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Sometimes, a person may find it difficult to have a bowel movement. Discover some natural remedies that can help a person poop and how diet and lifestyle changes to help them stay healthy and regular.

Everyone experiences bowel movements in a different way. How often people have a bowel movement varies, but experts consider the healthy range to be from three times per week up to three times per day.

Many things can affect the ability to have a bowel movement, from diet or illness to a change in routine.

A laxative is a medication that encourages a bowel movement. There are also some natural remedies that people can use as alternatives. This article looks at seven of these options.

Learn more about how often to poop here.

A person can try some natural remedies to encourage a bowel movement. Listed below are some actions to take, food and drink to try, and herbal remedies that may help with constipation.

1. Exercise

Exercise can stimulate muscles in the lower part of the digestive system. This part of the gut gets rid of waste from the body in the form of stool.

Taking a brisk walk or jog or choosing some other form of exercise may encourage a bowel movement.

Learn how to improve digestion here.

2. Relaxation and posture

Not being able to have a bowel movement when desired can be stressful. Straining or forcing the body to pass stool is not healthy, so trying to relax and take enough time can help.

Raising the knees above the hips can make it easier to poop. Resting the feet on a block or stool when sitting on the toilet is one way of raising the knees.

Learn how yoga can help constipation here.

3. Prunes

This dried fruit is a great source of fiber, and fiber helps move food through the digestive system. Eating a few prunes may help to encourage a bowel movement.

Dried prunes are available to buy in health food stores and online.

Learn whether prune juice can help constipation here.

4. Senna

Senna is a plant, and some people use its leaves and fruit as a natural laxative. It is available online in liquid or tablet form.

The herb takes around 8 hours to work. Some people choose to take senna before going to sleep, which allows the medication to work overnight. Often, this results in a bowel movement in the morning.

Senna is a natural substance that people have used for centuries to relieve temporary constipation; however, long-term use can lead to dependency requiring increased dosages to get the same effect. Long-term use is not recommended and can have irreversible adverse effects on the digestive tract.

Learn about senna tea here.

5. Kiwi fruit

Kiwi fruits are high in fiber, and 2019 research suggests that they may assist digestion. This could mean that the kiwi fruit might be a beneficial natural laxative to try.

Learn more about the health benefits of kiwi fruits here.

6. Coffee

Some research suggests that coffee may help people to have a bowel movement.

A 2015 study suggests that decaffeinated coffee was linked to a reduced time to a bowel movement after bowel surgery. And a 2017 article suggests that caffeinated coffee may have a laxative effect on some people.

It is not clear why coffee has this effect but drinking a cup may help a person pass stool.

Coffee products are available for purchase online.

Learn more about why drinking coffee might encourage bowel movements here.

7. Flaxseed oil

A small 2014 study found flaxseed oil to work well in treating constipation. People taking part in the research took 4 milliliters (ml) of flaxseed oil per day.

People can take flaxseed oil as a supplement that usually comes in capsule form. Flaxseed oil supplements are available for purchase online.

Learn more about the health benefits of flaxseed oil here.

Constipation is the medical term for not pooping regularly or finding it hard to poop. Other symptoms include feeling bloated, sick, or having a belly ache.

Constipation does not always have a clear cause. It often happens because a person is not eating enough fiber, drinking enough fluids, or exercising enough. Stress or a change in routine can also cause constipation, and it can be a side effect of some medications.

Traveling can mean that a person does not use the restroom at their usual times, hydrate regularly, or eat their typical diet. Planning bathroom breaks to try and maintain a routine may help.

Stress or anxiety about using a restroom outside of the home can prevent people from emptying their bowels. A person should try to relax, feel comfortable, and not rush.

Learn about some foods that might help constipation here.

Eating high-fiber foods, drinking plenty of water, and regular bowel movements can help prevent constipation.

Consuming fiber

A diet that contains enough fiber can help to keep the digestive system healthy. Two kinds of fiber are essential to the diet: soluble and insoluble fiber.

Sources of fiber include:

Soluble

  • fruit
  • oats
  • pulses, such as beans or lentils

Insoluble

  • wholegrain pasta, bread, and cereal
  • the skin of fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes or apples
  • brown rice

Foods such as fries, ice cream, and processed foods do not contain a lot of fiber.

Learn more about high-fiber foods here.

Drinking water

Drinking enough water helps soften stool, making it easier to pass. Recommendations on the amount of water an adult should drink vary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give no recommendation for how much plain water adults should consume daily, while the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom indicates that an average adult should aim to drink 6–8 glasses of water per day.

Learn more about how much water to drink each day here.

Regular bowel movements

Aiming to have a bowel movement around the same time each day can help some people to pass stool regularly. A person should try to go when the urge first arrives. Delaying pooping causes the body to reabsorb the water, which leads to harder stool that is more difficult to pass.

The body needs time to digest food, so a person should allow some time to pass before trying to poop after a meal. Regular mealtimes help with regular bowel movements, as well.

Allowing enough time to use the bathroom and making this a relaxing space can help. Stress can make it difficult to poop when needed.

Learn more about reducing anxiety to poop regularly here.

A person is likely to have constipation if:

  • they have pooped less than three times in a week
  • their poop is hard or dry
  • it is difficult to poop because their stool is larger than usual
  • it is painful to pass stool

If left untreated, constipation can lead to complications, such as piles, also known as hemorrhoids.

If a person has changed their diet and lifestyle but still experiences constipation, a doctor can likely help.

A doctor may recommend a laxative to treat constipation. A range of different laxatives is available, and a doctor will prescribe the most suitable one.

Always follow the instructions for how much medication to take. Laxatives can cause harm to health if a person does not take them properly. Laxatives also decrease the bowel’s natural ability to move stool if used regularly or too often.

However, being unable to poop regularly could signify an underlying medical condition. People experiencing the following symptoms, in addition to not being able to poop regularly, should talk with a doctor:

Learn the difference between laxatives and stool softeners here.

Being unable to pass stool is uncomfortable and frustrating. However, making changes to diet and lifestyle should ease constipation and help to keep bowel movements regular. Walking, exercising, drinking fluids, and including some high-fiber foods in the diet, such as fruit and wholegrain bread, can also help.