You are considered to be suffering from constipation if you are having less than 3 bowel movements per week. You may also feel some abdominal pain and bloating, and may experience straining with your bowel movements. Quite often, the cause of this condition is simply your stool moving too slowly through your intestinal tract, and you can find relief in changing your diet. However, sometimes a change in diet is not enough, and a natural therapy such as acupuncture (a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)) needs to be employed. Luckily, acupuncture has a great success rate when it comes to treating constipation.
In TCM, it is taught that you should ideally have a bowel movement once or twice per day, that your stool should be light-brown in colour, be roughly cylindrical in shape, and should be a few inches in length. Factors that can slow your bowels include your diet, age, emotional health, level of exercise, pregnancy, or an illness. The main organs involved in a TCM diagnosis of constipation may include your Stomach, Large Intestine, Spleen, Liver and Kidneys (these terms are capitalized to differentiate them from their scientific definitions). Beyond the organ(s) involved in your constipation, your TCM practitioner will also diagnose you according to how dry your stool is, whether or not you are experiencing any abdominal pain, and the colour and shape of your stool.
As with any TCM pattern, it is essential that you are first diagnosed as being either in excess or in deficiency. The excess patterns related to constipation include those associated with Heat, Qi Stagnation, or Cold. The deficiency patterns related to constipation include Qi deficiency, Blood deficiency, or Yin or Yang deficiency. Once your TCM practitioner has determined whether your pattern is one of excess or deficiency, they will proceed to determine which organs are involved. For example, if you are suffering from Heat having caused your constipation, this Heat may be residing in your Liver organ system. Such a pattern often exhibits other symptoms such as thirst, a bitter taste in your mouth, headache, and irritability. Symptoms that might accompany constipation with Qi deficiency include fatigue, pale complexion, and straining with a feeling of no energy to push. Determining your pattern type for any digestive complaint is extremely important when it comes to relieving you of your issue. Be sure to seek the care of a Registered TCM Practitioner, who is properly trained in acupuncture and other modalities of TCM, including herbal medicine.
Along with your acupuncture treatment, you will likely be given some lifestyle advice that can help with your constipation. For example, it may be suggested that you exercise more, or even less, depending on your pattern type. Your diet will certainly play a part in your overall treatment plan, and where necessary, other TCM modalities such as cupping therapy, auricular therapy, or herbal medicine may be recommended.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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