Constipation refers to the difficult passage of stools that lasts for several weeks or longer. When people experience fewer than three bowel movements in a week, they are considered constipated. Constipation can be due to many things. Some of the most common causes of constipation include:
Meanwhile, chronic constipation is caused by more severe issues, such as:
If left untreated, chronic constipation can lead to complications, such as:
These complications not only affect the rectum, they also interfere with intestinal function. (Related: Childhood Constipation: A Bigger Health Problem Than We Think.)
Chinese cinnamon, Chinese licorice, and lily turf have long been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. These medicinal herbs are effective against gastrointestinal problems and are known to relieve constipation.
For their study, the researchers induced constipation in Sprague Dawley rats using loperamide (Lop), a medication used to control diarrhea. Then, they treated the rats with an herbal mixture containing L. platyphylla, G. uralensis, and C. cassia (LGC).
The researchers examined alterations in excretion parameters, histological structure, mucin secretion, and related protein levels in the rats. They also ensured that for the entire duration of the experiment, food intake and water consumption were constant among the animals.
The researchers reported that the group treated with Lop and LGC had significantly greater stool and urine excretion than the group treated with Lop plus a vehicle. Administration of LGC in the constipation model also restored intestinal transit ratio to normal levels and increased the number of goblet cells, mucosal layer, and muscle thickness. Goblet cells are found in the small and large intestines and produce the mucus which protects the intestinal walls or lining.
The researchers also found that the Lop- and LGC-treated group had greater mucin secretion than the Lop- and vehicle-treated group; expression of MUC2 (mucin gene) and AQP8 (water channel gene) also increased. Mucin is a major component of mucus.
After further analysis, the researchers reported that LGC treatment increased muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) in the rats. Acetycholine is a neurotransmitter that induces gastrointestinal smooth muscle contractions.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that traditional herbal mixtures like LGC have a potent laxative effect that can counter Lop-induced constipation via mucosal tissue changes, mucin production, and increased expression of mAChR and its downstream signals.
Besides using TCM herbs, there are other ways to deal with constipation naturally. Here are some effective tips for preventing or relieving constipation: (h/t to MedicalNewsToday.com)
Constipation is a health problem that can greatly affect your life and may prevent you from doing your day-to-day activities. To avoid constipation, eat fiber-rich foods, exercise regularly, and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Or, you can use medicinal herbs like Chinese cinammon or Chinese licorice to deal with infrequent bowel movement.