Do you have hard stools?  Less than 3 bowel movements per week?  Strain to go?  Sense of incomplete evacuation?  Excessive amount of time spent on the toilet?

Occasional constipation is very common, however chronic constipation, which is incredibly common in the cancer community, can interfere with performing your daily tasks and cause excessive strain and pain when going to the bathroom. 

Are you hydrated?

Do a quick calculation.  How many cups of water did you drink today? Are you getting at least 8 cups per day?

Coffee or any caffeine or sugar containing beverage is counted as a negative cup.  So let’s say you have one cup of coffee in the morning, then to re-hydrate you need 9 cups of water that day.

If you have one cup of coffee and one cup of orange juice, then you need 10 cups of water to rehydrate. Juices and sugary beverages are negative cups as well.  Herbal teas (non-caffeine containing) teas also count as water.  So if you’re sick of just having plain water, then steep your favorite ginger, peppermint, decaf green tea bag into your cup.  

Other causes of constipation include:

  • Hormone therapies
  • Chemotherapy
  • Iron supplements
  • Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Inactivity
  • Abdominal tumors
  • Postoperative scarring
  • Hypothyroidism

Natural remedies that can help:

Generally speaking treatment usually requires using multiple methods. Your oncologist or medical provider may have prescribed some OTC stool softeners and/or laxatives, possibly even an injection if your constipation is narcotic induced. Some additional natural remedies that I would recommend considering are:

  1. Fiber: ensure you’re getting at least 30 grams daily.  If you find you’re just not able to reach that number there are fiber supplements such as psyllium husk and hemp fiber that can help bulk up your stools improving bowel movement function. 
  2. Beneficial bacteria: high dose, multi-strain probiotic supplement can help restore a healthy gut microbiome.  Healthy bacteria can help normalize bowel function.  In some cases a high dose, single strain probiotic may be indicated depending on your symptoms and current treatment.   If you have questions and/or are interested in an individualized, targeted approach to your health please schedule a telemedicine appointment with Dr. McMurry.     
  3. Natural Movement Makers: these treatments decrease the bowel transit time making your bowel movements more efficient and complete; to improve evacuation ensure you are mobile – walking or moderately moving at least 30 minutes daily.  Additionally, 
    1. deep abdominal breathing
    2. abdominal castor oil packs (click to find my handout) 
    3. bitter herbs and foods (such as decaf green tea, collard greens, kale) naturally encourage relaxation of the intestines and intestinal movement. 

This information is not intended to diagnose and treat medical conditions, it is provided solely for informational purposes.  If you have specific questions related to your treatment, please talk with your medical provider. You can also schedule a telemedicine appointment with Dr. McMurry.

Dr. McMurry’s goal is to increase access to naturopathic preventative medicine. She provides on-site workplace preventative health appointments to employees. As well as telemedicine (virtual video) appointments to cancer patients seeking integrative naturopathic cancer care. If you’re interested in learning more about what she does and/or who she is please feel free to email her at