It can happen to any of us, especially if we are dehydrated, eat too much processed food, take antibiotics or other medication, or even from travelling.
Stress can do it too.
Constipation is also common during pregnancy as the womb puts pressure on the intestines.
Hopefully it is just temporary.
The definition of constipation varies from conventional Western medicine to Traditional Chinese Medicine to Ayurveda. Western doctors will say a patient is constipated if there is fewer than three bowel movements in a week. For an Ayurvedic doctor, it is less than 24 hours.
There is no straight forward answer but most alternative and holistic health practitioners would agree that at least one bowel a day is okay. Two to three would be better. Take note when any normal routine slows down.
Why is regularity important?
What we eliminate through bowel movements is toxins. Otherwise they accumulate and get reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A toxic load negatively impacts our health and well-being, including on the emotional level. Chronic constipation can also lead to hemorrhoids, fecal impaction, sleep disorders, sluggish immune system, obesity… Health aside, no one likes feeling blocked up.
But constipation is a very common condition these days and the laxative business is huge. Sure, laxatives can provide relief but over time, they can worsen constipation. The colon’s ability to contract becomes compromised and the large intestines can get damaged.
So If No Laxatives, What to Do?
Here are tips from some alternative practitioners and health coaches What Therapy spoke to:
① “Hold the outer edge of the back of the knees on both sides.” A Jin Shin Jyutsu tip from practitioner and coach Julie Ann.
② “A big tall glass of warm water with fresh lemon (half or quarter lemon) squeezed into it. Drink all at one go before drinking or eating anything. Simple and effective. I recently recommended it to someone and within a week, he reported that he no longer suffers from constipation. Added to this, if the sufferer stays hydrated throughout the day, it really helps!” – tip from Sally May Tan, Health Coach from Catalyst Health.
③ For Reiki and Nutripuncture practitioner Pavla Williams, the go-to is Oxy-Powder® from GHC (Global Healing Centre). It contains Ozonated Magnesium Oxides, Organic Germanium-132, Natural Citric Acid, and Organic Gum Acacia. Comes in vegetarian capsules. Sold at Nutrimax Organic or online at GHC.
“This is not a long-term solution but it is a powerful product that works overnight. Take a couple of capsules with a ton of water before bed. Oxy-Powder® reacts with the intestines and cleanses them, pushing out whatever garbage got stuck in there (apologies for mental picture). It works on both the small and large intestines, so it’s better than colonic hydrotherapy which clears only the colon.”
Pavla also uses Nutripuncture to help with constipation.
④ “ACTIVA Digestion. Lots of water, movement, Jin Shin Jyutsu, soft plums, and homemade apple sauce with raisins.” This is what works for Antoinette Biehlmeier‘s family. One of her kids loves soft plums for getting things moving and her other prefers Jin Shin Jyutsu. Antoinette, a multi-modality alternative therapist, shares that apple sauce with raisins works like a dream for babies.
⑤ Get hydrated – try a green smoothie. Get your kale, spinach, or whatever your favourite green leafy veggies and blend it. Not keen on 100% greenies? Add 1/2 an apple. Super-size the fibre by tossing in some chia and psyllium.
⑥ According to Reiki and Tibetan Yoga practitioner Jacqueline Yu of Basic Essence, the number one Nejang “exercise” for constipation is bumba chen. Not only does bumba chen unblock constipation and increase digestion, it also builds up the body energy. Bumba chen, considered secret and high-level for tantric practices, does require some instruction and practice.
Instead try this other Nejang or Tibetan Healing Yoga exercise – grab the thighs, lift the legs, and stretch them wide. Release the legs inwards towards each other, keeping them lifted. This unblocks descending wind and regulates all lower excretions.
Because this exercise helps with childbirth, it should not be done by women unless they are already very close to their due date. Bonus: it helps with delivery (as does squatting!)
Other natural remedies for constipation:
Castor Oil has been used since ancient times for constipation. Studies show that it works not through irritation but by causing strong peristalsis movement. It is a well-known stimulative (read: explosive) laxative and as such, it should only be used for emergencies and when other natural and more gentler forms of remedies fail. Instead of consuming Castor Oil straight, try a Castor Oil pack. (note: pregnant women should not use castor oil).
Gertrud Hirschi in her book, The Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands, suggests the Suchi Mudra to relieve constipation. Start with clenching both fists and holding them in front of your chest and while inhaling, stretch out the right arm to the right and point the index finger upward. Stretch your left arm to the left at the same time. Hold for six breaths and return the hands to the first position. Repeat six times on each side.
Gertrud also recommends the following affirmation – “I let go and give up everything that has been used up in my body, mind, and soul”.
Many people also like drinking prune juice, rubbing Peppermint Oil on the tummy, and a myriad of home remedies.
According to TCM, constipation can indicate liver energy imbalance. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of energy around body and mind. A disruption can cause many symptoms to manifest including constipation.
Also related is the large intestine, which is a yang organ, with the associated emotion being grief. Simplistically holding onto grief can lead to constipation. Deep breathing exercises and affirmations for grief release can therefore assist constipation.
Good Habits to Check Out –
Go when you need to. Consistently overriding nerve messages rewires the brain and a disconnect appears between your body and your conscious response.
Keep hydrated. Feeling hungry? Drink water. Feeling beat? Drink water. Feeling under the weather? Drink water.
Have a balanced diet. More plant-based, less processed-food-based. Include lots of high water-content foods, plus alkaline foods. Keep your gut flora healthy with probiotics.
Move more. Yoga inversions, which are deeply relaxing, are also helpful for constipation. Too advanced? Try the Child’s Pose.
Find stress-release tools that work for you. Stress just throws the whole body and all the systems out of whack.
This is the most natural resting position. In the modern world, with chairs and nice porcelain toilets, we have adopted the unnatural position of sitting, which compresses our organs. Sitting also completely changes the anatomy of a natural poop. Squatting, with knees at the torso, ensures the rectum is straight. No straining. Complete evacuation.
New to squatting? Squat, instead of sit, for resting. Use a stool to raise your knees when you are on the toilet. Practice until you are comfortable squatting on top of the toilet. Or try out the traditional toilets (yep, hole in the ground) readily available throughout Asia.
Other Perspectives on Constipation
Aside from all the usual physical factors, did you know there are other dimensions to constipation?
Constipation is basically holding on, not letting go. Anal retentive. Literally.
According to Louise Hay, constipation can be the result of “refusing to release old ideas, being stuck in the past, and sometimes stinginess”. Take a look at the different areas of your life and see where you may be holding on. What are your fears and anxieties?
Try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to tap out the core emotional issue or try holding your index finger to harmonize the attitude of fear.
In Jin Shin Jyutsu, the term attitude refers to “a fixed emotional response, such as habitual fear or anger. The inflexible, unyielding nature of attitudes is a primary source of disharmony”.
From an Astrological point of view, the fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) have withholding tendencies. If your child is one of these signs, especially Scorpio, be sure he is well-hydrated and instill the importance of going when nature calls.
Do see a (naturopathic) doctor if you experience extended constipation as it may be indicative of a serious underlying condition.
The Side Effects of Constipation by Dr Edward Group
For Best Toilet Health: Squat or Sit? By Dr Mercola
Touch of Healing by Alice Burmeister
Castor Oil Home Remedies – LiveStrong.com Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands by Gertrud Hirschi