How does Chinese medicine think about constipation and unhealthy bowel movement?

How does Chinese medicine think about constipation and unhealthy bowel movement?

Chinese medicine views that a normal bowel movement should occur once or twice a day and be relatively easy to pass. The stool will ideally be formed 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.

Constipation and unhealthy bowel movement is a common problem which can involve any of the symptoms below:

  • a prolonged time between the passage of stools
  • excessively dry stools
  • difficulty in passing or straining to pass a stool
  • the desire to have a bowel movement with no ability to do so

For many it can be an uncomfortable and frustrating condition, without resolve, even after following diet and lifestyle suggestions to assist in improving bowel movements. It is also common for many to dismiss their irregularity as being normal for them.

Chinese medicine uses the condition of bowel movements as important clues to help identify internal disorders. Abnormal bowel movements indicate a disorder involving the internal organs.

The causes of constipation can be many and Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the tools of tongue and pulse diagnosis along with extensive investigation into each individual’s symptoms to make a diagnosis. Some causes of constipation can be as follows:

  • Excessive heat in the body, especially the large intestine which can result in such symptoms as dry/hard stools, dark urine, dry mouth/thirst, red complexion.
  • Energy/Qi deficiency in the large intestine resulting in symptoms like stools which are difficult to pass but are not hard or dry, tiredness, fatigue, pale complexion.
  • Kidney deficiency which can result in dry stools which can be like pellets, dry skin, dry hair, night sweats, tinnitus, dizziness.
  • Liver energy/Qi stagnation causing symptoms like stools which are difficult to pass, a feeling of not being completely cleared after a bowel movement, irritability, abdominal bloating, belching, flatulence, pre-menstrual syndrome.

Following a diagnosis of the underlying cause of the constipation, traditional Chinese medicine then treats the underlying cause of the problem in order to balance the body and allow bowel movements to become regular. A practitioner may suggest lifestyle or dietary changes to assist the condition and commence acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs to help ease the symptoms.

Abnormal bowel movement need to be treated as soon as possible. If leaving it for longer period, it can potentially lead to following disease: haemorrhoid, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, diabetes, obesity and colon cancer.

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Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.