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Introduction

Do not ingore those signs

In this article you will find a list of some of the most common symptoms and conditions of digestive disorders. If your issue is not listed, please get in touch with us to find out if we can help you. Click here to request free health advice. Or just pop in to speak to one of our doctors.

We all suffer from digestive health issues at some point in our lives but far too many of us just live with. Others, allow the conditions to become chronic.

Digestive disorders can cause serious disruption to your daily life. Moreover, they can influence all aspects of your health – from sexual performance to physical appearance.

This is the reason AcuMedic Centre runs a specialist Digestive Health Clinic. Click here to see the list of digestive disorders our doctors can help you with.

To learn about our approach to treating digestive disorders, please download our free guide Regulate Your Digestion. In this free guide, we also look at the most common digestive conditions, their causes and natural ways to feel better.

+ Most important biological process for determining your health

We are all used to experiencing digestive issues. At least sometimes. Bloating, flatulence and belching are common annoyances. But these are actually symptoms of possible acute conditions.

Allow them to become chronic and they can impair your ability to digest, absorb and excrete food. That is, one of the most important biological processes for determining your general health.

This the reason there is a saying in Chinese Medicine:

‘Above all else, protect your digestion’.

You may feel some of the classic symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, pain and acid indigestion. But most people do not realise that energy levels, immune resistance, sexual health, mood and appearance are also directly linked to digestive health.

In fact, almost every facet of your health starts with a good digestion.

+ Digestive disorders – common symptoms and conditions

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).

+ Western medical view

Treatment options

Over-the-counter medicines such as indigestion pills, liquids and laxatives are available. They have been designed to ease the common symptoms of digestive disorders. Pain medicine is also available but mostly on prescription. Chronic conditions require surgery.

However, it is easy to become too reliant on quick fix indigestion pills, liquids and laxatives to hide the symptoms instead of looking at the root causes.

+ Chinese medical view

Chinese medicine treats digestive disorders with herbs and acupuncture.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends acupuncture. Clinical trials have demonstrated its use for various symptoms and conditions of digestive disorders.

Clinical trials have shown acupuncture to be effective for:

  • Diarrhoea (Dysentery – acute bacillary)
  • Nausea and vomiting; Gall stones (Biliary colic)
  • Epigastralgia (acute, in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Gastrointestinal spasm
  • Renal colic.*

Clinical trials have shown acupuncture to have a therapeutic effect on:

  • Ulcerative colitis (chronic)
  • Pain due to endoscopic examination
  • Gastrokinetic disturbance.*

WHO recommends acupuncture for irritable colon syndrome (Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS).  This is because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult. For this condition, clinical trials have reported acupuncture producing some therapeutic effects*.

What causes digestive disorders

Chinese medicine views digestive disorders to be a result of imbalances. That is, imbalances within the Stomach and Spleen areas.

It sees these areas as the vital elements of your digestive system. They absorb and transform the food and drink. Crucially, they transform it into blood and essential energy.

Known as the Blood, the resultant substance works to nourish your body. It supports all the bodily functions.

Of course, this blood/energy combination also works to support your digestive system.

  • Stomach imbalances

In Chinese medical view, the Stomach governs the acceptance, digestion and passage of food. It also controls the normal movements of food downwards.

But this depends on a good supply of Blood to the Stomach.

If the blood/energy is lacking, the Stomach will not work well.

Also, the blood/energy must circulate in the correct manner. If they move the wrong way (upwards) then fullness, pain, nausea and vomiting can occur.

  • Spleen imbalances

The main functions of Spleen are:

  • Transform food into energy/blood and
  • Transport that energy to all parts of the body.

It also shares a function with the Kidney. The Spleen works to process water and body liquids.

Hence, a weakness of the Spleen can lead to water retention as well as fatigue and lack of energy.

It is important to remember this view. This perspective stops us from overlooking the role of Spleen in your digestive health.

  • Liver imbalances

But Chinese medicine takes a wider view of the digestive process. It incorporates other aspects of internal health.

For example, imbalances in within the Liver area can also cause digestive disorders. Long-term stress and anxiety can cause a stagnation of blood/energy circulation within Liver. This, in turn, can lead to digestive problems. Common digestive issues include poor appetite, indigestion, abdominal pain and distention (bloating).

Indeed, you may have noticed bloating or loss of appetite during a stressful period. According to Chinese medical theory, that is no coincidence.

Basic causes of digestive disorders – brief summary of Chinese medical syndromes

In Chinese medical theory, these are some of the classic syndromes behind digestive disorders:

  • LIVER QI STAGNATION – This is the major syndrome for stress and can lead to IBS and food sensitivity.
  • SPLEEN QI DEFICIENCY – Also stress-related, but this is a more advanced syndrome. It leads to excessive mucus, inflammation and bloating. Most people with spleen QI deficiency feel sluggish and tired. Factors other than stress can also be present.
  • STOMACH QI DEFICIENCY – This is the main syndrome related to indigestion or dysmotility.
  • YANG DEFICIENCY – People suffering from this syndrome tend to have a lot of diarrhoea. As a part of treatment for this digestive disorder they need to eat warm foods.
  • EXCESS SYNDROME – This causes water retention and weight gain. It is recognisable by a general heavy feeling after food.

The most common causes of digestive disorders

  • STRESS

It is impossible to overstate how much stress affects digestion, in fact, digestive problems are commonly the first physical sign that you are under stress. Chronic conditions like IBS and constipation are usually markers of chronic,

Chronic conditions like IBS and constipation are usually markers of chronic, long term stress. When you are stressed you release adrenalin which actually stops your digestive system from working properly. In order to beat any digestive

When you are stressed you release adrenalin which actually stops your digestive system from working properly. In order to beat any digestive

In order to beat any digestive ailments you must also deal with your stress levels. This also includes emotional difficulties, anxiety and depression. For a

For a more complete guide on beating stress, please read our Stress Guide.

  • DIET

It is pretty clear that if you are having problems with your digestion, then you have to look at what you are putting into your body.

There are a million nutrition books out there trying to instruct you on the perfect diet. The fact is that everyone is different. In Chinese medicine, we analyse the person’s underlying syndromes and characteristics before giving specific diet advice. Some people can eat mildly spicy food, others should avoid chilli altogether, some people need more carbohydrates, others more protein. If you

In Chinese medicine, we analyse the person’s underlying syndromes and characteristics before giving specific diet advice. Some people can eat mildly spicy food, others should avoid chilli altogether, some people need more carbohydrates, others more protein.

If you are suffering from a specific digestive condition then it’s best to see a Chinese medical doctor so that they can advise you individually as part of your treatment. There are however a few general rules and guidelines for a healthier digestion (see the Advice section below).

There are however a few general rules and guidelines for a healthier digestion (see the Advice section below).

  • CLIMATE

Most people do not realise the effect of weather, humidity and temperature on their digestive system. Sudden changes

Sudden changes to external temperature affects your circulation, nervous system and also your digestion. Living or working in cold, draughty conditions can weaken digestion, hot weather can cause bloating and water retention. It is important that anyone

Living or working in cold, draughty conditions can weaken digestion, hot weather can cause bloating and water retention. It is important that anyone

It is important that anyone sufferring from digestive health problems should try to stay warm and dress appropriately for the weather.

Common digestive disorders – the Chinese medical view

Below are some of the most common digestive problems, and the Chinese medical view:

  • Indigestion- weakness of the Stomach and Spleen.
  • Gallstones- Damp Heat in the Liver and Gallbladder.
  • Gastric/duodenal ulcer- stagnation in Liver and Stomach Qi blood and energy combined).
  • Ulcerative colitis -Damp and Heat burning inside and damaging the blood vessels. This leads to ulceration and diarrhoea with blood and mucus in the stool.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)- imbalance between Stomach, Spleen and Intestines. Sometimes this also affects the Liver and Kidney.

Chinese medical diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders

A Chinese medical doctor will ask you several questions as part of diagnosis.  With these questions they aim to understand the root cause of your digestive disorders.

This will help them understand how your lifestyle and well-being are affecting your digestion.

The resultant treatment will involve Chinese herbs and acupuncture. The doctor should use these tools according to diagnoisis based on syndrome differentiation. 

Used correctly, Chinese herbs and acupuncture can treat digestive disorders as well as seemingly unrelated symptoms. For example, fatigue, skin problems etc.

+ Lifestyle advice for the prevention and treatment of digestive disorders

Your Chinese medical doctor should provide you with personalised diet and lifestyle advice as part of your treatment for digestive disorders.

Whether you are frustrated with those persistent digestive discomforts, or looking to perfect your health, keep these in mind:

  • Know your food intolerances

How do you feel after eating a lot of pasta and bread? Do you feel sluggish, bloated, and gassy?

Many of us are intolerant to certain foods like gluten and dairy. There are expensive intolerance tests that you can do but just cutting the suspicious foods from your diet for a few days should tell you all that you need to know.

If you feel better then it’s worth getting into the habit of cooking and eating meals that are free of the offending foods. It may seem like too much of a restriction but you’ll be amazed at how easy it can be and it will make you feel so much better.

Like all diet advice, be balanced and sensible – you can always give yourself a treat.

  • Eat plenty of fibre

You should be eating about 18g of fibre a day.

Insoluble fibre acts like a binder to keep you regular and prevent constipation, whereas soluble fibre helps reduce blood cholesterol and control blood sugar.

The best sources of fibre also tend to be very healthy so a high fibre diet is even more beneficial. Fruits, vegetables and pulses are best.

  • Avoid salads

Raw food is an excellent source of nutrition but can be hard work for the body to digest.

Fruits are fine but vegetables are not designed by the plant to be eaten and are often very hard for the stomach to breakdown.

Chinese medical doctors recommend that anyone with digestive health issues should stay away from salads, raw vegetables and cold food in general (like sandwiches).

Instead, lightly steam or stir fry all vegetables to  keep their nutrients but make them better for your digestive system.

  • Stay away from the cold

In Chinese medicine, the digestive process is a warm one and is negatively affected by cold.

One of the biggest differences between the Western and Chinese diets is not the food but the drink. If you drink cold liquid with a meal then all of the fats will solidify and turn your food into a sticky sludge that slows down your digestion and becomes stagnant.

Stagnant food in Chinese medicine can lead to excessive phlegm and mucus, and cause all sorts of conditions like fatigue, weight gain, allergies, immune weakness and headaches.

Cold liquid also consumes your body’s energy to heat it up and this takes away resources from your digestion.

A weakened digestion means that it is unable to efficiently absorb nutrients and energy.

This also applies to cold food like ice cream.

Drink warm liquid with all of your meals and you’ll be amazed at how different you feel. Low caffeine tea (oolong and Pu Erh tea) is perfect because it also contains essential oils to help your digestion.

  • Keep it low fat but high veg

Foods high in animal fat can lead to a sluggish and exhausted digestion. That’s not to say that you can’t eat any meat but make sure that you have green vegetables with every meal that double the amount of meat you are eating.

Fish, and lean meat are the best sources of digestion friendly protein.

  • No chilli

Spicy foods bring excessive heat to the body and can aggravate your stomach and intestines.

The annoying thing is that those who have a tendency to crave spicy food already have excessive heat in their body and are the ones that should avoid it the most.

Keep spice levels low until your body recovers.

  • Prebiotics and aloe vera

Prebiotic yoghurt drinks have been shown to improve your balance of essential bacteria that help your digestive system. It’s worth drinking them for a few weeks to see if it helps.

Another great digestive supplement is pure Aloe Vera. Drinking a small cup every day will soothe and lubricate your intestines which can help with constipation.


+ *CLINICAL TRIALS

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].


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Over five years ago I went to AcuMedic as I was suffering from oesophageal spasms, having been diagnosed by my GP. I did have medication for this but was still having problems. However, the doctor at AcuMedic put me on a special treatment and within a month I was much better. Now there is no sign of the spasms. - Mrs. G. M. R. read more
I have suffered sinusitis, problems with my bowels and right hand side near my liver/gall bladder. I have also suffered headaches, poor blood circulation. It's been a couple of weeks I have been receiving treatment at AcuMedic and already feel energised and feel looked after. I am receiving acupuncture and herbs to cure my condition. - Ms A. A. read more
Recently I had become stressed due to the news of my mother's ill health. This tension caused digestive issues for me and a month ago I was given acupuncture. The effects were immediate. I felt completely invigorated and able to cope again! - Ms A. L. read more
When I first came to AcuMedic I was suffering from major depression, acne and digestive problems. After 6 weeks of herbs, 2 courses of tablets and acupuncture I can honestly say the improvement has been quite unbelievable. - Miss K. C. read more

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