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Home > Newsletters > April 2008 > Constipation is an Imbalance

Constipation is an Imbalance

By Ban B. Wong, L.Ac.

There are many ways to bring a smile to someone’s face and having a healthy bowel movement is one of them.

In ancient China, constipation was not a rare condition. When the Emperor of China was constipated, his doctors would have to move heaven and earth to help him have a bowel movement. Fortunately, wise ancient Chinese doctors found that acupuncture and herbs helped the Emperor regain regularity in his bowel movements.

Constipation can be one of the most painful and agonizing experiences and it has defined human existence both historically and cross-culturally. A low fiber diet, insufficient water intake, stress, lack of exercise, pain medications and pregnancy are some common precursors to constipation. What is considered a normal number of bowel movements is a commonly asked question. Bowel rhythms can be as unique as people, and these can vary from 3 times a day to 3 times a week. Constipation, however, is defined as not having a bowel movement for more than 3 days or having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week. When should you see your doctor? If your bowel movements fit the above mentioned definition you should consult with your doctor. You should also seek medical advice if you are having regular bowel movements but have difficulty in passing the stool or the stool is hard. If you have a sensation of not having completely evacuated your bowels, or if you have periods of constipation alternating with episodes of diarrhea you may also want to see your doctor.

Should I self medicate? Please be aware that the overuse of laxatives and enemas that stimulate peristalsis (muscle contraction) in the large intestines can ultimately tire the intestinal muscle and result in complications. Overuse of laxatives can cause dependence, as the bowel will eventually not move unless it is stimulated by these medications. Using bulk forming laxatives such as bran, prunes, psyllium husk, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which naturally add fibers and fluid to the gut to help promote bowel movement, are a much safer alternative. Making sure you ingest plenty of fluids, exercise regularly, and ensure a high fiber diet are great ways to prevent constipation.

The following is a list of foods that promote regular bowel movements:

• Grains such as bran cereals, oats, brown rice and rye

• Fresh or dried fruits such as prunes, cherry, pears, apricots and figs

• Vegetables such as spinach, brussel sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, and carrots

• Legumes such as chick peas, baked beans, lima beans and soybeans

Chinese Herbs Helpful for Constipation

Da Huang (Rhubarb rhizome)
Sheng Di Huang (Chinese Foxglove root)
Zhi Ke (Unripe Bitter Orange)  
Dang Gui (Tang Kwei root)  
Tao Ren (Peach seed kernel)  
Mai Men Dong (Ophthipogon tuber)  

Chinese Medicine considers constipation as an imbalance in Qi (energy) and Blood (fluids) of the intestines. But bad food/drink choices and lack of exercise are not the only causes of constipation; negative emotions can also block the energy and deplete the fluids in the intestines. It is important to address all potential causes of constipation so that you can be on your way to smooth and harmonious bowel movements.

This Month's Articles

April 2008
Volume 6, Number 4

Mushrooms: The Ultimate Longevity Food  

Constipation is an Imbalance

What Happened to Mississippi House Bill 724

Recent Research

Ask The Doctor

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