In her book, “Causae et Curae”, Hildegard of Bingen suggests certain foods can lead to disruptions in the digestive process in some people. Specifically, some foods are more prone to slowing the digestive process or removing water from the digestive tract, resulting in waste remaining in the colon longer than normal. Since much of Hildegard of Bingen medicine is focused on maintaining a healthy digestive system, we think it’s fitting to post information on Hildegard’s natural remedies for constipation.
Hildegard’s 7 Natural Remedies for ConstipationThe colon is where water is reabsorbed from waste, so the longer the waste remains in the colon, the more water will be reabsorbed. Digestive slowing or reduced hydration can lead to chyme becoming excessively bulky and dry. Thinking in terms of Hildegard’s bodily juices, this imbalance is directly related to excessive dryness. Chyme settles in the colon when we suppress bowel movements, if we remain seated for extended periods with poor posture, or if we are dehydrated. Blockage may also be associated with symptoms, such as bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, or cramps due to illness or side-effects of medications – particularly opiate-based pain medications. While settled in the large intestine, the colon continues to extract more fluid from the Chyme, accelerating the process of “drying-out”, and as Hildegard states in her concluding remarks of this section in Causae et Curae, “therefore he suffers pain”. When it comes to natural constipation cures, Hildegard’s primary emphasis remains on diet.
Causes and Symptoms of ConstipationIn Western countries, chronic constipation is one of our most common health conditions. There is a distinction between frequency of bowl movements and actual constipation. Bowel movements as infrequently as every 2 to 3 days may still be considered normal. The problem of constipation, however, arises when the stool is hardened and therefore causes discomfort during bowel movements or impairs the regularity of bowl movements. Hemorrhoids can also lead to constipation due to the additional discomfort and inflammation.
Side Effects of DrugsConstipation often arises as a side effect of certain medications, which on its face, clearly conflicts with natural constipation cures. The following drugs may cause constipation:
- Pain relievers (opiates)
- Narcotics and Anesthetic agents
- Blood pressure medicines
- Antacids, aluminum or calcium
- Cough medicines
- Iron supplements
- Cramp Remedies
- Chemotherapy drugs
Other Causes of ConstipationConstipation may also arise as a symptom related to more serious health conditions, such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, or hypothyroidism.
Periodic constipationPeriodic constipation is often unrelated to a functional disorder of your digestive system. Periodic constipation can arise from a lack of exercise, a low-fiber diet, and dehydration. Occasional constipation can also arise due to diet. Foods such as red meat, dairy and cheese, rice, chocolate, and eggs are known for their tendency to slow and/or dehydrate digestion, resulting in constipation. Periodic constipation is common among the elderly, who often fail to consume enough liquids, as a result of simple lack of thirst. Caffeinated drinks, like coffee or cola, and alcoholic beverages have a dehydrating effect on the body, and thereby promote blockage. Ample hydration, regular activity, and consumption of healthy fibers are important to prevent constipation, particularly as we age.
Chronic ConstipationFor those who develop chronic constipation, the best remedies are usually chemical laxatives, rather than natural constipation cures. Chronic blockage develops slowly but can last for months or even years, so a rapid intervention is often the best way to initiate a regular digestive process. Chronic constipation is indicated when at least two of the following criteria are present for twelve weeks over the course of a year.
- Hard stool
- Sensation of incomplete emptying
- Sensation of a narrowing of the bowels
- Effort when passing stool
- Less than 3 bowel movements per week
Emotion and Digestive Health among the best Natural Constipation CuresYour psychological well-being can impact your digestive health. The physiological impact of anxiety and neuroses can affect the autonomic nervous system, resulting in disruptions in the digestive tract. Periods of mental stresses, such as a change of environment or unsatisfactory work or family relationships, can result in digestive distress, including constipation.
Treatment Strategies for ConstipationFoods with swelling properties, such as psyllium and flaxseed, are a simple and effective way to promote a bowel movement. The swelling effects are associated with foods high in fiber. When high-fiber foods are consumed with ample fluids, these foods create a gelatinous mixture that passes through the large intestine. This stimulates the colon through expansion and stretching. With the help of natural flora found in the large intestine, the hydrated fiber bulk promotes bowel movement. Herbal laxatives containing anthranoid, which prevents water absorption in the colon, thus keeping stool soft and easy to eliminate, are natural ways to promote bowl movement. Though anthranoid -containing laxatives such as aloe, cascara, frangula, and rheum are effective in treating chronic constipation, they may play a role in colorectal cancer if abused.
Dangers of Medicine for ConstipationRegular constipation can lead to more serious health consequences. Through ineffective treatment, one can enter into an unhealthy cycle. For example, strong-acting laxatives can change the natural chemistry of our intestines, leading to dependence. Hildegard’s natural constipation cures include preventative care. Hildegard always recommended daily exercise, such as walking after dinner, as a minimum base for overall wellness. Make it a habit to drink a glass of water every morning after waking-up, to stimulate intestinal activity. Ideally, pay attention to your total fluid intake throughout the day as well. When consuming foods prone to constipation, be sure to drink more water and include a high-fiber food to maintain digestive balance.
Natural Remedies for Constipation
(1) Flax seedFlaxseed is an ideal solution for mild constipation. Regular use and application of flaxseed serves as a preventative measure against intestinal problems. Ground whole flax seed has a mild, pleasant flavor and is a natural thickening agent. It can be taken directly (see below) or added to many prepared foods including oatmeal, bread, ground meats, yogurt, baked goods, and soups.
Preparation:Between meals, take 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseeds untreated or lightly crushed, along with 1 cup of water, light herbal tea, or juice. Do not pre-soak the flaxseeds before consuming. Instead, the soaking and expanding action should take place in the intestine, when taken with liquids.
(2) PsylliumPsyllium is the most effective natural swelling agent. Ideally, use India whole Psyllium husk. When consumed along with enough liquids, psyllium husk may swell in the stomach and intestines between 10 and 15 times its original size. Psyllium can be ingested directly (see below) but is also available in caplet form. In addition to stimulating bowel movements, the resulting gel delays the absorption of cholesterol and sugar, which is particularly relevant for those suffering from diabetes or elevated cholesterol. The gel expands in the large intestines creating pressure through stretching, and thereby stimulating bowel movement in the colon. The liquid bound in the gelatinous material is released as a result of bacterial decomposition in the colon. This process softens the stool and promotes defecation.
Preparation:For effective treatment, place India whole Psyllium husk in a cup of warm water for about 15 minutes. Strain the resulting pulp through a fine cloth or sieve before ingesting. Be sure to have a large glass of water along with the psyllium mixture to ensure the psyllium swells in the gut.
Herbal Anthranoid Laxatives as Natural Constipation CuresWe continue our list with the following anthranoid laxatives, which act as natural constipation cures, by inhibiting the absorption of water in the colon, and thereby softening the stool. Aloe contains the highest amounts of anthranoids, followed by rhubarb root, buckthorn bark and senna leaves and pods.
(3) Senna Leaves and FruitSenna leaves and pods are FDA-approved nonprescription stimulant laxatives. Senna should not be used for more than 10 days without medical supervision. Excessive use may reinforce existing constipation.
Preparation:As a cold water solution, add 2 teaspoons of chopped Senna leaves and fruit to a large glass of cold or room temperature water, and allow to soak for 6 to 12 hours, then strain. Drink 1 to 2 cups of the mixture in the evening before bedtime. As a hot tea solution: add 2 teaspoons of chopped Senna leaves and fruit to 1 cup of hot water and allow 5 minutes to steep. Drain the liquid solution and drink 1-2 cups I the evening, before bedtime.
(4) Rhubarb rootRhubarb is a stimulant laxative, which should not be taken for more than 2 weeks without medical oversight.
Preparation:For a cup of tea, add 1 teaspoon of coarse powdered rhubarb per cup of hot water, and allow 10 minutes to steep. Strain the resulting mixture, and drink 2 cups per evening.
(5) Buckthorn barkBuckthorn bark is a stimulant laxative, which should not be taken for more than 2 weeks without medical oversight.
Preparation:As a hot tea solution: add 1 teaspoon of chopped Buckthorn bark to a large glass of water and allow 12 hours to soak. Heat the resulting mixture just short of its boiling point, and drink the hot tea daily in the evening before bedtime.
(6) Hildegard’s tea blend for constipationThe following blend is especially effective; it’s one we would expect to find in a proper Hildegard of Bingen medicine cabinet. It prevents cramps, promotes digestion, and has a slight laxative effect.
- 2 Tablespoons of anise fruits,
- 2 Tablespoons of dried fennel fruit
- 2 Tablespoons of senna leaves
- 2 Tablespoons of caraway
- 2 Tablespoons of peppermint leaves.