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