By some estimation, twelve percent of the world’s population admits to suffering from constipation, and many more are potentially in denial about it. This includes people from every nation and walk of life. Many cultures and geographic locations do not have corner drugstores with laxatives readily available on the shelf. Many people consider harsh laxatives and their side effects to be unsatisfactory anyway. If you suffer from constipation and can’t or don’t want to use over-the-counter remedies, do other options exist? It may surprise you, but many people have turned to holistic and alternative medicine for help in relieving their constipation. 
Here are five pill, potion, and elixir-free ways that have been explored as methods for alleviating the misery of constipation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used acupuncture to relieve gastrointestinal problems for thousands of years. In fact, acupuncture has been used to relieve MANY health problems. Using needles placed on specific points in the body, acupuncture taps into and stimulates the various systems in the body. According to Duke University Medical Center, acupuncture can stimulate the muscles that help the body defecate. 
Some research has even shown that acupuncture is effective for children suffering from “hospital induced constipation”. German research in 2012 showed that children who had experienced constipation for at least three days were able to defecate within just two hours of an acupuncture session, without any other therapy. 
However, not everyone agrees. The University of Munich in Germany orchestrated a study to investigate the effect of acupuncture on constipation. The study included only eight patients, two of whom had to drop out midway due to worsening symptoms. The remaining participants did not experience any improvement in their symptoms. It may (or may not) be worth noting that the acupuncture was performed using electric needles rather than a traditional approach. 
Aromatherapy is often described as relaxing and able to stimulate our well being, but can it have an effect on constipation? A 2011 study out of Hong Kong evaluated the effect of an aromatherapeutic massage on advanced cancer patients suffering from constipation. Not only did the participants experience more bowel movements, the aromatherapy increased their quality of life, suggesting that it may be a helpful adjunct. 
Other research has been on the fence. A 2011 Korean study found that, for relieving symptoms of constipation, regular aromatherapeutic massages were equally as effective as massages without essential oils. 
It’s believed that psychological stress can impact the nervous system, digestive system, and immune system. It comes at no surprise then that many people with constipation suffer from anxiety or depression. According to the University of Washington School of Medicine, hypnotherapy has been shown to produce improvements in anxiety and depression which can lead to lessened constipation and improvements in the intestinal system overall. 
Thermotherapy, otherwise known as heat therapy, is the application of heat to the body. Thermotherapy’s main benefit is that it increases circulation, allowing for more blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel throughout the body and be utilized. In Indonesia, a Bakera is a steam bath prepared with herbs and especially popular for women recovering from childbirth. Many who have taken advantage of a Bakera have attested that the combination of thermotherapy and aromatherapy relieved a multitude of symptoms, including constipation. 
In the 1970’s, Herbert Benson M.D. designed a form of meditation he dubbed the Relaxation Response. The Relaxation Response describes a physical state of rest that has the ability to change physical and emotional responses to stress. Constipation and stress often go hand-in-hand, as living with constipation can be irritable and uncomfortable.
In a sixteen person, six-week study, the State University of New York evaluated the efficacy of Relaxation Response Meditation against Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Half the participants were taught the Relaxation Response techniques and told to practice twice a day for fifteen minutes, the other half were not. At the study’s conclusion, the meditation group reported lessened flatulence, bloating, and constipation. 
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
- Lee EJ, Warden S. A qualitative study of quality of life and the experience of complementary and alternative medicine in Korean women with constipation. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2011 Mar-Apr;34(2):118-27. doi: 10.1097/SGA.0b013e3182109405.
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