What Therapy speaks to holistic practitioners for advice on getting unconstipated, the natural way. Because, well, constipation….it happens. It can happen to any of us, especially if we are dehydrated, eat too much processed or indulgent food, take antibiotics or other medication, and even from travelling. Stress can do it too. Constipation is also common during pregnancy as the womb puts pressure on the intestines. Hopefully it is just temporary.
What is Constipation?
The definition of constipation varies from conventional Western medicine to Traditional Chinese Medicine to Ayurveda. Western doctors will say a patient is constipated if there is fewer than three bowel movements in a week. For an Ayurvedic doctor, it is fewer than three in 24 hours.
There is no straight forward answer but most alternative and holistic health practitioners would agree that at least one bowel a day is okay. Two to three would be better. Take note when any normal routine slows down.
Why is regularity important?
What we eliminate through bowel movements is toxins. Otherwise they accumulate and get reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A toxic load negatively impacts our health and well-being, including on the emotional level. Chronic constipation can also lead to hemorrhoids, fecal impaction, sleep disorders, sluggish immune system, obesity… Health aside, no one likes feeling blocked up.
But constipation is a very common condition these days and the laxative business is huge. Sure, laxatives can provide relatively quick relief but over time, they can worsen constipation. The colon’s ability to contract becomes compromised and the large intestines can get damaged.
So If No Laxatives, What to Do?
6 Natural Tips for Constipation Struggles
Here are tips from some alternative practitioners and health coaches What Therapy spoke to:
① “Hold the outer edge of the back of the knees on both sides.” A Jin Shin Jyutsu tip from practitioner and coach Julie Ann.
② “A big tall glass of warm water with fresh lemon (half or quarter lemon) squeezed into it. Drink all at one go before drinking or eating anything. Simple and effective. I recently recommended it to someone and within a week, he reported that he no longer suffers from constipation. Added to this, if the sufferer stays hydrated throughout the day, it really helps!” – tip from Sally May Tan, Health Coach from Catalyst Health.
③ For Reiki and Nutripuncture practitioner Pavla Williams, the go-to is Oxy-Powder® from GHC (Global Healing Centre). It contains Ozonated Magnesium Oxides, Organic Germanium-132, Natural Citric Acid, and Organic Gum Acacia. Comes in vegetarian capsules. Sold at Nutrimax Organic or online at GHC.
“This is not a long-term solution but it is a powerful product that works overnight. Take a couple of capsules with a ton of water before bed. Oxy-Powder® reacts with the intestines and cleanses them, pushing out whatever garbage got stuck in there (apologies for mental picture). It works on both the small and large intestines, so it’s better than colonic hydrotherapy which clears only the colon.”
Pavla also uses Nutripuncture to help with constipation.
④ “ACTIVA Digestion. Lots of water, movement, Jin Shin Jyutsu, soft plums, and homemade apple sauce with raisins.” This is what works for Antoinette Biehlmeier‘s family. One of her kids loves soft plums for getting things moving and her other prefers Jin Shin Jyutsu. Antoinette, a multi-modality alternative therapist, shares that apple sauce with raisins works like a dream for babies.
⑤ Get hydrated – try a green smoothie. Get your kale, spinach, or whatever your favourite green leafy veggies and blend it. Not keen on 100% greenies? Add 1/2 an apple. Super-size the fibre by tossing in some chia and psyllium.
⑥ According to Reiki and Tibetan Yoga practitioner Jacqueline Yu of Basic Essence, the number one Nejang “exercise” for constipation is bumba chen. Not only does bumba chen unblock constipation and increase digestion, it also builds up the body energy. Bumba chen, considered secret and high-level for tantric practices, does require some instruction and practice.
Instead try this other Nejang or Tibetan Healing Yoga exercise – grab the thighs, lift the legs, and stretch them wide. Release the legs inwards towards each other, keeping them lifted. This unblocks descending wind and regulates all lower excretions.
Because this exercise helps with childbirth, it should not be done by women unless they are already very close to their due date. Bonus: it helps with delivery (as does squatting!)
Using Castor Oil Packs
A old folk remedy, castor oil packs are becoming popular again. Once used in ancient Egypt, we are also using them for a wide variety of ailments. Castor oil packs are used for constipation, menstrual cramps, endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, urinary tract infections, headaches, kidney imbalances, sciatica, back pain, varicose veins…
In Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom Dr Northrup recommends castor oil packs to enhance the immune system. She suggests placing them on the lower abdomen three times a week for a few months.
According to Lymphatic Massage Specialist Alexander Gardener, castor oil packs work with the lymphatic system to stimulate lymph flow so that the organs, glands, and different parts of the body work optimally.
Castor oil most safely used externally. Castor oil packs should not be used on broken skin, during pregnancy or menses, when breastfeeding, or when a malignant tumor is suspected or present. Use your castor oil packs at least one hour after meal time.
What You Need
- Non-toxic plastic covering like a shower curtain, bed sheets, or towels to protect your furniture
- cold pressed castor oil (like the one from Heritage)
- several pieces of undyed (preferably organic) cotton or woolen flannel that are big enough to cover your lower abdomen for constipation or the area you want to treat. Or you can fold a larger piece into several layers.
- a flannel wrap around pack, unbleached parchment paper (or least preferably plastic wrap for the flannel)
- container with lid to soak your cloths in and to store the castor oil pack
- old clothes to wear while using the castor oil pack
- Castor oil is sticky and can stain so preparing your bed or furniture is important. Place the non-toxic plastic covering on where you will be sitting or lying down. You can use bed sheets, towels or what you like to protect the furniture in case of leaks.
- Soak several layers of cloths in cold-pressed castor oil in the glass container. You can do this ahead of time to make sure the cloths are evenly saturated.
- Wring the cloth so it is wet, but not dripping.
- Wrap your cloth with a non toxic plastic and heat it with a hot water bottle.
- Lie down on your bed and place the warmed-up cloth on the abdomen. Place the wrap around pack on and then the hot water bottle on top. The heat will help the oil sink into your body. You may need to refill the bottle to keep it hot during treatment.Alternatively you can heat the castor oil on the stovetop. Pour some oil into a jar and boil the jar until the oil is warm. Place the cloth on the parchment paper inside a pan and pour the oil over the cloth to saturate it. This is a tip from Regeneration Springs. Then you place the cloth on your abdomen, with the parchment paper on top of it. After placing the hot water bottle on the paper, secure it with a heavy towel or blanket.
- Relax and keep the pack on for an hour. You can meditate, read the book, or just enjoy doing nothing.
- Remove the pack and place your flannel cloths back into the glass container. Store in the fridge.
- Wipe any excess oil from your body. Use a baking soda solution to clean up. You can mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 2 cups of water.
Store your castor oil pack in the fridge so you can reuse it up to 30 times. Add oil if it dries out. You can either make a new castor oil pack or wash it well and hang in the sun. This is to ensure the toxins are removed. You can also purchase castor oil packs in health stores. Heritage offers pure cold-pressed castor oil, flannel wrap around, flannel cloths, all of which you can purchase as a kit.
Castor oil packs are very effective for constipation and can work very quickly. Unlike laxatives which are sometimes advised to be taken before bed to work overnight, castor oil packs can work as quickly as two hours after treatment. They are however not meant for long term use and a naturopathic physician should be consulted.
For other ailments, the most common way to use castor oil packs is doing it several times a week. You can also use them in a cycle of three day on and three day off. It is recommended to do this for several months. Place the pack on the abdomen for menstruation issues, the right side of the abdomen for liver support, and on the joints for pain.
Other natural remedies for constipation:
Castor Oil has been used since ancient times for constipation. Studies show that it works not through irritation but by causing strong peristalsis movement. It is a well-known stimulative (read: explosive) laxative and as such, it should only be used for emergencies and when other natural and more gentler forms of remedies fail. Instead of consuming Castor Oil straight, try a Castor Oil pack. (note: pregnant women should not use castor oil).
Gertrud Hirschi in her book, The Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands, suggests the Suchi Mudra to relieve constipation. Start with clenching both fists and holding them in front of your chest and while inhaling, stretch out the right arm to the right and point the index finger upward. Stretch your left arm to the left at the same time. Hold for six breaths and return the hands to the first position. Repeat six times on each side.
Gertrud also recommends the following affirmation – “I let go and give up everything that has been used up in my body, mind, and soul”.
Many people also like drinking prune juice, rubbing Peppermint Oil on the tummy, and a myriad of home remedies. Squatting more in general and in the bathroom also promotes natural movement. If you can’t squat, consider using a stool to elevate your feet to change the angle of your legs.
If your constipation persists, book in with your naturopathic doctor as extended constipation may be indicative of a serious physical underlying condition.