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Constipation: Revisiting My Anti-Dairy Dogma

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.

Conclusion:

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.