When stools are hard and dry, they do not move easily through the bowel. This is constipation.
Olive oil may be a safe and healthy way to get stools moving again and relieve constipation.
Reading: Is olive oil good for constipation
The fats in olive oil can help smooth the insides of the bowel, making it easier for stools to pass. It can also help the stool hold in more water, keeping it softer.
One tablespoon of olive oil, taken on an empty stomach in the morning, may relieve constipation for many healthy adults.
People should not take more than one tablespoonful, however, as this can lead to diarrhea and cramps.
Constipation is common among people who are undergoing dialysis. A study of 50 people published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition in 2015 found that olive oil, flaxseed oil, and mineral oil were all equally effective at relieving symptoms in this group. The people took 4 milliliters (ml) of olive oil per day.
A team reporting in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012 noted that “Olive oil and sweet almond oil can function as softeners if their intake exceeds the absorptive capacity of the small intestine.”
They recommended a good intake of fiber to prevent constipation in the first place.
Can children use olive oil?
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Babies and children with constipation should not take olive oil.
Instead, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend a small amount of apple or pear juice, Karo syrup, or pureed prunes for infants.
Toddlers and older children may get relief with high-fiber foods such as prunes, apricots, and whole grain cereals.
If dietary changes do not help, children should see a doctor for additional treatment.
Other health benefits of olive oil
Olive oil is not only helpful for constipation but appears to have other health benefits too.
It is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, and this diet is linked to a lower risk of certain diseases and longer life.
Olive oil contains phenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects.
It may help lower the risk of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease as well as diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and arthritis.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend taking olive oil for better heart health due to its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend that for adults over the age of 19 years, 20 to 35 percent of calories should come from fats each day, and less than 10 percent of those should be saturated fats.
Olive oil also contains vitamin E, an important nutrient that helps prevent the production of free radicals and plays a role in supporting the immune system, among other functions.
Although different kinds of olive oil are available in stores, extra virgin olive oil may have the most health benefits. When an oil is labeled “extra virgin,” it means the fruit was simply pressed to extract the oil.
Other types such as “light” olive oil may have been extracted with chemicals or other processes. This can refine and filter out some of the natural olive compounds.
Other oils as constipation treatment
Using oils for constipation relief is not a new trend. Castor oil has been used for years to treat constipation, though its action differs from olive oil’s mild effects.
Castor oil affects the muscles in the intestines, causing them to contract and move. This often stimulates the bowel to pass stools.
Sometimes people use castor oil to induce labor in an overdue pregnancy, as it can cause the uterus to contract.
Anyone who is pregnant should not use castor oil for constipation without first asking their doctor if it is safe to use.
Mineral oil and flaxseed oil help soften the stool in a similar manner to olive oil.
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