Constipation is a common problem we see in practice. When we talk about constipation, we think of colon. Yes, it is true that constipation is caused by certain bowel dysfunction. But, is that all?
No, we don’t think so. In TCM, we see our body as a system, rather than individual organ.
Let’s take a look at our digestive tract. Our digestive tract looks like a long twisting hollow tube which includes a series of hollow organs from the mouth to the anus. Organs along the tube are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine—also called the colon—rectum, and anus. It is within this hollow tube that nutrients are absorbed and feces are passed out. But, above all, foods have to be pushed down to make those happen. It is only logic to think that all parts along the digestive tract have a say, more or less, in our “pooh pooh”. This is how we see constipation. Laxative is not the option, we need to figure out the underlying caused.
In TCM, we normally check Heat, Qi, Xue, and Coldness to identify the cause of constipation. Let’s ditch the jargon and talk about plain language.
The first one is easy. We all know that heat consumes fluids. In this case, the consumption of fluids makes stools dry and hard to pass.
The second factor is Qi – some say the energy of the life. Maybe it would be easier to think Qi as the pushing force here. To make things go down a tube or a transmitter, certain pushing force will be needed. Same here. When there is not enough Qi along the digestive tract, stools from the other end will become less.
Xue is more than blood, although its translation is indeed blood. Blood is part of Xue in TCM. In order to make this easier, let’s see blood as Xue here. One character of blood if nourishment. The lack of nourishment results in dryness.
The last one is coldness. Think about water. Think about what happens to water when it is cold. It stagnates, it freezes. This can happen within our body as well. Coldness slows down our bowel movement.
Since stools come from the other end of the digestive tract, any blockage along this tract will affect its formation. Therefore, constipation is not only a problem of the colon, it can caused by other parts of the tract. That is why we often treat some seemingly unrelated symptoms along with constipation. After all, TCM is about the general wellbeing.