Self Help for Constipation

Constipation can vary from being an irritating problem that flares up from time to time, to a debilitating chronic condition causing abdominal pain and other complications.

Physically, constipation can be caused by all sorts of things including a lack of fluid and healthy fats and oils, a diet lacking in fibre, medication and food intolerances. 

Mentally and emotionally it can be triggered by stress, inability to let go of things such as the events from the past, and unwillingness to take in new life, new things, change. 

If there is a lot of faecal compaction the laxatives will only soften the newer stool; the compacted stool will remain. The best way to move stool is to bulk it out with insoluble fibre. This will create a larger stool to push everything through, without absorbing water which would make the stool very hard, difficult and painful to pass. Good sources of insoluble fibre are flax seeds soaked in water, or porridge oats. Both will form a “gloopiness” which is known as mucilage. This is an oily lubricant which will help assist the intestinal tract.

Both reflexology and acupuncture would be beneficial for constipation as both will offer space and time to deeply relax which will switch on the “rest and digest” and break the cycle of “fight or flight”.

Below are some self help tips you can try if you’re are suffering with constipation. These can be tried alongside the general advice of increasing water intake, increasing fibre intake, increasing healthy fats and oils and reducing white refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, caffiene, alcohol and stress.

Look up the following acupuncture points using the internet and gently massage these twice a day for 2 minutes. Do both left and right sides. San Jiao 6 (lower arm) and Gall Bladder 34 (lower leg below the knee).

Ask a friend or family member to gently massage the lower half of the soles of your feet. This general guidance will cover the small and large intestine reflexes. Here is a foot map as a general guide.

Ear points for the intestines (large circle) and rectum (smaller circle) can be gently massaged. Please see the diagram here. Add gentle pressure using finger and thumb, rotate and release. Do this no more than once to begin with, covering the whole area. Then wait as the body digests the action. Note that over stimulation can create feelings of nausia and dizziness, so “less is more” in this case. If any point is sensitive, this is a good indication of imbalance. Treat both ears.

When using the toilet, use a stool to raise up your feet so that you are replicating the squatting position, which is the best position to pass stools. For more information see Squatty Potty.

Ask a friend or family member to massage your abdomen in a clockwise direction. You could also include hips and lower back. Essential oils could also be used. A recommended book would be The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Woomwood. As I’m not a qualified aromatherapist I won’t make suggestions here.

Take a table of flax seeds, cover in water, and soak. Once softened add more water and a small amount of good honey and drink. Do this twice a day. If this is completely undesirable then an alternative option would be to make up porridge using organic oats and water (no milk or sugar). Sweeten lightly with good honey.

Deep breathing exercises. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Lung and Large Intestine channels are paired; the Lung is the Yin breathing in our essential life Qi, and the Large Intestine is letting go of waste, and the old. Spend a few minutes focusing on taking deep breaths, through the nose and into the belly, and then release. 

As with all self-help information, use at your own risk and do not substitite for prescribed medication or consultation with your GP/medical practitioner.

What are you shouldering?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine channel starts at the tip of the radial side (thumb side) of the second finger and runs up along the arm to the elbow crease then up to the anterior (front) shoulder,a cross to the neck and ending at the nose. It is a primary channel to be affected when it comes to shoulder and elbow problems.

I have recently treated many clients with acupoints on the shoulder, elbow and arm. One client in particular presented with debilitating hip and sciatic pain on the left. After assessing her feet for foot-reading and reflexology based markers it was plain to see that the right shoulder was not happy. This reflex point was screaming red and presenting with a lot of heat; it was particularly eye-catching. After discussing my findings we agreed to use acupuncture moving forward. Palpating particular points around the shoulder and into the arm indicated tenderness and a desire to be “worked” and released. After two sessions the client is enjoying significant pain reduction and improved sleep patterns.

Mentally and emotionally we can “shoulder” a lot of emotion, burden and responsibility. If we don’t address this then physical pain can manifest. What I find interesting is that the Large Intestine channel runs along here, and if we consider what it does as a physical functioning organ; to process and eliminate waste, then mentally and emotionally we have to work on “letting go” of the burdens and responsibilities that we unnecessarily place on our (metaphorical) shoulders.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Large Intestine is paired with the Lung. We breathe in new life force (Qi) with the Lungs and eliminate the old (waste) through the Large Intestine. In many clients I have seen with issues affecting the shoulder and/or elbow is that there is often an imbalance in the chest too (smokers, COPD, grief). If we continue to hold on to things that do not serve us, it will start backing up and impacting on how much new energy we can let in.

As a therapist I have experienced my own health issues (and continue to) as well as observed health issues in others. I can help my clients feel better but ultimately it is down to them to go away and do the work. We cannot treat the physical without looking at the mental/emotional aspect too. I share what I learn with them in clinic and through this blog in the hope that I live a life from which others can benefit by realising or recognising aspects in themselves.

Lung Season

As summer draws to a close we start to move away from the relaxed and carefree attitudes of the warmer and longer days, and move into more serious and introspective energies of autumn. This is the season of the Lung.

Create Space

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the season of the Lung is all about organisation, setting limits and protecting boundaries. It’s element is metal (air); clean, pure and purposeful. It is a great time to have a clear out, get organised and tidy up, creating space. It is important to be letting go of any strong attachments you have to people, objects and experiences: attachment can hinder opportunities to learn and for growth.

Breathe in, Breathe out

The Lung is all about breathing in the new, and letting go of the old or the waste. It is no surprise then to find that the Lung (yin) is paired with the Large Intestine (yang). Yin is fluid and yang is flow. We must have fluid in order to flow. If the fluid becomes depleted, or stagnated, or in excess, then this will consequently effect the flow. Traditional Chinese Medicine understands that life is all about balance: if the body and mind are out of balance then this is where dis-ease can occur.

Grief

The emotion of the Lung is sadness (grief). If we spend a lot of time re-living the past in our minds, or having strong attachments, this can deplete our Lung energy and create deficiency. Of course it is only natural and healthy to experience sadness and loss, but it must be resolved and not prolonged. It must be experienced and learned from, not perpetually endured. Grief cleanses us of what is not needed in our lives. Chronic deficiencies in Lung energy lead to depletion and consequently to depression and other issues.

Things we can do

The Lung is the only yin organ with direct contact to the exterior, and therefore we must take care of this delicate organ by protecting our wind gates and wrapping up warm with collars and scarves as the colder weather prevails.

The climate of Lung season is dryness. We can eat warm and foods that are cooked for longer; nourishing and moisturising, supporting the body and the immune system.

If we live in balance with nature, Autumn is about contracting and slowing down, looking inwards, getting ready to rest (for the winter).

Spend time deep breathing and visualising letting go of everything that no longer serves you.

These are just some simple things we can pay attention to during the season of the Lung. The element of metal gives us our sense of self worth, our own self-value. We must look inside ourselves for that.

Next up: winter – season of the Kidneys.

 

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston.

Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net