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An increasing number of people worldwide suffer from digestive issues, mainly due to poor diet, stress and lifestyle habits, and tend to rely on over-the-counter medications to temporarily ease uncomfortable symptoms.

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.

If you’re interested in discovering more about the Chinese medicine approach to improving or restoring digestive health, download our free guide, or come and visit us at AcuMedic Digestive Health Clinic.

How can we help?

As consistently validated by a growing body of research and endorsed by the WHO for certain conditions, a wide variety of digestive disorders, both chronic and acute, can be successfully treated with Chinese Medicine.

Our physicians are trained in both Chinese and Western medicine and take a comprehensive approach grounded in both medical systems. Following a thorough health assessment, they will tailor an individualised treatment that usually involves a combination of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs.

Treatments aim at relieving uncomfortable symptoms, including seemingly unrelated ones, soothing and easing any symptom of stress and anxiety, while targeting the underlying imbalance –  physical or emotional – and strengthening the function of the digestive system.

How quickly will I see results?

Chinese Medicine primarily focuses on reversing the underlying cause of the disorder, while also addressing and relieving presenting symptoms. Such an approach, while being ultimately more effective and safe than other drug-based approaches, can take longer to show effects.

Depending on the individual response, Acupuncture might provide some immediate symptom relief, while Herbal Medicine generally requires at least 1 week to show some results.

We normally recommend a minimum of 3-4 weeks to start seeing some effects, although appreciable improvements might be noticed sooner.

About Digestive Disorders

A wide variety of digestive issues fall under the umbrella term of ‘Digestive Disorders’, including stomach ache, acid reflux, IBS, constipation, gas, bloating, and any digestion-related abdominal pain, to name a few.

Underlying causes can be numerous and symptoms vary largely, ranging from mild to moderate to severe, from cramps to belching, heartburn, upset tummy and changes in bowel habits, among others.

While we all suffer from poor digestion from time to time, persistent symptoms shouldn’t be overlooked or masked by relying solely on over-the-counter medications. These, in fact, can only provide quick but short-term relief from uncomfortable symptoms.

If not addressed effectively, digestive disorders can have a huge impact on daily life and overall health.

When digestion isn’t working, meaning that you’re not digesting the food you eat, or not actually absorbing all nutrients from it, or not excreting waste material properly, the rest of the body might slowly start to suffer from it too.

Poor digestive health can sometimes lead to other complaints, including rashes, eczema, psoriasis, fatigue, low immunity, depression and insomnia.

Additionally, it can over time result in chronic conditions or autoimmune diseases like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and Crohn’s Disease, SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), along with thyroid and hormonal problems, emotional issues and mood swings.

Stress and lifestyle also play a huge role in digestive health and can often trigger flare-ups of the condition. In order to treat any digestive ailment effectively, it’s crucial to address stress levels, including emotional difficulties, anxiety and depression.

Whether you choose the Western or the Chinese Medicine’s approach or a combination of the two, it is essential you address lifestyle factors.

You can read more on beating stress in our quick guide.

Western Medicine view

‘All disease begins in the gut’.

As acknowledged 2,000 years ago by Greek physician Hippocrates (400 BCE) – ‘the Father of Modern Medicine’ – scientific research is now consistently proving the undeniable link between gut health and immunity, brain function, mood, stress and overall health.

Studies are showing that an imbalance in the gut flora, ‘our second brain’, together with hyper-permeability of the intestinal walls can potentially damage other organs and cause multi-organ dysfunctions.
In addition to this, disruption in the digestive system has been shown to impact mental health, resulting in anxiety, stress and other emotional symptoms.

Supported by a growing body of evidence, Western Medicine is now starting to take into account lifestyle factors in the treatment of digestive disorders and encourages healthier choices and a more mindful approach to food and life in general.

From a treatment perspective, symptoms still remain the main target with over-the-counter drugs like indigestion pills, liquids and laxatives, designed to give immediate but temporary relief.

The main concern to be aware of is that continued use of such drugs can cause symptoms to get worse over time, requiring higher dosages or leading to overuse. This not only reduces the efficacy of the medication itself but also allows the possibility to develop more serious or difficult to reverse chronic diseases.

Chinese Medicine view

‘Above all else, protect your digestion.’

The importance of the digestive system and the link between brain, mind and whole body or, in modern terms ‘the Brain-Mind-Gut axis’, has been recognized in Chinese Medicine for millennia. In fact, according to Chinese Medicine , any impairment of the digestive system can result in what is called ‘Qi deficiency’ and is known for triggering multiple, both mental and physical, symptoms.

Today, science confirms that an imbalance in the gut microbiota can be a root cause of several brain, mind, and physical disorders.

In Chinese Medicine digestive disorders are seen as a result of imbalances within the Stomach ZF, Liver ZF and Spleen ZF organs, the major areas responsible for the absorption and the transformation of food, drink, medications and anything you ingest into fuel and vital nutrients.

Hence, their optimal health is crucial to all bodily functions.

Depending on what Zang-fu organ is primarily affected, symptoms will vary. Treatment will vary too.

Generally, if the spleen is affected, symptoms such as abdominal distention, and pain, alternating constipation and diarrhoea, and gas might appear. When the stomach is affected, instead, more upper-digestive issues including distention in the upper abdomen, acid reflux, hiccups, belching, nausea, among others, could be experienced. Your Chinese medical practitioner will be able to determine this through a thorough assessment.

Chinese Medicine physicians will seek to restore the overall health of the digestive system and ease symptoms by using both Acupuncture and Herbal medicinal plants while also addressing lifestyle changes and diet.

In fact, the belief that food is a form of medicine and that a healthy, balanced diet is integral to overall health and well-being is a foundation of Chinese Medicine. Not only does it matter what you put into your body, but it also matters how you eat it and when/how often you feed during the day.

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).

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.

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, 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 ailments you must also deal with your stress levels. This also includes emotional difficulties, anxiety and depression.

Lifestyle Advice

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, and 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 healthier digestion:

  • Know your food intolerances – take time to learn about your body’s reaction to foods or get tested for intolerances and avoid those foods.
  • Reduce sugar.
  • Increase fibre to feed your microbiome.
  • Eat your meals while sitting. Try to avoid eating on the go or standing.
  • Eat mindfully. Chew food thoroughly and focus on the meal.
  • Always drink warm fluids with meals and avoid cold foods like ice cream.
  • Don’t multitask during meals.
  • Experiment with times of eating – avoid late-night food and give your body enough time between meals.
  • Avoid any chemicals or processed foods.
  • Eat more cooked food. Raw food is harder for the body to process.
  • Align yourself with the natural environment, and eat what’s in season and according to the season.
  • Exercise regularly and take time for rest, fresh air and sleep.
  • Consider pre-biotics like apple cider vinegar, especially in the morning.



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