Constipation is a condition that may be distinguished by a number of symptoms, including stomach aches, infrequent bowel movements, and unusually hard stools. An estimated 42 million Americans persistently suffer from the condition, making constipation one of the most common Gastro-intenstinal issues in the United States. Occasional bouts of these symptoms are typically nothing to worry about. However, chronic constipation may lead to more serious complications such as colonic conditions and urological disorders, while having an overall negative impact on quality of life.
At the core of constipation is an imbalance in the body that causes these uncomfortable symptoms. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes three main roots of constipation: an excess of cold in the body, an excess of warmth, and the disruption of qi, the vital force that keeps our energy flowing smoothly. While many may reach for over-the-counter laxatives to provide quick relief, practitioners of TCM understand that each of type of constipation needs to be treated differently. What’s more, prolonged use of these laxatives may form a dependency that can cause changes in the colon, possibly even leading to cancer.
The proper treatment of constipation depends on its cause. Those suffering from an excess of cold may find herbal remedies to be especially effective. These may include but are not limited to rhubarb, aloe, and bitter orange. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that an ancient six-herb formula was 82 percent more effective in increasing the number of bowel movements, while significantly lowering the number of laxative tablets needed.
In most causes of constipation, acupuncture may help alleviate the condition by opening the channels through which our qi flows. A variety of acupuncture points can be employed, depending on the needs of the patient.The most commonly used are known as tianshu (towards the middle of the stomach), da chang shu (lower back), daheng (mid outer stomach), and neiting (base of the second toe). These have been shown to help move qi into the lower abdomen, cool the intestines, and soften the stool. A 2010 study found that stimulating a combination of acupoints had a 68 percent effectiveness rate on symptoms of constipation, with tianshu perhaps being particularly useful.
As with all medical treatments, it’s important to meet with a qualified practitioner to determine the cause of your symptoms and help design a plan specifically for your needs. If you suffer from chronic constipation, acupuncture and other forms of TCM may be just what you need to find relief from the condition for good. Schedule an appointment today.