Whatever comes in has to come out, in some form.
I have addressed this over and over in my clinical practice almost daily.
It’s might be a cultural taboo to talk about poop but the “nasty” waste comes out from our body tells a story of what’s happening inside.
If you experience infrequent bowel movement, belly pain, bloating and the sense of incompleteness on a regular basis, you might be having chronic constipation.
In traditional Chinese medicine, constipation is not just a symptom by itself. It also explains the pattern of illness that the patient is going through.
The conventional treatment of chronic constipation includes stool softeners, laxatives, extra fiber, and diet change. Doctors would also suggest to increase hydration and reduce stress. As these are good and effective treatment, traditional Chinse looks at constipation with a different light.
TCM sees every function of our body is operating on Qi (or energy). This “Qi” dominates the moving, transporting, transforming, differentiating and fortifying function in our body. Bowel movement is one of the functions that incorporates all mentioned above.
When we ingest food, our stomach qi starts to move and transport. The spleen qi starts to transform the food into the nutritive and the dampness(the waste) and the nutritive qi then is transported to the small intestine and the large intestine to be differentiated.
The differentiating Qi is dominated by Spleen, Liver, Lung, and Kidney. With the function of differentiation, our body is able to keep the nutrients and expel the waste.
When our body is encountered with pathogens from an external source(like infections) or an internal source(like stress), we can restore to a normal function fairly quickly if we are in a good balance.
Essentially in TCM, treating constipation emphasizes the movement of Qi. In order to move freely, it’s important to let the movement unobstructed.
And the movement of Qi is greatly influenced by the emotions and physical activities.
When there is Qi stagnation, the movement slows down. It can easily show on your digestive system. One of the most common symptoms is constipation or bloating.
“When there is stagnation, there is pain and the pathogens gather and where the pathogens gather, the Qi will be weakened”. According to Yellow Emperor of Internal Classics, the Qi needs to flow freely like water flows in the river.
When the flow is obstructed, the obstruction can be a harbor of pathogens. In TCM, the six external pathogens are wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness, and fire along with internal pathogens: blood stasis, food stagnation, phlegm obstruction, parasitic obstruction, and seven emotional trauma. Qi stagnation can be combined with one or more of these six pathogens.
When initially, constipation can be simply caused by Qi stagnation, it can turn into something more complicated with other pathogens.
The treatment principle of constipation is to soothe the Qi movement and then clear the pathogens accordingly. Clearing and draining the most common therapeutic methods as we treat constipation. But keep in mind that clearing and draining can also damage the Qi. Therefore I would recommend tonification with acupuncture and herbs.
In treating constipation, acute or chronic, encourage the movement is the most important method. Secondly, we also need to protect and tonify the Qi in the middle Jiao. ( The digestive system).
Traditional Chinese Medicine always seeks a balance between the dynamics of the human body and the change of the environment. The keep factor is Qi.
If we have unobstructed Qi flow, like the meandering river, we are able to transform the nutrient freely and transport the waste out of our system. That’s a balance between human and nature.