How IBS Is Approached in Chinese Medicine
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of the most commonly seen disorders by doctors. Some of the symptoms associated with IBS are abdominal cramping, urgency to defecate, gas, bloating, loose stools, constipation or stools that alternate from loose to constipation. Mucous may also appear in the stool. In diagnosing IBS, diagnostic medical tests often reveal “normal” findings and therefore people who suffer from IBS often get frustrated with lack of treatment. So let’s look at this disorder in a more energetic way. First, we need to identify what the digestive system does and what happens when it does not function properly and then understand the effectiveness that Chinese Medicine has on this disorder.
In IBS, the digestive system is not functioning efficiently and therefore gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea or both appear. In Chinese Medicine, there are differences in symptoms that constitute different treatment protocols. Therefore, it is not under the umbrella of one diagnosis. Let’s look at the different diagnosis and treatments in Chinese Medicine for IBS.

Spleen Qi Deficiency

This type of condition presents with patients who experience diarrhea and stomach pain that is relieved by pressure. They also may experience fatigue or depression.

Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency

IBS symptoms can appear as abdominal cramping, loose stools, and urgency to defecate. This type of condition is worse when one eats cold or raw foods. People with spleen and kidney yang deficiency can experience cold hands and feet and feel generally cold.

Liver and Spleen Disharmony

This person may have experienced IBS when they were going through a stressful time. Stress makes the symptoms worse. They may experience pain in the lower left abdominal region as well as constipation.

Cold In The Spleen

This type of condition presents with severe pain that is relieved by warmth, this type of presentation also is accompanied with constipation.

Damp Heat In The Large Intestine

This type of condition presents with an urgency to defecate with diarrhea that is odorous with gas and bloating as well as a burning sensation when one takes a bowel movement.

Chinese Medicine treats IBS very effectively

The method of treatment for IBS is specific to the diagnosis. Different herbs and acupuncture treatments are used with each condition as well as dietary recommendations in order to not only treat the symptoms but to further prevent them from appearing. For example, a spleen deficient diagnosis would call for boosting the digestive energy since it is weak. Bu zhong yi qi tang is a famous herbal prescription used in this type of condition. Along with this herbal formula, acupuncture points would be specific to nourishing and tonifying the digestive system. In liver qi stagnation types of IBS, the treatment protocol is to move the liver energy, which creates the pain in the lower left quadrant in the abdominal region. With this diagnosis, I normally base my formula on Xiao Yao San which relaxes the liver and moves stagnation as well as tonifies the digestive system. Acupuncture points are used to open the flow of energy in the digestive tract and decrease stress, which is the primary component that causes this condition. As each diagnosis is clearly treated, certain foods are also given to my patients in order to start balancing their digestive system.
The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that it specifically treats the individual and that is why it is so effective. As treatment is aimed at reducing and clearing symptoms, the factors that are causing the digestive system to become imbalanced need to addressed such as lifestyle, stress and eating habits. All together, there is a “whole” approach to treat IBS as well as keep it from reappearing. It is small changes that one has to do in order to prevent bigger problems in the future.

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