Not all laxatives come in the form of pills or powders. Certain vegetables and fruits are rich in soluble fiber and can provide chemical-free relief for your digestive issues. You’ve probably heard that prune juice is a natural laxative, but that’s not your only option when it comes to holistic, natural option to help spawn a bowel movement. Next time you need relief from constipation, skip the trip to the drugstore and try some of these foods instead.
Is Constipation Relief Necessary?
Constipation may have an upside. Spending extra time in the bathroom gives you a chance to read the latest issue of your favorite magazine, catch up on text messages, and hide from your children. Just kidding. Unfortunately, constipation can lead to problems. Some doctors believe that the inability to have regular bowel movements has been linked kidney problems, bladder issues, and depression or anxiety. Failing to care for your digestive system properly can also lead to minor – but embarrassing – symptoms such as foul-smelling breath and gas.
An apple a day can help keep constipation away. Apples are rich in fiber, a nutrient that softens stools and makes it easier for waste to flow through and out of your body. There are hundreds of different types of apples, so finding one that suits your personal taste is a breeze. Green apples and Pink Lady apples tend to have a tart flavor, while red apples are mild and slightly sweet. Apple juice also works well for constipation, but make sure to choose an unsweetened version or one flavored with honey.
If you’ve ever suffered from a viral infection that caused vomiting and diarrhea, your doctor may have told you to follow the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Bananas are very easy to digest and packed with fiber, calcium, and magnesium, making them one of the healthiest natural laxatives at your supermarket. Remember to drink plenty of water after eating bananas! Otherwise, the high levels of fiber in this popular yellow fruit might worsen constipation.
3. Green Veggies
Mom may have told you to finish your spinach because “money doesn’t grow on trees”, but she might have also known that most green vegetables are excellent for staying regular. Leafy green vegetables are rich in fiber and vitamins, all of which help increase the production of bile in your body. The choices are nearly endless: kale and wheatgrass blend beautifully in fruit smoothies, and arugula is a welcome topping on many sandwiches. Make a quick and easy constipation-friendly sandwich by slathering some garlic-infused hummus on a slice of fiber-rich bread, then topping your slice with arugula, cucumber slices, and diced onions.
Avocados have an arsenal of nutrients and are an excellent weapon in the battle against infrequent bowel movements. Just one avocado is all you need to sneak in 30 percent of your recommended daily allowance of fiber, nature’s constipation fighter.
5. Cayenne Pepper
For years, folks around the world have used cayenne pepper for many ailments. Spicy foods have earned a bad reputation when it comes to colon health, but cayenne pepper has been clinically proven to soothe stomach ulcers and stimulate the digestive tract. If you aren’t a fan of spicy seasonings, sprinkle a bit into a creamy dish to mask the taste. Chocolate lovers swear that this pepper gives dark chocolate a delightful kick, so try a bit with your next candy bar or add some to chocolate-flavored coconut milk for a savory yet sweet snack.
Food Preparation Matters
The above foods can be great, healthy additions to your diet but only if prepared correctly. Don’t fry any of the foods listed above or slather them with butter. This just adds extra fat and calories, both of which cause weight gain and put excess pressure on your digestive system. Avoid sprinkling sugar and salt on natural laxative foods, fresh herbs or citrus zest are a much better choice. A splash of vinegar or olive oil also adds flavor to basic dishes.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM