Healthy bowel movements are underrated. It’s only when we’re suffering from constipation or other bowel-related ailments that we realize just how important they are. And we’ve all suffered from constipation at some point in our lives. It is uncomfortable and affects our mood, performance, and attitude. This is why we need to understand what causes it and how we can relieve it.
What Is Constipation?
When you eat something, your stomach and intestines absorb all the nutrition that’s in the food. The remaining indigestible parts then get collected in your colon, where your gut absorbs large amounts of water, sometimes up to a liter a day. Once the water gets absorbed, what’s left is soft, brown stool. This stool then slowly moves toward your rectum through a series of muscular movements known as peristalsis.
The problem arises when these muscular movements slow down or become sluggish. Your waste ends up staying longer in the colon where it gets dry and hard, making it painful to pass. You can tell if you’re constipated by looking out for the following symptoms:
- Passing less than 3 stools per week
- Passing hard or lumpy stools during bowel movements
- Having to strain during bowel movements
- Experiencing a feeling of not having emptied your bowel
- Feeling like your bowel movements are being obstructed
It’s important to know that each person’s natural bowel habits are different and that constipation can take various forms. You could have hard, dry, and small stools that are difficult to pass or infrequent and irregular bowel movements.1
Although occasional constipation is mild, temporary, and has no lasting effect on your health, feeling constipated for long periods of time could be a serious issue. Chronic constipation could even lead to your stool getting collected in your rectum, causing fecal impaction or fecal incontinence.
Can Acupuncture Provide Relief From Constipation?
Acupuncture is a form of ancient Chinese medicine that has become increasingly popular today as an alternative form of therapy to treat physical ailments like back aches. In this technique, fine needles are inserted at certain points or appropriate meridians in your body and into your skin.2
A new study from China points out that acupuncture, or more specifically electroacupuncture, can treat severe constipation. This technique involves the use of electrical stimulation to provide significant relief from constipation symptoms. It also ensures an enhanced quality of life after regular treatment. The study also states that this treatment is only effective if one doesn’t suffer from any other underlying medical condition and isn’t using any medications that can possibly cause constipation.[/ref]Tao, Bai, Song Chao, Zheng Cuihong, and Huang Guangying. “Acupuncture for the treatment of functional constipation.” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 36, no. 5 (2016): 578-587.[/ref]
Assessing Acupuncture’s Effects On Constipation
As a part of the study, 1075 individuals were enrolled for observation over an 8-week period. None of them had more than 2 bowel movements in a week at the time of joining the study. These participants were then divided into 2 groups. The first group received electroacupuncture treatment while the second received a sham treatment. The participants in the first group had low-voltage currents delivered to them through the acupuncture needles. These needles were inserted at 6 points in each person’s abdomen for 30 minutes. For participants in the second group that was undergoing a sham treatment, the needles weren’t inserted deeply enough and were placed at random, non-acupuncture points.
Once the study was concluded, researchers found that 31 percent of patients from the first group who received electroacupuncture treatment had an average of 3 or more bowel movements in a week over the course of the study. In addition, 38 percent of these participants reported having 3 or more bowel movements in a week over the course of the follow-up period of 12 weeks.
Comparatively, only 12 percent of participants from the second group who received sham treatments reported similar results during the observation period. This percentage slightly increased to 14 percent when it came to the follow-up period. More importantly, patients who received electroacupuncture treatment reported a substantial improvement in their quality of life and general well-being.3
Results Of The Study
Unfortunately, all participants had to deal with common acupuncture-related side effects, including hematoma at the needling point, sharp pain, and feelings of sleeplessness. However, these side effects were found to be infrequent in both sets of patients. They were also considered to be mild and transitory.
On one hand, this study did show that electroacupuncture can be highly beneficial for you if you’re suffering from severe constipation. This especially if you haven’t had any positive responses when opting for other treatment techniques. On the other hand, there was no conclusive follow-up action included in the research to show if any positive effects persisted after 12 weeks.4
While acupuncture is a good option, you could also help improve your bowel movements on your own. Eating a high-fiber diet, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, and avoiding fatty foods can go a long way in helping you get effective relief from constipation.
|↑1||Constipation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information center|
|↑2||Acupuncture. US Department Of Health And Human Services.|
|↑3, ↑4||Liu, Zhishun, Shiyan Yan, Jiani Wu, Liyun He, Ning Li, Guirong Dong, Jianqiao Fang et al. “Acupuncture for Chronic Severe Functional Constipation A Randomized Trial Acupuncture for Chronic Constipation.” Annals of internal medicine 165, no. 11 (2016): 761-769.|