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Constipation and Your Health

by Joshua Schneider

Today we are going to tackle a topic that is not very comfortable to talk about but is very important to your health: regular bowel movements. Or rather, the lack thereof - also known as constipation.

Are you aware of how often you have a bowel movement?

Most people pay little attention to their bowels unless there is a problem like constipation or diarrhea. At Cloud Gate, your Chinese Medicine practitioner and Acupuncturist will always ask you about your bowels as it gives us a strong indication of how you are functioning internally.

What is considered a normal bowel movement in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

A normal bowel movement is about once or twice a day.

The stool should be formed, not too hard or dry and the smell should not be excessive. The movement should be easy and effortless, and after the bowel movement, one should feel finished. It should be light brown in color and not contain any undigested food, mucous or blood.

Constipation is one of the most common problems with the bowels. The symptoms of true constipation are:
• Infrequent bowel movements
• Hard and dry stool that is very difficult to pass
• Bowel movements with straining

If your bowels are not moving at least every other day, you may be constipated, and your health may be adversely affected.

 In today’s society, a number of factors can affect the regularity of our bowels including:
• Dietary habits
• Mental and emotional balance
• Exercise habits
• Chronic Health Conditions and/or Medications

Irregular or Improper diet:

• Improper diet is one of the most common causes of constipation. Eating excessive amounts of fried, greasy, processed foods that are hot in nature may dry up essential fluids that our bodies need for optimal bowel movement function. Eating these foods on a regular basis can lead to chronic constipation.
• Eating at different times each day can also cause constipation.
• Lack of fiber in food is also a major cause of constipation and disease in the Western world

Generally, by eating foods that are high in fiber such fruits and vegetables can improve bowel habits. Try to eat fresh, organic, and unprocessed foods. Chia and flax seeds are also another great source of fiber.

Emotional stress:

Emotional stress affects the bowel movement mostly through the Liver and the Spleen in Chinese Medicine. Emotional problems such as anger, resentment or frustration over a long period of time may cause stagnation of our internal energy or Qi (chee). This stagnate Qi can lead to constricted flow in our digestive systems and lead to constipation.

In Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine is in charge of ‘letting go,’ both figuratively and literally. If you are having trouble ‘letting go’ of something or someone emotionally, you may develop constipation over time.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of mental and emotional stress in your life such as acupuncture, tuina (Chinese massage), CranioSacral Therapy, sitting meditation, qi gong exercise, tai chi, yoga, and breath work.

Lack of exercise:

Lack of exercise is another important cause of constipation in the Western world. Exercise stimulates peristalsis of the Large Intestine. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, lack of exercise may cause weakness in our digestive systems leading to stagnation of energy or Qi, thus leading to slower bowel movements.

Getting more daily exercise such as walking after meals, qi gong, tai chi, yoga, and going to the gym can stimulate peristalsis.

Health Conditions and Medications:

Certain health conditions (such as hypothyroidism) may also cause constipation. Constipation may also be a side effect of certain medications.

Chronic constipation can lead to other diseases and may have a huge adverse affect on your health. If you believe that you may be constipated, talk with a Chinese Medicine practitioner to help you get to the root of your condition.

Regular bowel movements help to prevent illness and disease and are actually a major part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact us.