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Castor oil is a type of vegetable oil extracted from castor seeds. This plant can be found abundantly in India; likewise, this oil is widely used by the people in India for medicinal as well as commercial purposes. India ranks first in production as well as the export of castor oil all over the world. This article will help you to know more about constipation, its causes, and castor oil for constipation and how to use castor oil for constipation.
Ancient medicinal texts mention the utility of castor oil more commonly as a laxative and a purgative. Various research studies have been carried out which prove the effectiveness of ricinoleic acid, a major fatty acid on the gastrointestinal tract as;
- Inhibition of absorption of water and electrolytes
- Stimulation of secretion of water into the lumen of the intestine
- Reduction in contractility of the small intestine
What Is Constipation?
Constipation is a fairly common clinical condition of infrequent bowel movements. It can be defined as having bowel movements less than three times a week. A person having constipation may complain of being unable to have any bowel movement or painful defecation or having to strain for more than 10 minutes to defecate.
Causes Of Constipation
There are several causes for constipation which may vary from person to person depending upon age and gender of patients. Some of the most common causes of constipation are;
No known identifiable cause
2. Change In Normal Routine
Change in a normal routine as from traveling, aging, mental and emotional stress, and pregnancy
The following medicines may cause constipation;
- Anti-diarrheal medicines
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Anti-allergic medicines
- Anti-epileptic medicines
- Certain anti-hypertensive medicines
- Iron supplements in the form of tablets or injections
- Muscle relaxants
- Antipsychotic medicines
- Calcium supplements
4. Behavioral issues
This can be seen among children who do not defecate voluntarily. Ignoring the urge to defecate is seen in adults who are too busy or are unable to find a toilet to defecate.
5. Lifestyle factors
Faulty lifestyle and dietary habits greatly influence bowel movements and cause constipation, such as;
- Lack Of Fiber In Diet â€“ Consuming inadequate dietary fiber in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and pulses result in constipation. Dietary fiber provides bulk to fecal matter allowing its easy passage without much straining or pain.
- Lack Of Physical Activity or Exercise â€“ This is seen in persons who have a sedentary lifestyle and in elderly persons who are unable to exercise daily or patients who are bedridden due to any cause
- Lack Of Water â€“ This includes conditions of dehydration like excess diarrhea and vomiting or due to lack of water, excess of alcohol, and caffeine-containing beverages. Constipation is a common complaint among persons who are habituated to drinking less water throughout the day
6. Obstruction In Colon Or Rectum
There are a number of factors that narrow the passage of the large intestine. Some common causes of large intestine obstruction are;
- Cancer of colon
- Scars due to previous surgeries
- Dyssynergia of the pelvic floor (abnormal contraction and relaxation of nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor which prevents the normal passage of stool)
7. Other Systemic Illnesses
Like systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and endocrine disorders affect the whole body instead of a single organ or a body part. Constipation is often a part and parcel of these illnesses or also a side effect of medications used for the management of these systemic illnesses.
How To Use Castor Oil For Constipation?
Castor oil can be consumed occasionally for constipation. Taking the castor oil for constipation regularly may produce long term effects on muscle tone of the intestinal walls resulting in chronic constipation. The ricinoleic acid in castor oil has a stimulant effect. It binds to the smooth muscle layer of the gastrointestinal tract and induces the contractile activity of the large intestine. Following are the ways where you can use castor oil for constipation;
- Castor oil for constipation has to be taken orally. The adult dose of castor oil for constipation can vary from 5 to 15 milliliters. A tablespoonful of castor oil can also be taken if you are unsure of the measurement
- Using castor oil for constipation in children should be done very carefully as a very large dose can cause adverse effects. Children can be given 2-2.5 milliliters of castor oil for constipation occasionally, but not on a regular basis.
- Castor oil should be taken preferably in the morning. This is because the effect of castor oil can be observed within 2-6 hours after consuming the oil orally. Due to this reason, castor oil must not be taken at bedtime, unlike other laxatives.
- Castor oil should preferably be taken on an empty stomach for faster results. If you want the oil to work slower, then it can be taken after a meal.
- Since castor oil has an unpleasant or bitter taste and quite viscous, it can also be diluted in a glass of water and then consumed. It can also be consumed along with tea or juices like lemon, orange, cranberry, or ginger.
- It is important to measure the dose correctly and consume the exact amount of dose at the same time of the day if you plan to use castor oil for constipation regularly.
- Observe a period of abstinence for at least a week or so as your body may become dependent on castor oil for a regular bowel movement.
Special precautions must be taken in the following category of patients, in whom castor oil can do more harm than good;
- Pregnant women â€“ Castor oil is capable of inducing labor and causing an abortion in pregnant women so pregnant women must be advised to consult doctors before taking castor oil for constipation.
- Children below 12 years of age â€“ Pediatrician must be consulted before giving castor oil to the child as it may produce toxicity
- Elderly patients with or without other pre-existing illnesses like hypertension or diabetes must be careful when using castor oil for constipation. This is because an excess of castor oil can cause loose motions and potassium depletion in such patients.
- Patients on the following medications must also avoid using castor oil for constipation as the content of the oil may cause drug interactions and produce ill effects, such as;
- Anti-hypertensive medications
- Antiarrhythmic medicines
Other Health Benefits Of Castor Oil
Health benefits of castor oil other than the management of constipation are;
- Ricinoleic acid is known to inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Therefore it also has anti-microbial and anti-infective properties.
- Castor oil has been used topically for relief from skin conditions like warts, cysts, corn, bunions, bruises, and eczematous conditions.
- Castor oil also prevents bacterial growth and inhibits plaque formation on teeth. Due to this reason, artificial dental surfaces like dentures and dental caps are pre-treated with a solution of sodium ricinoleate.
- Castor oil has an antioxidant effect. It helps in eliminating free radicals from the blood.
- Since ricinoleic acid has a stimulant action, it is also used to induce labor in pregnant women.
- Castor oil has been used for managing constipation for several years owing to its laxative effect. However, its use is contraindicated in certain categories of patients as mentioned above. It is also advisable to consult a gastroenterologist if the complaint of constipation is severe enough to disrupt your normal routine functioning.