Greek yogurt with fresh vegetables and fruits; dairy

Q. I’ve had 20 years of trial and error in fighting constipation. I am lean and fit and have a very healthy lifestyle.
I was disappointed to see your suggestions for a constipated reader were more of the same–just fiber-related solutions. Two potential remedies were omitted. First, drinking lots of water is critical in conjunction with fiber. Second, the importance of probiotics was overlooked.
I hate to promote a brand, but honestly, Activia yogurt (several servings a day) is the ONLY thing that has allowed me to be regular for the first time since childhood. The commercials may seem silly, but I suggest your reader try it. I still eat high fiber foods and drink lots of water too, but Activia is great.

A. Americans have been obsessed for decades with killing germs, but we are finally catching up to Europe in recognizing the value of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). They can often be helpful in treating diarrhea as well as constipation. Here’s what one visitor reports:

“I had diarrhea for 9 months, went to gastro people and had many tests all of which were negative. I kept food diaries of everything eaten for months on end… in the end they just said my stomach was not functioning right. I was on several very expensive drugs that drug plans would not cover.
“Long story short: I got a substitute doctor at my primary care doctor’s office and he put me on Florastor at 8 times the normal dosage. IT WORKED! I had been taking probiotics; however, this is both a bacterial and yeast probiotic, I don’t know if this made the difference. It is expensive to take this quantity (it’s not covered by insurance) but it was not as expensive as the other drugs I tried that did not work. It has been several years now and have not had a recurrence of the problems.”

We also offer other suggestions for constipation, including the much-maligned but still extremely useful fiber with plenty of fluids, in our Guide to Constipation.

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  1. Alex
    Reply

    Two things do the trick for me. Drinking water is always good, but I found out (from my in-laws) that drinking hot water works for constipation. Drink a cup of boiled water, this usually works within a couple of hours. Hot water seems to work better than cold. What works fast for me is eating two or three prunes.

  2. Pamela
    Seattle WA
    Reply

    I started taking turmeric tablets a few years ago to combat inflammation, because I don’t cook with it very much. I noticed right away that it has a laxative effect on me. I quickly reduced the dosage from the recommended 3 tablets to one per day, which keeps me perfectly regular. Since I usually get constipated when I travel, I up the dosage for the first few days of a trip. I have posted this effect several times and have never received a comment, so maybe turmeric only has this effect on me. I take Youtheory, available at Costco. I also eat a low carb, high fiber diet.

  3. Ark
    Reply

    Ayurvedic preparation “Triphla” is great solution for constipation.
    It contains three herb together. It may take a week or so to get going. But very reasonably priced and no side effects.

  4. Rob
    Reply

    After well over 50 years of chronic constipation ruling my life, I have finally found relief : probiotic capsules, & cultured vegetables. I still have to avoid the ‘trigger’ foods (which in my case includes a lot of things prescribed by ‘experts’ to fix the problem), but what a difference it is making!
    : )

  5. Carolyn
    Maine
    Reply

    Activia, and most commercial yogurts, are loaded with sugar and other additives. Best to buy plain (not vanilla) and add your own fresh fruit, nuts, etc, or use it in place of sour cream.

    • Carrie
      Reply

      I overcame irritable bowel syndrome with constipation by taking one capsule of a generic form of Fibercon and then adding one capsule of Culturelle probiotic, at the advice of my doctor. Culturelle really made the difference, although I, too, drink more water. I never suffer from irregularity anymore, and constipation is rare.

  6. Karen
    Reply

    Yes, I agree on Activia as a regularity remedy.

    • Jorie
      VA
      Reply

      I’ve learned that eating 3 dried prunes every night before bed (before cleaning my teeth b/c they are sticky) as well as adequate liquids and our regular diet that includes lots of fruit and veggies, makes a huge difference in my life between constipation and regularity. These prunes are nothing like dried prunes used to be. They are actually delicious.

      For a while I was taking 250 mg of magnesium once a day (checked with our Internist first to be sure there was no problem of interaction with other meds) but the magnesium seemed to bother my stomach a bit. It might not trouble others. When I took that at noon each day it absolutely solved the constipation problem.

      *Since January 2015 I have been making my own kefir for its probiotic benefits. It’s SO simple to do and it also helps with just “feeling good.” I’m not sure how probiotics work tho I’ve read a lot about the intestinal benefits, but my husband and I are very rarely ill with colds or flu, etc. I obtained the kefir grains from a family member but they are available online. The great thing is that there is no added sugar.

      *Yes, it is definitely an acquired taste! At first it just tastes like sour milk but after a couple of weeks one gets used to it and doesn’t find it unpleasant at all. I use 2% milk and my husband and I drink about 6 oz a day atho we could easily drink more.

      *The method: Put kefir grains into a large bottle; Fill with milk (just plain milk altho I’m not sure if skim milk works as well as some fat. I haven’t tried it with 1%); Cover top of bottle with a cloth or coffee filter (easiest) secured with a rubber band; Let sit on counter at least 24 hours but preferably longer (2-3 days depending on room temp); Strain contents of bottle into a bowl saving kefir grains for next batch; Put saved kefir grains back into large bottle; Refill with milk and begin the process again; Store strained liquid kefir in clean bottles in the frig–closed with regular lids.

      *I have heard of people adding honey or sweetener to their kefir to make it more palatable for them but honestly, as I indicated above, it isn’t hard to get used to drinking it “as is.” At first I thought it was pretty awful and just gulped it down. Then my husband and I realized that we could drink it more slowly and that it’s tartness actually left our mouths feeling rather “clean.”

      *Once you have a small supply of kefir grains you never need to purchase more because they keep on growing/increasing in number. In fact I have given some of mine to others because otherwise I end up throwing extras away. We don’t have pets but I’ve wondered if animals would eat extra grains.

  7. Robert
    Newberry, Florida
    Reply

    I was surprised to get relief after starting to use a standing desk at work.

  8. B.G.
    Reply

    I take two tablespoons of Metamucil twice daily. Simply follow the directions. Don’t over do it, such as more is better. These are rounded TBL’s. I also took for a few weeks one TBL per day of Molasses. I was a decades long Hemorrhoid sufferer. I found out about the Molasses on this web page. So by using both Metamucil and the Molasses I cured up a huge painful problem. The Molasses starts to work with in a few hours. I still take a TBL of Molasses about three times a week, just to be on the safe side. The Metamucil causes you to lose some pounds and that’s good.

  9. John
    Reply

    I use tincture of cayenne. I put one dropper full under my tongue three times a day. It causes peristalsis. It’s a great laxative.

    • Ark
      Reply

      Tincture of cayenne, is it not very spicy??

  10. Kathleen
    Reply

    Try using magnesium pills along with psyllium husks before bedtime. The magnesium relaxes muscles and allows bowels to release fecal material. I take two tablespoons of psyllium before bed time and two magnesium tablets—all is well in the morning.

  11. John
    Reply

    Any info on the need to/ability to block or treat to remove lectins?

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