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Henry McGrath Dip.Ac Dip.TCM ND MTh

Bristol based – Worldwide web consultations
Acupuncture – Chinese Herbal Medicine – Naturopathy

Digestive Disorders

26th February 2010

Chinese Medicine has long recognised the importance of the Digestive system

In ancient China there was even a medical college called “The Stomach School!”

Modern lifestyles cause many problems for the digestive system, and part of your treatment will involve following advice on what you eat, and just as importantly how you eat it.

How does the modern lifestyle affect the digestive system?
• Overeating causes “food stagnation”: the digestive juices can’t break the food down properly, so it just sits there.
• We eat too much of what the Chinese call “damp” food (which is food that is not always easily digestible, such as dairy products and wheat). This creates “damp” and “phlegm” in the body.
• The digestive system doesn’t like the irregularity of modern lifestyles: it works better if you allow your body to develop habit of producing digestive juices (enzymes) at certain fixed times in the day.
• Toxins in food & drink cause problems. These include additives (check the label!); too much sugar; too much salt; antibiotics & hormones in meat & dairy; too much caffeine; pesticides in non – organic vegetables.
• Eating too quickly, while on the move, or while stressed, is bad for the digestion. When we are stressed, our bodies are geared up for action (the “fight or flight response”), and not for digestion. We produce adrenaline rather than digestive enzymes, and our blood flows to the muscles, rather than to the digestive system.
The possible effects of a weak digestive system
• “I.B.S.”
• Colonic spasms and pain
• Bloating
• Nausea
• Weight gain
• Feeling heavy & sluggish
• Diarrhoea or constipation
• “Phlegm” (undigested food), which is known as the “cause of 1000 diseases” in Chinese Medicine, such as sinusitis, glue ear and poor concentration.
• Weakened muscles, leading to prolapsed organs or “piles”.
• Weakened body tissue, so that one bleeds or bruises easily.
• Fatigue (because not enough energy is drawn from food): this leads to the digestion getting even weaker, so even less energy is drawn from food, and so on in a vicious cycle, which can result in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as C.F.S. or M.E.)

But the cycle can be broken with Chinese Medicine:
• Certain herbs clear food stagnation by breaking down food.
• Acupuncture promotes the production of digestive enzymes.
• Acupuncture stimulates “peristalsis”, the contractions of the gut wall that moves the food along.
• Acupuncture improves the functioning of the digestive system by allowing the body to produce less adrenaline and more endorphins (natural relaxants). This causes the blood to flow into the digestive system, rather than to the muscles.
• Herbs and acupuncture drain “damp” and “phlegm”: many herbs are diuretics so will get rid of excess “damp” in the body.
• Acupuncture and herbs stimulate the Liver to break down toxins.
• Acupuncture is great at moving stuck “qi” (energy), which can be blocked by negative emotions.
• There are special categories of herbs for each particular type of digestive disorder.
• Unlike Western medicine, Chinese Medicine recognises that everyone’s illness is unique: you will therefore be given your own unique herbal formula and acupuncture points prescription.