One thing that happens when you are taking care of ageing parents is that you end up doing a lot of research online looking for home remedies to various medical issues and health tips, in the hope of alleviating their discomforts and improving their quality of life. Does it always work? Not always, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I know I am willing to try any home remedies, as long as it is not too outrageous, hoping that mom will feel better. She is already taking so many medication, so if there are alternative home remedies that work, I would be willing to try.
Recently, mom complained of constipation. Young or old, we all suffer from that every now and then. I suppose for the elderly, it feels a lot worse – no strength to strain, and with straining comes haemorrhoids and other issues. Having looked at a few articles, I am sharing some easy-to-do home remedies here.
1. Drink more water. That is easy enough except that for mom, she sometimes complains of very frequent sensation of a full bladder but very little pee when she goes. During the day, the regular trips to the toilet is bearable but at night, it disturbs her sleep.
2. Eat more fibre. There are many different dietary fibres, but in general, they fall into two categories:
- Insoluble fibres: Found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. They add bulk to your stools and are thought to help them pass more quickly and easily through your digestive system.
- Soluble fibres: Found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables. They absorb water and form a gel-like paste, which softens your stools and improves the consistency.
Bottom line: Eat more fibre. You can also supplement your diet with a soluble non-fermentable fibre such as psyllium, because fermentable soluble fibers may be ineffective at treating constipation, as they are fermented by bacteria in the gut and lose their water-holding capacity.
3. Exercise more. For the elderly, that is a bit more difficult. Trying to get mom to go for short walks outside the home is met with more objections than agreements. But I continue to try. Sometimes, I will stand with her on the balcony and swing our arms. I have been told that swinging our arms for at least 200 times a day improves our health. It is an easy enough exercise so I try it. Here is a blog that talks about arm swinging exercise. Worth reading up.
4. Drink coffee, especially caffeinated coffee. A beverage that I take every morning but for mom who suffers from chronic insomnia, we have removed anything with caffeine from her meals. So, this is not going to help to work for her.
5. Eat probiotic food or take probiotic supplements. This I have started doing for myself. I am thankfully pretty regular, so I don’t really know if it is of any help. I would love to try it on mom but she is already taking so many medication that I can’t imagine asking her to take supplements. Perhaps later. Bottomline is, we need friendly bacteria in our guts. Examples of probiotic-containing foods are yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi, which contain live, friendly bacteria. None of this mom likes. So the alternative is to take a probiotic supplement. It is usually recommended to take it daily for at least 4 weeks to see if it has any beneficial effects.
6. Eat prunes or raisins. Personally, I don’t like the taste of prunes, so raisins for me anytime. Mom is always worried about stuff sticking to her dentures, so neither of these she likes. So, one time, I bought her prune juice. She like that even less and I end up drinking the huge bottle of prune juice myself even though I don’t like the taste. I think I will stick with raisins and if necessary, prunes even though it is messy. No more prune juice if I can help it.
7. Mint or ginger tea. I don’t like either but peppermint tea, I have found that I can tolerate every now and then. So, I went to buy a box of peppermint teabags only to find that mom doesn’t like it. A relative mentioned that it was not suitable for people with gastritis. So, another investment down the toilet (pardon the pun) where mom is concerned. I guess I will keep it for myself.
8. Lemon water. Lemon seems to be the miracle fruit. Its benefits include treatment of indigestion, constipation, dental problems, throat infections, fever, internal bleeding, rheumatism, burns, obesity, respiratory disorders, cholera, and high blood pressure, while also benefiting your hair and skin. You can squeeze lemon juice into your water every morning or add to your tea. Drinking it stimulates your digestive system and flushes out the toxins. Lemon is also good as a washing agent because it removes stains. I just read that its scent repels mosquitoes too. I love this fruit!
9. Drinking 1-2 teaspoons of oils once or twice a day, like extra virgin oil, castor oil, coconut oil, etc. You can drink the oil by itself or mix it in your food. It just doesn’t sound that appetising to me so it would be a last resort for me. Oils lubricate the digestive tract and create a smoother passage through the colon due to its texture and consistency. Oils contain essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants (cancer fighting), and Omega-3 (brain food). They also stimulate the gallbladder to release bile. Bile then helps to break down the fats in our food.
When home remedies fail or are taking too long, you can always buy over-the-counter laxatives. There are so many options out there, some for ingesting, some for inserting. The five different types of drugstore laxatives are:
1. Stool Softening Laxatives – mostly works in 1 to 4 days
2. Bulk Creating Laxatives – mostly works in 1 to 3 days
3. Lubricant Laxatives – mostly works in 5 to 9 hours
4. Stimulant Laxatives – mostly works in 6 to 24 hours
5. Saline Laxatives – mostly works in 1 to 3 hours
There are also herbal laxatives available. This article has lots of details.
In my research, I found another interesting article using breathing method for constipation relief. Anyone wants to try? I sure hope no one faints on the toilet seat trying this method! Amazing what you can find on the Internet.
Someone wrote that squatting helps. Some experts say that squatting reduces straining, anal fistulas, haemorrhoids, and constipation. Squatting helps the Puborectalis muscle to open and allows for a more complete emptying. I used to squat as a kid but with sitting toilets nowadays, I find that I can’t squat comfortably anymore, and my knees ache if I do it for too long. The writer suggested this method: while sitting on the toilet, place stepping stools or large books under each foot. Prop your legs up on them as high as they will go, to mimic a squatting position. I hope no one falls trying!
So, happy reading, folks. Don’t let constipation ruin your day. It may not be a serious matter, but it could be your body telling you something is not quite right. Listen to your body and find a remedy that works for you. Or, see a doctor if it persists and all else fails.
I will share more home remedies for other ailments in future articles as I continue my online research to help mom. It isn’t easy to grow old and I hope by taking care of our health now and exercising regularly, we can delay many health issues awaiting us as we age. Mom didn’t have proper care when she was young and didn’t have a lot of the knowledge and options that we, the next generation, have. So, the 50 plus, don’t wait till it’s too late to start taking care of your health.