Digestive Health

The significance of the digestive system and the intricate connection between the brain, mind, and the entire body, often referred to in modern terms as the ‘Brain-Mind-Gut axis,’ has been acknowledged in Chinese Medicine for centuries. According to Chinese Medicine, any disturbance in the digestive system can lead to what’s termed ‘Qi deficiency,’ and this can trigger a wide array of both mental and physical symptoms.

Today, scientific research supports the notion that an imbalance in the gut microbiota can be a fundamental cause of various brain, mental, and physical disorders.

In Chinese Medicine, digestive issues are perceived as outcomes of imbalances within the Stomach Zang-fu (ZF), Liver ZF, and Spleen ZF organs. These are the primary areas responsible for the absorption and transformation of food, beverages, medications, and anything ingested into essential fuel and vital nutrients. Consequently, their optimal health is pivotal to the proper functioning of all bodily processes.

The specific symptoms experienced will depend on which Zang-fu organ is primarily affected. Accordingly, the treatment approach will also differ.

When the spleen is affected, individuals may experience symptoms like abdominal distention and pain, alternating constipation and diarrhea, and gas. On the other hand, if the stomach is affected, upper digestive issues might manifest, including upper abdominal distention, acid reflux, hiccups, belching, nausea, and more. A thorough assessment by our Chinese medical practitioner will help identify the specific organ involved.

Chinese Medicine practitioners aim to restore the overall health of the digestive system and alleviate symptoms by employing a combination of Acupuncture and Herbal medicinal plants. They also address lifestyle adjustments and dietary modifications.

Chinese Medicine places a strong emphasis on the idea that food is a form of medicine and that a balanced diet plays a pivotal role in overall health and well-being. It’s not only about what you consume but also how you consume it and the timing and frequency of your meals throughout the day.

Digestive disorders include such symptoms and conditions as:

  • Heartburn/GERD (Acid Reflux)

  • Nausea

  • Bloating/belching

  • Gas (flatulence)

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal pain

  • Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

  • Dysmotility

  • Stomach ulcers (Ulcerative Colitis)

  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

  • Food intolerance

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Haemorrhoids (swelling and inflammation of veins around the lower rectum or anus).

In Chinese medical theory, various classic syndromes are associated with digestive disorders, shedding light on the underlying imbalances:

  • LIVER QI STAGNATION: This syndrome is often linked to stress and can give rise to conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and food sensitivities. When the liver’s Qi (vital energy) is stagnant, it can disrupt the smooth flow of digestion and lead to digestive issues.

  • SPLEEN QI DEFICIENCY: Also related to stress, this syndrome is more advanced and can result in excessive mucus, inflammation, and bloating. Individuals with Spleen Qi deficiency typically feel sluggish and fatigued. While stress is a contributing factor, other factors may also be involved in this syndrome.

  • STOMACH QI DEFICIENCY: This syndrome is primarily associated with indigestion and dysmotility, which refers to the improper movement of food through the digestive tract. When the stomach’s Qi is deficient, it can impair the digestive process.

  • YANG DEFICIENCY: People with this syndrome often experience frequent episodes of diarrhea. To address this digestive disorder, it’s essential for individuals with Yang deficiency to incorporate warm, nourishing foods into their diet, as warmth helps to strengthen the body’s Yang energy.

  • EXCESS SYNDROME: Excess syndrome results in water retention and weight gain. It’s typically characterized by a feeling of heaviness and fullness after eating. This syndrome suggests an accumulation of substances in the body that hinder digestion and lead to issues like bloating and weight gain.

Chinese Medicine focuses on identifying and addressing these specific syndromes to tailor treatment strategies for individuals with digestive disorders. Treatment often includes acupuncture, herbal remedies, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle modifications to rebalance the body’s vital energies and restore digestive harmony.

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    LIFESTYLE ADVICE

    Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for supporting good digestion. While individual dietary recommendations can vary based on a person’s specific Chinese medicine syndromes and characteristics, there are some general rules and guidelines that can promote better digestion:

    • Know Your Food Intolerances: Pay attention to your body’s reactions to different foods, or consider getting tested for intolerances. Avoid foods that trigger adverse reactions.

    • Reduce Sugar: Excess sugar can disrupt digestion. Reducing sugar intake is beneficial for overall digestive health.

    • Increase Fiber: Fiber is essential for feeding your gut microbiome. Incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet to support a healthy digestive system.

    • Mindful Eating: Sit down to eat your meals, and avoid eating on the go or while standing. Eating mindfully, chewing food thoroughly, and focusing on your meal can aid digestion.

    • Warm Fluids: Opt for warm fluids with your meals and try to avoid very cold foods like ice cream. Cold foods can hinder digestion in Chinese medicine.

    • Avoid Multitasking: Concentrate on your meal while eating, and avoid multitasking during meals. This allows you to fully engage with your food.

    • Meal Timing: Experiment with the timing of your meals. Avoid eating late at night and provide your body with enough time between meals to digest properly.

    • Minimize Chemicals and Processed Foods: Steer clear of foods containing chemicals and heavily processed ingredients. These can be harsh on your digestive system.

    • Cooked Food: Chinese medicine suggests that cooked food is easier for the body to process than raw food. Incorporate more cooked foods into your diet.

    • Seasonal Eating: Align your diet with the natural environment and consume foods that are in season. Seasonal foods are often more harmonious with your body’s needs.

    • Exercise and Rest: Regular physical activity and adequate rest are essential for maintaining overall health, including digestive health. Fresh air and sufficient sleep are also beneficial.

    • Prebiotics: Consider incorporating prebiotic foods like apple cider vinegar into your diet, especially in the morning. Prebiotics can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

    While these guidelines offer a starting point for improving digestion, consulting with our Chinese medicine practitioner can provide personalized dietary recommendations based on your specific conditions and needs. Your individualized approach to diet and lifestyle can significantly contribute to better digestive health.

    Make an appointment with us to know more information how we can help!

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    References

    DIARRHOEA (DYSENTERY – ACUTE BACILLARY)
    Li KR. [Analysis on the effect of acupuncture treatment in 1383 adults with bacillary dysentery.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1990, 10(4):113-114 [in Chinese].

    Qiu ML et al. [A clinical study on acupuncture treatment of acute bacillary dysentery.] In: Zhang XT, ed. [Researches on acupuncture-moxibustion and acupuncture-anaesthesia.] Beijing, Science Press, 1986: 567-572 [in Chinese].

    Yu SZ et al. Clinical observation of 162 cases of acute bacillary dysentery treated by acupuncture. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1992, 2(3):13-14.

    NAUSEA and VOMITING
    Dundee JW et al. Traditional Chinese acupuncture: a potentially useful antiemetic? British Medical Journal, 1986, 293:383-384.

    Dundee JW et al. Acupuncture to prevent cisplatin-associated vomiting. Lancet, 1987, 1:1083.

    Ghaly RG et al. A comparison of manual needling with electrical stimulation and commonly used antiemetics. Anaesthesia, 1987, 45:1108-1110.

    Weightman WM et al. Traditional Chinese acupuncture as an antiemetic. British Medical Journal, 1987, 295(6610):1379-1380.

    Dundee JW et al. Acupuncture prophylaxis of cancer chemotherapy-induced sickness. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1989, 82:268-271.

    Barsoum G et al. Postoperative nausea is relieved by acupressure. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1990, 83(2):86-89.

    Ho RT et al. Electro-acupuncture and postoperative emesis. Anaesthesia, 1990, 45:327-329.

    Ho CM et al. Effect of PC 6 acupressure on prevention of nausea and vomiting after epidural morphine for post-cesarean section pain relief. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, 1996, 40(3):372-375.

    Andrzejowski J et al. Semi-permanent acupuncture needles in the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture-Medicine, 1996, 14(2):68-70.

    McConaghy P et al. Acupuncture in the management of postoperative nausea and vomiting in patients receiving morphine via a patient-controlled analgesia system. Acupuncture-Medicine, 1996, 14(1):2-5.

    Schwager KL et al. Acupuncture and postoperative vomiting in day-stay paediatric patients. Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, 1996, 24(6):674-677.

    Liu SX et al. Magnetotherapy of neiguan in preventing vomiting induced by cisplatin. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 1997, 8(1):39-41.

    Al-Sadi M et al. Acupuncture in the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting. Anaesthesia, 1997, 52(7):658-661.

    Stein DJ et al. Acupressure versus intravenous metoclopramide to prevent nausea and vomiting during spinal anesthesia for cesarean section. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 1997, 84(2):342-345.

    Schlager A et al. Laser stimulation of acupuncture point P6 reduces postoperative vomiting in children undergoing strabismus surgery. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 1998, 8(4):529-532.

    Chu YC et al. Effect of BL10 (tianzhu), BL11 (dazhu) and GB34 (yanglingquan) acuplaster for prevention of vomiting after strabismus surgery in children. Acta Anaesthesiologica Sinica, 1998, 36(1):11-16.

    Alkaissi A et al. Effect and placebo effect of acupressure (P6) on nausea and vomiting after outpatient gynaecological surgery. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, 1999, 43(3):270-274.

    Shenkman Z et al. Acupressure-acupuncture antiemetic prophylaxis in children undergoing tonsillectomy. Anesthesiology, 1999, 90(5):1311-1316.

    GALL STONES (BILIARY COLIC)
    Mo TW. [Observation of 70 cases of biliary ascariasis treated by acupuncture.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1987, 7(5):237-238 [in Chinese].

    Yang TG et al. [Clinical report of electro-acupuncture analgesia in the treatment of abdominal colics.] Jiangsu Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1990, 11(12):31 [in Chinese].

    Wu XL et al. Observation of acupuncture treatment of biliary colic in 142 cases. Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1992, 8(6):8.

    Epigastralgia (acute, in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)

    Xu PC et al. Clinical observation of treatment of acute epigastralgia by puncturing liangqiu and weishu acupoints. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 1991, 2(2):127-130.

    Yu YM. [Therapeutic effect and mechanism of needling ST36 in the treatment of epigastric pain.] Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1997, 16(3):10-11 [in Chinese].

    GASTROINTESTINAL SPASM
    Shi XL et al. [Acupuncture treatment of gastrointestinal spasm.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1995, 15(4):192 [in Chinese].

    Renal colic
    Lee YH et al. Acupuncture in the treatment of renal colic. Journal of Urology, 1992, 147:16-18.

    Zhang WR et al. [Clinical observation of acupuncture in treating kidney and ureter stones.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1992, 12(3):5-6 [in Chinese].

    Li JX et al. [Observation of the therapeutic effect of acupuncture treatment of renal colic.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1993, 13(2):65-66 [in Chinese].

    ABDOMINAL PAIN (in ACUTE GASTROENTERITIS or due to GASTROINTESTINAL SPASM)
    Shu X, et al. [Observation of acupuncture treatment of abdominal pain in acute gastroenteritis.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1997, 17(11):653-654 [in Chinese].

    ULCERATIVE COLITIS (Chronic)
    Wu HG et al. [Therapeutic effect of herbal partition-moxibustion for chronic diarrhoea and its immunological mechanism.] Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1995, 36(1):25-27 [in Chinese].

    Ma S et al. [Observation of combined acupuncture and moxibustion treatment of 60 cases of ulcerative colitis.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1997, 17(5):275-276 [in Chinese].

    PAIN due to ENDOSCOPIC EXAMINATION
    Wang HH et al. A study in the effectiveness of acupuncture analgesia for colonoscopic examination compared with conventional premedication. American Journal of Acupuncture, 1992, 20:217-221.

    Wang HH et al. A clinical study on physiological response in electroacupuncture analgesia and meperidine analgesia for colonoscopy. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 1997, 25(1):13-20.

    GASTROKINETIC DISTURBANCE
    Zhang AL et al. Clinical effect of acupuncture in the treatment of gastrokinetic disturbance. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1996, 6(1):3-8.

    IRRITABLE COLON SYNDROME (IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME – IBS)
    Wu HG et al. Preliminary study on therapeutic effects and immunologic mechanisms of herbal-moxibustion treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1996, 16(2):43-45 [in Chinese].