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Home > Newsletters > September 2005 > Constipation


By Jasmine Sufi, L.Ac.

Constipation is the dreaded symptom that most people have experienced at one point in their life. Constipation is the catch all phrase for a wide variety of signs and symptoms, when one or more of the following signs are experienced you are categorized as constipated:

  • Infrequent bowel movements

  • Passage of small amounts of hard and dry stool

  • Difficult passage of stool of normal consistency, common in elderly people over 65 years of age

  • Painful passage of hard and dry stool

  • Straining during bowel movements and feeling of incomplete evacuation

  • Frequent straining during bowel movements causing hemorrhoids

  • Frequent stretching of sphincters by hard stool causing fissures.

Normal bowel movements vary from person to person and can range from 3 times a day to three times a week. Normal applies to the individualís regular bowel habits that are not accompanied with discomfort. Constipation is fairly common and usually temporary. If constipation persists for an extended period of time, you should consult your physician.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Acupuncture treatments are usually very effective in relieving constipation. However, long term persistent constipation must be examined by your physician to ensure that there is no underlying disease or disorder that is the cause. Once other factors have been eliminated one can pursue acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an effective modality.

The cause of constipation according to Chinese medicine can be divided into two broad categories excess type and deficiency type.

Excess type includes:

  • Heat constipation

  • Qi stagnation

General signs and symptoms for this category of constipation include:
Acute onset, short duration, severe signs and symptoms, this type of condition has an excellent prognosis with acupuncture treatments.

Deficiency type includes:

  • Cold constipation

  • Deficiency constipation

General signs ad symptoms for this category of constipation include:
Slow onset, long duration, mild signs and symptoms, this type of condition has a slow response to acupuncture treatment.

The conditions are broken down further into specific signs and symptoms.

Heat constipation
Signs and symptoms:
Dry and hard stool, difficult and painful elimination, Extended time between bowel movements, more than three days, abdominal fullness and pain aggravated by pressure, dry mouth and bad breath, flushed face and restless, desire for cold drinks, scanty and yellowish urine.

Treatment: Acupuncture is very successful with this condition.

Qi Stagnation Constipation
Signs and Symptoms:
Normal to dry stool, straining during bowel movement and sensation of incomplete evacuation, abdominal fullness and a distending hypochondriac pain and frequent belching.

Treatment: Acupuncture is very effective for this type of condition.

Cold Constipation
Signs and Symptoms:
Normal or dry stool but very difficult evacuation, pale or pallor complexion, abdominal cold pain or even prolapsed rectum, desire for warmth and aversion to cold, cold limbs and soreness in the knees and the lumbar region, profuse and clear urine.

Treatment: Acupuncture would be effective but would be slow to respond. Herbal medicine would be a great addition to treat this condition. Ji Chuan Jian plus Rou Gui would be a good prescription.

Qi and Blood Deficiency Constipation
Signs and Symptoms:
Normal stool, strained elimination and sweaty and exhausted after bowel movements, blood deficiency marked by very hard and dry stool but regular bowel movements, pale and lusterless complexion, dizziness and palpitations, listlessness and lassitude, shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating.head

Treatment: Acupuncture would be effective but would be slow to respond. Herbal medicine would be a great addition to treat this condition. Good examples of prescriptions would include Huang Qi Tang or Run Chang Wan. The prescription would depend on the individualís specific condition and these prescriptions should always be taken from a qualified herbalist.

Constipation is a very common occurrence, it only becomes a problem when it persists for long periods of time. Advice you can incorporate into your life to prevent complications include responding to the urge to defecate, making fiber an essential part of your diet, drinking adequate amounts of water and do not over use laxatives and enemas. Beyond having incorporating the above if constipation is still a part of your life, acupuncture can be a great alternative to relieve your discomfort and solve the problem from the inside out.

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September, 2005
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