Constipation Natural Treatments
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
The human bowel system is like the sewer system - if the sewers get clogged, the waste backs up and spills into the house. If your bowels are not moving, all the toxins and waste products of daily living remain and recirculate in your body, leading to disease. With constipation there is trouble emptying the bowels daily, and stools may be dry and hard, making them difficult to pass and forcing you to strain. In some cases, you may experience incomplete passing of the stool and feel the urge to have a bowel movement after you’ve just had one.
Many people suffer from constipation in Western cultures, where sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and stress are prevalent. Constipation is caused by a fiber deprived diet, hormonal changes, side effects from pain medications, illnesses, and, in some cases, misshapen intestines. Regular bowel movements are essential for a long, healthy, and productive life.
In Chinese medicine, the bowels are recognized as being connected to the liver and spleen digestive systems. Besides improper diet, many cases of constipation are due to prolonged stress and emotional imbalance, causing the liver energy to stagnate and preventing natural peristaltic bowel movements. Other cases of constipation involve prolonged blood and fluid deficiency, drying up the stools and making them hard to pass.
I’ve seen many patients suffering with constipation, and I often work with them in consultation with a gastroenterologist. Usually constipation is one of many symptoms of a medical condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallstones, colitis, Crohn’s disease, bacterial overgrowth in the small bowel, or endometriosis.
My treatment for constipation focuses on discovering the primary condition and then freeing the liver energy, stimulating the natural movements of the bowels. I also address the underlying cause, be it emotional, dietary, or deficiencies of blood and fluids. I find the best success comes when the patient participates by changing his or her lifestyle.
- Home Remedies for Constipation
- Acupressure for Constipation
- Abdominal Massage for Constipation
- Herbal Therapy for Constipation
- Diet for Constipation
- Daily Supplements for Constipation
- Constipation: Advice on what to avoid
Below are some of my favorite home remedies that have been used successfully in my practice. If you experience sudden constipation lasting more than a week, you should consult your physician, as this may be a sign of a more serious condition requiring immediate attention.
HOME REMEDIES FOR CONSTIPATION
- Water & honey: to stimulate the natural peristalsis of the bowels upon waking each morning, on an empty stomach drink a 12- ounce glass of lukewarm water mixed with 1 tablespoon honey. Walk 200 paces afterward and try to use the bathroom.
- Beet-cabbage soup: cook 1 cup peeled and chopped beets with 1 cup of chopped cabbage in a soup. Eat with dinner every other night for two weeks. This helps lubricate the bowels.
- Aloe vera: drink a glass of aloe vera juice on an empty stomach every morning for two weeks to help lubricate the bowels.
- Prunes: stew 3 to 5 prunes lightly in water for 5 minutes. Eat the prunes and drink the juice before bedtime as needed.
SELF-ACUPRESSURE FOR CONSTIPATION
- Find the acupoint Valley of Harmony (LI-4), at the web between your right thumb and index finger. Apply steady pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left hand.
- Find the acupoint Upper Great Opening (ST-37) by measuring 2 hand-widths or 8 fingers below the outer indentation of your right knee next to your shinbone. Apply steady pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.
ABDOMINAL MASSAGE FOR CONSTIPATION
Here is a simple 15-minute abdominal massage used to promote bowel movement function. Do this massage daily.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees slightly to a comfortable position.
- Begin a circular massage of the abdomen, with both palms moving together: Starting from the lower right side and with moderate pressure, rub your abdomen in small clockwise circles with your palms.
- Keep making small circles with the hands as you slowly traverse the abdomen around the navel.
- When you reach the lower left abdomen lift your arms and begin again from the lower right abdomen.
Continue for 10 to 15 minutes.
One of the biggest causes of constipation is leading a sedentary life. Continual inactivity dramatically reduces stimulation to the digestive tract. Just like those of a hibernating bear, our bowels shut down. A simple activity like a 30-minute brisk walk each day helps stimulate the leg and thigh muscles, where the stomach and liver energetic meridians traverse.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR CONSTIPATION
- Taking fenugreek 3 times a day can help soften the stools, and also helps regulate blood sugar.
- For supporting healthy bowel function I often recommend our Chinese Internal Cleanse Tea. It contains cassia seed, dandelion, hawthorn, chrysanthemum, mulberry leaf, and other herbs. I drink it regularly myself to support the cleansing function of my body.
- Senna leaf can be taken as a powerful laxative but should be used with caution. Limit its use to less than 10 days; otherwise it can become addictive.
- Chinese herbs such as peach kernel, plum kernel, apricot kernel, biota seed, pine nut, and tangerine peel have lubricating and stool-softening properties. These can be used long term without side effects.
DIET FOR CONSTIPATION
- It is important to keep the bowels in healthy peristalsis with a diet rich in high-fiber foods.
- Favor whole grains with fiber-rich bran, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
- Favor bananas, apples, prunes, figs, walnuts, spinach, peaches, pears, pine nuts, sesame seeds, mulberries, grapefruit, yams, avocados, adzuki beans, apricot kernels, yogurt, sprouted greens, beets, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, and broccoli all help keep the intestines hydrated.
- Fish, nuts, and seeds are rich in omega- 3 fatty acids and help lubricate the intestines.
- Drink at least six to eight glasses of room temperature water a day.
- Do not overeat, and
- Eliminate red meat, animal fats, fried and greasy foods, refined sugars, and simple carbohydrates, which create dampness, clogging up the digestive system.
DAILY SUPPLEMENTS FOR CONSTIPATION
- Psyllium: taking 5 to 10 grams psyllium (in pill or powder form) three times a day with a glass of lukewarm water can help keep you regular.
- Aloe vera: taking 300 to 500 milligrams in capsule form once a day helps stimulate the intestinal tract and move the bowels.
- Taking 2 to 4 grams of flaxseed in either liquid or pill form twice each day can deliver the necessary amount of omega-3 fatty acids to soften stool and lubricate the bowels.
CONSTIPATION: ADVICE ON WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, inactivity, and prolonged sitting, which suppress natural intestinal peristalsis.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and coffee, which tend to be dehydrating, making constipation worse.
- Avoid resisting the urge to move your bowels when necessary, which can contribute to abnormal bowel habits and constipation.
- Avoid some antacids, especially those containing aluminum, calcium, and iron supplements, as they can cause constipation.
- Chang, H. M. 1986. Pharmacology and applications of Chinese materia medica. World Scientific I: 620– 24.
- Ni, H. Attune Your Body with Dao In. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1989.
- Ni, M. The Eight Treasures: Energy Enhancement Exercises. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1996.
- Ni, M., and C. McNease. The Tao of Nutrition. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1987.
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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