Constipation is a condition of the bowels where stool is passed infrequently (less than 3 times a week), the stool is hard and/or there is difficulty or straining to pass stool. Although constipation is one of the most common lower intestinal problems, it can be due to some very serious causes that need medical or surgical treatment. The cause of most cases of constipation is not known but it appears to be largely due to certain dietary and lifestyle factors. Constipation is a symptom and not a disease.

Normally the human bowel pushes the food, waste and water along by contracting the muscular walls in a coordinated manner. This movement is known as peristalsis. It starts when we swallow and continues all the way down to the rectum when we pass out stool. In order for the bowel to push these contents effectively, it has to have sufficient bulk and peristalsis has to be well coordinated. Most people suffer with functional constipation where the problem is not due to any disease. In these cases it appears to be a problem with lack of bulk (fibre and water) and very slow or incoordinated peristalsis. Sometimes the anal sphincter does not open as it should to pass out stool timeously.

Diet and Lifestyle

  • Daily exercise can help with peristalsis. Jogging, walking, swimming and playing sports can help.
  • Drink plenty of water daily. You should be aiming for at least 2 litres of water intake daily as an adult.
  • Eat more high fibre foods. Cereals are a good source but so is a diet that is abundant in fresh fruit and raw vegetables.
  • Avoid foods that seem to worsen your condition. Some people have a problem with milk, others with coffee and so on.
  • Speak to your doctor about your medication as constipation is a side-effect of many drugs.
  • Try a probiotic (yogurt or capsule form) to restore the ‘good intestinal bacteria’ for bowel health.

Herbal Remedies

  • Aloe (Aloe ferox/vera)
  • Senna (Cassia angustifolia)
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
  • Psyllium husk (Plantago ovata)

Homeopathic Remedies

  • Calcarea carbonica
  • Graphites
  • Lycopodium
  • Natrum muriaticum
  • Nux vomica
  • Silica