Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States with 19% of the population meeting the criteria for functional constipation. Most people treat themselves without seeking medical help, as evident from the $725 million Americans spend on laxatives each year. Constipation generally refers to unsatisfactory defecation, as defined in terms of alterations in the frequency, size, consistency, and ease of passage of stool.

Healthy people with efficient digestion should have one to two formed bowel movement each day to effectively clear wastes from the body.

Constipation is particularly destructive to your health because regular bowels movements are a major means for your body to eliminate waste and toxins. When bowel movements are incomplete or infrequent, the blood vessels in the walls of the large intestine reabsorb toxins into the blood stream causing general malaise, bloating, and lowered energy or concentration.

Acupuncture treatments for constipation are generally very effective (unless the patient is taking severely binding medications). Acupuncture needles placed correctly stimulate the liver to release bile, which improves stool movement, and increase peristalsis and the intestines. Patients often tend to have a bowel movement after the treatment. In extremely difficult cases, herbal medicine can be a great addition to ‘cleanse’ the colon of older debris, to promote ease of bowel movement.

Dietary intervention is also very crucial in promoting healthy colon function. Patients with constipation should consume at least 40 grams of fiber per day, and avoid excess cheese, dairy, and certain oils. High quality magnesium supplements before bed can promote smooth bowel movements in the morning.

[1] Advances in the Treatment of Chronic Constipation: An Expert Interview With Lawrence R. Schiller, MD