How often should I be going?
- In a perfect world, we should be emulating dogs! 20-30 minutes
after each meal. And the stool should be moist, well-formed,
and easy to pass. But given our modern lifestyle, we need to
recognize that every individual has their own rhythms. For some,
once a day works fine.
- Movement inside and out is the key to a healthy body. Our
Gastro-Intestinal system, from mouth to anus is over 30 feet
long. That means there is a great potential to get things “stuck.”
How did I get backed up?
- Lifestyle: dairy consumption, coffee intake, high fat, high protein, low fiber diets; low water
intake, smoking, excessive diuretic use (including caffeine, coffee, and sodas); being largely sedentary; an unresolved common
cold or flu; chronic laxative use damaging nerve cells within
the intestinal wall; pain medications; iron supplements; depression
and stress; high calcium levels and low thyroid hormone levels;
secondary to other systemic disease conditions.
- WHAT you eat is important, but also keep in mind WHY you eat,
WHEN you eat, and HOW you eat.
- Excess Conditions
- Heat: Heat dries you out, depleting your colon of necessary
“water to float the boat.” Symptoms include: dry
hard stool, urge to go but difficulty passing, red complexion,
bad breath, dark yellow urine, dry mouth and thirst, headaches,
red eyes, dry skin and eyes, fever, excessive sweating, and
an insatiable appetite.
- Food Stagnation: Overindulgence of food with a sedentary
lifestyle creates a lack of movement inside and out. Symptoms
include: constipation or sluggish bowels, possibly alternating
with loose foul-smelling diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, acid
reflux, gas, bloating and distention, burping, and a decreased
- Qi Stagnation: Stress can disrupt the natural movement
of peristalsis in the intestines. Symptoms include: feeling
incomplete or sluggish, having little or no urge to go, abdominal
distention or pain which decreases after the bowel movement,
irritability or moodiness, poor appetite, frequent burping,
gas or sighing, PMS, or shallow breathing.
- Deficient Conditions
- Blood Deficiency: Blood moistens the intestines; common
in post-partum women, elderly, chronic bleeding conditions.
Symptoms include: general dryness, palpitations, anxiety, poor
memory, insomnia, numbness or tingling in limbs.
- Qi Deficiency: Qi provides the motive force, or peristalsis,
in the Intestines to move stool. Symptoms include: no urge to
go, difficult to pass, soft stools, tired post-movement, pale
complexion, fatigue, low voice, spontaneous sweating, low appetite,
bloating with meals.
- Yin Deficiency: Yin fluids moisten the intestines,
can come from an acute viral attack or prolonged depletion of
Yin due to age, improper eating habits, drug use, or decreased
fluid intake. Symptoms include: dry stools, general dryness,
thirst, malar flush, hot palms/soles of feet, dizziness, tinnitus,
low back/knee pain, hunger but no desire to eat.
- Yang Deficiency with Cold: Most common in the elderly,
Yang is the active motive force that propels stool through the
intestines which can naturally decline with age; poor fluid
metabolism; cold accumulation. Symptoms include: stools that
are hard to expel or dry, exhaustion post-BM, copious clear
urine, nocturia, scanty urination, pitting edema, cold limbs,
abdominal pain which is better with warmth, pale complexion,
low back/knee pain or coldness.
What can I do about my constipation?
- Dietary and Lifestyle changes: Food is the first medicine.
For Excess conditions, eliminate or substantially reduce the
offending foods. For Deficient conditions, support your body’s
weaknesses. Pro-biotics like Acidophilus, garlic, high fiber,
more water and veggies, high-fiber pectin foods like apples
carrots, beets, citrus fruits.
- Excess Heat: bitter, cool, pungent foods; raw foods
like fruits and veggies, decrease proteins to primarily fish;
avoid spicy or overly spiced and complicated meals. Short-term
use of purgatives like Aloe, senna, rhubarb, prunes.
- Food Stagnation: smaller portions, ginger tea, digestive
enzymes pre-meal, exercise, eat dinner earlier; veggies and
complex carbs, decrease fats and heavier proteins.
- Qi stagnation: similar to Food Stagnation, but here
it’s all about stress!
- Blood Deficiency: increase animal proteins, especially
chicken; stocks; organic foods, green leafy veggies and seaweeds/algaes.
Avoid overly spiced foods.
- Qi Deficiency: lightly cook all veggies, avoiding raw
foods; soups and stews, broths; chew your food more thoroughly;
simpler combinations of foods; smaller portions and more frequent
meals. Pro-biotics and enzymes.
- Yin Deficiency: similar to Blood Deficiency, nourishing
roots, soups, and stews; seeds and beans can moisten; rich-colored
veggies, Pro-biotics and enzymes; Flax seed oil! Avoid overly
spiced foods, coffee, and other stimulants like caffeine.
- Yang Deficiency: same as Qi Deficiency, but more warming
foods are indicated; avoid cold raw foods. Cinnamon, Ginger,
Cloves and Garlic are indicated.
- Acupuncture and Chinese Medicinal Herbs: Your second and
third lines of defense. Sometimes, modifying your daily food
intake is not enough, and you need some extra assistance. Working
together, we can create a specific treatment plan to meet your
individual needs. This can include Acupuncture, a Chinese Medicinal
Herbal Formula, and Nutritional and Lifestyle Counseling.
- Cautions about Over-the-Counter laxatives. Though they may
be immediately helpful, they are really just a band-aid treating
the symptom without correcting the underlying problem. And long-term
use can significantly weaken the health of the muscles of your
intestinal wall, can deplete your body of healthy bacteria,
and can lead to increasing tolerance which means higher and
higher dosing needs to achieve the same effect. There are 4
- bulk-forming agents (fiber)
- stool softeners,
- osmotic agents (Milk of Magnesia, Epsom Salts), and
- stimulant laxatives (senna).
© Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2007. All
The information presented here is not medical
advice, is not intended as medical advice, and is intended to
provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese
Medicine and Acupuncture and is not intended to cover all the
issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed
health practitioner before using any of this information.
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