Chinese medicine offers hope for those suffering with these symptoms, as well as more chronic conditions, such as IBS, gastritis or ulcers. By changing our diet seasonally, being mindful of what and how we eat, and balancing a patient’s individual pattern of disharmony, digestion can become optimal once again. Many factors come into play and what works for one may not always work for another. Typically, there are 4 main categories into which most people fall. See if you fit into one.
- Liver Qi Stagnation: This pattern is usually caused by stress and manifests as agitation, pain or discomfort under the rib cage, PMS, sleep disturbances and hormonal imbalances.
- Spleen Qi Deficiency: Caused by a diet heavy with fried foods, sweets, raw foods, iced drinks and worrisome thoughts. Symptoms include a heavy feeling and pain, especially after eating, and loose stools.
- Large Intestine Damp-heat: Caused by a combination of Qi stagnation and a spleen deficiency which causes heat (inflammation) in the intestines. Usually there is alternating constipation and foul smelling diarrhea. Often this pattern leads to IBS.
- Spleen & Kidney Yang Deficiency: Diarrhea early in the morning with undigested food accompanied by abdominal pain that feels better with warmth.
Although some people unfortunately suffer with bad digestion from a young age, in most cases it is a combination of a long history of poor dietary choices, stress, dehydration, as well as overuse of antibiotics. More and more people are suffering now due to an increase in processed, high fat and high sugar foods combined with a fast paced lifestyle. Our modern eating habits are causing a rise in heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn and IBS are commonplace in society.
Acupuncture offers relief of symptoms, with pressure points easily accessible at home for anyone to use. Moxabustion, a practise of using a warming herb on particular points on the body, can reignite the digestive fire, giving the stomach a much needed boost. My patients with chronic conditions seem very fond of auricular seed therapy, in which small seeds are taped to the digestion points in the ear. These seeds can be left in for up to one week and if pressed regularly can ease pain and suffering for a wide variety of symptoms.
New research is confirming what the Chinese and other ancient cultures have known for millennia, that the microbes in our digestive tract help us absorb nutrients and keep fit physically, as well as mentally. These microbes have a huge influence over our metabolism, hormones and cravings. There is a definite gut/brain connection that can no longer be denied and, by nurturing one, the other can only benefit. Bio-medicine is also confirming that acupuncture regulates the digestive tract by increasing levels of serum gastrin, a hormone which causes the stomach to produce more acid and contract its walls in order to propel food through the digestive tract. It increases levels of T-Lymphocytes and immunoglobulins in the blood which boost immune function at a cellular level and can increase the excretory rate of D-Xylose in the intestines for people with gastric ulcers.
What can you do?
Exercise for tonifying the spleen and stomach paired organ system in Chinese medicine:
The healing sound for the spleen is “Hoooooo”; it is said to clear heat in the organ and body, and release excess emotions. The spleen/stomach system corresponds to the color yellow. Picture a yellow glow around the abdomen as you do this exercise.
Begin by sitting in a chair with your back straight and body relaxed. Open your eyes and slowly inhale, bringing your hands out to the sides of your body by moving them in a circle. Gently bring them to the spleen and stomach area. Place your fingers on your abdomen. Time your inhale to be complete as your hands touch your abdomen. As you exhale, gently move your body a little forward and tuck your middle in very gently. Make the “Hoooooo” sound as you exhale. You are also releasing gas, heat and emotions during the exhale. After several cycles you can start in the original position, place your hands on your thighs, and take a moment to smile at your stomach and spleen, and thank them for all they do for you. Inhale healing energy into the system and exhale discomfort and disease.
by Lisa Hadley, D.Ac