Wisdom from Books

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Monday, February 5, 2018

The Chinese Approach to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The Chinese Approach to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is becoming an epidemic in the United States, affecting more than 25 million people, and 70 percent of them being women.

IBS is a disorder of the intestines, resulting in pain, bloating, gassiness, and changes in bowel movements.

The Chinese approach to IBS is based on the concept of balance and harmony between yin and yang. In Chinese medicine, the liver not only stores the blood but also regulates the amount of blood in circulation. Hence, the health of the liver is dependent on the sufficiency of blood for nourishment.

Chinese medicine is also about qi, which is internal life energy. The good circulation of qi contributes to optimum health; on the contrary, the stagnation of qi affects the normal functioning of the spleen, which plays a pivotal role in the circulation of body fluids, as well as oxygen and nutrients for nourishment and maintenance of body organs, especially those of the digestive system. Given that IBS is about movement and transportation of foods in the digestive system, the spleen has a critical role in the digestive health with respect to digestion processes and their related diseases.

In Chinese medicine, pensiveness or over-thinking affects the general health of the spleen, resulting in loss of appetite, abdominal bloating after meals, and indigestion in general.

In Chinese medicine, "dampness" (both internal and external) may damage the spleen and weaken its functions. For example, foods, such a sugars and dairy products, create “internal dampness” in the spleen. Flour products, such as bread, noodles and pasta, are dampening, because wheat (as opposed to rice) is dampening by nature. All oils and fats are also dampening by nature, and hence spleen-damaging. By the same token, all milk products are dampening.

 The best diet for the spleen is a clear, bland diet of unrefined grains, such as brown rice and beans, and low-fat meat, with lightly cooked vegetables.

Stephen Lau
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Lau

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