Guide to Loosening a Bowel Blockage at Home: 7 Ways

A partial bowel blockage, or bowel obstruction, occurs when stool (the solid or semisolid remains to food eaten) gets stuck and can’t move through your intestines. The problem causes a buildup of food, gas, and fluids behind the blockage. It can cause cramps, belly pain, vomiting, and constipation.

With a partial bowel blockage, some food and stool can pass through the intestines. It can often correct itself with changes to your diet or other nonsurgical treatments. This is more common than a complete bowel blockage, which entirely blocks your intestine and needs prompt treatment.

This article describes partial bowel blockage, symptoms, and ways to remove the blockage at home. It also describes when medical treatment is needed.

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Bowel Blockage: Is At-Home Removal Possible?

The option for at-home removal of a bowel blockage depends on the cause and conditions involving the problem. Many partial blockages open up on their own with supportive care and do not need further treatment. However, that does not mean that the problem is not serious.

Any untreated partial bowel blockage has the potential to become a life-threatening condition if the obstruction prevents blood from reaching your intestine. This type of intestinal blockage can result in infection and gangrene (tissue death). Attempting to do at-home removal of a bowel blockage should not be done without consulting with your healthcare provider.

Bowel Blockage vs. Constipation

A bowel blockage and constipation are two conditions that can interfere with the natural passage of waste from your body.

A bowel blockage is a condition in which stool, or feces, is blocking your bowel. It may require treatment to achieve relief. A bowel blockage can become a medical emergency if the obstruction does not resolve on its own or react to nonsurgical treatment.

Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements per week. It typically lasts a short time and can be relieved by taking laxatives and/or increasing water, fiber, and exercise.

Undiagnosed Bowel Blockage: How Do You Know You Have Symptoms?

Symptoms of a bowel blockage can vary based on factors including where the blockage exists, its cause, and whether the blockage is partial or full. You may experience the following symptoms if you have a bowel blockage:

If you have any of these symptoms accompanied by fever, increasing belly pain, or constipation that lasts longer than a few weeks, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Ways to Loosen a Partial Bowel Blockage At Home

If you have a partial bowel blockage, you may be able to loosen it by taking the following steps at home. Before doing so, contact your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms to ensure that you can safely manage the problem at home.

You may be able to loosen a partial bowel obstruction at home by taking the following steps:

Eat a low fiber diet.

Fiber adds bulk to your stools. However, consuming too much fiber can increase your stool size and make it harder to pass. If you have a partial bowel obstruction, eating more fiber during this time could worsen your obstruction.

Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated can help soften your stools and make them easier to pass, which can help prevent a bowel blockage. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women should have about 11.5 cups of water daily, while the recommended daily water intake for men is 15.5 cups every day.

Consume small meals.

Large meals may worsen discomfort and/or cramping. Consume five or six small meals daily. This diet is easier to digest than three large meals.

Eat slowly and chew your food well.

Chewing your food well before you swallow reduces the chances of undigested food becoming lodged in your intestine and causing a blockage.

Exercise regularly.

Mild or moderate physical activity can have positive effects on the health of your gastrointestinal tract. Physically active individuals demonstrate a lower prevalence of constipation compared to those who are physically inactive.

Consume foods that are easier to digest.

Choose tender, well-cooked foods with a smooth texture. These foods will pass through your intestines more easily.

Avoid habits and food that increase gas.

Avoid the following to reduce the amount of gas you add to your digestive tract:

  • Drinking through a straw
  • Chewing gum
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Vegetables that cause gas like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, spinach, and cabbage
  • Fruits that cause gas like bananas, grapes, apples, raisins, and prunes

How Long Does It Take to Clear?

The amount of time it takes a partial bowel blockage to clear depends on the cause of the problem. With dietary or other nonsurgical treatment, a partial blockage can typically resolve itself within a few days.

Conditions That Increase Your Risk of a Bowel Blockage

You may be at risk of having a bowel blockage if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Scar tissue from abdominal surgery
  • Hernia
  • Diverticulitis
  • Certain cancers of the gastrointestinal or pelvic areas, including pancreatic,
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Abdominal radiation damage

Treatment for Severe Bowel Blockage

A severe bowel blockage can’t be treated at home. While treatment is based on the cause of the problem, it is common to require hospitalization for a severe bowel blockage.

Treatment for a severe bowel blockage includes the following based on your condition:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids: This involves using electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride) and IV fluids to treat dehydration while you abstain from eating or drinking. This treatment can often help your bowels reset. IV therapy may also be used if the blockage lasts more than a couple of days.
  • Enemas or stool softener: Enemas and/or medications to loosen and/or soften a hard stool causing a blockage so it can be passed more easily. An enema can help loosen a bowel blockage by increasing pressure in your intestines and helping the blockage to pass.
  • Nasogastric tube: It may be possible to suction out fluids and air above the bowel blockage by using a nasogastric tube. This long thin tube is inserted through your nose and into your stomach to empty its contents. This treatment relieves gas buildup and decreases swelling.
  • Medication: Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to relieve nausea, vomiting, swelling, diarrhea, or pain.
  • Colorectal tube: A colorectal tube is a long, thin tube that is inserted through the rectum into the colon. It removes gas, fluid, and inflammation.

If these treatments do not relieve your bowel blockage, your healthcare provider may advise bowel blockage surgery. Surgery is typically the first-line treatment for a complete blockage.

The following types of surgery are used to treat a bowel obstruction:

  • Removal of an intestinal mass or tumor
  • Resection (cutting away) of scars and adhesions (bands of scar tissue)
  • Repair of blood vessels
  • Cutting away an area of inflamed or dead intestinal tissue
  • Insertion of a metal stent (tube) into the intestine to open the blocked area
  • Ileostomy, which opens your abdominal wall to allow waste from your small intestine to exit your body through a stoma (opening) attached to a bag or pouch
  • Colostom, which removes the damaged or dead part of your large intestine (colon) and creates an opening in your abdominal wall to allow stool to exit your body through a stoma

Gut Health and Recovery: Ongoing Bowel Symptoms

Recovery from a partial bowel blockage can be a slow process. You may have to take your time to return to a normal diet and lifestyle. Lasting discomfort and bloating can occur after the bowel blockage clears. Even if a partial bowel blockage resolves, you still have the risk of another bowel blockage in the future.

You can help reduce ongoing bowel symptoms and your risk of another bowel blockage with the following strategies for maintaining gut health:

  • Maintain a balanced diet, avoiding foods that are difficult to digest or those that cause inflammation.
  • Drink the recommended amount of water.
  • Exercise regularly at an intensity recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Manage chronic conditions that can increase your risk of a bowel blockage.
  • Eat several small meals rather than three large meals daily to avoid straining your digestive system.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of another bowel blockage.


A partial bowel blockage is a serious problem that needs prompt treatment. While not as severe as a complete blockage, a partial blockage can worsen without treatment. This can increase your risk of having a severe infection in your intestine.

Do not ignore symptoms of a partial bowel blockage. Get medical care if you have sustained belly pain with vomiting and/or constipation.

If you have problems linked with a partial bowel blockage, contact your healthcare provider right away for an exam and diagnosis. They can advise whether at-home removal is best based on the cause and degree of your bowel blockage.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Anna Giorgi

Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.

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