Constipation—defined as fewer than three bowel movements a week and bowel movements with stools that are hard, dry, and small, making them painful or difficult to pass—is a problem common to over 62 million Americans annually. It's also a common problem among those who travel periodically. Perhaps as many as 40% of all travelers experience this problem from time-to-time.
Constipation is actually the most common GI problem in the U.S.
Persistent constipation is often a problem of diet. It is essential to increase fiber, found in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and seeds—flax, chia… about two tablespoons a day sprinkled on food. We should always be thinking about addressing the 'cause of a problem', rather than just popping pills—even "natural" pills such as homeopathy. Addressing lifestyle factors, in this case, is a MUST. However, if constipation persists after improving your intake of fiber (and water), you should talk to your doctor and work with a well- trained homeopath to find a solution. If your bouts are of the short or acute variety, self-prescribing is a good option. In general, here are a few remedies to consider if you find yourself suffering with constipation:
Alumina: A person needing this homeopathic remedy often suffers with a rectum that seems completely inactive—with even the softest and thinnest of stools requiring great straining to pass. The patient tends to have no desire for and no ability to pass a stool until a considerable amount of material has accumulated. The stools themselves tend to be hard and knotty or covered with mucus—and can look like "sheep's dung." Cutting pains rectally are common with the stool. Also, during stool, the rectum can feel as if it is constricted and dried up with throbbing pain in the small of the back. This person can also develop indigestion from eating potatoes.
Bryonia: This homeopathic remedy is often helpful for people with obstinate constipation—the stools are very dry, large, and hard and can only be passed with much straining. Cramping pains may accompany the constipation—particularly before passing a stool. And the stool is described as very unsatisfactory, which, after much straining, causes a rush of blood to the head, and at times a feeling of confusion. The stools are often dark-colored and look as if burnt. The patient needing this remedy tends to be thirsty for large quantities of water (often cold water) at long intervals—with much dryness of the lips, mouth, and tongue. They also tend to be irritable. Bread may disagree with them.
Calcarea carbonica: This homeopathic remedy is one to consider for a person that tends to have hard, dry, knotty, possibly light-colored stools of an almost chalky appearance. This remedy should be considered for infants (sometimes teething) who tolerate constipation seemingly without discomfort (adults have been known to comment that they feel best when constipated) and that have large, sweaty heads—particularly for infants who sweat on the head during sleep and wet or soak the pillow. These same children may also be stubborn in temperament and inclined to put on weight. There may be much flatulencewith gurgling in the right side of the abdomen. Eggs are a favorite food of someone needing Calcarea carbonica. These folks tend to be chilly by nature but strangely may sweat when cold. Emotionally, they can also be anxious in the evening.
Nux vomica: A person needing this homeopathic remedy is often troubled with ineffectual and frequent urging to stool with a sensation as if the anus were contracted. The stools are very hard, dry, and stool may cause a sticking pain in the rectum for some time after. There is often a frequent, unsuccessful desire for stool ("wants to, but can't") that results in passing small quantities and leaving a sensation as if not finished. There may also be indigestion and flatulence. An infant needing this remedy may experience colicky cramping with their constipation—with irritability. The remedy is particularly useful in those who lead a sedentary life or are suffering from effects of prolonged nursing, staying up late with someone who is sick, or mental overwork, or those who use alcohol or drugs to excess or overload their digestive tract with highly-seasoned food. At times, pregnant women and active, irritable infants will also need this remedy. Nux vomica patients tend to be chilly and unusually irritable, offended, and frustrated easily.
Sepia: This homeopathic remedy is often useful for those struggling with constipation during pregnancy and other times. There is a slow and difficult discharge, even of the softest stools. The stools tend to be hard, knotty (also like sheep-dung), insufficient, and scanty. When there is excessive straining, pregnant women and children that need this remedy may find themselves requiring manual assistance to get the stool out. During the stool, there may be pain in the rectum extending to the perineum and vaginal area, with shooting and tearing pains in the rectum and anus. Before or after a constipated stool, there may be a sensation of weight (or 'pushing down feeling') in the abdomen and anus. Hemorrhoids may accompany the constipation. Sepia patients generally feel much better after exercise (particularly if it is vigorous) and are sun worshippers—they love the sun and the heat of the sun and can stay in it for hours at a time. When tired or stressed, they may become quite indifferent and irritable towards loved ones.
Silicea: Someone needing this homeopathic remedy tends to experience stools which are evacuated only with much pressure and straining. In some cases, after great urging and straining, the stool that has already protruded slips back into the rectum involuntarily. Prolonged efforts during stool may even render muscles of the abdomen sore. The stool itself tends to be very hard, dry, and unsatisfactory. There may also be sharp stitches in the rectum when walking, with burning, stinging, itching during stool. These patients may be flatulent, with much rumbling in the abdomen. The flatus can be quite offensive smelling. There may be also cramping with the constipation that is relieved by warmth. Those needing Silicea are typically shy, chilly—even on a warm day after exercise—and tend to have heads and feet that sweat profusely and have an offensive odor. They may also sweat copiously from the face and head upon falling asleep. Silicea patients tend to be quite thirsty by nature.
Once you have chosen a remedy that appears to match your symptoms (remember—homeopathy is individualized medicine—the remedy you need must match your symptom profile) dose with either a 30C or 200C potency to start - placing one pellet under the tongue or one pellet in water, stirring vigorously and taking teaspoon doses as needed. Always cease dosing when relief begins and only re-dose if symptoms again worsen. As with any medical condition, consult with your physician if you have any concerns about the severity of your problem as it may first require medical diagnosis and/or intervention and monitoring.
About Dr. Lisa Samet:
Dr. Lisa Samet N.D. provides Washington Homeopathic Products with a regular column on using homeopathy for the family. She's a naturopathic physician who specializes in homeopathic medicine and she's a partner with Dr. Andre Saine N.D. Dr. Samet graduated from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1998 and has been practicing in Montreal since then. She was born and raised in New York.
Dr. Samet has chosen to focus on homeopathy because in her experience it is the deepest healing modality available in that it does not just soothe or palliate symptoms but can actually stimulate the body to start to heal itself. Dr. Samet sees patients in her Montreal office as well as long distance using Skype. Learn more here: Dr. Lisa Samet. You can follow her on Facebook as well.