What to Know About Natural Laxatives

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on June 22, 2021
4 min read

If you’ve ever been constipated, you know that you’d do just about anything to relieve your painful symptoms. Over-the-counter laxatives can provide quick results, but what if you’re looking for a natural alternative?

Stimulant laxatives force your body to pass a stool that is difficult to pass. They take your muscles out of the equation to some degree. Using stimulant laxatives isn’t good for your health because your body may become dependent on them for bowel movements.

Osmotic laxatives. This kind of laxative works by drawing fluid into your intestines so that your stool passes easier. Remember that this type of laxative can lead to fluid and electrolyte imbalances when not used correctly. Follow the instructions carefully and don’t exceed the recommended dose. These include:

  • Milk of magnesia
  • Epsom salt
  • Golytely
  • Colyte
  • Lactulose
  • Sorbitol‌
  • Miralax

Lubricant and emollient laxatives. These work by making your stool softer so that it is easier to pass without straining. Examples of a lubricant laxative are mineral oil and colace.

Bulk-forming laxatives. More natural laxatives like Metamucil, Citrucel, and FiberCon bulk up your stool for easier passing. These are also an excellent source of fiber for your diet, although you shouldn’t become reliant on them because they can block your body from absorbing other much-needed nutrients.

Foods that act as natural laxatives. Instead of taking medication of any kind, you may be looking for ways to eat your way to a healthy bowel movement. If that’s the case, try these foods:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Raisins
  • Figs
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Seeds

What causes constipation? Water and fiber are the primary ingredients for regular bowel movements. When your diet is lacking in water or fiber, your bowel movements slow down and lead to constipation.

While some foods help you prevent constipation, other foods can lead to it. These include:

  • Processed food
  • Dairy
  • White bread‌
  • Some meat

Constipation may also be a side effect of some medications. If your doctor prescribes you a new medication and you begin to experience constipation, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor may be able to give recommendations for natural laxatives or prescribe a different medication for your other health conditions.

We each have different frequencies for bowel movements, so what is considered normal for someone else may not be normal for you. Stay in-tune with your body and know the signs of constipation so you can prevent it before it starts.

Signs that you are constipated include:

  • Having less bowel movements than normal
  • Not being able to push stool out
  • Pain when you have a bowel movement
  • Feeling like you’re too full or bloated
  • Straining to pass your stool
  • The appearance of bright red blood in your stool or when wiping

If you have constipation and resolve the issue by using a natural laxative, take preventative measures to ensure you don’t get constipated again. Healthy eating and drinking habits are a good way to prevent constipation.

Prioritizefiber in your diet. If it helps, write out a list of fiber-rich foods that you like. Include these foods in both meals and snacks each day to ensure you get fiber consistently. Fruits and vegetables are great because they have both fiber and water content. They keep you hydrated and provide the bulk your stool needs to continue moving through your body.

Remember to drink water all day long. Keep a bottle of water with you, and be mindful of taking sips even if you don’t feel thirsty at that moment. Limiting sugary drinks like soda will also help to prevent constipation.

Natural laxatives aren’t addictive. Using stimulant laxatives too often leads to your body developing a reliance on them. Laxatives allow stools to pass with little effort and may cause your muscles to weaken over time. This turns into a negative downward cycle of relying on stimulant laxatives more and more.

Natural laxatives are better for you. When you turn foods that have laxative properties, you benefit from additional fiber and nutrients. By choosing foods that help you pass a stool more easily, you also establish healthier habits that may help you prevent constipation in the future.

Natural laxatives may not work as well. If your case of constipation is severe, a natural laxative may not work for you. There are times when a stimulant laxative is necessary for you to pass an extremely difficult stool.

However, if you get badly constipated, then you need to make changes in your diet to prevent future constipation. Talk to your doctor about your concerns to make sure there isn’t an underlying health issue causing your constipation.

Show Sources


American Gastrointestinal Association: “Constipation.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Constipation.”

Cornell University: “Laxative Use: What to Know.”

One Green Planet: “Skip the Chemical Laxatives: These Naturally Cleansing Foods Work Much Better.”

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