Have we forgotten what good digestion feels like? Gas, gurgling, constipation and diarrhea are such common daily struggles that we don’t even register them as health concerns anymore. Sometimes changes in diet can alleviate symptoms of indigestion but even healthy eaters now have to contend with increasingly prevalent food intolerances such as gluten and dairy. Some of us refuse to give up favorite foods and rely instead on the use of the literally hundreds of digestive remedies available at the drugstore from antacids to laxatives. How poor digestion pertains to infertility is also a concern. Different situations such as PCOS, endometriosis and anovulation can be improved with good diet strategies and optimal digestion.
Chinese medicine places great emphasis on having a happy digestive system. Not only what we eat but how well we transform our food into usable energy matters greatly in our body’s overall health. Be assured, the practitioners at TAC are well versed in the ins and outs of digestion and the more details you give us, the better assistance we can provide in helping your body get the most nourishment from food. Wouldn’t life be just a bit easier with perfect digestion? Here is a little primer on what Chinese medicine refers to as ‘good’ digestion from beginning to end….
The simple definition of good digestion is a good appetite, normal quiet absorption and regular bowel movements. While each individual will vary a little, we are constantly amazed at how many of our patients live with uncomfortable digestive issues. Heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue, these conditions are not representative of a healthy and nurturing digestive system. As Chinese medicine practitioners, we begin by examining your digestion in its different parts outlined below.
Tongue: We have invariably asked you to show us your tongue at the beginning of a treatment session. In looking at the tongue we get a good sense of what is occurring inside the body. The color should be pink with a thin white coat. A swollen tongue with a greasy coating indicates inefficient digestion and we would expect you to have gas, bloating and borborygmus (noisy gurgling). A red tongue indicates heat and is present with heartburn and constipation.
Stomach: In TCM we envision the stomach as a cooking pot as this is where the food is broken down by heat-activated enzymes. What happens when you add ice to a pot of boiling water? It stops cooking. Precisely why we advise you to limit the amount of cold foods and ice you consume and to drink beverages at least at room temp if not warmer.
Spleen/pancreas: The term Spleen in Chinese medicine refers to the entirety of the digestive system. The Spleen’s job is to transform and transport the food we eat. In western terms, we might think of this as our metabolism. It is very common for us to see people with weak spleen energy. This pattern will consist of bloating and loose stool leading to fatigue.
Liver: The liver’s nickname is “The General.” It oversees the proper digestion of fats and detoxifies our blood. If things do not run smoothly or stress interferes with our ability to eat well, we can easily develop liver qi stagnation. This pattern manifests emotionally and makes us feel irritable, aggressive, stubborn and angry. Ever notice when you’re constipated how frustrated and crabby you get? Constipation can be an example of liver qi stagnation in the body; when you have stuck qi, it makes you moody.
Intestines: The intestines are responsible for absorption and removal of waste along with other lesser known functions like replenishing our immune system. It is important that the intestines move food along properly and that the diet contains enough water and fiber for them to do so. Bowel movements are very telling of how the body is processing food overall.
Hopefully this overview of digestion in Chinese medicine motivates you to nurture your body with healthy foods and also to seek help for less-than-optimal digestion. Modifying your diet is crucial and we can help assess if trying a different diet strategy would be right for you. Acupuncture is very effective at relieving many common digestive complaints within just a few treatments. Chinese herbs are also often used to help strengthen digestion and eliminate constipation or diarrhea. Our goal is to help reduce the use of over the counter medicines so that your digestive system works in harmony naturally. How well our organs extract and utilize the nutrients we ingest is the central force behind feeling great and optimal fertility.