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The best treatment for constipation according to science

Updated: Jan 20


Let's look at the most effective treatments for chronic constipation. Research has indicated that constipation is a common issue that needs to be addressed. Constipation affects 12% of the adult population, is notoriously difficult to treat, and leads to an estimated two and a half million medical visits annually.


The development of an effective treatment for constipation would not only be cost-effective but could significantly improve the quality of life for many patients.


A new study by Van der Schoot and team looked at 16 randomized controlled studies to see how fiber supplementation could affect chronic constipation. They considered gastrointestinal transit time, stool output volume and frequency, symptoms, and quality of life.


Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the data, let's talk about Psyllium, a type of fiber made from the husks of psyllium seeds (Plantago ovata). Plantago Ovata hails from Asia but can also be found worldwide, including in the southwest US.


Psyllium is a prebiotic, like other dietary fibers. It feeds the probiotics in our bodies - those helpful bacteria that can help with digestion and gut health. If you're eating a whole food, plant-based diet, you're getting an awesome source of prebiotics and lots of variety.


Not only can Psyllium help keep your bowel movements regular and relieve chronic constipation, but it can also make your poops softer. Just make sure you're drinking lots of water while taking it!

So, what did the researchers uncover after studying 16 randomized controlled trials involving 1251 people? Let's find out!


The researchers discovered a moderate connection between fiber and increased consistency in pooping. They also found that taking more than 10 grams of psyllium fiber per day was the most effective for better bowel movements and reduced straining.


When researchers looked into how long to take fiber supplements (in this case, Psyllium), they found that duration over a month was optimal for improvements in transit time and frequency.


Finally, they compared Psyllium to the osmotic and stimulant laxatives on the market. Results showed that Psyllium boosted bowel movements by three per week, while the laxatives only upped them by two and a half.


The bottom line here is that Psyllium is natural, part of our whole food, plant-based family, and will work better than the laxatives we have available right now.


Reference:

Van der Schoot A, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022;doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqac184