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Constipation is a common complaint that everyone has dealt with at one point or another in their lives. Constipation occurs when your bowel movements occur less often or are difficult to pass. Luckily, acupuncture is an effective tool to relieve constipation. If constipation has become an issue for you, give us a call! We can help!

Let us help you Relieve Constipation

There is no set period between bowel movements. Some people have three a day while others may have them three times a week. There are people who feel they have constipation if they don’t have even one bowel movement in a day. Typically, the period between bowel movements should not be longer than 3 days. After 3 days, it gets harder to pass stool.

The Rome III diagnostic criteria are used to define what exactly constipation is. The criteria state that patients have functional constipation if they experience any two of the following symptoms in at least 25% of their bowel movements;

  • A sense of incomplete evacuation
  • Tough, lumpy stools
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • The need for manual maneuvers
  • A sense of anorectal obstruction
  • Less than three bowel movements in a week in the last three months with symptoms that last longer than six months

The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective to relieve constipation and patients often see relief early in treatment. Before we delve further into how TCM and acupuncture works for constipation, let’s explore the types and causes of constipation and conventional treatments to relieve constipation.

Types of constipation

ParΓ© P et al. (2007) identify 4 subtypes of chronic constipation; slow-transit, normal-transit, slow transit-dyssynergic and dyssynergic defecation (DD). Normal-transit constipation is the most common type with 50% of patients diagnosed with the problem. DD is the second most prevalent type of constipation with 25% to 30% of patients treated for it. Slow-transit constipation affects about 13% to 15% of patients with constipation. A further 10% to 15% of patients have combined slow transit dyssynergic constipation.

According to the Rome III criteria, patients suffering from chronic constipation can seek medical attention if they are dissatisfied with their bowel movements and how frequently they occur. After medication, these patients should regain their normal bowel movements.

Prevalence of the condition

According to a population-based study by Higgins PD and Johanson JF (2004), the elderly population experiences chronic constipation more. The condition affects older people about 20% more frequently than the younger population. Elderly women are particularly more affected by the condition than men. The rates of constipation in elderly women are two to three times higher than those of men.

The exact reason why there is a difference among the sexes is not fully understood. However, evidence constantly being found about the varying ratios suggests that female sex hormones may have something to do with it. Data from older surveys about constipation carried out in America has shown rates of constipation that widely vary between men and women. 20.8% of women were found to be affected by the condition as opposed to the 8.0% of male respondents diagnosed with the condition, according to Everhart JE et al. (1989).

Causes of constipation

Constipation can be the result of a number of reasons that can occur together at a time. Some of the common causes include;

  • Slow movement of stool through the colon
  • A type of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which exhibits symptoms of both IBS and constipation. It is referred to as IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • Pelvic disorders causing a delay in emptying of the colon. Occurs mostly in women
  • Resisting the urge to go for bowel movements
  • Lack of enough water and fiber in the diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Changes in diet or activities
  • Overusing laxatives
  • Stress
  • Certain types of medication such as antidepressants, narcotics, iron pills
  • Nerve and muscle problems within the digestive system
  • Eating disorders
  • Pregnancy
  • Consuming dairy products excessively
  • Underactive thyroid which is also known as hypothyroidism
  • Antacid medication with aluminum or calcium content
  • Colon cancer
  • Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease

Western treatments for the condition

The type of treatment applied to constipation depends on the causative problem. It is especially important to consider other factors that may cause it such as dementia or dehydration when treating it in elderly patients.

In many cases, non-pharmacological management such as lifestyle and diet changes are enough to deal with the condition. In other cases, the choice to use one laxative instead of another should be based on whether it is normal or slow-transit constipation.

Chronic constipation can at first be managed by fiber supplementation. Soluble fiber functions to increase frequency of bowel movements. Methylcellulose, a methylated fiber polymer stops bacterial fermentation. The hydrophilic resin, calcium polycarbophil, is also used to reduce gas or bloating since it is resistant to degradation by bacteria.

TCM and Acupuncture to Relieve Constipation

A study carried out by Jing X and colleagues investigated the efficacy of acupuncture to relieve constipation. In the study, 90 cases were examined using two groups of acupoints. The two groups were used alternatively for single sessions every other day. The first group of acupoints were ST 25, ST 37,CV 6 and BL33, BL34 among others. The second group was BL33, BL34, ST25 and ST37. Ten sessions would constitute a whole course.

Treatment by acupuncture showed the alleviation of symptoms such as quality of stool, defecation time, degree of difficulty in defecation, and endless sensation to defecate. In the study, it was also observed that the dynamic mechanism of the condition affects the kind of results achieved with acupuncture.

In another study conducted by Nili Da et al., electroacupuncture (EA) was used to relieve constipation. The results showed that EA was effective in treating constipation. Treatment caused an improvement in the number of times for spontaneous bowel movements in a week. Stool properties were also improved. EA was also seen to be very effective when it came to colonic motility.

In a study done by Zhang T et al., acupuncture was seen to be safe for chronic functional constipation and with the potential to increase weekly bowel movements considerably. Meta-analysis from the study indicated that acupuncture functions just as well as conventional medicine in changing the frequency of bowel movements.

Many other clinical trials have also shown equal success among patients. Traditional Chinese Medicine is likely to become one of the mainstays in the treatment of such gut problems.

At Boca Raton Acupuncture we have had much success treating our patients with chronic and acute bouts of constipation, as well as other digestive ailments. Give us a call today to learn more or schedule a free consultation.