If you believe everything you read, you could be forgiven for thinking that juicing is a miracle cure for all that ails you. It’s true to some extent – juicing is a fast and efficient way to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutritious goodies. and thereby heals Constipation.
Almost everyone will notice an improvement in energy levels, digestion and general well being when they try it. However, I like to verify the science behind each claims before passing the info onto you, my dear readers.
Something that came to mind recently was juicing for constipation. Bunged up bowels are nothing to be embarrassed about. As the kids’ book says – “everyone poops”.
Last month I took a ten day vacation, and I admit, I strayed quite far from my usual healthy diet. I filled up with meat and carbs with a side of sugary cocktails. Forget the recommended five fruit and veg a day, I was lucky to get one portion a day on this trip.
So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I ended up bringing most of my meals home as an unwanted souvenir – in my bowels. During the drive home I was doubled over with painful cramps and full of gas. We had to stop at a pharmacy to buy some laxative pills. A few hours later, I got relief. It wasn’t pretty but I was finally back to my normal self.
Luckily, you don’t have to turn to pills to cure constipation. There are lots of natural methods which work just as well. The one I’m going to look at today is juicing. Read on to find out how best to use juicing for constipation
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a decrease in frequency of your bowel movements. When you do have a bowel movement, the stool will be small and hard and often difficult or painful to pass.
When I say “decrease in frequency”, the meaning will be different for everyone. You know what’s normal for your own body. Some people go every day, others only a few times a week. Constipation means fewer bowel movements than your “normal”.
How does it it come about? Well, your digestive system takes in food and pushes it slowly through from your esophagus to your rectum. As it moves downwards, a few different things happen. It gets mashed up (to put it simply) and nutrients and water are sucked out into your body.
If the volume of food is too small (fiber and water help bulk it up), then your digestive system has trouble pushing it downwards. This means it hangs around too long and too much water gets removed – leading to rock hard poop – ouch!
Symptoms of Constipation
Symptoms of constipation vary depending on severity. Here are some common ones:
- Decrease in frequency in bowel movements
- Difficulty or pain passing stools
- Sitting for longer than usual on the toilet
- Feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowels fully after using the toilet
- Increased gas
- Bloating in the abdomen
- Cramps in the abdomen
What Causes Constipation?
As I mentioned already, a lack of water and fiber in the diet leads to constipation. When you have a large volume of food in your intestine, it triggers something called “peristalsis”. Peristalsis is the automatic pushing action of your digestive system to move food onwards and outwards.
Lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to constipation. Just think about the action of running – the movement shakes up your bowels and helps gravity give that extra push.
If you put off going to the bathroom for long periods it can lead to hard stools too. Anything that causes your food to hang around too long in your bowels will dry it out.
Medications such as opiate painkillers, antidepressants and iron supplements can directly cause constipation. Advancing age is another factor – peristalsis slows down as you get older.
Luckily, whatever the cause, diet and juicing can help relieve your constipation. Let me explain in more detail.
Can Juicing Help with Constipation?
I love the consistency of juices (they’re just more refreshing over ice on a Summer day, am I right?) but I was rather horrified to see the residue of pulp left over after I combined a few fruits and veg.
That’s where most of the fiber is! Luckily I found ways to use it (check out this vid) but I was doubtful as to whether juicing for constipation could really work when you’re leaving out all the good stuff.
All is not lost when you toss your fresh produce into the juicer. There are several ways to get your fiber dose and some other special plant chemicals which can get your bowels on the move again
Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber
I’ve talked a lot about fiber already but do you know exactly what it is? It’s a type of carbohydrate mostly found in fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains. Unlike other types of carb, your body can’t absorb fiber. This means it stays in your digestive tract, giving bulk to your stool and triggering peristalsis.
It does more than just keep you regular. Fiber can lower your blood sugar, keep you feeling full for longer, help reduce your cholesterol and even prevent cancer.
There are two types of fiber which are slightly different – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water and expands to form a gel. Flaxseed, oatmeal or chia seeds are a good example. You will notice they expand a lot if you leave them in a liquid for a few hours.
Insoluble fiber includes things like fruit peels, celery and whole grain products. They don’t absorb water but still pass through your digestive system without breaking down too much. This results in a milder laxative effect.
It’s fair to say that juicing removes pretty much all of the insoluble fiber from your fruit and veg. I can’t find an authoritative source that says how much of the soluble fiber is removed. I would imagine quite a bit is lost as soluble fiber is usually solid before it comes into contact with water. So for constipation, I recommend either blending instead to make a smoothie or adding some of the pulp back into the juice.
The Best Juicing Ingredients for Constipation
Just because fiber is lost during juicing, it doesn’t mean that juicing for constipation is useless. There are many options to optimize your results. Here are a few that I think are most useful.
Ah prune juice. Not exactly the most hip beverage, is it? Most of us associate prune juice with the elderly, but do you know why? As I said already, older people find their bowels slowing down – often leading to constipation. If they’re taking prune juice, they’re doing something right.
Forget about fiber, prune juice works in a different way. And the juice is actually more potent than the whole fruit! It sounds counterintuitive after what I’ve explained already but the mechanism here is entirely different.
Prunes contain a type of natural chemical called sorbitol. Sorbitol has a laxative effect. It works by drawing more water into your digestive system – and your stool. When you turn prunes into prune juice, the sorbitol becomes more concentrated. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
High Fiber Fruit & Veg
So, we’ve already established that fiber is super important when it comes to fighting constipation. And we know that juicing strips most of the fibre from fruit and veg. Using ingredients high in soluble fiber will give us the best chance of maximizing content in the final product.
Here are some fruits and veggies that pack the biggest punch when it comes to soluble fiber (source):
If you’ve been paying attention so far, you’ll have noticed that water plays a big role in stool consistency and constipation. The more water you consume, the less likely you are to end up having a painful time on the toilet. Check out this chart used by doctors to see how healthy your stool consistency. As you can see, it can range from completely dried out to too watery altogether.
If you don’t like drinking plain water, juicing is a great alternative. However, juices are often high in natural sugars and calories so drinking more than one or two glasses a day isn’t recommended. Instead, take your usual juice portion and dilute it with extra H2O.
Another option is to juice fruits and veggies with a high water content themselves. I’m talking about cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple and oranges.
Do you know what type of water should you drink? Read more here
Flaxseed & Chia Seed
Juicing isn’t limited to just fruit and vegetables. There are a variety of other nutritious add-ins which can introduce a huge dose of fiber. Flaxseed and chia seeds are two of my top picks. Just two tablespoons of flaxseed provides 15% of your daily fiber intake, while chia seeds are even better at 20% (source).
Of course I don’t suggest putting these through your juicer. Unfortunately nothing will come out the other side. What you need to do is add either some powdered flaxseed or whole chia seeds to your juice just after you’ve made it. Then let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two and you will notice the consistency has changed slightly – it will have thickened.
This is just what you want for a natural constipation remedy. In the case of chia seeds, the juice will have lots of crunchy bits in it. Personally I love the texture but if it’s a turnoff for you, then stick with powdered flaxseed.
Another great way to use juicing for constipation is to add a few drops of oil to your juice. If you’ve tried bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with coconut oil), you’ll understand how this works. Oils basically lubricate the stool, making it easier to…exit!
Castor oil is used traditionally as it has its own additional laxative powers, but luckily some tastier oils like coconut or olive oil will have almost the same effect. Just add a teaspoon to a large glass of juice and whizz it together in your blender. A stick or soup blender will do the trick too.
Bear in mind that oils are high in fat and calories, so only add them to your juices if you are suffering from constipation. This isn’t a preventative method. If you suffer from high cholesterol, it’s probably to give this one a miss too.
Tropical Juice for Constipation
1 cup spinach
2 cups cut pineapple
1 cup cut mango
1 cup watersqueeze of lime
1 tsp coconut oil
Process the first three ingredients through your juicer.When the juice is ready, manually add the water and a squeeze of lime juice to taste.
Transfer the juice to a blender and add the coconut oil.Blend for at least 60 seconds or until the oil is thoroughly incorporated (no layer of oil on top of the drink).
Berry and Flaxseed Juice for Constipation
1 cup water
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries
1 tsp ground flaxseed
Juice together all of the ingredients except for the flaxseed.When the juice is ready, stir in the flaxseed.Allow the juice to thicken in the fridge for around an hour.Stir thoroughly before drinking.
Hydrating Watermelon Juice for Constipation
3 cups cut watermelon
2 large cucumbers
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Combine all ingredients in the juicer.
Although you might be super eager to get started with the above juicing for constipation recipes, I encourage you to take it slowly. If you increase the fiber in your diet too quickly, you will get diarrhoea. Start with half a glass daily and then increase it each week, depending on the consistency of your stool.
On the flipside – if you increase your fiber but don’t take enough fluids with it, you can become even more bunged up. Fiber and fluid go hand in hand. Either dilute your juices so you’re getting a good dose of water along with them, or drink water separately throughout the day.
If these dietary tips don’t work after a few days or you find yourself constipated for no obvious reason, always get checked out by your doctor. Other warning signs are blood or mucus in the stool, weight loss or constipation lasting more than two weeks. It’s better to be safe than sorry as this can be a symptom of serious illnesses such as colon cancer.
Final Thoughts on Juicing for Constipation
I hope these tips on juicing for constipation will get you on the move again, so to speak! Even if you’re not particularly constipated, trying some of my juice recipes a couple of times a week is a great idea. Increasing fiber in your diet can help prevent colon cancer, that’s enough to convince me!
Let me know how you get on with these recipes, and if you have any other all-natural constipation cures I’d love to hear about them in the comments too.