What is Constipation?
Constipation is a digestive condition, which tends to be more common in older people. If you have less than three bowel movements per week, and your stool is dry or hard you are probably suffering from constipation. Read on to find out more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for constipation, and how Chinese Medicine can help.
You may be constipated if you experience symptoms like:
- Hard, lumpy, or dry stools
- Having a full feeling even after a bowel motion
- Passing stool less than three times per week
- Having trouble passing stool, straining, or painful bowel movements
Although everyone’s “normal” for bowel movements is different, some symptoms may indicate more serious conditions. Seek medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Blood in your stool or rectum
- Persistent pain in your abdomen
- Vomiting or fever
- Lower back pain
- Feeling like gas is trapped in your abdomen
- Sudden changes in bowel movements or unexplained weight loss
What Causes Constipation?
There are many factors that can contribute to constipation. One of the main factors is eating a diet low in fibre. Not drinking enough water can also be a big contributor. Eating enough soluble and insoluble fibres (which are found in plant foods) combined with drinking enough water can help to increase the size and weight of stools, while softening them to make bowel movements easier. Other factors which can lead to constipation include not exercising enough, not passing stool when you have the urge, stress, some medications, and pregnancy.
How Can I Prevent Constipation?
Even if you don’t suffer from constipation, you can try out these three easy tips to help prevent the condition.
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise daily if possible
- Eat many vegetables, whole grains, and fruits
These handy tips can help to ensure that your bathroom experience is a healthy one.
The two main forms of treatment for constipation are lifestyle choices and medications. You’ll be happy to hear that most cases of constipation can be relieved by adjusting your lifestyle to include more exercise, water, and plant foods, while reducing low fibre foods (like meat and dairy) and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake. Whenever you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, try not to delay as this can harden your stool. Instead, allow yourself plenty of time to use the bathroom, and assist the process by placing your feet on a low footstool.
When you experience constipation, check with your doctor if it could be a side effect of any medication that you are currently taking. Otherwise, your doctor may recommend taking over the counter or prescription medications to treat your constipation. There are many over the counter laxatives available but try not to use these for more than two weeks as your body can become dependent on them.
How Can Chinese Medicine Treat Constipation?
If you’re having annoying constipation problems and need an extra boost to help solve the problem, Chinese Medicine is a great option! Chinese Medicine works by addressing the underlying issue that’s causing your symptoms. This can often be an underlying imbalance of the organs or energies within your body. Based on your individual health situation, your Chinese Medicine practitioner will be able to treat your condition with natural techniques like Chinese herbs or acupuncture.
Researchers have studied Chinese herbal medicines and found that they can be effective at treating constipation. For example, “MZRW [modified Ma Zi Ren Wan] is effective in bringing global improvement in constipation for 59.3% of patients (vs 28.6% in placebo group) with no serious adverse effects. It is more effective than placebo in increasing the number of bowel movements, and reducing the severity of constipation and the straining of defecation.”
Similarly, another study found that, “Acupuncture treatment could be beneficial for chronic constipation in patients with DOC [chronic disorders of consciousness] caused by TBI [severe traumatic brain injury].”
Overall, constipation is when you have difficulty with bowel movements, which may be hard, dry, and infrequent. This condition is often caused by lifestyle choices like low fibre diets and not exercising enough. Not surprisingly, it can also be treated and prevented with lifestyle adjustments like drinking more water, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising regularly. Chinese Medicine is also a natural and holistic treatment for constipation, as it addresses the root cause of the condition.
Moores, D. (2021, September 29). What You Should Know About Constipation. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation
Cheng, C-W., Mok, H-F., Yau, C.W.S. et al. (2022). A pilot randomized placebo-controlled study on modified MaZiRenWan: A formulated Chinese medicine to relieve constipation for palliative cancer patients. Chinese Medicine, 17(31) . https://doi.org/10.1186/s13020-022-00580-0
Matsumoto-Miyazaki, J., Asano, Y., Takei, H., Ikegame, Y., & Shinoda, J. (2019). Acupuncture for chronic constipation in patients with chronic disorders of consciousness after severe traumatic brain injury. Medical Acupuncture, 31(4), 218–223. https://doi.org/10.1089/acu.2019.1361