There are few feelings that are more uncomfortable than being constipated. Knowing you need to go but not being able to get that relief can prevent you from relaxing or concentrating and can cause rather distracting pain. Not only that but constipation can also leave you worried about what’s going on inside your bowels. It’s not good for you to be so ‘clogged up’ and it’s certainly not nice to think about!
So with that in mind, what can you do to fix the problem?
In this post, we’ll be looking at one solution in particular that might just offer a natural but highly effective solution. That is: prunes!
Constipation can be caused by a few things and in some cases, it can even be psychosomatic – meaning that it is at least to some extent ‘in your head’ as it were.
More often than not though, constipation is the result of dehydration. Specifically, constipation tends to occur when the colon absorbs water from the stool after it has remained in the intestine for a long time. This then reduces the natural lubrication of the stool and makes it harder for it to pass through.
Another common cause is a lack of fiber in the diet. Insoluble fiber passes through the body undigested, which helps to break up stool and make it easy to pass even when the body is dehydrated. Combine these two effects and you have a likely recipe for constipation.
With all this in mind, there are several reasons that constipation is so effectively treated by prunes.
For starters, prunes offer a great source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is the type that is most active in the body and will actually stimulate a kind of ‘wave’ of contractions as it passes through the system. These contractions are located in the intestinal muscles (called peristalsis), which in turn are responsible for moving food through the digestive system.
At the same time, the fiber will also break down the stool and this combination is enough to provide a two-pronged solution for combating constipation. Very often, this is enough to dislodge uncomfortable blockages.
What makes prunes especially good in this regard though, is that prunes are also a source of insoluble fiber. This is the type of fiber that doesn’t get absorbed into the body (insoluble fiber is fiber that can’t be dissolved in water and thus can’t be absorbed). This is the type of fiber that is most effective at directly breaking up stool and encouraging movement through the digestive system and bowels.
Another great advantage of prunes for constipation, is an active ingredient called sorbitol. Sorbitol is a substance that draws in and absorbs water. By consuming prunes, this encourages water to be drawn back into the colon and into the stool where it increases the lubrication and helps it to pass through. This process is also further supported by the inclusion of potassium, which is an electrolyte that similarly draws in water.
Another important active ingredient in prunes for constipation is vitamin A, along with a number of other important nutrients that act as digestive enzymes. Enzymes are substances that act as ‘catalysts’ for reactions throughout the body. In other words, they act like the ‘sparks’ for a range of different chemical interactions. Digestive enzymes in particular are responsible for helping to break down foods and this is a process that occurs at every stage of digestion.
Finally, a chemical substance called dihydrophenylisation is able to stimulate movement throughout the intestines and to increase fluid secretion to soften the stool.
When using prunes for constipation, you can choose between prunes or prune juice. Both forms are comparable and really this comes down to a matter of choice. What’s important though, is to ensure that the prune juice you use includes the pulp and is made from real prunes. In other words, you need to ensure that the fiber is still fully intact and the juice is not made from an extract.
From there, you can then consume 3-4 prunes daily for mild constipation or up to 10-12 prunes a day if your condition is severe. In terms of prune juice, you should drink around 4-8 ounces each morning in order to stimulate the colon.
How long does it take for prune juice to work? This depends on the case and on how much prune juice you are consuming. However, it’s generally fair to expect the process to work in a few hours to a week. If that amount of time passes and you don’t see any improvement, then you should make a hasty trip to the doctor to ensure that the problem isn’t caused by anything more severe. If it is, then your GP should be able to prescribe medication to help speed up the process and fix the root cause.
Note that there are many other potential laxatives that you can add to your diet to help encourage bowel movements. Many people will consume castor oil for instance or olive oil. Be careful with castor oil however, as this is known to be toxic for humans in high doses. It’s also important to keep drinking lots of water. This will both help to flush out your system and help to rehydrate your stool. It can also be useful to try natural muscle relaxants, such as valerian root, which can help to loosen the muscles in the bowel. Rest is also useful as stress is responsible for causing tension. Try taking a warm bath and the heat can also help to encourage a bit more activity.
Follow these tips along with a few prunes a day and you should find that the problem ‘passes’ soon enough!