How to Know When Your Large Intestine Is Overworked
The traditional art of physiognomy can be used to understand the constitution and condition of the large intestine. The two major functions of the large intestine are to absorb water, vitamins, and minerals through its mucus-lined tissue to be transported to the liver for distribution and use by the body; and the excretion of excessive nutrients and wastes such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphates.
When the large intestine becomes overworked, or there is a lack of physical exercise in one’s life, various symptoms begin to arise which have reached an almost epidemic proportion in our modern-day society. These include diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, colitis, hemorrhoids, hernias, abdominal swelling and cramping, cancer of the colon, and obesity. These are also in themselves signs of particular malfunctions of the large intestine and should be taken as strong signals from the body of our need to make changes in our way of eating and living to avoid further degenerative developments. Through physiognomy we can learn the early warning signs of large intestine imbalances-or imbalances anywhere in the body-before such problems become severe. Thus physiognomy can be a tool for preventive health care.
In order to see the present condition of the large intestine let’s look first at the condition of the lower lip. An overly swollen lip suggests a swollen (yin) condition of the large intestine. This usually will indicate a tendency towards constipation, unless the lips are wet, which would suggest diarrhea. The lips will also commonly show different colorations such as: blue/purple, indicating stagnation of feces and blood in the colon; white, indicating fatty mucous deposits in the colon; pale, indicating poor absorption of nutrients and anemia; yellow around the edges of the lips showing hardening of fatty deposits in the colon as well as blockages in the liver and gallbladder; green, indicting progression toward intestinal cancer; and bright red, showing expansion and hyperactivity of the tissue and blood capillaries in and around the digestive tract.
Traditional Oriental diagnosis posits that the forehead is an exact replica of the lower bowels, with the central forehead showing the condition of the small intestine, the right forehead showing the ascending colon, the upper forehead the transverse colon, and the left forehead the descending colon. With this further understanding you can not only verify what you have observed in the lower lip but you can also begin to see actually where in the colon a particular swelling, fatty accumulation, ulcer, or cancerous growth is developing.
After the lips and forehead have revealed to us the quality of the intestinal condition and location of a particular problem, our next concern is the general strength or weakness of the organ, its hyper or hypo condition, and its relative ability to respond to treatment or changes in lifestyle. This we can do through feeling the large intestine wrist pulse, located on the inner wrist crease on the radial (thumáb) side of the wrist at a superficial depth (right hand of women and left hand of men); or probing the upper back and shoulders, or along the lines of the large intestine meridians, in particular at the point indicated for diagnosis (right arm meridian shows ascending and right transverse colon, and left arm meridian shows descending and left transverse colon). You can also look along this meridian for the same skin color indicators as in the case of the lips and forehead.
If the large intestine pulse, the shoulders, or the meridian and its points feel superficially tight, hard, or painful with a strong, bounding pulse, there is an indication of hyperactivity in the intestines and a likelihood of constipation and stagnation (usually accompanied by labored breathing). Despite this imbalance, a hyperactive condition nevertheless suggests vitality in the given organ and a good ability to respond to changes in lifestyle or simple natural treatments.
If, however, shoulders and meridians show superficial flabbiness without tension or tone and perhaps pain only when deeply massaged, along with a weak, slow, or nonexistent pulse, the condition may be considered weak, hypoactive, and in some cases degenerative. Even these hypoactive conditions will usually respond to natural therapies and lifestyle changes but should be expected to be much more slow than with a hyperactive condition.
As a general statement, the major underlying problems of the large intestine in the modern world are the result of being overfed, overworked, and under exercised. On the level of quantity, the large intestine is simply not designed to handle the volume of food per day that we are pouring into it; this problem is further aggravated by our sedentary lifestyle, snacking between meals and eating before bedtime.
In addition to food quantity and lack of exercise are the detrimental effects of the change in the quality of our food over the past 200 years, especially the refinement of the fiber and bran from our cereal grains, which are natural intestinal cleansers. Along with this refining, the overcooking of our grains and vegetables has eliminated or destroyed the B vitamins and active enzymes in our food that formerly nourished the intestinal bacterial environment responsible for the final breakdown and absorption of nutrients and the smooth elimination of wastes.
These modern-day food processing practices have been accompanied by an increased consumption of animal foods, containing saturated fats and proteins that require much more processing and work by the intestines than do unsaturated vegetable fats and proteins. We also consume far more tropical fruits,fruit juices, alcoholic and stimulating beverages, and refined sugar products, all of which expand and weaken the muscles of the intestinal walls which are responsible for peristaltic motion and elimination of waste. Laxatives, enemas, or colonics employed to assist this movement may result in short-term relief, but the net effect is to further expand and weaken and already troubled condition, resulting in an increased dependence on such symptomatic measures.
We can see the constitutional or inherited strengths of our intestines in the shape of the mouth and lips. Our mouth assumes its horizontal width depending primarily on the mineral contents in our mother’s diet during pregnancy as well as her level of activity The more minerals in her diet and the more active her lifestyle during pregnancy, the stronger the intestines and the narrower the mouth. (Note the increasing width of mouths in modern society due to the demineralization of our food and our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.) Ideally, the width of the mouth should be about the same as the width of the nostrils. Also, the vertical width of the lips shows the degree of constitutional strength or weakness in the digestive organs. The thicker the lips the less inherited strength in the organs, indicating the consumption of more simple and refined carbohydrates such as sugar, honey, refined grains, or even fruits by the mother during pregnancy. (Of course, thick and thin are relative terms and should be judged according to one’s ancestry, environment, and traditional foods.)
Traditional physiognomists considered the inherited strength or weaknesses of the digestive system to come more from the influence of the mother’s egg, and the nervous system more from the father’s sperm. Therefore the overall strength of the mother as well as her specific condition during pregnancy could be seen in the structure of the lower face in general and mouth in particular.
This constitutional inheritance form the mother exhibited in the digestive system was thought to have been the major influence in determining the length of someone’s life and was read by looking at the so called ‘life-line’ on the palm of the right hand (the line that runs around the fleshy base of the thumb). The length of this line revealed the strength of the mother, the strength of the digestive system, and the projected-though alterable-length of an individual’s life. (the longer and deeper the line the longer the life.)
In addition to this correlation between the digestive system, the mother, and the person’s destiny, there were also strong associations made between the condition of the digestive system, in particular the large intestine, and the way in which and individual related to the material and physical world, including the relationship to food, money, material objects, and physical environment. For instance, swollen lips, drooling, or simply a hanging, open mouth revealed a lack of control and order in matters such as appetite, finances, and physical appearance. This extended to disorder in the home or business, and a lack of gratitude to our mother Earth for the food which we are given. It also indicated that one placed excessive importance n sensory and emotional experience. (Some traditional societies even had warnings about going into business with someone who appeared with his or her mouth hanging open.)
On the other hand, tight lips or clenched jaws, teeth, or lips were associated with constraints and inflexibility in material matters, including such habits as stinginess with money and possessions, overconcern with order and cleanliness, lack of enjoyment of sensory pleasures in life, and/or inability to express emotions. To the traditional physiognomist the way in which a person interacted with his or her environment, parents and ancestors, his or her thoughts, dreams, and fantasies, was an outward reflection of the internal environment and could therefore be used as a diagnostic tool in assisting in understanding the internal condition.
Here are a few age-old recommendations for anyone seeking to improve the functions of their large intestine:
- Make whole, unrefined grains, in particular brown rice, the staple of your diet;
- Chew very well, ideally until you need not swallow (this is also great exercise and a good meditation);
- Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime;
- At each meal, avoid eating to capacity;
- Get to know your intestines by massaging them:
- Walk, walk, walk!