Traditional Chinese Medical Theory for Digestive Disorders

Gastrointestinal Disorders (diabetes, ulcerative colitis, IBS, Crohn's disease, etc.)

By Simel E.J. Bey, DAOM (c), L.Ac, AAHAS

In traditional Chinese medical theory, the Spleen is the key organ involved in gastrointestinal disorders. The Spleen has primary responsibility for "transforming" and "transporting" food essence in the body, including the excretion of waste material. The Spleen and Stomach are Yin/Yang partners, and each one can develop characteristic problems. The Spleen needs to be somewhat moist in order to function well, but if it becomes deficient in Chi, it will become overwhelmed by moisture, and a pathological condition of Dampness (or Damp Heat) can settle into the body. The Stomach, on the other hand, needs to be on the dry side to function well, and when its balance is upset, it can easily overheat, and a painful condition of Stomach Fire can develop. Other organs, especially the Liver, can also contribute to gastrointestinal distress. The four most common patterns seen when gastrointestinal problems are differentiated are as follows: Spleen Chi Deficiency, which is caused by chronic fatigue or chronic illness; Damp Heat Retention, which is caused by improper diet, environmental factors, or infections; Disharmony of Liver and Spleen, which is caused by emotional disturbance; and Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency, which is caused by chronic illness or aging. To treat these imbalances, Chinese medicine commonly uses acupuncture, herbal medicine, and moxibustion. When applied properly, these modalities balance Yin and Yang, harmonize Chi and Blood, nourish the organs, and eliminate Damp Heat.

Conditions which respond well to acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal medicine include:

• gastrointestinal infections such as virus infections from rotavirus

• bacterial infections from salmonella, shigella or escherichia coli

• inflammatory diseases such as chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis, chronic enteritis, and gastroenteritis

• peptic ulcers such as duodenal ulcer and gastric ulcer

• circulation problems in the gastrointestinal system such as gastrointestinal tract bleeding and intestinal cramps

• gastrointestinal tumors such as stomach cancer, tumors of the small intestine, or colon cancer

• inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease

• and other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and short bowel syndrome.