Constipation & Traditional Chinese Medicine


Although most people don’t talk about it, a lot of patients present at our clinic with constipation. While this may not be their primary complaint, moving their bowels will often help in their overall treatment and with their general health.

A combination of the modern diet, along with chronic dehydration, lack of physical activity and high stress loads can all contribute to constipation.


The three most common causes of constipation are:

  • a low-fiber diet

  • a sedentary lifestyle

  • dehydration




Constipation can be a persistent and confusing challenge for some people.

Constipation is a common complication for elderly patients and may cause acute and chronic stress. 60% of the elderly suffer from some degree of constipation where often poor peristaltic movement slows the stool, lengthening retention time and hardens stools due to excess absorption of water.

Accompanying symptoms could be abdominal distension, loss of appetite, fatigue, depression, insomnia, etc.

Long-term treatment with medications may result in stomachaches, diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances. (https://acupuncture-practice.com/relief-of-constipation-with-acupuncture)




Traditional Chinese Medicine & Constipation



Chinese Medicine approaches the body as a whole. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, chronic functional constipation is often due to a weak liver and kidneys, poor qi and bood circulation, and subsequent malnourished of the large intestine. Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that long-term consumption of bitter and chilled foods damage the spleen and stomach, slows qi and blood replenishment, and ultimately weakens peristaltic movements thereby affecting the ability to evacuate feces.


In Chinese Medicine, a wide variety of herbs are used to relieve constipation according to its type ( Heat Type, Cold Type, Qi type and Deficiency type). To prevent over-dependency and health changes to the large intestine, we do not recommend the overuse of laxatives, even Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs. Instead, we recommend treating the underlying causes of constipation with natural remedies, which balance the body and allowing bowel movements to become regular again. Please refer to your Chinese Medicine Therapist for advise.

Traditional Chinese Medicine suggest acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for patients who suffer from functional constipation. Acupuncture relieves chronic constipation and produces greater long-term patient outcomes than drugs according to scientific studies and clinical trials.




Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body called “acupoints” by inserting thin needles through the skin. Acupuncture is used as an alternative or complementary treatment for many ailments, including chronic pain, nausea, anxiety and depression, hot flush, fertility, skin disorder, constipation....in adults and children.


Traditional Chinese Medicine defines acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force in the body.

Western practitioners explain that the acupoints cover target zones in the body that, when pricked by a needle, will stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. When this stimulation occurs, the body’s natural painkillers are released. Multiple studies have established the safety of acupuncture



Research support Acupuncture as an effective treatment for constipation


Base on research Lenahan reports that acupuncture is an effective treatment against constipation. In fact, acupuncture combined with herbal medicine relieves constipation in the elderly and demonstrates superior patient outcomes to pharmaceutical medications. Acupuncture plus herbs produce a very low relapse rate.

Chronic constipation often involves infrequent and hard stools, straining during bowel movements, and incomplete evacuation with symptoms such as stomach cramps ,pain , and abdominal bloating.

The researchers note that acupuncture effectively treats the root causes of constipation and that acupuncture patients have lower relapse rates than patients having taken laxatives ( medication used to facilitate bowel movements). Although the drug is effective, research indicates a relatively high relapse rate (54.2%) when you stop taking it. Acupuncture has no significant adverse effects when compared to the laxative which may cause abdominal pain, loose stools, insomnia, dizziness, and headaches. In that same article she concludes that Acupuncture improves bowel movement and its frequency. (https://acupuncture-practice.com/relief-of-constipation-with-acupuncture/)


Another study published in the 'Evidence Base Complementary and Chinese Medicine Journal' concludes that acupuncture is an efficient and safe treatment for the management of functional constipation. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2020/6137450/




Acupressure to Relieve Constipation as suggested by Physician Tan Kang Ting https://pulsetcm.sg/tcm-for-constipation/



Massage Zhi Gou Point 2 minutes daily

Approximately 3 inch (4 fingers) proximal to the wrist of the dorsal side, in the depression between the radius and ulna.



Massage Shen Men point 2 minutes daily

On the palmar side of the wrist crease, radial to the insertion of the tendon of the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle.

This is useful for people who suffer from chronic constipation.



Rub tummy clockwise for 36 times daily

Lie comfortably on your back. Place one hand above your belly button, place the other hand on top of the first hand. Then move your hands together in a circle with light pressure clockwise around your belly button.



Massage Tian Shu Point in circular motions for 2 minutes.

2 cm (Approximately 3 fingers) from either side of the belly button.







Regular exercise is another critical factor in improving symptoms of constipation and developing healthy bowel habits. Part of the problem is that most people don’t move or exercise enough to encourage stool movement. Simply doing more exercise will improve symptoms of constipation and develop healthy bowel habits.



Yoga: There are also specific Yoga moves designed to improve bowel motions which can be helpful.





Diet and Constipation

Many fruits, vegetables, pulses, and seeds can help relieve constipation

  • by adding bulk and weight to stools, High fiber diet soften and stimulate bowel movements. (Please Note that in some people, high fiber diets can make constipation worse, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.)

  • by bringing water into the intestines, Fructose, sorbitol and cellulose.

  • by increase stool weight and accelerate colonic transit time : Pectin .





It’s vital to drink plenty of water. Keep in mind that your fluid requirements will increase when you increase your fiber intake.






A Small Selection of Fruits, Vegs & Seeds

Dried plums, known as prunes,has laxative properties due to high amounts of fiber, cellulose, sorbitol.


Apples promote bowel movement as they are rich in fiber and pectin

Eating a stewed apple each day (green apples are best, but you can use any type of apple). The fructose in the apple attracts water to your bowel to aid the passage of stool. If this doesn’t work, then consider adding stewed rhubarb. In Chinese medicine rhubarb is a powerful bowel moving herb. But be careful how much you use! You should try the apple alone at first and if this doesn’t work gradually introduce stewed rhubarb as well.


Pears are rich in fiber and contain natural laxatives, such as fructose and sorbitol.


Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins are a refreshing snack and good source of fiber and soluble fiber pectin, especially their peels.

Spinach (and other greens) are rich in fiber. They help add bulk and weight to stools, which makes them easier to pass through the gut.


Jerusalem artichoke and chicory belong to the sunflower family and are important sources of a type of soluble fiber known as inulin.

Inulin is a prebiotic, which means it helps stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut, promoting digestive health. (A review of research on inulin and constipation found that inulin increases stool frequency, improves consistency, and decreases gut transit time. It also has a mild bulking effect by increasing bacterial mass in stools ) Jerusalem artichokes are tubers that have a nutty flavor. You can find them in most supermarkets, sometimes under the name of topinambur. They can be roasted, steamed, boiled, or mashed. Chicory root is not commonly found in supermarkets but has become a popular coffee alternative in its ground form.

Rhubarb is a leafy plant that’s well known for its bowel-stimulating properties. It contains a compound known as sennoside A, more commonly known as Senna, a popular herbal laxative. The leaves of the rhubarb plant cannot be eaten, but the stalks can be sliced and boiled. Rhubarb has a tart flavor and is often sweetened and added to pies, tarts, and crumbles. It can also be added to oats or muesli for a fiber-rich breakfast.


Sweet potato contain a good amount of fiber to help alleviate constipation. Sweet potatoes contain mostly insoluble fiber in the form of cellulose and lignin. They also contain the soluble fiber pectin. Sweet potato can be roasted, steamed, boiled, or mashed. It can also be used in any recipe that calls for regular potatoes.

Beans, peas, and lentils are one of the cheapest, fiber-packed food groups you can include in your diet. Pulses contain a mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber. This means they can alleviate constipation by adding bulk and weight to stools, as well as soften them to facilitate passage. To include more pulses in your diet, try adding them to soups, blending them to make healthy dips, including them in salads..



Chia seeds are one of the most fiber-dense foods available. When chia comes into contact with water, it forms a gel. In the gut, this can help soften stools and make them easier to pass . What’s more, chia can absorb up to 12 times its own weight in water, which can help add bulk and weight to stools.

Chia seeds are very versatile and can be added to many foods. They work perfectly sprinkled onto cereal, oats, or yogurt. You can also add them into a smoothie or veggie juice, or mix them into dips, salad dressings, baked goods, or desserts.


In Conlusion in order to relieve functional constipation, try to gradually introduce some of the above foods to your diet fruits, vegetables, pulses, and seeds. It is highly recommended to drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical exercise. Acupressure and abdominal massages could be helpful, and under expert guidance a judicious selection of Chinese Herbs could be prescribed.

To note as well that research has come to the conclusion that Acupuncture is an efficient and safe treatment for the management of functional constipation. It has been recorded that acupuncture can increase stool frequency, improve stool formation, alleviate constipation symptoms, and improve quality of life.


If you suffer from constipation, a visit to Esther Hornstein L.Ac., your accredited Chinese Medicine practitioner can help retrain your bowel and help you to avoid future constipation.


Esther Hornstein is a New York State licensed acupuncturist and diplomat in acupuncture.

In her Therapeutic Holistic approach, she addresses Pediatric ailments, Men & Women’s health, Pain management and overall Wellness.

Her private practice is in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.



To make an appointment you may:

call or WhatsApp : 054-719-9600

e-mail : e0547199600@gmail.com






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