Laxatives can have powerful effects on your digestive health.
Because of their effects in the body, laxatives can help relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
Surprisingly, there are many natural laxatives available that can be just as effective as over-the-counter products at preventing constipation.
This article will examine 10 natural laxatives and how they work.
What Are Laxatives and How Do They Work?
Laxatives are substances that either loosen stool or stimulate a bowel movement. They can also accelerate intestinal transit, which helps speed up the movement of the digestive tract to spur a bowel movement.
Laxatives are often used to treat constipation, a condition characterized by infrequent, difficult and sometimes painful bowel movements.
There are several types of laxatives that work in different ways. The main classes of laxatives are:
Bulk-forming laxatives: These move through the body undigested, absorbing water and swelling to form stool.
Stool softeners: They increase the amount of water absorbed by the stool to make it softer and easier to pass.
Lubricant laxatives: These coat the surface of the stool and intestinal lining to keep in moisture, allowing for softer stools and easier passage.
Osmotic-type laxatives: These help the colon retain more water, increasing the frequency of bowel movements.
Saline laxatives: These draw water into the small intestine to encourage a bowel movement.
Stimulant laxatives: They speed up the movement of the digestive system to induce a bowel movement.
Though over-the-counter laxatives can be very helpful in alleviating constipation, using them too often can cause electrolyte disturbances and changes in acid-base balance, potentially leading to heart and kidney damage in the long term
If you’re looking to achieve regularity, try incorporating some natural laxatives into your routine. They can be a safe and inexpensive alternative to over-the-counter products, with minimal side effects.
Here are 10 natural laxatives you may want to try.
1. Chia Seeds
Fiber is a natural treatment and one of the first lines of defense against constipation.
It moves through the intestines undigested, adding bulk to the stool and encouraging regularity
Studies show that increasing your intake of fiber can increase stool frequency and soften stools to ease their passage
Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel, which can aid in forming softer stools to ease constipation
Legumes are a family of edible plants that include beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas and peanuts. Legumes are high in fiber, which can encourage regularity.
Eating legumes can help increase your body’s production of butyric acid, a type of short-chain fatty acid that may act as a natural laxative.
Studies show that butyric acid could aid in the treatment of constipation by increasing the movement of the digestive tract
It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce the intestinal inflammation that may be associated with some digestive disorders, like Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
With their omega-3 fatty acid content and high amount of protein, flaxseeds are rich in many nutrients that make them a healthy addition to any diet
Not only that, but flaxseeds also have natural laxative properties and are an effective treatment for both constipation and diarrhea.
A 2015 animal study showed that flaxseed oil increased stool frequency in guinea pigs. It also had an anti-diarrheal effect and was able to reduce diarrhea by up to 84%
Flaxseeds contain a good mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps reduce intestinal transit time and add bulk to stool
4. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale and cabbage work in a few different ways to improve regularity and prevent constipation.
First, they are very nutrient-dense, meaning they provide a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber with relatively few calories.
Leafy greens are also rich in magnesium. This is the main ingredient in many types of laxatives, since it helps draw water into the intestines to help pass stools
Some studies have shown that low intake of magnesium could be associated with constipation, so ensuring adequate intake is crucial for maintaining regularity
Apples are high in fiber, providing 3 grams of fiber per cup (125 grams) Plus, they’re full of pectin, a type of soluble fiber that can act as a laxative.
One study showed that pectin was able to speed up transit time in the colon. It also acted as a prebiotic by increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut to promote digestive health
Another study gave rats apple fiber for two weeks before administering morphine to cause constipation. They found that the apple fiber prevented constipation by stimulating movement in the digestive tract and increasing stool frequency
6. Olive Oil
Some research has found that consuming olive oil could be an effective way to alleviate constipation.
It functions as a lubricant laxative, providing a coating in the rectum that allows for easier passage, while also stimulating the small intestine to speed up transit
In studies, olive oil has been shown to work well in both spurring bowel movements and improving the symptoms of constipation
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera latex, a gel that comes from the inner lining of the aloe plant’s leaves, is frequently used as a treatment for constipation.
It gets its laxative effect from anthraquinone glycosides, compounds that draw water into the intestines and stimulate the movement of the digestive tract
One study confirmed the effectiveness of aloe vera by creating a preparation using celandin, psyllium and aloe vera. They found that this mixture was able to effectively soften stools and increase bowel movement frequency
Kiwifruit has been shown to have laxative properties, making it a convenient way to ease constipation.
Kiwifruit contains a mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber. It also contains pectin, which has been shown to have a natural laxative effect
It works by increasing the movement of the digestive tract to stimulate a bowel movement
One four-week study looked at the effects of kiwifruit on both constipated and healthy participants. It found that using kiwifruit as a natural laxative helped alleviate constipation by speeding up transit time in the gut
For some people, coffee may increase the urge to use the bathroom. It stimulates the muscles in your colon, which can produce a natural laxative effect
This is largely due to the effects of coffee on gastrin, a hormone that is released after eating. Gastrin is responsible for the secretion of gastric acid, which helps break down food in the stomach
Gastrin has also been shown to increase the movement of the intestinal muscles, which can help speed up intestinal transit and induce a bowel movement.
Water is essential for staying hydrated as well as maintaining regularity and preventing constipation.
Research shows that staying hydrated can help alleviate constipation by improving the consistency of stool, making it easier to pass
It can also amplify the effects of other natural laxatives, like fiber.
There are many natural laxatives that can help keep you regular by increasing stool frequency and improving stool consistency.
In addition to using these natural laxatives, make sure you stay well-hydrated, follow a healthy diet and make time for regular physical activity.
These steps will help prevent constipation and keep your digestive system healthy.