Constipation is a common disorder and can affeect people of all ages. The common causes include lack of dietary fibre, lack of fluids, lack of exercise, certain medicines and emotional or psychological stress.

According to Chinese medicine theory, the organs involved can include the Spleen, Stomach, Intestines, Liver and Kidneys. Clinical patterns of constipation can be classified as relating to interior Heat, Qi stagnation (Liver-Qi), Deficiency (Yin, Yang, Qi or Blood) and Cold arising from Yang deficiency of Spleen and Stomach.

The theory of Chinese Medicine states that older people can suffer from constipation when there is a Kidney and Spleen Yang-Qi deficiency. Ji Chuan Jian is a formula commonly used in such cases. While younger people suffer constipation when there is: Heat affecting the Stomach or Large Intestine, Liver-Qi stagnation or if they are stressed or anxious.

Constipation can be a problem in pregnancy, when the foetus is causing internal pressure leading to a Blood deficiency. Indigestion caused by excess consumption of the wrong foods can also contribute and in such cases a change of diet is advocated, along with exercise.

Treating Constipation with TCM

Chinese Medicine theory advises that older people should be given sesame seeds, sprinkled on their food, or even sesame seed oil. This will also help in pregnancy. In younger people who are not eating wisely, the system should be purged by Da Huang (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei) or Hou Po (Mangnolia Officinalis) used in combination.

When the cause of constipation is stagnation of Stomach and of Liver-Qi the remedy called Xiaoyao San or “Free and Easy Wanderer” is very useful. Plenty of greens will help, and spicy foods should be avoided.

If these self-help methods do not cure the problem, consult a Chinese Medicine practitioner, who will prescribe Chinese herbs to open the bowels and will get to the root of the problem to discover why the bowels are not working. They will also most likely include acupuncture as part of the treatment strategy and possibly tuina massage to help stimulate the Stomach and bowels.

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