After seeing patients for many years I have found one of the most common complaints about digestion that people suffer is constipation. There is an entire industry around helping people have healthy bowel movements. Fiber supplements, laxatives, probiotics, even prescription medications to help with this common complaint. Some find benefit while others do not. The ones that do not find relief often accept the fact they have infrequent bowel movements, irritability, bloating, etc. The ones that do find relief often only find temporary relief because the underlying cause of their constipation was not addressed.
To some people infrequent bowel movements may just seem like a bother or annoyance. It is actually a much larger problem than people think. Besides sweating and urination proper bowel movements are essential to the removal of waste and toxicity from the body. When constipated your body holds onto toxicity which can eventually turn into an illness in the future. This needs to be addressed. Treating constipation while ill can also help to resolve many chronic health concerns as well.
So what are the causes of constipation? There are actually many. The most common causes that are seen in clinic are poor diet and lifestyle habits, side effect of western medications and stress.
When it comes to diet the most important thing I suggest to all patients suffering from constipation is to stay hydrated. More importantly drink hot water. Cold/iced water and food actually causes the digestive system to slow down and become sluggish. This leads to bloating, constipation, weight gain etc. Many patients often see a change in their constipation by just switching to drinking hot water exclusively. For more on hot water check out Drink hot water for better health.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective you also want to avoid baked foods as well. If eaten for long periods of time baked foods can actually cause the intestines to become dry. You need to eat foods that are steamed, boiled, or lightly sauteed. Your food should be wet. It should not be charred. One food that I often suggest to patients suffering from constipation is steamed sweet potatoes. Steamed sweet potatoes are high in fiber and are great for constipation. For more on steamed sweet potatoes check out Steamed Sweet Potatoes – A superfood for your digestion.
Other foods to eat more of: cabbage, squash, congee, homemade soy milk, prunes, oatmeal, apples (without skin) pear, peaches, beets, walnuts, leafy greens.
Foods to avoid: tea, roasted foods, chestnuts, sticky rice, white rice, heavily baked/dry foods, spicy foods, oily/greasy foods etc.
Our bodies need to move. Regular exercise is great for constipation. You do not need to do any specific exercise routine. Walking, martial arts, basketball, badminton it does not matter. Just do some sort of exercise. You also want to make sure that you walk a little bit after eating. This helps increase peristalsis or movement of the intestines. Laying down or sitting after eating will cause your digestion to slow.
We need enough rest. If we are not getting enough sleep our digestive systems will not function properly. Going to bed at a reasonable time and getting some solid rest will also improve digestive function.
Make sure you sit down when you eat. Do not eat in a rush. Stop watching television and just focus on eating. Also remember to chew your food properly.
Side Effect of Medications
There are actually over one hundred drugs on the market that contribute to constipation. Antacids, antidepressants, blood pressure medication, cold medicine, antibiotics etc. can all cause constipation. If you are suffering from constipation and taking medication please read the find print where the side effects are listed. If necessary consult you doctor.
Stress is a major factor in many diseases and constipation is no different. When physically and emotionally stressed the muscles around your digestive system will contract and restrict movement. This will lead to constipation. For stress relief you should regularly exercise. Take a yoga class or meditation class or find other ways to distress.
Probably half the patients that come into the Rego Park office seeking acupuncture treatment are suffering from constipation. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are great for improving digestion. Acupuncture is great for increasing movement through the digestive system. As a result it helps to aid in proper elimination.
Many patients notice significant changes in their bowel health after about four to six weeks of treatment with acupuncture and some simple dietary/lifestyle adjustments. For help with your constipation you should call our Acupuncture office in Mamaroneck today to schedule an appointment.
Photo: Constipation by Practical Cures. Courtesy of Creative Commons http://bit.ly/1SWJNtL