What is constipation?
Everyone has a different definition of constipation. Medically speaking, constipation is considered when you have less than 3 bowel movements per week. When a bowel movement does occur, it is often with difficulty and small in size. It is ideal if you have a bowel movement every day, however everyone has a unique body constitution and some of us only go every 2 or 3 days. Constipation can cause bloating, stomach discomfort, straining and a sensation of incomplete evacuation. This can cause a lot of stress on most of us which may affect us in other ways.
What causes it?
For me it’s travelling or going to some new places that I am uncomfortable with. For many, it is due to poor diet (especially lack of fiber), inactivity, dehydration, certain medications (common ones such as Antacids especially calcium and aluminium containing, Calcium supplements, Iron supplements) and other factors.
What are the different types of constipation?
In Chinese Medicine, we treat the root cause of the illness and not just the symptoms.
Constipation can occur when your body has:
Too much Heat
Too much Cold
Lack of Qi (vital life force)
Lack of Blood
Lack of Yin (the fluids in the body)
So, let’s break this down.
Causes: Excessive consumption of spicy or fried food and alcohol. Emotional upheavals, such as sudden grief or angry outbursts.
Symptoms: Dry, hard stools, sometimes with dark-coloured urine. Small and hard stools (like a rabbit/goat).You may also experience bloating, have a flushed red face, more prone to ulcers and acne, dry mouth and unquenchable thirst.
Causes: Superfood salads are healthy but prolonged eating of too much raw and cold food can cause your body constitution to weaken.
Symptoms: Stools may be normal or loose, but still difficult to pass out. Other signs are a pale complexion, cold hands and feet, cold and painful lower abdomen, frequent urination and burping. You may find yourself comfortable wearing thick jacket all the time while your friends are wearing T-shirts!
QI DEFICIENCY CONSTIPATION
Causes: Age, fatigue, after a serious illness or childbirth.
Symptoms: Stools may not be hard and have the sensation of passing but it just doesn’t come out. You need to strain constantly, leaving you feeling tired or even short of breath.
FUN FACT: The Lungs and Large Intestine are friends. They are paired organs of the Metal Element in Chinese medicine and have a very close inter-relationship. The Lung provides the Qi necessary for the Large Intestines to create wave-like muscle contractions that moves the stools. So someone with weak Lung Qi or have chronic lung illness, they are likely to have constipation.
BLOOD DEFICIENCY CONSTIPATION
Causes: Nutritional deficiencies, pulling all nighters, stress, or blood loss after surgery or childbirth.
Symptoms: Dry stools, pale complexion, a heart palpitations,shortness of breath, dizziness and blurred vision.
YIN DEFICIENCY CONSTIPATION
Causes:Chronic stage of a warm injured disease, overworking (can be studying, working, partying). When you’re not resting at night, you’re burning that Yin candle at both ends. This causes a relatively high Yang (heat). Imagine a see-saw, it the Yin is low, the Yang will become relatively high, hence the heaty symptoms.
Symptoms: Dry stools (like pebbles), hot flushed cheeks (similar to menopausal syndrome), irritable, sweating at night, hot palms and feet, low grade fever (just enough to make you feel bad).
Lifestyle changes to relieve constipation
Drink 2 to 4 extra cups of warm water.Drink a cup of warm water first thing in the morning and.
Eat prunes. Or if you don’t like it, drink prune juice.
If you hate prunes, maybe you can try dragonfruits (red or white).
Take probiotics. Start from 5 billion CFU.
Eat soluble fibre- Oats, legumes, chickpeas, beans, peas.
Eat Okra (ladyfinger)
The slimy mess is good for constipation. Just boil it whole, dip it in soya sauce and enjoy. Just leave the top cap portion as it will be a little tough. If you cut it before boiling, the slime will come out and you will not be able to enjoy the benefits. Or if you’re lazy like me, just chop raw okra really small, mix with half a cup of water and mix well until the slim thickens. Pour onto brown rice, top up with poached egg and season with herbs & spices to your liking.
Try squatty potty
Schedule a day and make it a habit. My father always made me sit in the toilet before going to school and my bowels have stuck to its schedule (well, most of the time) until today! It’s almost like there is a timer in my stomach. It may take some time but it’s great to give it a try.
Together with lifestyle changes, you can also try these simple acupuncture points.
Pressing acupuncture points can be done at home and doesn’t take much time.
Why you should press acupuncture points?
Instead of using acupuncture needles, pressing the acupuncture points (acupressure) relies on using your fingers to push on acupoints on specific sites on the body. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that the body’s vital energy, or qi, flows along invisible channels called meridians.
Imagine the MRT or subway train lines. Those lines are meridians and each station is a acupuncture points. If the trains stop halfway, the lines will be stuck and commuters will be frustrated. So some maintenance work has to be done to fix it.
So, pressing the acupuncture points are like doing maintenance work so that trains (Qi) will flow smoothly on the lines (meridians) and dissipate all frustration/ pain.
How to press acupuncture points?
Use your thumb and/or index finger.
Find the points and apply prolonged finger pressure directly on the point.
Add gradual, steady, penetrating pressure for approximately 3 minutes.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 daily for best results.
When you press, each point will feel somewhat different. You may not feel much on some points while other points (on legs and arms) will feel tense or sore when pressed. The general guideline to press until the point hurts good- somewhere between pain and pleasure.
Pressing an acupuncture point is not a test of pain endurance!
Do not keep pressing it if it is very painful.
Sometimes the points may feel painful in the beginning but will pain will diminish after some time.
Do note that you may feel sore or tingling sensation on other parts of the body. For example, pressing Zhu San Li on the leg can cause a electric feeling all the way to the toes. This phenomenon is called “Radiating Pain” and indicates that those areas are related and connected.
Don’t worry, keep calm and press the points to release blockage.
Which acupuncture points to press?
These are some simple points you can try at home. In Chinese Medicine, we use the measurement “cun”.
As everyone’s body is different, all measurements are calculated in proportional length.
ZHONG WAN 中脘 CV12
On the stomach, 4 cun above belly button.
TIAN SHU 天枢 ST25
On the stomach, 2 cun beside the belly button. Press both right and left sides.
ZHI GOU 支沟 SJ6
On the back of forearm,3 cun above the wrist line and between the 2 bones (radius and ulna).
SHANG JU XU 上巨虚 ST37
On the leg, 6 cun below the knee cap and 1 finger width away (towards the outside) from the tibia bone.
Example: On your right leg, use right fingers 3 cun then place left fingers 3 cun below to get 6 cun.
Hope these tips helped!
Do you have any other techniques that worked for you?
Please share in the comments 🙂