Constipation can be uncomfortable and even painful sometimes. If it becomes a chronic condition, it can lead to additional problems, including hemorrhoids.
In many cases, you can treat constipation using lifestyle changes or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some people also recommend home remedies, including baking soda. Learn about the potential benefits and risks of using baking soda to treat constipation.
What Are the Symptoms of Constipation?
If you struggle to pass stool or you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week, you may be constipated.
Other symptoms of constipation include:
- passing lumpy or hard stools
- feeling pain in your lower abdomen
- feeling as if your rectum is blocked
- experiencing the sensation that you can’t empty all the stool from your rectum
- having to use your hand to press on your abdomen to produce a bowel movement
- having to use your finger to remove stool from your rectum
Many people experience occasional constipation. For example, you may experience it when your diet or exercise habits change. Occasional constipation rarely leads to complications.
What Are the Complications of Constipation?
Chronic constipation can cause problems if it’s not diagnosed and treated. For example, if you experience chronic constipation, you’re more likely to develop:
- anal fissures, which occur when the skin around your anus tears
- fecal impaction, which happens when stool becomes compacted and stuck in your rectum
According to the Mayo Clinic, you may have chronic constipation if you experience constipation for several weeks or longer.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation often occurs when the waste in your bowels moves too slowly. This gives the stool time to become hard and dry, which makes it harder to pass.
Many things can contribute to constipation, including:
- eating a low-fiber diet
- not drinking enough water
- not getting enough physical activity
- not using the bathroom when you have the urge to do so
Changes to your routine can also interrupt your bowel habits. For example, traveling or experiencing increased stress can impact your ability to have regular bowel movements.
Other less common causes of constipation include:
- irritable bowel syndrome and other bowel diseases
- anal fissures
- colon cancer
- narrowing of your colon
- weakened pelvic muscles
- thyroid problems
- mental health disorders
- neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- certain medications
How Is Constipation Treated?
In many cases, you can treat constipation through lifestyle changes. For example, eating more fiber, drinking more fluids, and exercising may help get your bowels moving.
OTC laxatives and stool softeners are also available. However, you should avoid using stimulant laxatives too often. Over time, they can make your constipation worse.
Some natural remedies may also provide relief. For example, some people recommend using baking soda to treat constipation. There’s no research available to support these recommendations.
Can Baking Soda Treat Constipation?
If you search for information on all-natural constipation treatments, baking soda may come up. It’s a common household product used for baking and cleaning.
Baking soda has been used as an antacid for decades. Consuming it can help neutralize your stomach acid. That’s why some people use it as an all-natural remedy for heartburn and indigestion.
Some people also promote baking soda as a constipation treatment. However, there’s no research to support its use for treating constipation.
Consuming Baking Soda
Some people claim that consuming baking soda helps ease constipation by pulling water into your digestive tract and promoting muscle contractions. When it combines with stomach acid, baking soda also produces gas and causes you to burp. Some people claim this provides relief from some constipation symptoms.
Soaking in Baking Soda
According to El Camino Hospital, soaking in a bath with baking soda may help relieve rectal pain associated with constipation. It may also relax your anal sphincter, which may help you produce a bowel movement.
To prepare a bath with baking soda, fill your tub with warm water and add 2 ounces of baking soda. Soak in it for 20 minutes.
Side Effects of Consuming Baking Soda
Rare side effects have been reported from consuming baking soda.
In some cases, consuming too much baking soda can cause constipation. It can also cause:
- frequent urination
- muscle weakness
- muscle spasms
Baking soda consumption has also been linked to cases of ruptured stomach. When it mixes with stomach acid, baking soda produces carbon dioxide. If your digestive tract is unusually full, the gas may not be able to escape. If it builds up too much, your stomach can potentially burst. This is rare.
Baking soda is also high in sodium. Consuming too much sodium can raise your risk of health problems, especially if you’re sensitive to salt or you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or heart disease.
Mixing baking soda with some other medications or supplements may cause unwanted drug interactions.
Most doctors won’t recommend baking soda as a treatment for constipation. Speak to your doctor before using baking soda to treat constipation. If you take baking soda for constipation and experience sudden severe abdominal pain, seek emergency medical attention.
Most cases of constipation will clear up in three to five days, depending on the treatment you use. If your constipation persists or returns within a week, you may need to take additional measures to ease your symptoms and prevent them from coming back.
If you experience constipation for more than three weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. Tell them about your symptoms and the treatments you’ve used for them. They may recommend lifestyle changes, OTC medications, or other strategies to treat your constipation.
How to Prevent Constipation
Follow these tips to prevent constipation:
- Drink plenty of water and fluids. Try to drink about 9 cups of fluid every day if you’re a woman or 13 cups if you’re a man, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
- Eat a diet that’s rich in high-fiber foods, including whole grains, fruits, and beans.
- Exercise regularly. Even a 30-minute walk around the block can help you produce regular bowel movements.
- When you feel the urge to use the restroom, do it immediately. Waiting can raise your risk of constipation.