When a person comes to me for a common problem like constipation, the patient has already tried conventional measures. This means resorting to common purgatives in the Chinese pharmacopeia that parallel the action of over-the-counter laxatives should not be the first choice. Rather, a careful look for the root causes should be undertaken.
Constipation is the name given to a condition for which there are different causes. To put it another way, all roads my lead to Rome but the paths differ. Instances where the stool is very hard and dry is only one type of constipation. A soft stool type of constipation is also possible, as well as incomplete evacuation where hard and soft stools intermingle. All of these are the different paths to constipation, which require a different treatment approach.
Quality of stool offers a picture of the likely cause of constipation to a certain extent. Lifestyle is a significant contributor as well. Exercise, diet, emotions, and medications all factor. A person with a sedentary lifestyle, should first resort to getting in some exercise in before resorting to a professional. Eating at regular intervals on a consistent basis will also help with one’s regularity. Emotions can often bind the works, so to speak, acupuncture and exercise can often help greatly in this regard. When these bases are covered and still one is not achieving desired results then one should seek the help of a holistic health professional who can see constipation within the context of the body’s overall functioning.
The patient above had all of the basics covered. She reported a tendency toward feeling cold and of having a sense that her intestines were not moving. This is what Chinese medicine often refers to as “constitution.” Her resting heart rate was 41 and 56. These numbers are extremely low, suggesting an overall hypofunction of the body, possible hypothyroid. In Chinese medicine, such hypofunction of the body is attributed to cold. It is the most common underlying condition that I see, though its expression takes myriad forms from asthma to dermatitis to sinusitis. I prescribed a custom formulation of pills to increase the internal heat, pills that functionally are the opposite in nature from common laxatives and purgatives. Within the day, her bowels started moving.
Let’s recap the points worthy of emphasizing. Constipation is a general name given to a condition for which the cause varies depending on lifestyle and constitution. Lifestyle issues, including, diet, exercise, and emotions should be tended to before seeking the help of a holistic health practitioner, though if one needs guidance on these matters assistance she should also be able to help. When one has made the ole college try with lifestyle and is still not seeing results, then a Chinese medicine doctor can provide relief by seeing how the big picture is contributing to the manifestation of a particular condition. Laxatives and purgatives are often ineffective because the underlying cause of the condition is due to deficiency, i.e., cold, a constitutional state most often seen in the clinic.