Recent statistics show that 20 million Americans suffer from chronic digestive disease, and these diseases are the cause of 25% of all surgeries in the United States. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe and may be an indication of more serious diseases. Some commons conditions of the gastrointestinal (GI) system include:
blood in the stool
sudden weight loss or gain
Causes of GI Disorders
While the causes of gastrointestinal disorders can be complicated at times, some of the common causes include:
Poor diet (high in dairy, fatty foods, low fiber)
Not enough exercise, or too much
Lack of sleep
Eastern Medicine Diagnosis
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we don’t just look at the intestinal tract but also to imbalances in the body as a whole, particularly those involving the Spleen, Stomach, and Liver.
Liver Qi Stagnation - This diagnosis is most often caused by excess stress, and can be a major cause of diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.
Spleen Qi Deficiency: Often caused by over-exertion, poor diet and irregular eating habits, overthinking, or worry, Spleen Qi deficiency can lead to inflammation, diarrhea, bloating, and overall fatigue.
Stomach Qi Deficiency When the Stomach is weak, its task of accepting food, transforming it into nutrients, and transporting it to other areas of the body is hindered. This is the main syndrome related to digestive disorders.
Excess of damp, heat, or cold These external factors are often found in combination with TCM diagnoses above.
Many of these conditions can be addressed with changes in diet and lifestyle. But when life gets busy and habits become difficult to manage, Chinese Medicine can offer the assistance you need to get your gut health back on track.
Acupuncture for a Healthy Gut The main function of acupuncture is to move, balance, and strengthen Qi in the body. When our Qi is strong and in balance, our symptoms decrease. But it’s not just about lessening symptoms, it's about preventing future conditions and benefiting the body as a whole. When our digestive system is strong, we are able to turn the food we eat into life-giving energy and rid the body of unnecessary waste. The result is a general feeling of good health and well-being. This is why it is so important to maintain healthy diet and lifestyle habits — and to take notice of any discomfort or changes in our digestive patterns, as they may be a sign of conditions that could one day become serious. Herbal Remedies
Chinese herbal medicine is a safe and effective alternative to over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs. Based on your TCM diagnosis, your practitioner can tailor an herbal treatment just for you. You may also have some healing herbs already in your spice cabinet!
Turmeric - Helps control inflammation in the digestive tract and improves overall digestion.
Peppermint - Helps to calm the muscles of the stomach and improve the flow of bile.
Ginger - Increases the secretion of digestive fluids, soothes the gut, and aids in digestion.
Cinnamon bark - helpful for sluggish digestion
Other Dietary Recommendations
When thinking about what diet is best for our digestive systems, it’s smart to avoid an excess of greasy foods, dairy products, raw foods, spicy foods, and sugar. Cooked vegetables and foods high in fiber are best for supporting digestion and easing mild symptoms. When in doubt, eat with the seasons. In Fall and Winter focus on soups and stews filled with lots of seasonal root and leafy green vegetables which are often warming and support Stomach and Liver health. In the Spring and Summer, it’s appropriate to enjoy the more cooling and hydrating fruits and vegetables that come into season during that time. Balance in types of foods and temperature is always best. And no matter the season, be sure to always drink lots of room temperature water!
Adopting stress-management habits is important for keeping our mind-body connection healthy and in balance. Just five minutes a day of quiet breathing or meditation can assist in soothing the Liver and moving our Qi, and prevent many digestive disorders often brought on by stress.
When in doubt, ask your acupuncturist. Our doctors of Chinese Medicine are trained not only in acupuncture but in understanding the body as a whole. The methods practiced in traditional Chinese medicine focus not just on symptoms but on each individual, and your practitioners are here to help you make the right changes that will benefit you most.
It’s important to be mindful of any digestion disturbance or changes you may be experiencing. The occasional stomach ache or bout of constipation may not be cause for alarm, but when once mild symptoms become chronic or more severe, it is important to make your practitioner as well as your physician aware.