If you have ever visited a Chinese doctor, you will be used to being asked this question, regardless of whether you think you have a problem with your large intestine or not. A TCM diagnosis of every illness is made by finding out what imbalance there is in your body in qi, yin and yang, dampness and dryness, hot and cold. This means determining the state of all bodily functions, including the bowels. Everything about your stools may be taken into account: size, consistency, color, odor, frequency and even the time of day you have a bowel movement. So let’s take a look at what the doctor might find.
If you are suffering from chronic constipation…………
………caused by heat. Stools are hard and dry, like small pellets.
Signs of heat in the stomach and large intestine: yellow tongue coating and a rapid pulse, bad breath, acne on face and chest, bleeding gums. This type of constipation is aggravated by spicy foods and alcohol.
Signs of heat in the liver: a tendency towards anger or irritability, headaches, red eyes and hypertension. Emotional stress and tension aggravate the constipation.
………….caused by heat with dampness. Bowel movements are slow and may feel incomplete.
There may be mucus in the stool. This type of constipation may cause abdominal bloating and tiredness in the afternoon. Spleen-pancreas qi is imbalanced.
……………….caused by blood deficiency. This type of constipation may be seen in the elderly, or in women after giving birth. There is insufficient lubrication for stools to pass.
Blood deficiency is accompanied by dry skin, eyes and mouth, with pale tongue, nails and lips, and a fine and weak pulse. There may be problems with falling asleep, anxiety and forgetfulness.
…………..caused by qi deficiency. This can be common with the elderly or those suffering from a chronic illness. Stools are soft, large and thick. The tongue is swollen and pale, pulse is very weak. The patient is easily tired and may have shortness of breath.
…………caused by yin deficiency. There may be a long term lack of bodily fluids caused by the aging process. The tongue may be red, cracked, with no coating. The pulse is thin and rapid. Night sweats, tinnitus and lower back pain may be frequent.
………….caused by qi stagnation. Here, the stools are infrequent or thin. There may also be neck and shoulder problems, depression, irregular menstruation and PMS. This type of constipation is aggravated by lack of exercise, stress or change in routine. Abdominal massage may be helpful. (See previous post on exercises for constipation).
If you are suffering from diarrhea………….
………caused by dampness.
Signs of cold dampness: a thick white tongue coating and stools that are watery and explosive with possible nausea and colicky pain. Cold dampness is aggravated by cold and raw foods.
Signs of heat dampness: a thick yellow tongue coating; bowel movements are explosive and burning and have a foul odor.
…….caused by spleen-pancreas qi deficiency. The tongue is pale with teethmarks around the edges. Diarrhea may occur after a meal. There may be a poor appetite, with feelings of worry and tiredness. This type of diarrhea is aggravated by sweet or cold foods and lack of sleep. This type of diarrhea may lead to spleen-pancreas yang and kidney yang deficiencies. This causes diarrhea on awakening early in the morning and a desire to sleep all day. Pressure and warmth on the abdomen may provide comfort.
If you are alternating between constipation and diarrhea………..
……..caused by liver qi invading the spleen-pancreas. Chronic liver qi stagnation slowly weakens spleen-pancreas qi, causing alternating constipation with diarrhea. In western medicine this is known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Stress management, herbs and acupuncture may help.
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