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herbs and spices for IBS herbs for ibs, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn, GERD
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  • Diarrhea
  • strong odor or burning anus
  • strong odor doesn't burn anus
  • no strong odor nor burning anus
  • mucus with burning anus
  • mucus without burning anus
  • yellow and explosive
  • aggravated by stress
  • alternating with constipation
  • doesn't feel done
  • aggravated by activity
  • aggravated by cold, raw, or any food
  • appears soon after eating
  • pencil or ribbon shaped
  • undigested food visible
  • early morning only
  • dark or purple stools

  • Constipation
  • pellet shaped
  • aggravated by stress
  • alternates with diarrhea
  • with heart burn
  • severe pain
  • better with warmth
  • dry and hard, short term
  • dry and hard, long term
  • aggravated by diet
  • lined with mucus
  • difficult to finish
  • causes exhaustion

  • Abdominal Pain
  • sharp and fixed
  • aggravated by eating
  • aggravated by stress
  • with bloating
  • better with activity
  • severe
  • better with pressure

  • Gas
  • with strong odor
  • without strong odor
  • burns anus
  • aggravated by stress

  • Bloody stools
  • strong odor
  • no strong odor
  • mucus with strong odor
  • mucus without strong odor
  • less than six months
  • more than six months

  • Heartburn
  • aggravated by stress
  • worse when bending or laying down
  • aggravated by eating
  • with excessive saliva

  • Nausea
  • aggravated by stress
  • with severe cramping pain
  • worse when bending or laying down
  • with bloating, belching, and bad breath
  • with excessive saliva
  • mostly clear fluid
  • with undigested food

  • Bloating
  • with constipation or sluggish stools
  • worse with fatigue
  • relieved by gas with strong odor
  • relieved by gas with light odor
  • relieved by belching with strong odor
  • relieved by belching with light odor
  • aggravated by stress
  • worse in the afternoon

  • IBS due to Internal Dampness

    Damp, also known as dampness, is a common outcome of digestion that isn't so efficient. The best metaphor that I can think of is when your car needs a tune up, it puts out more exhaust fumes. The dampness is the exhaust fumes in your body, and in addition to coming out the tailpipe in the form of loose stools, mucus lined stools or diarrhea with mucus, there are a variety of damp symptoms that can manifest just about anywhere in the body.

    It is even said that "strange diseases" without any discernible cause are most likely due to dampness, or it's child known as tan-yin in Chinese and phlegm-mucus in English.

    Tongue with thick coating

    The damp tongue usually has a thick tongue coating. The coating is so thick that you can't see through it to the tongue body proper. However, dampness doesn't always manifest in a thick tongue coating. Sometimes, it will show up as a tongue that is larger than it should be which is kind of like saying that the tongue is full of dampness. It will take on the shape of the teeth around it when this is the case. You can see from this image that this person has both the thick tongue coating as well as the teethmarks indicating dampness.

    There is a saying in traditional Chinese medicine. "The earth element creates damp and the metal element stores it." The organs associated with the earth element are the Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas. The organs associated with the metal element are the Lungs and Large Intestine. When damp is created by bad digestion, it likes to end up in the Lungs and Large Intestine. When its in the Lungs we get the usual phlegm coming up while coughing especially after eating something that is inherently difficult to digest such as a milk shake, other cold dairy products, or greasy foods. When the damp is stored in the Large Intestine, we find mucus lined stools, loose stools, sticky stools that are difficult to clean up after, or diarrhea with undigested bits of food in it. Even intestinal rumblings are due to dampness in the intestines. These are all forms of dampness.

    There is a formula that serves to treat the damp in the intestines that shows up as diarrhea. This formula is called Shen Ling Bai Zhu San (Ginseng, Poria, Atractilodys Powder). Its a great formula that can do wonderful things. They sell it on every street corner in China, right next to the KFC. I'm not sure if that is significant, however it is no secret that fried foods, greasy foods and fatty foods are known damp producing foods.

    Damp is a funny animal. If you have a rash and when you scratch it, it feels wet, that is damp. When clear thought is difficult or your head feels foggy, that is damp. When you can hear water sloshing around in your stomach, that is damp. Motion sickness is also an outcome of dampness. High cholesterol could be a Western expression of interior dampness as well.

    Dampness can also get in the way of the natural downward movement of the contents of the stomach which can give rise to heartburn, often times associated with excessive saliva production.

    The difficult thing to deal with when treating dampness is determining the cause of the inefficient digestion. Basically we call that Spleen Qi deficiency. Spleen Qi can become deficient due to a variety of factors. Determining which one applies will insure that the herbal treatment will treat both the cause of the problem as well as the symptoms associated with the dampness that the Spleen Qi deficiency produces.

    A few of the factors that deplete the Spleen Qi include:

    • Overthinking. Think about the archetypal student buried in his books; someone with little muscle definition who lives in an intellectual world and is perhaps overweight. Weight gain is considered an accumulation of dampness in Chinese medicine incidentally. So, living in your head robs your Stomach and Spleen of energy that should be used to digest food. When you're using your head all the time, all of that Spleen Qi is being used to digest information rather than food and this is what gives rise to the dampness accumulation. Sometimes, we're required to study and memorize, at these times of course there's nothing you can do, but when you're not under the gun, it would be wise to set aside some time each day for your meals. Don't read or study while you're eating. This aggravates the problem. Enjoy your food. Be present at the meal. Turn off the television and computer!

    • Stress. This is basically the wood overacting on earth scenario that is discussed elsewhere. To put this into simple terms, this is a stress induced deficiency of Spleen Qi. A stress induced digestive disorder. Stress has a way of messing with the neurology that makes the digestion work. When there is stress, there are digestive problems. Simple as that.

    • Diet. You thought I was going to miss this one? Sorry, here goes. Stuff that really taxes the Spleen energy giving rise to dampness include: Dairy, try switching over to soy based milk products. Fried foods. Deep fried ice cream is completely out. Deep fried anything is going to be tough to digest. Then comes all the fatty foods. Don't let that salad fool you, look at the fat you're dumping on when you reach for that Bleu Cheese Dressing. By the way, if you want to find out if a restaurant has healthy food, take a look at the people who are eating there. Do they look healthy to you? Don't let the salad bar fool you, especially if the salad comes with an ice cream bar and garlic cheese toast. (I'm talking to you, Sizzler!) Finally, Chinese medicine says that raw foods are more difficult to digest than cooked foods. That's why you don't see salad bars at Chinese restaurants. They prefer to cook the foods, at least partially which assists in its digestion. Some of the nutrition is lost, but much more is gained because of the increased efficiency in the body's ability to digest this food. So, if you have the choice between raw or cooked vegies, go with the cooked, even if they're just cooked a little. But not deep fried with cheese sauce on top, okay?

    • Kidney Yang Deficiency. This gives rise to Spleen Qi deficiency. This is another example of pathology that is addressed elsewhere in this series of articles. Basically, the Spleen needs warmth to function correctly, and it gets this warmth from the Kidneys. This is something like the thyroid function in Western medicine. Something like it. This is also an example of treating the cause and the symptom at the same time. We can strengthen the Spleen Qi all we want, but if the problem is really due to a lack of warm energy to help the Spleen do its job, then until we warm up the Spleen through the Kidneys, the benefits of any medicine simply will not arrive.

    • Living in a damp area. That doesn't mean that just because you live near the ocean you can eat your chili cheese fries without taking responsibility for your interior dampness, but living in a high humidity location can most certainly add to the problem of internal dampness. Living in a damp area can also give rise to dampness located in your channels and meridians. This is the kind of arthritis that is aggravated by cold and damp weather. Try the formula called Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang for some help with that. Another option would be to relocate to an area that is warm and dry which is obviously the opposite of cold and damp. Many retirees relocate to the desert Southwest of the USA for this very reason.

    Formulas for the sensation of water in the stomach which is due to a deficiency of Spleen Qi (another way of saying inefficient digestion) include Er Chen Tang (Two Cured Decoction) and Ping Wei San (Calm the Stomach Powder. Ping Wei San is more for dampness and Er Chen Tang is more for phlegm, but these two pathologies are related and these two formulas have many herbs in common.

    All of the formulas mentioned in this article are widely available at Chinese medicine pharmacies, though the so-called patent medicines that you'll find there aren't always as strong as they could be. These formulas come in a variety of different forms and strengths and your friendly neighborhood herbalist can assist you in obtaining them as is appropriate.

    You can purchase any of the formulas mentioned in this article by simply clicking on their names. Another option is to obtain this formula modified for your unique situation from Beyond Well Being.

    Be Well.

    Other symptoms that could be due to dampness include:

    • Diarrhea mucus without burning anus

    • Diarrhea with no strong odor nor burning anus

    • Diarrhea doesn't feel "done"

    • Constipation lined with mucus

    • Gas without a strong odor

    Be Well.

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