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When I question people in detail about their bowels and to describe what it looks like, a lot of people tell me its normal. What is normal for you may not be normal for me. And I know a lot of people do not tell the truth about what it looks like or how it smells as they are embarrassed or simply do not wish to discuss. However, I have to highlight, it forms an integral part of your end diagnosis. In TICM there is no such thing as wrong treatment. Just wrong diagnosis.

So when it comes to going to the bathroom, it can seem like just an act of duty, but other than being just a very natural and necessary function of the body, your bowel movements can reveal quite a bit about what’s going on inside your body.

First things first, so what should a normal bowel movement look like? Normally, an individual is able to defecate three times per day without straining. The stool should neither be too hard nor too soft, and should not have a foul odour. However this is not always the case. Here’s what you should keep an eye and nose out for if you are experiencing some not so regular bowel movements:

An offensive odour of stool pertains to heat accumulation.

Dry, dark-brown stool means excessive heat is present in the large intestine.

Loose stools with a fishy odour pertain to excessive cold in the intestines.

Extremely dry and hard stool is often seen in a deficiency of blood or body fluids.

Loose bowels with shapeless stool usually are due to deficiency cold in the Spleen and Stomach.

Initial discharge of a hard stool and then discharge of a loose stool can be seen in dampness accumulation caused by a Spleen weakness.

Alternate dry and loose stool in irregular patterns are due to disharmony between the Liver and Spleen.

Stools with partly digested food and a rotten odour are caused by improper food intake, which leads to food retention. Patients will also pass excessive gas.

Stools containing completely undigested food are due to Kidney exhaustion.

Stools with yellow mucus accompanied with tenesmus (rectal heaviness) means damp-heat has accumulated in the Large Intestine.

Puss and bloody stools are seen in dysentery.

Sour stools in children are due to food retention without proper digestion.

So, let’s get even more specific and discuss one of the most common irregularities many suffer from diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea: TICM believes this symptom is mainly caused by an attack of exogenous evils, improper diet or lack of warmth in both the Spleen and Kidneys, which make water descend and cause dysfunction in the Intestines.

Beyond just one type of diarrhea, there can be different reasons causing it.

There is a damp cold type with diarrhoea characterised by loose and watery stools. The stools are pale yellow and have a foul odour. Other accompanying symptoms are a bland taste in the mouth, fullness in the epigastric (the upper middle region of the abdomen), abdominal pain, intestinal rumblings and a poor appetite.

Damp heat type starts with abdominal pain followed by diarrhea, and pass formless and foul odour stools with great frequency. Other symptoms include intestinal rumblings, restlessness, thirst and a burning sensation in the anus.

Individuals who have foul smelling diarrhoea with sour and rotten vomit, fullness of the epigastric region, intestinal rumblings, abdominal pain that is diminished after fecal discharge, a poor appetite and fever may be experiencing the food retention type.

Hyperactive Liver energy attacking the Spleen can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea following emotional disturbances. The abdominal discomfort will slightly diminish after defecation. Accompanying symptoms include fullness in the chest and rib sides, belching, loss of appetite, a bitter taste in the mouth, acid regurgitation, a sallow complexion and fatigue.

Finally, there is the lack of warmth in the Kidney's. This type is due to the Kidney's are failing to warm the Spleen. Individuals present with abdominal pain at dawn and then pass a loose stool. The abdominal pain is relieved after defecation. There is also coldness and soreness present in the lumbar area and knees. Distension in the abdominal region and aversion of coldness are typically present.

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