware that it can take 12 hours to three days to take effect,” says Dr. Garg. “But if it’s been bothering you most days of the week, for example, you might want to take it on a regular basis like once daily.”

Eat foods high in fiber

“You are what you eat” isn’t just a common saying. It can help you focus on eating the right types of foods that are high in fiber and plant-based so you feel well, says Dr. Garg.

What you eat can affect your bowel habits, your gut microbiome and how you feel in general.

Adding high-fiber foods to your diet can help regulate your bowel movements by bulking up your stool and helping it move through your intestines faster.

These foods are high in fiber:

  • Whole-wheat pasta.
  • Barley.
  • Chickpeas.
  • Edamame.
  • Lentils and split peas.
  • Blackberries.
  • Raspberries.
  • Pears.
  • Artichoke hearts.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Chia seeds.
  • Avocado.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Whole grain bread.
  • Prunes.

Drink water

Drinking water seems obvious, right? But many of us struggle to stay properly hydrated throughout the day.

  • 125 ounces (3.7 liters) for men.
  • 91 ounces (2.7 liters) for women.

“Drinking lots of water, especially warm or hot water in the morning, can help you have a bowel movement,” encourages Dr. Garg.

Staying hydrated can help you poop regularly. If you’re experiencing constipation, drinking water can help trigger a bowel movement.

Exercise

If you’re feeling bloated and sluggish and haven’t had a bowel movement in a few days, try moving around.

“Movement and exercise can stimulate the abdominal muscles and blood flow to your intestines,” says Dr. Garg.

But don’t think you need to go run a marathon or sign up for a spin class. Something as simple as walking around the block can get things unblocked.

Also, having a regular daily routine and prioritizing sleep can help with having regular bowel movements.

Use a laxative

There are different kinds of laxatives that can help ease your constipation. Most of these can be purchased over-the-counter online or at the store.

  • Osmotic laxative. Options include polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX®), milk of magnesia and lactulose. “This type of laxative softens stool by pulling water into the intestines,” says Dr. Garg.
  • Stimulant laxative. Options include bisacodyl (Dulcolax®) and senna-sennosides (Senokot®). “These types of laxatives stimulate the intestines to contract to move the stool along,” says Dr. Garg.

“Your doctor may recommend that you take a laxative as needed, or sometimes more regularly depending on how significant or severe your constipation is,” notes Dr. Garg.

Consider a stool softener

If you’ve tried adding fiber and still haven’t been able to poop, you could try a stool softener.

“You may see a stool softener and a laxative stimulant paired together,” says Dr. Garg.

You can find stool softeners over-the-counter online or at the store. Options include docusate sodium (Colace®) and docusate calcium (Surfak®).

Drink coffee

That cup of joe can help you go.

Research shows that caffeinated coffee can stimulate the muscles in your digestive system. In fact, caffeinated coffee has a stronger effect — up to 60% — than just drinking water or decaffeinated coffee.

“Coffee can stimulate colonic contractions and the gastrocolic reflex, which causes increased movement of the lower GI tract in response to the stretch of the stomach from eating or drinking,” explains Dr. Garg.

Get into a squat position

You probably don’t consider how you poop, but there can be some benefits to rethinking your position.

Squatting or using a stool can help your stool pass more easily.

“Some people learn maneuvers and techniques over time of how to pass stool that aren’t working for them, so it can be beneficial to re-teach the mechanics of stooling,” says Dr. Garg.

What doesn’t work

While there’s a host of things that can help relieve your constipation, there are certain things you shouldn’t do as well.

First, don’t strain.

“If you don’t feel like you need to go, you shouldn’t be sitting there and trying very hard,” stresses Dr. Garg. “Don’t strain or push yourself.”

Straining can lead to a prolapsed rectum, rectal bleeding or rectal pain and pressure.

Also, while laxative cleanses may seem like they can help clean out your bowels, Dr. Garg doesn’t recommend them regularly because they can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

When to see your doctor

If you’ve made changes to your diet, exercise routine, stress level and medications, but still have frequent constipation over the course of a few months, it might be time to see your doctor.

“If it’s a constant problem despite making changes then it might be chronic constipation or something else, and it may be beneficial to see a physician,” says Dr Garg.

Also, if you experience any of the following, it’s time to see your doctor.

  • Weight loss.
  • Severe or persistent abdominal pain.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Overall, constipation is something we all deal with from time to time. Focus on adding fiber to your diet, exercising most days and staying hydrated — and going to the bathroom when you feel like you have to. At-home remedies can also help relieve your constipation.

“Sometimes, it might be trial and error with some of remedies to see what works best for you, but your GI [gastrointestinal] doctor can help,” says Dr. Garg.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

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