Anyone dealing with constant constipation will know that it isn’t fun.
Hours of your week spent in the toilet. Pain when things finally start moving. Struggling and straining. Definitely not enjoyable. Today we will be exploring how herbal medicine can help if you are constipated or having trouble doing a number two.
First off we will cover some different forms of constipation, there’s more to it that you might think. Next we will cover some top reasons why you might be constipated. Finally we will move onto the herbalist’s approach to constipation and the top five herbs that can help.
Put simply, constipation is when there is poor bowel movements. This includes no movement at all and what is known as incomplete evacuation.
Straining on the toilet is common with people that suffer from constipation and can cause knock on issues such as haemorrhoids.
Top Reasons Why You Might Be Constipated
Each person is unique. One person’s root cause for their constipation may be different to the next person’s. Still there are some top offenders for constipation.
Dehydration is a classic cause of constipation. This is something that is rarely covered and is actually very common. If you are suffering from constipation then make sure you are getting enough water to stay hydrated. If you notice an improvement in your constipation then it may have been as simple as dehydration.
Fibre is a touchy subject. Some think that it solves every gut health problem on the planet. Others think that it is overrated. That said, if you are struggling with constipation then it would be smart to look into how much fibre you are eating each day. More on that later.
In my experience food intolerances will cause diarrhoea instead of constipation. Since constant constipation is such a difficult thing to live with then every angle needs to be covered. There are a handful of difficult to digest foods. Many people with gut health issues (including constipation) have trouble digesting foods like soy, gluten containing foods and even nuts and seeds. Eggs may also be difficult to digest. Removing them all together for a few weeks and seeing if your constipation improves may be helpful.
Here we come to one of my favourite subjects. Different bugs can take up residence in your gut. They can cause all kinds of issues from food sensitivities to diarrhoea to stomach pain and bloating and, you guessed it, constipation.
This is one reason why I would recommend working with a quality practitioner. Knowing what to look for and also some possible tests to run can really save you time, money and effort.
Believe it or not emotions can cause changes in your bowel movements. Stress can mess with your digestion and impact how well you poop. There is an emotional connection in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhoea as well.
If you are struggling with constipation then it might be worth looking into your emotional state. Are you overly stressed at work? Do you rush through your meals while multitasking to get things done? Do you lay awake at night worrying over every little thing? If you answered yes to any of these and you struggle with constipation then emotions may be playing a part.
This one may be surprising but it is actually quite common.
It is a comment on our modern life. Many of us drive to work and sit at a desk for most of the day. We take our lunches sitting down and then head back to the office to sit at our desk again. When we finish work we drive home and because we feel so exhausted from such a hard day we sit in front of the tv for the rest of the night.
If this story rang true (even just partly) then little exercise may be playing a role in your constipation.
Top Five Herbs To Improve Constipation
Dealing with the cause of your constipation is important, that’s why we covered it first. Now we can move onto some safe and effective herbs that can be used to help if you are constipated.
As a herbalist I know that simply relying on herbal medicine alone and not dealing with the root cause won’t work. But using herbs to kick start the process can and is a helpful way to improve constipation.
Onto the herbs.
There are a handful of different types of herbal laxatives (herbs that improve constipation). There is what we call bulking laxatives which are quite safe and normally very effective. They can be taken for longer periods of time, depending on how you feel when taking them. Many are even be thought of as a type of food.
There are also herbs that have a particular component in them that damages the gut. This then kick starts the evacuation process, ending in you pooping. These particular herbs should only be used under the supervision of a trained herbalist and shouldn’t be taken for longer periods of time. Because of this we will only be covering two of the safer forms of these herbal medicines today.
Herbal Medicine to help you poop: Number 1
This herbal medicine is full of fibre. The husks have a great balance of the two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. It is used by herbal medicine practitioners to treat constipation and diarrhoea as well. But how can it treat both you ask? The plant acts on the digestive tract as a bulking agent. This means that it bulks up the stool as it passes through. It also has some interesting properties that help to lubricate the contents of the digestive tract, which helps poop move through and out. A major win if you’ve been struggling with constipation.
Psyllium husk softens the stool which can help if you experience pain when trying to poop.
Herbal medicine to help you poop: Number 2
Also known as linseed this particular herb can be a real problem solver for constant constipation. Much like psyllium husks it helps to bulk and soften the stool as it passes through. As psyllium husks and flaxseed work in a similar way it is best to only take one.
The decision between ground flaxseed and whole flaxseed can be difficult. When we are dealing with difficulties with constipation then whole seed is best. Mix 1 tablespoon in water and let it sit for up to 12 hours. This will create a gel like drink that has helped hundreds of people with constipation.
Herbal medicine to help you poop: Number 3
Moving away from the bulking type of herbs we come to the legendary dandelion. Many people think that dandelion is simply a weed but we know better. Dandelion has so many amazing properties that it’s almost funny to label it a weed.
The leaves of dandelion are full of nutrition and it helps with urination. The root of dandelion on the other hand is a bitter, bitter medicine. It helps to stimulate the digestive process. If poor digestion is the root cause of your constipation then dandelion root can really come in handy.
Some herbalists recommend dandelion root as a tincture (alcohol based) and others recommend making a decoction by gently simmering the roots in water. Either way the important thing is that you are getting that bitter taste. It may not be the most pleasant thing in the world but if it helps your bathroom breaks then you can’t complain can you?
Herbal medicine to help you poop: Number 4
This is another plant that is well known as a weed. Much like dandelion it has so much to offer us. Yellow dock is a top herbal medicine for skin issues which may seem like a separate topic. But, as you may already know the gut and the skin are strongly connected. If you are having trouble with constipation it means that one of your detox channels is blocked. The toxins and waste products that would normally be flushed out of your system recirculate. Many times this process ends with bad skin.
Yellow dock can help with constipation, and poor skin (due to constipation?) by helping the contents of your digestive tract move on and out. It also acts on other digestive organs and aids in digestion in general. Herbalists consider hemorrhoids as a classic indication for yellow dock.
Yellow dock is generally taken as a liquid tincture although a herbal decoction can be made with the root if you can find it.
Herbal medicine to help you poop: Number 5
This is a very heavy hitting herb and should only be used under the supervision of a trained herbalist. It contains a particular substance that mildly damages the cells that line the gut which moves things along in a serious way. Let me repeat, please don’t use this herb unless you are working with a herbal medicine practitioner.
The dried fruit pods and leaves are used as a herbal medicine. These are steeped in warm water for 6-12 hours and consumed. Prepare for evacuation as it works almost every time. One of the main reasons why it’s important to work with a herbalist when using this powerful herb is the fact that it is very effective. Flushing the body out continuously can lead to dangerous imbalances.
Herbal Medicine: Recommendations for Constipation
So there you have it. Five herbs that can help if you are struggling with constipation. Remember to consider some underlying causes that may be responsible. Herbal medicine can help your constipation but if there is an underlying cause that hasn’t been addressed then you won’t get far.
Start with gentle, bulking herbs like psyllium husks and flaxseed. If they don’t work then bitter herbs such as dandelion root can help to fire up your digestion. Stronger herbs such as yellow dock can help, especially if you are struggling with poor skin issues. Finally, potently strong herbs such as senna can be used if you are working with a herbalist.
Now a question for you. Do you struggle with constipation? What has helped? Share your thoughts in the comments below.