The term constipation can mean infrequent or hard stools, or it can refer to difficulty passing stools. Constipation may involve pain during the passage of a bowel movement, the inability to have a bowel movement after straining for longer than 10 minutes, or no bowel movements at all for more than 3 days. The most common causes of constipation include a low-fiber diet, lack of physical activity, stress, travel, inadequate intake of fluid each day, or delay in going to the bathroom when you have the urge to defecate. Other causes are IBS, pregnancy, thyroid conditions, depression, neurological diseases, or certain medications. Serious causes such as colon cancer are rare but should not be ruled out until examination by your gastroenterologist.
Constipation and diarrhea, while very common, are one of the least talked about physical complaints. An acupuncturist always begins their initial consultation with a whole-body review because stool consistency and frequency is a very important part of general health. The effects of irregular bowel movements are often poor food absorption and fatigue, sallow complexion or frequent break-outs, pain in the lower abdomen, upset in appetite and weight control, and more. When someone is not eliminating their waste at a regular rate and consistency, it is a clue of a deeper imbalance within the body.
How Can Acupuncture Help Regulate Bowel Frequency?
Certain acupuncture points have an effect on GI motility. The treatment will either be used to relax a more spastic colon or to stimulate peristalsis. Within the concepts and theories of Chinese medicine, there is a more complete method of interpreting digestive disorders. When someone has very dry and difficult to pass stool, herbs will be given to moisten the intestines and long-term treatment will focus on re-establishing a less dry digestive environment. When someone has chronic, explosive diarrhea that burns and causes pain, acupuncture will help calm the large intestine and herbs will be given to remove toxins such as bacteria or virus and to clear heat from the digestive system. Likewise, when someone experiences chronic watery painless diarrhea, acupuncture will be used to tonify the digestive system and herbs will be given to warm the digestion so that food is transformed into usable energy more efficiently.
All of these treatment scenarios have a side-component of diet and lifestyle modification. Often bowel movements can be improved with different food choices and better eating habits such as chewing thoroughly, taking time to eat, etc. Your acupuncturist will listen to your diet habits and discuss with you changes that will benefit your specific intestinal issues.