Whether you’re going through hormonal hell like I am right now, or just made some really, really bad food choices, if you are reading this, my guess is that you are feeling more backed up than all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuck in a sewer.
I am not a doctor, and the following can not be construed as medical or professional advice. These are simply remedies for constipation I have personally tried and that have worked for me, and also some that I have not tried but have been recommended. Poop at your own risk!
Important tip: If you plan to try any of these “cures”, plan on staying home for the next six to eight hours.
Before you begin:
- Make sure you have easy access to a bathroom that will not be occupied and will be free for your use over the next eight hours. If you share a bathroom with other people, let them know what is going on. Try, “Hey, I’ve be having a hard time lately, and I’ve been miserable. I really need access to the can today. Will you help me out in making sure it is available in case I have an emergency?” If your bathroom is a long ways from where you will be waiting for your “cures” to work (your bedroom or your living room in front of the TV), try “setting up shop” on the same floor and as close as possible to the bathroom. Be sure there is nothing in the way between you and that porcelain throne: pick up the floor, open all doors, and put the toilet lid up and the seat down.
- Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper in your bathroom. Magazines, a charged tablet, and/or lighthearted, humorous books are a bonus. Wet-Ones and a glass of water may be nice amenities too.
- If you are trying more than one cure at once, make sure you have all the supplies. Go to the store or collect materials from around your house beforehand.
- Have something relatively stationary to do to pass the time that will help you relax and take your mind off your situation when The End is Nigh. Some ideas: light reading, journal to write or doodle in, art supplies, a puzzle, a computer, movies, TV, knitting, paperwork, homework, organizing, high fiber foods, lots of water to drink in the meantime.
Cures and Quick Fixes:
1. Dulcolax. This is a commercial over-the-counter drug available at the pharmacy, grocery store, and maybe even gas station (haha…gas). Dulcolax is specifically for this purpose. As far as dosing, three is the magic number for me, and usually produces a fine gem within two hours. This is a great one-time cure, and certainly a product to have on hand in your medicine cabinet for you or your loved ones before disaster strikes. However, it is not recommended for continuous or long-term use. So if there is no end in sight to your suffering, try this or one of these quick fix cures, and get busy on long-term solutions (below).
2. Senna. It sounds like a beautiful girl’s name, but senna is actually a plant, that, when processed into capsules or tablets, creates a product should get your colon back on track. Senna is natural, and for me it works equally as well as Dulcolax, which really makes it an attractive option. Again however, it is great for the occasional bout of constipation, but not intended for long-term use.
3. Coffee (caffeine). If you are not a coffee drinker, you can buy caffeine pills at your pharmacy (NoDoz or similar), try your hand at brewing a cup, or go to a coffee house such as Coffee Bean, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or where ever a cup of java is to be found. Make sure you make or purchase real, caffeinated coffee. Not powdery coffee-flavored mix, not mocha-chocolate-whip-whatever, not decaffeinated coffee. You need real, plain, actual, caffeinated coffee. Sure, you can add sugar and milk or whatever, but make sure you are drinking coffee and not some commercial, chemically-flavored drink. It is the caffeine that stimulates you to go to the bathroom, so obviously make sure you don’t order decaf. If you are a coffee drinker, time to bump up the dose! Try a shot or more of espresso. Make sure you drink plenty of water as well to stay hydrated. For maximum results, skip the whip, and substitute soy or rice milk for cream or cow’s milk, since dairy can contribute to constipation.
4. Oil. This one can get messy, but it will work if done correctly. I tried it for a cleanse, and it worked in three hours. Really worked. I was totally cleansed out. Get some kind of quality, edible oil such as olive oil or walnut oil. Get some saltine crackers. Get your clock out. Every half hour, drink 1/4 cup of oil, or a little more if you can bear it. Chase it with a few crackers. Ginger chews, which are candies made with real ginger or candied ginger, which is slabs of dried ginger coated in sugar, might also help make this remedy easier to stomach. These are available at most health food stores. Side note for tummy troubles: 99% of store-bought ginger ales don’t actually contain ginger, and if they do, it is such a tiny amount nowadays, this Old Wive’s remedy is sadly outdated. In total, drink 1 1/2 – 2 cups of oil. You can eat saltines and ginger in between your oil-drinking. Once you commit, follow through, because you don’t want your oil-drinking efforts to be in vain. Maybe it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be, but it’s one of the more heavy-duty options.
5. Salt Water. This remedy originates from The Master Cleanse. Get a pint glass, fill it with spring water or reverse osmosis water (basically just quality water, not city water or treated tap water). Heat it up until it is a little hotter than you take your tea. For me, this is barely boiling on the stove, or two and a half minutes in the microwave. Be careful not to burn yourself! Next, stir in two heaping Tablespoons of salt. Table salt works best, iodized or not. If you have sea salt, you are going to want the salt to dissolve in the hot water, so grind it perhaps, or just stir really well. When it reaches a temperature comfortable to drink, drink it as fast as possible. Now realize, that as fast as possible might mean within half an hour. Just do your best. If you have high blood pressure or other salt-related issues, obviously skip this remedy. For me, this worked within the hour.
6. Psyllium fiber or Metamucil. Both Psyllium and Metamucil work in the same way, the difference is that psyllium, a plant fiber, is more natural but may be trickier to find (Trader Joe’s has a great product for a low price), and Metamucil is a commercial product complete with “drug” facts and dye, but is easily attainable at the 24-hour Walmart or local corner store. Either follow the directions liberally, or try my ratios. Mix two tablespoons of psyllium fiber in half a pint glass of your favorite juice. Pick a juice you can drink fast, because this stuff is going to gel up and expand in a few minutes. That’s how the magic happens. Orange juice or apple juice are good choices. Prune juice would be wise. Grapefruit juice or cranberry juice (not that cocktail crap) might be a little harsh to chug, but suit yourself. Once you drink that, take a breather, and when you can, 10, 20, 30 minutes later, repeat. The reason I am recommending that you mix up small doses and drink that before mixing up more is because once it absorbs the juice and gels up, it gets pretty gnarly to drink. You want that action to happen in your stomach or intestines, not your mouth. Metamucil is usually flavored, so it is meant to be added to water. Again, use a quality water that will be easy on your stomach, nothing chemically treated. Metamucil takes longer to gel and expand, so you can add three heaping tablespoons to half a pint glass of water and drink it as fast as possible. You may want to repeat this two or three more times with the Metamucil. This might take 5 or more hours, but it will help.
7. Light exercise. Go for a 20 – 30 minute brisk walk, or do 25 – 75 crunches. Stretch. Don’t overdo it, because exercising too much elicits your fight or flight response and shuts down your digestive system temporarily.
8. Indulge in the slightest urge. Get to the bathroom at the slightest feeling that you might actually go. Constipation can result in habitually holding it, so you need to retrain your body, even if temporarily, that it will have it’s golden opportunity when nature comes a callin’.
9. A stool for stool. Get a small step stool, or a similar little box you can put your feet on when you’re on the pot. For some reason, planting your feet on a box that is six to eight inches higher than the ground when you are on the toilet really puts your body in an optimal position to poop. It sounds silly, but it makes a world of difference! A child’s step stool, old printer, or stack of books, small Rubbermaid bin, or anything in similar size can mean the difference between success and disappointment.
10. Glycerin Suppositories or an Enema. That goes where? This one I haven’t tried on myself, but we have used it on newborn horses to make sure their waste gets flowing out after the placenta is no longer doing that duty. Once poop goes through the intestines, when it approaches the rectum, it can kind of dry out and get hard if it is not expelled. This can really plug you up and cause a traffic jam, especially if you have healthy bowel movements waiting behind it. I analogize this to the head of a python getting stuck in a hole where the skinnier body cannot follow. If this is permitted to happen, it will be very painful to push out. A glycerin suppository or enema can be inserted into the rectum to soften up this “head of the snake”, making it easier to get going and more comfortable to push out. Follow the instructions and always use clean hands or a sterile glove.
11. Anal sex. Nothing arouses peristasis quite like putting something up there that “shouldn’t” be up there. The thought of participating in this very intimate activity in order to achieve a very personal result might be too gross for you, but for those in need and who have previous experience, you know what I’m talking about. Relax, try it, have fun. Afterwards, get to thy throne.
12. Sauerkraut. There have been times when I’ve referred to sauerkraut as an explosive food. I love it so much, one time I bought a pint of Valley Gourmet Fresh Sauerkraut and ate the whole thing in one sitting. Let’s just say I was the opposite of constipated that night. My other favorite brand is Aunt Bubbie’s Sauerkraut. I buy sauerkraut from health food stores. I really disdain the stuff found at most regular super markets that comes in a bag or can. How gross! I would never touch that. If you don’t think you like sauerkraut and have never tried the good stuff, get ready for a world of difference. If you love sauerkraut, consider investing in a crock and making it yourself for the future.
13. Smooth Move Tea. Traditional Medicinals makes this mild laxative tea. Brew it strong, because it is gentle, but sometimes works.
14. Colon Cleanse. I’m not talking about pills or products you can buy, actually go see a specialist who performs colon cleanses! This does require you to schedule your appointment ahead of time. Usually the person performing the colon cleanse is a very nice, earthy person. Think of her or him as a Doula for your bowels. It typically costs $80-$100, at least for the first session. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I really want to. I have a very macho friend who got on a health kick. He was the last person I could picture willingly allowing anything to come near his butt, but he went to a very nice, spiritual older lady for a colon cleanse, and came out with a glow on his face like he had been touched by an angel. Afterward, he wasn’t shy at all about recommending it to his biker friends, family, or anyone who would listen. Alternately, my mom did this while she was in her second trimester of pregnancy and said the pressure of the water was uncomfortable, especially coupled with already needing relief, compounded by the pressure of the baby. So I guess it depends. Before you go, your colon cleanse professional may tell you to drink lots of water and consume salads or be vegetarian the day before your appointment. You will go, get comfortable probably on a medical- or massage-style table, and have some humorous small talk with your colon cleanse professional in a welcoming, warm environment. Once you are mentally prepared, he or she will guide a small-diameter hose “up there” a little ways, and then the flush may commence! Water will flow into your body for a few minutes, and then your professional will allow the water and all the gunk it loosened up to flow out through the tube and into an enclosed container, I believe, so it’s not like it will be loose or you will smell it. Personally, I think this is fascinating and would like to see this! A few minutes after removing the tube, you will probably have to use the private bathroom. From what I’ve heard, bring your camera! What happens in there may need to be seen to be believed. This option might be too graphic for you, but I find it very interesting. Hey, you’re paying a nice chunk of change for this, so you might as well get the full experience and see the amazing result.
15. Triple Shot of Wheatgrass Juice. Especially if you don’t usually go for the wheatgrass juice after yoga class or slack lining or whatever you do, if you are a wheatgrass virgin or don’t habitually drink it, this might just be the cure for you. Anywhere there is food where you have seen little pallets of grass growing behind the counter is where you want to be. Fresh pressed wheatgrass can be found at Jamba juice, Robeks, or any local juice bar. Also check out your local Whole Foods Market or other health food supermarket, as they often times have wheatgrass at their deli/cafe/bakery. You may have to travel to a nearby city or college town to get your dose. If you have a wheatgrass press or juicer that can process wheatgrass (not all properly can), you can grow it and do it yourself. Wheatgrass is actually strangely tasty, and take a few shots and this can be a very potent constipation remedy. Because most people obtain wheatgrass shots when they are out and about, make sure this is your last stop if you are out running errands and can get home quickly, or hang out at the local library for an hour or two so it can work.
Long Term Relief:
1. Eat Fiber. Anything you can recognize as coming from a plant probably has fiber. Dried fruits are full of concentrated fiber, and not just prunes. Try dried apricots and dates too. Any kind of whole food – something that you can recognize as coming from the earth – will help get your intestines on track. Spinach, or any kinds of greens, carrots with the skin on, and apples are all high fiber choices. You can choose orange juice with pulp. Fresh squeezed is best, but Tropicana’s Most Pulp is readily available. Just make sure its not from concentrate. Also consider prune juice. Think of it as gourmet dried plum juice. Eating real oatmeal with fruit for breakfast is a great habit to start. Be sure to get rolled oats or steel cut oats, NOT that crap from a baggie that is mixed with sugar and flavoring. Coach’s Oats are a staple in my life, and can be purchased from the Coach’s Oats website or at some Costco stores.
2. Drink Water. Lots of it, all the time, for the rest of your life. You will be a better person.
3. Don’t eat meat. Meat is the best way to block you up and make you constipated all the time. For some people, this might include fish, as canned tuna is known to contribute to constipation.
4. Don’t eat dairy. Or at least limit it. Cheese is the worst culprit of constipation, and cultured yogurt in moderation might negate the effect of dairy or even help remedy your constipation. Try soy or vegan yogurt in order to avoid dairy. Sheep milk and goat milk yogurt may also be better options. Don’t fall for that Activa or any marketing crap about how great Greek yogurt is. It’s no better or worse than normal commercial yogurt.
5. Consume Probiotics. Foods with probiotics are cultured or fermented foods where beneficial bacteria has been allowed to grow. This includes yogurt, including soy and vegan yogurts, kefir (goat’s milk yogurt), sauerkraut, kimchee, miso soup with lots of miso, and kombucha (a slightly carbonated drink that tastes like apple cider vinegar). You can also buy probiotic pills, just make sure you are buying quality. Check the date, and usually if they must be refrigerated, they are of higher potency and quality than those that are not. One of my favorite probiotic products is Bio-K. It can be found in the refrigerated section of your health food store. Bio-K is dairy, but it is delicious and tangy and definitely helps settle stomachs and get the flow moving.
6. Exercise. Walk 30 minutes each morning, five to six days a week, for the rest of your life. Commit to taking care of yourself and honoring your body and its ancient tried and true systems.
7. Do not take pain killers. If you are on opioid-type painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Norco, Lorcet, any of their generics, or morphine, you need to explore other options. These will cause severe constipation. If you truly need these drugs for pain management, constipation is probably the least of your worries. If you are taking them long term and don’t have a life-threatening disorder and aren’t on hospice, no offense, but find another doctor and get help. These pills are bad, bad news. If you are taking these drugs or heroin recreationally, again, constipation is now an issue you can put on the back burner. Please get help. You can die and it will hurt those that love you. I personally know young people who have died from this. It is such a preventable and unnecessary heartbreak. Enlist a friend or someone you trust to support you in seeking treatment. Here are some resources: Painkiller Addiction Helpline, Narcotics Anonymous, Nar-Anon.
- If you are pregnant and/or your constipation is caused by hormonal fluctuations and increases, don’t wait for the pipes to start moving and think you are home free. There is no telling when this will end. First off, talk to a doctor. Don’t put your unborn kid’s life in my hands, but I’d say, try a one-hit-wonder to get immediate relief, then make it a priority to follow all the long-term remedies.
- If you have some kind of disease or digestive disorder, please talk to your doctor, chiropractor or a naturopathic physician. This also applies if you are concerned about your ostomy, if you just had surgery and were given a shot of pain killers or are recovering from anesthesia.
- If bouts of constipation result from poor food choices and bad eating habits, enlist the help of a nutritionist.
- Do not stick anything up there that does not belong. This include a spoon, coat hanger, rebar or small gauge wire (yes my sister who is a nurse actually saw this), small animal, anything dirty, or anything that could pierce through your rectum. If you pierce from where poop is or should be, into your body cavity, you can become septic and die. So don’t risk it no matter how uncomfortable you are.
- If you are reading this because you think these cures will help you lose weight, you are better off adjusting your diet and exercise to accomplish this. If you really want to get cleaned out, consider a colon cleanse. The large intestine can hold 2-25 pounds of fecal matter. Remember, fecal matter is not just digested food you ate, but it is also water that needs to stay in your body to make your skin nice and keep your energy up, but also liver cells and waste. A skinny, slim, or athletic person who eats healthfully daily probably carries 2-5 pounds of poop. If you are anorexic, bulimic, or have a condition where you can’t eat or hold down food, it might be less than half a pound to 4 pounds. Again, remember your body is going to expel old blood cells from your liver and try to keep your intestines alive by hydrating them with water. This website is not going to help you. Please seek help, or continue to seek the help of a professional if this might refer to you. Now, a word on laxative abuse. Constantly being obsessed with pooping because you ate food is totally counter intuitive. Your body still digests the food before it comes out the other end, taking with it calories form fats and carbs/sugar. Even if you speed it up by abusing laxatives, this is really ineffective and if you continue, you will get horrible, painful, ugly, icky hemorrhoids. Do you want to know what your cute little cheerleader butt will look like? Google it. Hemorroids are even too gross for Sicko Miko.
- You can actually vomit poop if you are really backed up, especially if it is caused by a blockage you didn’t know you had. My sister is an RN and has stories about people projectile-vomiting doo-doo. It’s not pretty. If you have been constipated and vomit, and it smells awful, call 911, get someone to drive you, or somehow get to a hospital. Some hospitals have a feature on their website where you can sign in before you come, see the wait time, and “schedule” when you will be seen in the ER. You are not a priority unless bodily fluids are spilled in the ER waiting room. Think about that one. I am in no way recommending you injure or embarrass yourself publicly, but just FYI.
- Don’t be embarrassed. Everybody poops.
- Play it safe. Get help, get professional advice, don’t wait.
Good luck. I hope you get moving soon.