There can be no doubt that olive oil is powerful for health. It has become a popular tool in the kitchen and a good way to increase healthy fat intake.
But, what about olive oil for constipation?
This isn’t the most popular reason for using the oil. You might not have even heard about it. Even so, research shows that olive oil can reduce constipation. It’s also easy to use and offers other health benefits.
Olive Oil and Constipation
Constipation is best defined as a decrease in your bowel movements. This may mean going from one bowel movement per day to just a few per week.
The pattern may also be different, depending on what is normal for you. Either way, constipation is a significant decrease in bowel movements. Your stools typically become hard and dry as well, making them harder to pass.
Constipation can also be painful. Many of us experience cramps or stomach pain, especially when the constipation is ongoing. Needless to say, constipation is never fun.
Olive oil can help in two ways.
First, it helps make your stools softer by increasing the water that they hold. This makes the stool easier to pass. Second, olive oil makes the bowel lining smoother, which has the same benefit.
Both outcomes can help relieve constipation and may reduce any pain in passing stools.
There may be other benefits also. For example, olive oil is anti-inflammatory and contains various nutrients that can help good digestion. It may also promote muscle contraction in the intestines and increase bile production.
The idea isn’t just theory either. Instead, research supports using olive oil in this way.
For example, one short-term study compared the effects of mineral oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil in relieving constipation. Participants were initially given 4 ml of oil each day, with adjustments made over time (1).
The authors found that olive oil was as effective as mineral oil for treating constipation (mineral oil is commonly used for this purpose). Both oils resulted in improvements in 5 of the 6 constipation symptoms measured.
A Spanish observational study found that more than 97% of participants with high olive oil intake had more than three bowel movements per week. Additionally, only 2.7% of participants regularly used laxatives (2).
These outcomes are much better than we see in the United States and may be due to the olive oil.
Another study mentioned that olive oil decreased constipation in participants (3). In that case, the authors weren’t even studying constipation. It was just an outcome that they recorded.
How to Use Olive Oil for Constipation
Taking advantage of this effect is easy, you just need olive oil in your diet.
For a current constipation problem, the most powerful way is to take olive oil directly, on an empty stomach. This is likely to promote the most benefits and isn’t difficult to do.
Recommendations vary from 1 teaspoon up to 1 tablespoon. But, as a general rule, starting with a smaller dose helps you to figure out what will work for you.
You could also take the olive oil right before bed if that suits you better. But, this may not be ideal and some people experience stomach upsets when they do so.
If this isn’t enough to get the desired effects, you could also take a second tablespoon before your next meal.
You can also combine olive oil with other ingredients if you don’t want to take it straight. Some examples include:
Mixing the olive oil into coffee may also be powerful, especially as coffee itself has a mild laxative effect. But, the taste may be less appealing.
Once the constipation is resolved, you don’t need to keep doing this. However, it’s worth continuing to include olive oil in your diet. There are countless ways to do this and many recipes out there.
For example, olive oil is common in salad dressings. The site Food Republic also highlights 25 recipes that highlight the flavor of olive oil.
Following Mediterranean diet principles and recipes can also help you increase olive oil intake. The sites Olive Tomato and Lemon & Olives both specialize in this area. They are also powerful sources of inspiration.
General Health Benefits from Olive Oil
Olive oil may seem like an odd way to treat constipation and the laxative effect is relatively minor. But, the oil is still an effective tool.
It’s also useful simply because olive oil offers so many health benefits.
In contrast, many of the common vegetable oils we use can increase inflammation.
Olive oil also helps lower heart disease risk. It does this by improving many risk factors. The outcomes include decreasing LDL oxidation (11), lowering blood sugar levels (12), improving the prevalence and function of HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) (13,14,15) and decreasing oxidative stress (16,17)
In a similar way, olive oil has antioxidant benefits and may promote health as a consequence (18,19,20). Olive oil also contains many important healthy compounds. These include the phenols tyrosol, oleocanthal and oleuropein (21). The oil is also a source of healthy fats. This is another reason it is so popular.
You can find more details about the advantages of olive oil and how to choose good brands by checking out the articles below.
What Can Cause Constipation?
There are many different causes of constipation. Some are easy to spot and resolve, others are much more difficult.
The simplest examples include insufficient water or fiber intake, along with not exercising enough. These are all easy to resolve. For example, some people use lemon water as a way to be more hydrated. There are many ways to get more fiber, including increasing vegetable intake and using a fiber supplement.
You can often identify these issues by considering your diet.
But, not all causes are so simple.
Constipation can also be caused by some medications, including those that decrease blood pressure. Some health conditions also play a role, such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes.
You can also experience constipation without any clear reason. This is more common in women and in older adults. If this happens infrequently, it is not a major cause for concern. But, if it occurs more regularly, you should talk to your doctor.
Certain Diets and Constipation
Some diet approaches also contribute to constipation.
For example, constipation is a common side effect of a low carb or a keto diet. This is partly to do with your digestive system adjusting and may resolve on its own.
Many people also find they need to increase fluid and salt intake. Dehydration is common on low carb lifestyles – and you may need more water than you initially expect.
In fact, many of the methods for reducing the keto flu symptoms will help treat constipation too.
Making sure you get enough fiber is also important. Many people don’t on low carb, as you have access to fewer sources of fiber. But, there are many low carb vegetables that you can rely on. Psyllium husk powder is also a powerful low carb way to increase fiber.
You might also see constipation with other approaches, like Paleo and the solutions are roughly the same.
Realistically, any significant diet change may cause constipation, especially when you first make the change. Keeping up with your fluids and fiber can help reduce this issue and olive oil may help as well.
When to See a Doctor
Constipation is an embarrassing condition and one that people don’t like talking about. But, finding solutions is important. Long-term constipation can lead to the following problems:
- Small tears that are painful or itchy
- Rectal prolapse. This is where the rectum itself shifts out of position
- Stool getting stuck within the rectum
Olive oil is a good early step and may reduce the risk of constipation. But, it won’t be enough in all situations.
You might choose other alternatives, such as more complex natural remedies, detox teas or laxatives. However, these all have risks and may not be suitable for long-term use. For example, detox teas and laxatives can be effective but they often make people dehydrated and can cause diarrhea.
Relying on them in the long-term puts your health at risk. This can also create dependence, potentially stopping you from passing stools normally. Plus, you’re ignoring any underlying cause. The site Medical News Today offers more insights into the implications of laxatives for treating constipation.
Other possible solutions include using castor oil and mineral oil, both of which can be effective. Mineral oil is like olive oil in that it helps soften the stool. Castor oil impacts the intestinal muscles instead, which can stimulate the bowel.
These are viable methods as well. Even so, if you are experiencing regular constipation, it’s important to talk to your doctor. This could be an indication of a significant underlying condition. Or, it might suggest that your medication needs changing.
Either way, it’s always important to consider underlying issues, not just treat symptoms.
Olive oil doesn’t offer a dramatic treatment for constipation, but it can help.
More importantly, olive oil is a healthy addition to the diet. It has few side effects and has many other health advantages.
So, why not give it a try?
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