By Donna Easto, C.H., H.C., M.H.,
Certified Herbal Educator
Covid-19 has resulted in considerable changes to our day-to-day activities. The need to stay home and remain isolated from others is the main cause behind something being dubbed ‘quarantine constipation’.
Even if you didn’t have constipation before the pandemic arrived, chances are you might be struggling now. Whether you’re isolating or working from home, your daily routine of eating, sleeping, and generally moving your body has likely changed. You might be feeling anxious or stressed. All or any of these things can lead to the upset of your 24-hour sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). In particular, the colon’s circadian rhythm is easily disrupted, resulting in the weakening of colonic motility (the process that moves food through by successive contractions).
When food moves regularly through your colon, water is absorbed, and stools are formed. Irregularity occurs when the colon’s muscle movements are too slow – too much water is absorbed, resulting in hard, dry stools. Essentially, constipation means stools that are too hard; in very small pieces; pass infrequently (less than 3x/wk), or need too much straining to move along.
If you’ve tried all the usual remedies: drinking more water; limiting caffeine; eating more high-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts…); cut back on high-fat food (cheese, milk, ice cream…); decreasing stress and increasing your exercise level, but you’re still suffering, there are some safe, natural approaches. These are not a substitute for dietary and lifestyle changes, but they’re safe and effective remedies….
Magnesium 350-450mg at bedtime. Look for citrate or glycinate (best absorbed but less laxative). If you have poor kidney function or are on prescription meds, speak with your pharmacist or health care provider before taking supplemental magnesium.
Start your day with Flaxseeds (ground), combine 1 tbsp with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and a bit of cinnamon to pump up your fiber and probiotics and keep things moving.
Dandelion-Yellow Dock Root Syrup (a favourite of mine), simmer one ounce of each herb uncovered in 4 cups of water until reduced to 1 cup. Strain out herbs, add ½ cup blackstrap molasses, mix until well blended. Cool and store in the refrigerator (keeps up to 2 weeks) dose: 1-2 tbsps, once or twice a day.
Note: If you are pregnant, avoid these botanical laxatives: Aloe, Cascara, Buckthorn, Castor oil, Chinese rhubarb, and Senna.