Complementary Medicine - Cam
About This Condition
Find comfort from constipation, a change in normal bowel habits characterized by a decrease in frequency and passage of hard, dry stools. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
About This Condition
Constipation is a condition in which a person experiences a change in normal bowel habits, characterized by a decrease in frequency and/or passage of hard, dry stools. Constipation can also refer to difficult defecation or to sluggish action of the bowels.
The most common cause of constipation is dietary, which is discussed below. However, constipation may be a component of irritable bowel syndrome or other conditions ranging from drug side effects to physical immobility. Serious diseases, including colon cancer , may sometimes first appear as bowel blockage leading to acute constipation. However, constipation itself does not appear to increase the risk of colon cancer, contrary to popular opinion.1
Although dietary and other natural approaches discussed below are often effective, individuals with constipation should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out potentially serious causes.
Symptoms of constipation include infrequent stools, hard stools, and excessive straining to move the bowels. Frequency of bowel movements and severity of symptoms may vary from person to person.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Exercise may increase the muscular contractions of the intestine, promoting elimination.2 Nonetheless, the effect of exercise on constipation remains unclear.3
Anecdotal reports have claimed that acupuncture is beneficial in the treatment of constipation.4 , 5 , 6 , 7 However, a small, controlled study of eight people with constipation concluded that six acupuncture treatments over two weeks did not improve bowel function during the course of the study.8 Placebo-controlled trials of longer duration are needed to determine whether acupuncture is a useful treatment for constipation.
Biofeedback techniques have been shown to significantly increase the frequency of bowel movements among women with chronic constipation.9
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
What Are Star Ratings?
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
1. Dukas L, Platz EA, Colditz GA, et al. Bowel movement, use of laxatives and risk of colorectal adenomatous polyps among women (United States). Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:907–14.
2. Oettl GJ. Effect of moderate exercise on bowel habit. Gut 1991;32:941–4.
3. Bingham SA, Cummings JH. Effect of exercise and physical fitness on large intestinal function. Gastroenterology 1989;97:1389–99.
4. Kangmei C, Shulian Z, Ying Z. Auriculoacupuncture therapy—a traditional Chinese method of treatment. J Tradit Chin Med 1992;12:308–10.
5. Xuemin S. Clinical observations on 50 cases of obstipation treated with acupuncture. J Tradit Chin Med 1982;2:162.
6. Fischer MV, Behr A, Reumont J. Acupuncture—a therapeutic concept in the treatment of painful conditions and functional disorders. Report on 971 cases. Acupunct Electrother Res 1984;9:11–29.
7. Shuli C. Clinical application of acupoint tianshu. J Tradit Chin Med 1992;12:52–4.
8. Klauser AG, Rubach A, Bertsche O, Muller-Lissner SA. Body acupuncture: effect on colonic function in chronic constipation. Z Gastroenterol 1993;31:605–8 [in German].
9. Heymen S, Wexner SD, Vickers D, et al. Prospective, randomized trial comparing four biofeedback techniques for patients with constipation. Dis Colon Rectum 1999;42:1388–93.
10. Morais MB, Vítolo MR, Aguirre ANC, Fagundes-Nteo U. Measurement of low dietary fiber intake as a risk factor for chronic constipation in children. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1999;29:132–5.
11. Müller-Lissner SA. Effect of wheat bran on weight of stool and gastrointestinal transit time: a meta analysis. BMJ 1988;296:615–7.
12. Marcus SN, Heaton KW. Effects of a new, concentrated wheat fibre preparation on intestinal transit, deoxycholic acid metabolism and the composition of bile. Gut 1986;27:893–900.
13. Iacono G, Cavataio F, Montalto G, et al. Intolerance of cow’s milk and chronic constipation in children. N Engl J Med 1998;339:1100–4.
14. Daher S, Solé D, de Morias MB. Cow’s milk and chronic constipation in children. N Engl J Med 1999;340:891.
15. Shah N, Lindley K, Milla P. N Engl J Med 199918;340:891–2.
16. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). *The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.* Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 104–5.
17. Bradley PR, ed. British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 52–4.
18. Passaretti S, Franzoni M, Comin U, et al. Action of glucomannans on complaints in patients affected with chronic constipation: a multicentric clinical evaluation. Ital J Gastroenterol 1991;23:421–5.
19. Marzio L, Del Bianco R, Donne M, et al. Mouth-to-cecum transit time in patients affected by chronic constipation: effect of glucomannan. Am J Gastroenterol 1989;84:888–91.
20. Marsicano LJ, Berrizbeitia ML, Mondelo A. Use of glucomannan dietary fiber in changes in intestinal habit. G E N 1995;49:7–14 [in Spanish].
21. Signorelli P, Croce P, Dede A. A clinical study of the use of a combination of glucomannan with lactulose in the constipation of pregnancy. Minerva Ginecol 1996;48:577–82 [in Italian].
22. Staianno A, Simeone D, Giudice ED, et al. Effect of the dietary fiber glucomannan on chronic constipation in neurologically impaired children. J Pediatr 2000;136:41–5.
23. Passmore AP, Wilson-Davies K, Flanagan PG, et al. Chronic constipation in long stay elderly patients: a comparison of lactulose and senna-fiber combination. BMJ 1993; 307:769–71.
24. Passmore AP, Davies KW, Flanagan PG, et al. A comparison of Agiolax and Lactulose in elderly patients with chronic constipation. *Pharmacol* 1993;47(suppl 1):249–52.
25. Kinnunen O, Winblad I, Koistinen P, Salokannel J. Safety and efficacy of a bulk laxative containing senna versus lactulose in the treatment of chronic constipation in geriatric patients. *Pharmacol* 1993;47(suppl 1):253–5.
26. Ewe K, Ueberschaer B, Press AG. Influence of senna, fibre, and fibre+senna on colonic transit in loperamide-induced constipation. *Pharmacol* 1993;47(suppl 1):242–8.
27. Passmore AP, Wilson-Davies K, Flanagan PG, et al. Chronic constipation in long stay elderly patients: a comparison of lactulose and senna-fiber combination. BMJ 1993; 307:769–71.
28. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. *The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.* Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95–8.
29. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. *The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.* Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95–8.
30. Kocharatana P, et al. Clinical trial of maeng-lak seeds used as a bulk laxative. Maharaj Nakornratchasima Hosp Med Bull 1985;9:120–36.
31. Muangman V, Siripraiwan S, Ratanaolarn K, et al. A clinical trial of Ocimum canum Sims seeds as a bulk laxative in elderly post-operative patients. Ramathibodi Med J 1985;8:154–8.
32. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. *The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.* Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95–8.
33. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. *The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.* Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95–8.
34. Koebnick C, Wagner I, Leitzmann P, Stern U, Zunft HJF. Probiotic beverage containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota improves gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with chronic constipation. Can J Gastroenterol 2003;17:655-9.
35. Kocharatana P, et al. Clinical trial of maeng-lak seeds used as a bulk laxative. Maharaj Nakornratchasima Hosp Med Bull 1985;9:120–36.
36. Muangman V, Siripraiwan S, Ratanaolarn K, et al. A clinical trial of Ocimum canum Sims seeds as a bulk laxative in elderly post-operative patients. Ramathibodi Med J 1985;8:154–8.
37. Young RW, Beregi JS Jr. Use of chlorophyllin in the care of geriatric patients. J Am Geriatr Soc 1980;28:46–7.
38. Kempster PA, Wahlqvist ML. Dietary factors in the management of Parkinson’s disease. Nutr Rev 1994;52:51–8 [review].
39. Ashraf W, Pfeiffer RF, Park F, et al. Constipation in Parkinson’s disease: objective assessment and response to psyllium. Mov Disord 1997;12:946–51.
Last Review: 05-01-2013
Copyright © 2013 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Aisle7.com
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.