Moving Right Along


By Ariana Estelle-Symons, Ph.D., Copyright 1997
From the
Kombucha Konnection Newsletter, June 1997

Listen carefully in any group of people - a party, a coffee break, at the hair salon, the gym, the golf course, the pool - wherever people gather together and begin to chat: you'll hear them talk about their backaches, headaches, childbirth, PMS, menopause, or prostate problems. They'll tell you all about childbirth, vasectomies, hysterectomies, gall bladder surgery, even plastic surgery. What they don't discuss is ..... constipation. It's just not socially acceptable. Nevertheless, it happens to nearly everyone at one time or another - and it's no fun. Not only is it uncomfortable, but when ignored and allowed to continue it can be a major threat to your health.

I feel that it's important to discuss this problem because of the thousands of reports I've received over the years from Kombucha drinkers telling me "Thank God for Kombucha - my constipation is a thing of the past"! People that have relied on laxatives or enemas for years are finally free of the problem and feeling better than ever before.

Constipation can be the cause of many ailments, including appendicitis, bad breath, body odor, coated tongue, depression, diverticulitis, fatigue, gas, headaches, hemorrhoids, hernia, indigestion, insomnia, mal-absorption syndrome, obesity, and varicose veins. It may also be involved in the development of serious diseases such as bowel cancer.

Since bowel movement patterns are entirely personal and vary in different people, there is really no "BM Standard" to go by. One person may have two to three movements a day while another may have one every other day. Obviously, more frequent bowel movements mean that wastes are being eliminated from the body quickly. The longer that these wastes sit in the bowel, the more likely it is to cause health problems. Think of the colon as a 'holding tank' for waste matter. This tank should be emptied within 18 to 24 hours or harmful toxins can form. Antigens and toxins from bowel bacteria and undigested food particles may play a role in the development of diabetes mellitus, meningitis, myasthenia gravis, thyroid disease, candidiasis, chronic gas and bloating, migraines, fatigue and ulcerative colitis.

Constipation results when waste material moves too slowly through the large bowel, resulting in infrequent and/or painful elimination. In most cases, constipation arises from insufficient amounts of fiber and fluids in the diet. Other causes may be inadequate exercise, advanced age, muscle disorders, structural abnormalities, bowel diseases, neurological disorders, and a diet consisting of the ever popular "junk food". It may also be a side effect of iron supplements and some drugs, such as painkillers and antidepressants. High levels of calcium and low levels of thyroid hormone are two metabolic disturbances that can lead to constipation. People with kidney failure or diabetes also tend to have problems with constipation, and older people often suffer from it due to dehydration. Also, a small percentage of people, such as persons with spinal injuries, have problems with constipation because the nerves that usually regulate bowel movement have been damaged or destroyed. Also, the nerve cells in the wall of the colon can be damaged by long term, habitual use of laxatives. When this happens, constipation is inevitable.

Some people develop constipation when there is a change in their routine such as a business trip, new job, moving to a new home, anytime their normal routine is upset.

For most people constipation can be described as a pattern of bowel movements that has changed from regular movements to irregular, infrequent (fewer than one a day), and/or difficult movements. If you notice a change in your bowel habits, you should not immediately reach for a laxative, but should try to determine what's causing the constipation. A laxative seems like a "quick fix", but can be habit forming and can possibly do some real damage. Chances are you can remedy the problem with natural foods, herbs, exercise , drinking lots and lots of water, and ..... of course, Kombucha! If these don't help you and you suffer from abdominal pain , bloating and cramping, please consult a physician. There are conditions that require medical attention, such as an obstruction or blockage.


When speaking of a tea's energetic effects, we are referring to how it affects chi. Tea stimulates "digestive chi" or metabolism. Chinese teas are slightly laxative, or help clear phlegm without irritating the nervous system. Coffee can make you nervous but tea clears your head while it stimulates digestion. Which teas are best for you depends on your needs. Tea has two main features: taste and medicinal effect.

Oolong is a gem of teas that is actually semi fermented and lies somewhere between green and black tea. It has less caffeine than either black tea or coffee. It also has been touted in China as a cancer preventative because of its acids and flavinoids. Oolong, like many other green tea, hails from Fujian, the part of mainland China closest to Taiwan. Fujian shares Taiwan's humid climate, but that's where the comparison stops. Taiwan is one of the richest countries in the world, with more gold bouillon and foreign exchange saved than any other. It is modern, powerful, and traditionally Buddhist. Fujian, one of China's poorest provinces, is often closed to tourists.

Oolong is digestive, stimulant, and delicious. It lifts the spirits. With green or oolong tea, we are satisfied by the flavor without suffering any draining effects. Coffee may be a stimulant and laxative, but long term use weakens both digestion and the heart by over stimulation.

Teas that increase digestion are called carminative. For persons troubled by slow, painful digestion, a digestive tea can actually be a stimulant because it increases digestive chi. The body has better vital energy and circulation because it is not struggling to digest.

Pu Erh is a well known carminative tea, grown at Nam Nor mountain in Yunnan province. The red color of the tea matches the red soil of the region. Pu Erh is mildly sweet, with a flavor reminiscent of autumn leaves.

Pu Erh is a good tea for those who east unwisely. It reduces digestive phlegm so that it cures indigestion from an overly rich diet of meat or creamy or fried food. In China it has other uses. The diet in South China's rice fields is meager and not always clean. Human fertilizer is used to raise crops, and this makes it necessary to cook everything thoroughly. Also, oily and sweet foods can lead to excess phlegm. The result is often parasites. Pu Erh tea is a folk remedy for dysentery because it reduces digestive phlegm, the playground for parasites.

Pu Erh is also popular for hangovers. The Chinese seem to have quite a few such household remedies. Pu Erh clears the head and palate at the same time. Fancy dim sum parlors have been known to serve this digestive red colored tea, but you'll have to ask for it. Restaurateurs most often serve jasmine tea because they think it's the only Chinese tea we (in the US) know of, while the staff is probably drinking a lesser known red tea in the back room. It'll likely be a digestive tea such as Pu Erh. When dining out at a Chinese Restaurant, ask for ..... "hong cha" which means "Red Tea". The long version is: "Ching Wen! Gay wah suma hong cha" "Please give me some red tea.")

Additions to tea.

For special benefits, try adding pungent cooking spices to teas. A pinch of turmeric powder increase cleansing. It's a natural antibiotic that improves intestinal flora, which helps absorption. Cardamom stimulates the heart and increases digestive chi. It lifts energy and mood. Fennel seeds provide digestive energy as well as a mild, sweet taste. Fennel settles the stomach. Anise is sweet and increases appetite. The addition of pungent ginger or turmeric to the more bitter green teas (such as Gunpowder) is especially good for digestion, cleansing and weight loss. A little nutmeg added to Pu Erh soothes after a hearty meal. The little pinch of nutmeg is a carminative that quiets the ever active cosmopolitan mind.

Many people regard honey as a healthy sweetener for tea, but it requires a warning: it must be used carefully, and never heated, which makes it hard to digest and destroys most of its value as a medicine. Even its energetic effects can be a problem. Honey is considered "scattering", according to Chinese doctors, which means it moves chi outward, causing perspiration. This might be beneficial, especially for chronic bronchitis, but honey's diaphoretic action also sends digestive acids to irritate joints. This means honey not only slows digestion, but can aggravate inflammatory arthritis for some people. If you must sweeten tea with honey, it is best to drink between meals.

A beneficial and curative herb you might want to add to your morning cup of green tea is . . . crushed dried Gardenia pods (Gardenia jasminoidis fructus) the latin name; in Chinese this is called "zhi zi".

The zhi zi is anti inflammatory for headaches, irritability and bloodshot eyes. Gardenia pods will also clear phlegm that's thick and yellowish.

Herbal Remedies for Constipation

June 97 KK

Herbs help constipation by gently restoring normal bowel function. Constipation can be relieved by sufficient intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grains and with the help of some of the herbs listed here.

You can take less of any laxative by taking licorice with it. Licorice, which is itself a light laxative, makes the intestine much more responsive to other laxatives. Irritant laxatives should be combined with herbs to relax the intestines and prevent cramping. Some of the most popular are:

You can make a tasty laxative snack by soaking stewed prunes, figs or dates - all natural laxatives - in licorice tea.


Another laxative herbal food, which is popular in India, is tamarind pulp, sold in Indian grocery stores and many natural food stores. This pulp, which comes from the pods of the tamarind tree, is a gentle laxative that improves general sluggishness of the bowels. Take one to two tablespoons of the pulp in the evening, or use it as a flavoring in an Indian dinner.


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