For some, constipation proves to be a discomforting and utterly irritating, whereas for others it can be outright painful. And while commercial laxatives are there to solve the problem, natural alternatives shouldn’t be ignored. In this article, we take a closer look at 10 different foods that double up as laxatives.
Why Natural Laxatives?
Certain laxatives like fiber supplements or stool softeners directly affect the composition of feces (in their own special way) to ease bowel movement. Whereas those like the stimulant and osmotic variants target the nerves or the water-bloodstream pathway in the large intestine respectively, in order to produce an excretion conducive atmosphere. Needless to say, these drugs can have harsher side-effects in some people.
This brings us to the topic of natural laxatives. Simply put, these are normal foods that naturally regulate bowel movements, and because of their natural attributes, they don’t produce undue side-effects like their medicinal counterparts.
Mentioned below is a descriptive list of 10 foods that offer relief from constipation apart from imparting nutritional inputs to your body.
1. Water: It may be considered a boring drink by the younger lot but the truth is that you could suffer from chronic constipation from not drinking enough water. A dehydrated body looks deep into it’s reserves for water and in doing so absorbs more water from the intestines than what’s deemed necessary.
Less water in the bowel translates to harder stool and constipation. In that respect, drinking ample quantity of water not only lubricates the intestinal walls, but also softens the stool as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Plus, it hydrates the system so that it doesn’t have to look elsewhere for water.
2. Prunes: Otherwise known as died plums, this sticky chewy food is naturally blessed with fibers and sorbitol. Fiber when passed down to the intestinal area mixes with the stool to add volume as well as soften it, whereas sorbitol is a natural carbohydrate that performs a similar stool bulking function. In fact, the laxative qualities of prunes are so good, that they can heighten bowel movement (and cause running stool) in a normal person when taken in large quantities.
3. Whole Grains: Unlike their refined counterparts, whole grain produce aren’t stripped of their most nutrient-rich parts i.e. the bran and germ. A notable mention is brown rice, which has good amounts of dietary fiber, magnesium and trace selenium minerals. Fiber provides the necessary bulk and softening attributes to stool, while both magnesium and selenium are well known for their laxative qualities.
4. Yoghurt: Gut flora or good bacteria found in the digestive tract help in breaking down a large chunk of the processed food we consume on a daily basis. As such, fresh, natural bio yoghurt rich in acidophilus and bifidobacterium strains, when taken daily during breakfast, can certainly contribute to your ‘gut flora’ and therefore keep a check on irregular bowel movements.
4. Coconut: Be it the soft flesh of a ripe coconut, or the sweet water tapped straight out of green coconuts, the laxative effects are quite prominent. Coconut flesh is high on fiber and so consuming a good chunk of it regularly does a lot of good for your bowels. Similarly, coconut water is an excellent hydrating fluid, with a laxative potency high enough to cause watery bowels in some people when consumed in excess!
5. Aloe Vera: For the uninitiated, ‘aloin’, a liquid encapsulated inside the skin of aloe-vera plant is highly effective in relieving constipation. That’s why certain commercially available, herbal laxative pills contain aloin extracts in them. Another chemical component found in aloe-vera is ‘anthraquinone’, which can help in reducing rigidity in stool.
6. Flax Seeds: Now, it would be unfair to pick from the colossus health benefits of flax seed or its oily derivative. But, since we are talking wholly about laxatives in this article, it would be helpful to note that flax seeds can promote bowel movement. This gentle laxative effect is partly due to the fiber content and partly due to its oily content that acts like a coating for the intestinal wall.
7. Blakstrap Molasses: Pure sugarcane juice boiled to a concentrate and crystallized yields regular molasses. When the same is boiled the third time, the result is blackstrap molasses which contains a range of vitamins and minerals. Magnesium is one such mineral found in this sweet food, which also happens to be a good laxative agent.
8. Raw Vegetables: Incorporating a variety of raw vegetables into your dietary cycle can ensure a healthy body along with a fit gastrointestinal tract. The one major component in green leafy vegetables is fiber which is a known promoter of healthy bowel movement. Additionally, certain vegetables like carrot, beet, tomatoes and cabbage among others are specifically known for their mild laxative qualities.
9. Raw Fruits: There is a lot to gain in terms of colon cleansing by incorporating raw fruits into your diet. While bananas act like natural bulk-producing laxatives, apples on the other hand, contain pectin in them, which stimulates intestinal action while imparting volume to the stool. Likewise, melons are great in colon cleansing because they are so easy to digest that they proceed directly to the intestines. Also, fruit derivatives like lemon juice or apple cider are equally effective in regularizing bowel movement.
10. Legumes And Beans: It’s the mix of carbohydrates, fibers and other minerals like magnesium, selenium etc that make lentils, peas, beans, and nuts natural laxatives. Together, the above contents can regulate intestinal action and impart bulk to the stool.
Foods apart, factors like sedentary lifestyle and stress can also cause constipation. Therefore, a fully decked solution has to be a trifecta of healthy diet, exercise and stress free living. Also, it’s worth noting that some people might be allergic to the foods mentioned above. If so, then they should first consult a doctor before trying them as a remedy for irregular bowel movement.
Lemon juice shows tremendous potential in relation to promoting general health. As a home remedy, lemon juice is equally beneficial both when consumed orally as well as applied on the skin or hair. One of the many benefits of the citric juice includes curing of acne; an otherwise embarrassing cluster of eruptions which tends to rob one’s face of its beauty and radiance.
Numerous beauty experts believe that wiping a small amount of lemon juice on to the area affected by pimples on a daily basis would restore clarity and smoothness to the face. But, is lemon juice acne treatment really feasible or is it just one of those home remedies that sound good but does nothing? Read on to find out the truth.
Why Does Acne Occur?
There are tiny holes on the surface of your skin known as pores. When these pores get clogged by the oil produced from glands under the skin, the resultant effect is seen in the form of eruptions and blemishes known as acne. Nevertheless, the actual blockage (otherwise known as plug or comedone) takes place when this oil leads to buildup of dirt, inflammatory cells or bacteria. Depending on the color of the plug, the resulting acne may either be called a ‘whitehead’ or a ‘blackhead’.
In teenagers, acne is caused due to hormonal changes which are at their peak in that period, and are identified as zits or pimples. Conversely, similar eruptions in adults could be the result of pollution, heavy sweating or side-effects of chemicals in the cosmetic products being used. Sometimes, acne can be triggered by drugs that you may be taking. In women, acne may be attributed to menstrual cycle, birth-control pills, pregnancy or even stress.
The first line of treatment is always self care, and this includes cleaning your face regularly, shampooing your hair and maintaining a healthy diet. Apart from this, you could purchase over-the-counter acne medication such as benzoyl peroxide or resorcinol or salicylic acid to treat the eruptions.
If none of the above remedies work, then you will have to see a doctor. He/she would ideally prescribe a topical application cream like tazarotene or tretinoin, and an oral antibiotic to go with it. In specific cases, doctors prescribe isotretinoin drugs or hormonal medications for treating adult acne.
Effect Of Lemon Juice On Acne
When topically applied on the infected region regularly for a period of 2-3 weeks, lemon juice proves pretty effective in treating acne. Firstly, it breaks down p.anes – the bacteria responsible for causing the inflammations. Simultaneously, the L-ascorbic acid in the juice cleans the pore clogging, thus making the pimple look much smaller than it actually is.
If truth be told, most acne creams available over the counter feature L-ascorbic acid as the active ingredient. In addition to the above, lemon juice also reduces the redness effect caused by acne thereby bringing a relatively soft glow to the face.
Side-Effects of Lemon Juice
Because lemon juice is acidic in nature, it can produce a stinging effect when applied on the infected area for the first couple of days. In addition, the juice may generate redness and/or irritation in people with sensitive skin. Also, in severe cases of acne, the treatment using lemon juice becomes ineffective since it takes a very long time to produce any visible result.
Bottom-line / Conclusion
If you have mild to moderate acne, then dabbing the area with cotton soaked in lemon juice will prove efficient. However, in the event of irritation or redness, this natural treatment must be discontinued. Similarly, chronic or severe acne produced as a result of drug interactions will require consultations with a skin specialist to settle on on an effective treatment for the problem.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that help prevent the oxidation of certain chemicals, and thus reduce the production of free radicals which can “spoil” our cells if they are in excess in our body.
The Benefits of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are found mainly in fruits and vegetables, and many studies have proven their health benefits. Here are some of the major benefits of antioxidants:
– They lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease: As we explained earlier, antioxidants help fight against free radicals. But they also prevent the oxidation of fats which can be harmful to blood vessels.The family of antioxidants include carotenoids (found in foods with yellow, orange or red colors, such as oranges, peppers, tomatoes, peaches, mangoes, papayas, …), which according to some studies would decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood. Consumption of these rich in carotenoids foods limits the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
– They are preventing cancer: If fruits and vegetables are so popular as benefactors and presenters of health, it is not for nothing! And one of the reasons are antioxidant nutrients, if consumed in sufficient quantities, they would reduce the risk of cancer by more than 30%.
– Antioxidants protect the eyes: Generally, all antioxidant molecules are protective of the eyes and vision. Among them are the carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Indeed, according to a recent study the consumption of foods rich in zeaxanthin (found in corn and cauliflower) reduce by 93% the risk of AMD( age-related macular degeneration) and by 47% the occurrence of cataract. Lutein (found in egg yolk, carrots, oranges, spinach) would also reduce by 69% the risk of AMD.
– Countering the effects of pollution: The air we breathe is often polluted with powerful oxidants such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, which can lead to respiratory problems.Studies have shown that some antioxidant nutrients (especially vitamin E and beta-carotene) allow to greatly reduce the oxidation of these harmful molecules.
– Delaying aging process: Free radicals are harmful to skin and couse aging. When they are too many in the body, free radicals attack cell membranes. The result is that: the skin deteriorates, brakes and gets wrinkles prematurely. But again, antioxidants can help limit the damage, in particular those contained in green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, spinach), or in the dark fruits (plums, raspberries, gooseberries …).
But sometimes it can be dangerous …
While many studies support antioxidants, some other studies have shown that excessive intake of certain dietary supplements rich in antioxidants (including vitamin A or its derivatives) could be dangerous. So before taking dietary supplements (especially for a long time or in high doses), it is advisable to seek advice from your doctor especially if you suffer from a specific condition.
Where can you find them?
There are actually two types of antioxidants. The endogenous type is already present in the body, and exogenous is made by certain foods.
To measure the concentration of antioxidants in food, specialists are using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) method.
The recommended daily intake is between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC units. To give you an idea of what it is, here is a summary of the concentration unit ORAC (per 100 g) of the richest fruits:
– Cranberries = 9584
– Blueberries = 2400
– Mature = 2036
– Prunes = 1800
– Strawberries = 1540
– Raspberries = 1220
Many vegetables are also have rich concentrations of antioxidants, like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, tomato, garlic, asparagus …
And here is one healthy juice recipe idea, it is ultra-fast for preparation and is full of vitamins and antioxidants:
Mix together and blend to juice 10 large strawberries, 3 bunches of currants, cassis and a handful of quarter melon. Serve chilled and drink at will! Enjoy!