Tuesday, April 05, 2011
This lent my partner and I have been enjoying a protein
drink in the morning and a green drink in the evening. After 10 days we were both experiencing an
uncharacteristic sluggish movement of our bowels, mine being sticky and incomplete and hers
requiring considerable effort to pass. This
article discusses constipation from a Chinese medicine perspective and how we
resolved our problem with yogurt.
The causes of constipation vary in Chinese medicine. The most typical causes are heat and stagnation, but qi, yang, and dampness can factor. Say what?!
Well, heat causes dryness, making it difficult to pass the stool; stress
causes stagnation, which inhibits movement.
Qi designates functional
capacity. In the intestines, qi refers
to motive power. Contrasted from "stagnation", where the power to
move is not at issue, qi deficiency means power reserves are too low to fuel
peristalsis. Yang deficiency is essentially a deeper aspect of qi deficiency
where the impeding effects of cold also contributes to constipation. Finally, dampness
is a cause and effect of qi deficiency.
It often results from eating constitutionally cold foods like salads
and drinking juices, green or fruit. Dampness,
according to some, marks the presence of dysbiosis, or what may be called
bacterial and yeast overgrowth.
Damp-heat is a type of dampness commonly arising from one's
constitution, eating greasy fried foods or alcohol consumption. Alcohol kills friendly intestinal flora,
similar to what happens when taking antibiotics.
As a general rule, I encourage all my patients suffering
from internal conditions, e.g., asthma, migraines, sinusitis, allergies,
irritable bowel etc., to eliminate all dairy.
Given years of diary-industry indoctrination, however, the most common
response is, "But what about calcium?" I do not encourage calcium supplementation,
rather believing that adequate calcium can be gained by eating sufficient
amounts of vegetables and weight-bearing exercise, the latter being necessary
for the uptake of calcium already
present in the bloodstream.
By Chinese medicine reckoning, dairy is constitutionally cold, which translates
functionally as that which will slow digestion.
Nothing in itself is solely bad or good.
In instances where one experiences chronic dryness and thirst, dairy may
prove beneficial, though it would never be my first choice. The stomach prefers to remain cool and
moist. Conversely, the spleen, which is
the organ that powers digestion and bowel motility, prefers dryness and warmth.
Chinese medicine doesn't discourse upon yogurt, though
functionally it is vastly different from other dairy due to the presence of
probiotics. Probiotics are various bugs, i.e., bacteria, who make their happy
home in our intestinal lining. They are
an essential part of our natural immunity by keeping unwanted cooties and yeast
to a minimum.
When I added three tablespoons of yogurt to our morning
protein drink after three days the sluggishness, strain and stickiness issues
resolved for us both. This means
that probiotics boost qi, i.e.,
increases motility, and a resolve dampness by eliminating stickiness. Interestingly, I had experimented with the
old Chinese medicine "reliables" for handling dampness, but the results were NOT
anywhere as effective as simple yogurt.
We may conclude then that health regimes that include juices and
supplemental drinks will benefit greatly by the addition of yogurt. Bowel movements will not only improve, but
one will be assured of greater absorption of the vital nutrients from the juices and drinks. I am particularly keen on a brand from Trader
Joe's that comes from cows NOT treated with Monsanto's bovine growth hormone
(rBST), proven to cause cancer in European studies but nevertheless marketed in
the United States.
In the course of experimenting with the increase of juices
and powders, my partner and I began to experience uncharacteristic
constipation. Chinese medicine
classifies constipation based on causative factors like heat, stagnation, qi
deficiency and dampness. I had taken
reliable Chinese herbs to address my particular pattern with marginal
benefit. Although dairy is typically
considered an aggravating element for digestion, yogurt functions in an
opposite fashion due to the presence of probiotics. Yogurt is not only an immune booster, but it
is also an effective first course of action in addressing constipation
characterized by qi-deficiency and dampness.