According to Mayo clinic, constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) lists constipation as a symptom or syndrome, referring to infrequent bowel movements, a consistency that is too hard, and evacuation that is too difficult, which includes acute and chronic constipation. Chronic constipation is also closely related to other whole organs and meridians, blood or body fluids, and mental or emotional functions. For example, problems of the spleen, stomach, liver and kidneys can also contribute to constipation.
The two main causes of constipation are lack of fluid nourishment in the intestines and generally weak internal energy (Qi) flow, making it difficult to move the bowels. So there could be excessive heat/yang energy, or deficiency of Yin energy or stagnation of Qi, dampness or phlegm.
More and more people suffer from constipation as it is linked to severe psychological pressure, increased stress levels, fatigue, lack of physical exercise and insufficient water intake.
Why are regular bowel movements important?
Regular bowel movements are important for good health as they eliminate toxins in waste. Buildup of toxins is unhealthy as these toxins can be reabsorbed and cause other problems.
Persistent constipation may cause acne, facial discoloration, hemorrhoids and damage to the liver and intestines. Yes! Our gut and skin are closely related and interdependent on each other. Our gut is responsible for digesting our food and absorbing nutrients and filtering waste products. These nutrients are needed for building and repair of our skin and other parts of the body.
Our guts also contain lots of bacteria that may release chemicals that subsequently affect our skin conditions, hence having healthy gut flora is key to having healthy skin! When we are constipated, toxins and waste are not eliminated and can be reabsorbed causing a lot of other problems including many skin problems as listed below.
TCM classifies constipation into six categories according to their different causes: excessive heat in digestive system, stagnation of energy (Qi) flow, insufficient Qi, blood and Yin or Yang energy.
Excessive heat: Dry stools, dry mouth, bad breath, bloated
Qi stagnation: difficulty passing bowels even with normal stools, bloated with gas, pain
Qi Deficiency: May feel urge but difficulty in passing bowels, need a lot of strength with sweating with shortness of breath, very tired/drained after pooping
Yang deficiency: Normal stools but may experience difficulty in passing bowels, abdomen feels cold and painful
Blood deficiency: dry stools, looks pale, may have palpitations and dizziness
Yin Deficiency: hard and small shaped poop like pepples, slim/skinny body type, dizziness and tinnitus, feeling upset and can’t sleep well
Please consult your local Singapore TCM Doctor or Singapore TCM Clinics to find out your body type and constipation type. The symptoms are just one of the ways to diagnose but your body constitution also affects the treatment. Please do not self-medicate.
How to avoid or treat constipation?
Try to develop the habit of a daily bowel movement with a routine.
Do not suppress any bowel urges.
Drink plenty of water, eat more fruit and vegetable fibres (especially coarse fibre like celery, corn, oats)
Avoid indulging in too much alcohol, spicy, oily, fried foods too often
Incorporate light exercise into your daily routine to stimulate Qi flow
Try massaging the belly with both hands, clockwise for 15 minutes twice a day.
Supplement food/herbs according to the type of constipation:
Excessive heat type - take more cooling, nourishing foods such as: pears, cucumber, bittergourd, carrots, celery, lettuce
Qi stagnation type - Take more foods that promote soft stools and ease bowel movements such as banana, papaya, orange, milk and yogurt, seaweed.
Insufficient Qi and Blood/ yang energy type – Take more walnuts, sesame, almonds and other oil-rich nuts, sweet potato, radish, chinese yam
Blood / yin deficiency - take more yin and blood nourishing foods such as sesame, peanuts, honey, mulberry.
Hawthorne can relieve constipation that is caused by eating too much high-protein and fatty food- read more about Benefits of Hawthorne.