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Constipation Management Without Harsh Laxatives

As you may know, constipation is a common health problem. Consuming low-quality foods contributes to a rise in digestive issues like IBS, gas/bloating and constipation.

For optimal health and to prevent colon cancer, it’s important to have at least one bowel movement per day. Some health experts say 3 bowel movements per day is ideal.

If you struggle with uncomfortable straining, partial elimination and dry stools, a lack of water and insufficient fibre may be to blame.

A lack of fibre can lead to a build-up of undigested foods in our intestines, putrefying and becoming toxic over time.

Sadly, most Canadians fall short of the 30-40 grams of daily fibre that they need. They also consume too much coffee and dehydrating beverages due to a high-stress lifestyle.

To prevent constipation, stay hydrated and choose foods that provide both soluble and insoluble fibre.

Soluble fibre absorbs excess cholesterol and toxins. On the other hand, insoluble fibre scours the intestinal tract to keep it clean.

In my clinical practice, I encourage a variety of fibre-rich foods in the diet such as:

  • kidney beans
  • quinoa
  • prunes
  • avocados (13 grams of fibre)
  • pears (5 grams of fibre)
  • lentils (6 grams of fibre in ½ cup)

Naturopathic doctors seek ways to heal the digestive system without the use of harsh laxatives.

Though herbs like Senna and Cascara Sagrada stimulate the bowels, they can harm the digestive system. These harsh laxatives can be dangerous and consequently may result in a lazy colon. Other possible side-effects with the use of harsh laxatives includes abdominal cramping, intense diarrhea, electrolyte depletion, and in rare cases, dehydration.

A gentler alternative are herbal teas, like peppermint and ginger.

These teas may be helpful for gut issues like constipation. They are also kinder to the digestive system.

Gut flora is another important factor when treating constipation.

Probiotics may help with cases of constipation since they produce short chain fatty acids which reduces gut transit time.

It is normal for gut flora to decline with age.

While it is not clear whether the natural decline in the gut bacteria bifidobacteria is a cause or effect of constipation, we know that the composition of intestinal flora can impact intestinal motility.

One triple-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 2011 showed that probiotic supplementation helped relieve constipation. This study used Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis to assess the impact on gut transit time in adults aged 25-65 years old. The probiotic also improved gastrointestinal symptoms such as flatulence (gas).

With such strong scientific evidence available, I recommend a daily dose of probiotics to my patients suffering from digestive issues.

A variety of strains – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium – are necessary to encourage diversity and replenish the “friendly” bacteria in the small and large intestine.

In addition to probiotic supplementation, I encourage my patients to add fermented foods/beverages to their diet which are rich in friendly bacteria. For example,

  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • pickled vegetables
  • kombucha
  • kefir

Your digestive health plays a big role in your overall health and well-being.

Remember, the most obvious signs of an unhealthy gut include:

  1. gas
  2. bloating
  3. constipation
  4. loose stools (e.g. diarrhea)
  5. undigested food in stools

It’s important to listen to your body as it communicates with you.

Cheers to better gut health!

Dr.Sara Celik
Dr. Sara Celik is a board-certified Naturopathic Doctor and is the Spokesperson for Renew Life Canada. She is a leader in the health and wellness industry and is regularly featured as a sought-after expert on television programs and in health publications. Dr. Sara carries over 15 years experience and her private practice and work in the community is focused on digestive health, detoxification, and women's health.
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  • Reply
    Heather Graham

    These are all great suggestions, if I may I would like to add my favs: a Tblsp of MCT coconut oil in tea, and if that doesn’t work 200 mg of magnesium glycinate at night before bed. Also sitting in a squat for 2-5 minutes in the morning is great for toning the small and large intestine before a bowel movement, esp if you do not have a squatty potty. Pooping should be easy and feel good.

    • Reply
      Dr.Sara Celik

      Great suggestions Heather! Thanks for your input and love what you said about digestion being easy and feeling good. Thanks again!

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