Functional Constipation - A Chinese Medicine Perspective
What Is Constipation
The definition of Constipation is for an individual to have three or fewer bowel movements in a week. The stool can be hard, dry and/or pellet like. Sometimes it is painful to pass and at time there may be blood.
Research has shown that when compared with medication, acupuncture was more effective and had fewer adverse effect in the treatment of constipation [1,2]. Acupuncture increased stool frequency, improved stool formation, alleviated constipation symptoms, and improved quality of life .
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Constipation
Functional constipation is a common clinical complaint. While this may not be the primary complaint patients present with, moving the bowels will often help in a patient’s overall treatment progress and improve their general health.
Essentially, one or more of the following can contribute to constipation:
- Inappropriate diet,
- Chronic dehydration,
- Lack of physical exercise/activity, and
- Excessive stress
- Overwork and childbirth
- Febrile disease
Chinese medicine asserts that a normal bowel movement should occur once or twice a day and be relatively easy to pass. The stool will ideally be formed in the shape of a banana without being too hard or dry and any smell should be mild. There should be no pain or burning when passing the stool and it should not contain any blood or mucous. At the end of the movement one should feel cleared and completely empty.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a disease has two aspects: disease entity/symptom and pattern/cause. Pattern is more important because it explains the aetiology of a disease entity, and the therapy will be chosen according to the pattern rather than disease: patients with the same disease entity (symptom) but different patterns will receive different therapy; vice versa, patients with similar patterns may receive similar therapy even if their diseases or clinical manifestations are different .
When looking at constipation, there are usually underlying TCM patterns. These can be summarised as follows:
- Chronic interior heat: — Heat in the Stomach and Large Intestine — Heat in the Liver
- Acute heat in febrile disease: — Acute Large Intestine- and Stomach-Fire
- Stagnation of Liver-Qi
- Qi deficiency
- Yang deficiency
- Blood deficiency
- Yin deficiency COLD
- Spleen- and Kidney-Yang deficiency with Cold
At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre our team of highly qualified and experience practitioners will identify the underlying issue and help you in regaining normal bowel health. Simply call (02) 4573 0784
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
- Eating healthy, fresh, unprocessed foods. Avoid processed and fast-foods at all times.
- Eating three meals a day. Your body requires energy during the course of a day, thus eat a good, healthy breakfast (this should be a substantial amount of fresh food); the least amount of energy required by your body is at night, therefore eat the smallest meal at night.
- Physical activity/exercise daily e.g.: Yoga, Tai Qi or Qi Gong. Practicing any one of these or going to the gym, walking, swimming, etc. at least 4x a week for at least 30 min each time will improve movement of the intestines.
- Stress management using relaxation and/or meditation.
1. Bai, T., Song, C., Zheng, C., & Huang, G. (2016). Acupuncture for the treatment of functional constipation. Journal of traditional Chinese medicine = Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan, 36(5), 578–587. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0254-6272(16)30076-0
2. Lee, H. Y., Kwon, O. J., Kim, J. E., Kim, M., Kim, A. R., Park, H. J., Cho, J. H., Kim, J. H., & Choi, S. M. (2018). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture for functional constipation: a randomised, sham-controlled pilot trial. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 18(1), 186. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2243-4
3. Wang, L., Xu, M., Zheng, Q., Zhang, W., & Li, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Management of Functional Constipation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 6137450. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/6137450
4. Shen, M., Cui, Y., Hu, M., & Xu, L. (2017). Quantifying traditional Chinese medicine patterns using modern test theory: an example of functional constipation. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 17(1), 44. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-016-1518-x