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Natural Laxatives

Constipation is both an unpleasant and an inconvenient problem. If you are feeling constipated, your first impulse might be to turn to an over-the-counter laxative. Nevertheless, many of these commercial laxatives can be harsh and present unpleasant side effects or serious complications. It is an often-overlooked fact many healthful foods act as natural laxatives and provide an excellent alternative to their over-the-counter counterparts. With such a wide variety to choose from, you are sure to find something you like to help bring relief.

Increase Your Fluid Intake

The first thing to check when experiencing constipation is how much fluid you’ve been drinking. Not drinking enough liquids is a common cause of constipation, and simply adding fresh water and pure juices to your diet can really help.

Liquids increase the amount of ambient moisture within the colon. This promotes softer, bulkier bowel movements which are easier to pass. It’s important to note coffee, tea, and soft drinks do not help with alleviating constipation and can make the problem worse because caffeine acts as a diuretic. Fruit and vegetable juices remain good choices, but only pure water actually hydrates rather than dehydrates. Drinking a large glass of water every 10 minutes for an hour brings quick relief when needed.

Some juices that are particularly effective as natural laxatives include:

  • Prune
  • Apple-pear
  • Grape
  • Asparagus
  • Wheatgrass
  • Potato

Importance of a High Fiber Diet

Fiber is another important consideration. Lack of fiber in the diet is a leading cause of constipation. In today’s world of highly processed foods, much of the naturally occurring fiber has been removed. All fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain fiber to varying degrees; thus, they act as natural laxatives to help prevent constipation from occurring.

Fiber increases stool bulk, enabling it to hold more water and making it softer. In addition, fiber massages the intestinal wall (exercising it in a way) and nourishes important microflora in the colon. Adding fiber to your diet will also help lower your cholesterol and may help prevent gallstones and coronary artery disease.

High Fiber Foods

Fruit and prunes are well known natural laxatives due to their fiber content. Prunes help stimulate contractions in the intestines to eliminate waste. Prunes also attract water to the intestinal area to soften this material.

Other known natural laxatives include:

  • Dried apricots
  • Avocados
  • Coconut
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Pears with skin
  • Mango
  • Cantaloupe
  • Banana
  • Prunes
  • Blueberries

A fresh fruit salad is a wonderful way to enjoy a variety of healthy, fiber-rich fruit while helping to get things moving again.

Fibrous vegetables that act as natural laxatives include:

  • Endive
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

Dandelion leaves are also excellent natural laxatives and are safe to eat as long as they have not been sprayed with pesticides. Fresh garden salads as well as fragrant, hot vegetable dishes will provide you healthful constipation relief.

Nuts and seeds are also fiber rich and excellent natural laxatives. Try a handful of almonds, walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, or sunflower seeds. Cooked dried beans are great as well. Kidney beans, pintos, black beans or black-eyed peas would all be delicious and effective choices.

You can find breads, muffins, and cereals to work as great natural laxatives as well. Remember to choose whole grains and avoid baked goods containing refined white flour or sugar. Whole wheat, which contains bran, is high in fiber and will help move your bowels.

Other great choices include:

  • Oat
  • Rye
  • Flaxseed
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Rice bran
  • Corn
  • Multi-grain combinations

Many whole-grain high fiber cereals are available which also contain fruit, but you can receive much more nutrition and fiber by adding your own, fresh items.

Rhubarb contains a laxative component in addition to high-fiber content and can provide a wonderful effect. Olive oil also works as a laxative and possesses the added benefit of promoting lower cholesterol levels.

A naturally occurring and powerful natural laxative is Anthraquinones. This substance is found in Senna and aloe vera. Senna has been recognized as an effective natural laxative for many years. However, Anthraquinone laxatives are extremely potent and should not be taken for extended periods. Furthermore, Senna has been demonstrated as being toxic to muscle tissue and it attacks cellular function. Since Senna essentially acts as a poison in high concentrations, the liver can be severely damaged from long-term ingestion of this herb.

As important as the foods you choose to include in your diet are the foods you omit. To help the bowels move comfortably, avoid coffee, salt, sugar, white flour, processed foods, soft drinks, alcohol and fatty meats. Also, eating smaller portions at each meal reduces the burden on the digestive system. A good rule of thumb is—it’s better to eat several small meals and snacks than gorge on the traditional “three meals a day.”

Exercise – One of the Best Natural Laxatives

One of the best natural laxatives is exercise. The modern lifestyle would seem to be a sedentary one and this leads to constipation. Regular exercise stimulates the colon and keeps you regular. Brisk 15 to 20 minute walks three or four times a week can do the trick. Yoga is another excellent way to start exercising and it certainly can improve muscle tone on the inside as well as outside. Yoga is unique in that it offers modifications for difficult postures to beginners, so everyone can receive its benefits at their own level of fitness. Not surprisingly, owing to many thousands of years old Ayurvedic knowledge, many of the postures are geared specifically to promote colon health and natural digestive function.

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