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IBS due to Food Stagnation
What's that mean? Basically it just means that the food isn't moving within the intestines very well. It probably feels like its just stuck there. So, symptoms of abdominal bloating, low appetite, belching, nausea or vomiting, heartburn, or gas can arise.
There are a few reasons for this to happen according to traditional Chinese medicine. There are causes due to diet and causes due to preexisting issues in the body.
The food stagnation tongue can have a thick tongue coating. Thick means that you can't see through it to the body of the tongue. Just about any problem of the digestion can cause dampness and food stagnation is no different. However, when food stagnation is the cause of the dampness, the tongue coating will appear dry whereas dampness causing a thick tongue coating will give rise to a wet looking tongue coating.
Talking about dietary causes of food stagnation, we can say that you simply ate too much, or you ate too much of the foods that are difficult to digest. Greasy, fried, dairy things are foods that can give rise to this condition. See if you can avoid deep fried ice cream if you're reading this page.
A hearty thanksgiving dinner can do this too. It isn't difficult to overtax your digestion if its kind of weak to begin with .
This is the so-called external cause for food stagnation. You ate too much, or you ate foods difficult to digest.
The other causes are internal in origin. One frequently found problem is that one's emotional upset causes the food stagnation.
There is an organ in Chinese medicine called the Liver. It is somewhat different from the liver that we think about in Western medicine. This Liver might be, for the sake of this food stagnation syndrome more like the nervous system. The Liver in Chinese medicine is especially sensitive to emotional upset. Should this happen, its job of circulating Qi energy in the body becomes hampered. When this occurs, the Qi circulation in the intestines is compromised and the intestinal contents stop moving well because the intestines' Qi is no longer moving well. To put this into more clear terms, the stomach and intestines stop squeezing the food down the line when you're upset. There's more on this topic found here.
In Western medicine, it is understood that there are different aspects of our nervous systems that control all of the important things in our bodies such as digestion. There is the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The both do all the automatic stuff that we don't have to think about like pumping blood, breathing, digesting food. But there is a catch. Only one of these two nervous systems likes to be in control at any given time.
When we're under stress, the sympathetic nervous system jumps into action. The heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, the blood inside of us moves to the muscles and other parts of the body that might be required in order run away from a tiger or climb a tree to avoid getting eaten.
When the danger passes, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over. But not until we're confident that there is no reason to fight or run away. Once that parasympathetic nervous system is functioning it can do the things that it likes to do such as digest food.
Now, when you're under stress, even though the problem may not be a tiger chasing you in the jungle, you're still going to be using your sympathetic nervous system and so anything in your digestive tract waiting to be digested will just sit there until you can calm down and allow it to do its job.
That's one reason why fast food is such an easy opportunity for food stagnation. With all the bright colors and the stress on getting in and out quickly, there is no opportunity for the body to really sit, relax and digest. Until you can relax a bit, the food simply will not move through the intestines.
Now, there are those who are in a state of constant anxiety or stress. Perhaps they work in a tiger's cage, or perhaps they're in something really dangerous like high ticket commissioned sales. Anyway, if that is their constant state of mind, then the body's ability to move the contents of their intestines will be hampered and food stagnation will be the result.
Sometimes, food stagnation is a thing that comes and goes quickly. The Liver isn't always just about running away from tigers in the forest, sometimes it is about other emotions as well such as losing something of value to you.
I've seen food stagnation arise as a result of something in the patient's life that was difficult to stomach, difficult to digest, difficult to accept. If your food stagnation began with a specific event that wasn't too pleasant emotionally, this is probably what's going on. The Liver's Qi is stagnated due to the stress and with it the Qi of the Stomach and intestines. With this sort of food stagnation, it isn't uncommon to completely lose your appetite.
In any case, we most certainly can help with the acupuncture and herbal medicines, but it is also a question of time before you can process (digest) the issue and what it really means to you. Once that's done, once you can make peace with it, your Qi will again begin to flow and the movement of the intestines will return to normal. Between now and then, there is most certainly a great deal of benefit to be derived from acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicinal remedies.
In terms of herbal medicines, the usual formula used for food stagnation due to overeating is called Bao He Wan (Preserve Harmony Pills). There are also some great pills that are found in Chinese herb pharmacies called Curing Pills or Bao Ji Wan. They're all great for this kind of food stagnation. I encourage you to just have some on hand at large family meals.
For the kind of stagnation that comes from emotional upset, you can usually find some benefit from Xiao Yao Wan (Rambling Pills) (sometimes spelled on the package "Hsiao Yao Wan"). Though a better formula, if you can get it made from scratch might be what is called Liu Mo Tang. I use this formula frequently for my patients who have that Liver Qi stagnation (emotionally induced) type of food stagnation.
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.
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