man on a toilet, overcome constipation, agonizing constipation

How healthy is your digestive tract? Unless it is functioning appropriately, you may not feel as well as you would like. Many readers have written to ask how to overcome constipation.

Can You Overcome Constipation Without Harsh Laxatives?

Q. I have been plagued with constipation and indigestion my whole life. A friend recommended magnesium, but that has given me diarrhea.

I do not want to take harsh laxatives or antacids. What natural options are there to overcome constipation?

A. Experts usually recommend adequate fluids and fiber to treat constipation naturally. If you eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day you should be getting enough fiber, but some people will need more to stay regular.

Some antacids (especially those containing aluminum hydroxide) can actually cause constipation, so you’ll want to be careful about that. Other medications might also cause constipation as a side effect. You may want to discuss this with the prescriber or the pharmacist.

Treating Constipation Naturally:

One approach to overcome constipation is “Power Pudding” made of bran, prune juice and applesauce. You’ll find instructions for that and “dynamite” pumpkin bran muffins in our book, Recipes & Remedies, available at It also contains information on remedies such as persimmon punch or ginger tea for indigestion.

Occasionally readers report on a simple tactic that works for them. Don’t forget that prunes are an age-old remedy for constipation. Other readers sip hot water with lemon juice right after they get up in the morning to get things moving.

You might want to reconsider the magnesium supplement you tried. At a lower dose, it might be helpful rather than simply cause diarrhea. Also, chewing sugar-free gum or candies can lead to diarrhea, but by carefully adjusting the dose you might find they are helpful in conquering constipation.

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  1. Jerry

    I have been using Psyllium for over 15 years now. It is great for keeping the “plumbing” working smoothly! I used Metamucil for years but it contains sugar and dyes. I have switched to powderded organic Psyllium, which can be found on line, and is less expensive than Metamucil.

    Every morning I just mix a heaping tablespoon with about 6 oz. of water and 6 oz. of sugar free lemonade, to make it more palatable, and drink it immediately. Works like magic.

  2. Chris Nielsen

    For me, bread and wheat products seem to be the biggest source of constipation. Drinking more water helps, but prune juice or prunes work pretty well. Eating more vegetables and fruit (try the Naked Juice products or something like them) helps and also tends to generally detoxify the body.

    I have developed a method to deal with constipation that I call the “Nielsen Compression” but consult a doctor before you try it. When I am constipated I used to “strain” to pass the stools and that can lead to a number of problems. What I decided to try and continue to use is manual compression just below the spine and above the anus. I start at the top and can feel where the stool is. I press in firmly, but gently and move my finger down and stop well above the anus. The inward pressure deforms the stool so it’s not so wide, and the downward movement helps them on their way out.

    Be gentle but firm. You should not feel any pain, but you may if you push in too hard. This method has worked well for me over a number of years now and I wish some doctors would evaluate it and pass it on (no pun intended) if they feel it is safe for the general public to be instructed on.

    The best overall solution is to change your diet.

  3. Kate

    In Dr. Chaundry’s book, The Prime, she suggests a drink at night with flax seed ground and psyllium husks; 1 t each up to 3 t of each. Every night one week, then every other night.

    Also she says Triphala (berries) acts as a mild laxative.

  4. mildred

    I find a fig a day does it. I soak for some hours to soften, the dried ones.

    One big calimyra or two smaller black kind.

    Made in Nature sells organic and has high standards for their things.

  5. Terry M.
    Welland, Ontario

    Nothing is more natural and safe than 100% Wheat Bran (not Wheat Germ) for solving a problem of Constipation. You only need to eat about a Coffee Cup of Wheat Bran every Two Days, or Half a Cup every Day. Since it is like eating sawdust in milk, you need to sweeten it with Brown Sugar or Syrup to make it palatable. Wheat Bran is very healthy for the Bowels, and it completely cures the problem of Constipation for me. Keep in mind that for some people the normal bowel movement is only every two days — not daily.

    Also be aware that White Bread can contribute to a hard stool and Constipation. This happened to me once when I had bought a bunch of loaves of White Bread on sale, and then became constipated within a few days. White Bread is garbage, and I advise eating only 100% Whole Wheat Bread.

  6. Char

    I don’t have constipation but I started eating Kashi Go Lean cereal. It’s full of protein, fiber and whole grains. If I have more than a quarter of a cup per day my stomach gets upset and have to run to the bathroom several times over a short period of time, maybe an hour. If you feel like you have to go to the bathroom do not delay. If you try it start with a quarter cup and wait to see how your system handles it. You can adjust it when your body get used to the cereal. It does contain wheat and soy, and I have heard of all the ingredients and does not appear to contain chemicals. Hope this is helpful and works for you.

  7. Anon

    Cut the magnesium pills in half and try that. If that’s still too aggressive, try 1/4. Clearly you’re onto something. Try 1/4 every other day if need be.

    Like the writer, I have been similarly plagued – all my life, or all my life where I was old enough to have a memory. The magnesium worked magic for me.

    But so does the Vitamix now. I hate fruit, but I know it’s good for me so now, every single day I take my “medicine”: quarter an apple and add whatever else I can talk myself into (cherries, carrots, frozen berries from the dollar store, dollar store pineapple, celery – whatever! [beets, cabbage, and tomato – not so much I found out]. Hazelnut almond milk gives it a hint of chocolate) … and I have had ZERO constipation. Regular as clockwork. 50+ years of constipation, GONE. Odious, but healthful (I really don’t like fruit).

    In other words: eat fruit and vegetables. No matter how you have to force yourself to do it.

  8. Mary Jane

    At one point in my life, I was grinding flaxseed daily and adding to my cereal. It took me several years to realize that the onset of EXCESS bowel activity coincided with the use of flaxseed. Thus, it should be that freshly ground flaxseed will help with constipation.

  9. dory
    Pumpkin Center, NC

    We have tried everything under the sun for our son’s chronic constipation. He is on the autism spectrum, and many of “our” children have difficulties with digestion. I cannot recommend water kefir highly enough.

    Our son has multiple sensitivities, and cannot use anything containing bran, gluten, dairy, bananas, apples and many other food items. Water kefir was a Godsend. It is easy to make, easy to take and does a miraculous job of keeping him on track with elimination. I would urge anyone who has had issues with constipation to give it a go. It is our magical elixer.

  10. Ray

    I’m glad to see wheat bran still listed among your remedies for constipation. I’ve consumed it daily for years (on cereal, for instance) and find it extremely effective. However, it seems to be increasingly hard to find at a reasonable price in bulk at supermarkets and so-called health-food stores that are phasing bran out and replacing it with healthy items like chocolate-covered pretzels.

  11. Pam

    Constipation causes much misery, especially when a person has hemorroids.
    Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water/day helps keep stools soft and keeps your insides moving. Magnesium helps prevent hard stools.

    In locations where the four seasons each year occur, whenever there was a change from one season to another the little buggers act up. I keep applying Tronolane ointment,don’t do any heavy lifting anytime.

    Exercise also helps the digestive tract flowing along freely.

  12. O.G.

    Dosage and type of magnesium are critical, but when you figure out what’s right for your body, you’ll never be without it. I find a daily regimen which includes magnesum, with plenty of water, is essential. For me, that works better than any commercial laxative.

  13. Peggy
    Charleston IL

    Here’s something worth a try. Dissolve a spoonful of powdered Certo (or Sure-Jel or some similar product) in about half or 2/3 cup of cool liquid (water, juice, lemonade . . .) and drink. Do this one or more times a day and see if this gets results.

    Certo, Sure-Jel etc is fruit pectin used in making homemade jellies and jams. You can find it in supermarkets and wherever home canning supplies are sold.

  14. richard H
    monroe, LA

    constipation problems:)

    BP meds affect stools. Wife and I grind and drink golden flax seed every morning. and we drink several glasses of water to prevent the flax from clogging our intestines.

    We take a stool softener pill with breakfast; in the evening, after supper we split an apple(this really helps me). wife does that plus prunes and dates.

    BTW, the pectin in apples settles the stomach much better that any anti acid pills. After eating heavy meats or fatty foods, this is a musts for us.

  15. DS

    Hypothyroidism can cause constipation. Have your thyroid level checked. Also a Squatty Potty can help.

  16. Sylvia

    Magnesium citrate works for me, a capsule twice a day. High doses of magnesium oxide will give you diarrhea. Other forms of magnesium are not much help. There is also a magnesium ascorbate powder for occasions when nothing else works.

    1 heaping teaspoon mixed in water followed by a full glass of water before you eat or have coffee in the morning will usually work. Do not use the powder every day, only a couple times a week.

  17. Gerry

    Eat an apple at bedtime for snack. Sure solves the problem.

  18. Jackie
    Raleigh, NC

    About magnesium: I’ve read that changing the form of magnesium you take can help. In “Fortify Your Life,” Dr. Tieraona Low Dog writes that “magnesium oxide is…the most likely to cause intestinal cramping and diarrhea . . . .

    Magnesium citrate is a middle-of-the-road choice, good for those who could benefit from magnesium and a mild laxative” (p. 183). Dr. Low Dog recommends other forms of magnesium (chelated magnesium, magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, or magnesium bisglycinate) for people who don’t suffer from constipation and just want to take magnesium as a dietary supplement.

    Other fixes: getting enough fiber and fluid is really important, and so is exercise. Dancing, running and/or taking long walks really helps.

  19. Tom

    JAVA! JAVA! JAVA! :)

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