Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders are very common and affect millions of Americans every year. Digestive disorders are conditions that affect the digestive tract, which is made up of the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and intestines. Most people experience digestive problems at some point in their lives. In fact, antacids and laxatives are some of the most common over the counter medications sold in the United States. Digestive symptoms vary greatly in severity. While a digestive upset is a common occurrence, having symptoms regularly could be an indication of a digestive disorder. Some of the most common digestive disorders include: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (Chron’s and ulcerative colitis).

Emotions and the digestive system

The digestive tract is a very sensitive system and is often affected by factors other than nutrition such as stress and emotional factors. This is important, particularly when looking at digestive disorders through the lens of Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine looks at the body holistically, meaning that there is no separation between mind and body. Emotions are an important part of the picture while evaluating the state of someone’s overall health. Acupuncture is a great way to get better and more specific answers to your digestive problems, while also supporting emotional health. There is a direct correlation between emotions and the digestive system. Just thinking about food can trigger the stomach to produce more stomach acid, before food even enters the stomach. Stress and anxiety can also cause abdominal pain and affect bowel movements. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult for Western medicine to address the root symptoms of digestive disorders as they are often limited to just treating the physical signs and symptoms. Chinese medicine, however, takes psycho-emotional health into consideration while formulating the best treatment protocol. Chinese medicine always looks for the root cause of illness, which is often much deeper than the surface level presentation.

Can acupuncture help with digestive disorders?

Acupuncture is considered a safe and effective way of treating digestive problems, both acute and chronic. Acupuncture helps digestion by promoting qi (energy) and blood to the digestive organs and helping to reduce inflammation that may be present in the digestive tract. Acupuncture can also help to ease discomfort and pain that may be caused by digestive upset. In today’s modern world we are overstressed and overstimulated. Our bodies are in constant fluctuation between stressful and restful states. Acupuncture helps to release endorphins (the feel-good hormone) and helps to bring the body out of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and into the more restful parasympathetic (rest and digest) system. This will help to support the digestive system and allow the digestive organs to function more effectively.

Chinese medicine for digestive health

In addition to acupuncture, there are other tools that can be helpful while addressing digestive health. Nutrition is a large component while dealing with digestion issues. In the Western world, we are often taught to believe that there are “healthy” foods and “unhealthy” foods. Eastern medicine says it is not always that simple. Chinese medicine takes a very individualized approach to nutritional counseling. While some foods may be appropriate for one person’s condition and constitution, it may not be the ideal diet for someone else. Through a detailed history, our practitioners can come up with a treatment plan that includes diet and lifestyle recommendations, designed for the specific needs of each patient. Chinese herbal medicine is also an effective approach to treating digestive disorders. Similar to nutritional recommendations, a unique formula can be customized and prescribed to address specific digestive symptoms.

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