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Digestive health IBS and traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine in digestive health

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is holistic healthcare system looks at the body differently. According to Chinese medicine, the body is like a garden that must be cultivated and maintained in order to grow strong and remain healthy. Good health happens when all of the organs and meridian systems are balanced and working together.

How does your garden grow?

According to Chinese medicine theories, there are several possible causes for digestive issues.

One of these is an imbalance of the spleen.

The Spleen is the organ in charge of digestion and assimilation of foods and liquids. One of the main functions of the Spleen is to aid in the production of Spleen Qi. Spleen Qi is the energy that provides power and nourishment for the entire body.

Another function of the Spleen is to produce blood from the food it breaks down and to convert it into usable energy to power your body. If your spleen isn’t properly cared for, the body’s energy levels will not be supported and illness may occur.

Main digestive symptoms of Spleen deficiency in TCM are: 

  • Poor appetite;
  • Bloating, especially after eating;
  • Loose bowel

Other symptoms of Spleen deficiency are: 

  • Lethargy;
  • Poor concentration;
  • Scanty or delayed period in women.

“Dampness” in Traditional Chinese Medicine

foods to avoid for irritable bowel syndrome IBSThe Spleen is easily affected and weakened by poor eating habits and diet, antibiotics, excessive worry, or a weak constitution. When a weakened spleen cannot metabolise or process food efficiently, “dampness” appears in the body.

Dampness occurs when rotting, undigested food sites in the gut, causing a variety of symptoms:

  • If dampness “rises” to your head, you may experience headaches, a “foggy” feeling and an inability to concentrate.
  • Over time, dampness can lead to bloating, fullness and loose stools.

Imbalance in the liver – common possible scenario

In TCM the liver is associated with emotional health.  Liver ensures the free flow of energy – including physical flow and mental energy flow. Stress and anger directly influence the function of your liver. Alcohol, drugs and medications, or a poor diet further compromise its function. When this happens, your liver energy overflows, in a figurative sense, and attacks the spleen. If your spleen is already weakened, it can be easily overcome. The result can be stress-induced symptoms.

If your liver is compromised, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Alternating diarrhoea/urgent bowel motion and constipation;
  • Bloating;
  • Gassy;
  • Headaches;
  • Cramping or dull pain.

In this case, your liver may be the root of the problem, and spleen the secondary problem.

Kidney-Yang deficiency – could be a underline cause

Kidney is energy that provides warmth for your body. This energy warms up your spleen to aid in the digesting and breakdown of food. If your kidney energies are compromised, you may experience

  • Early-morning diarrhoea;
  • Possibly bladder incontinence;
  • Cold limbs;
  • Low libido;
  • Menstruation symptoms;
  • Weak knees and a sore lower back.

A few common digestive conditions may have some or all of the above symptoms, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colitis, crohn’s disease, etc.

So what does a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner do?

Traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t diagnose or treat a “Disease”. Rather treat the person by addressing the underline connection of the above “Organs”.

When you meet with us, we will check:

  • Your main complaint;
  • Duration of the main symptoms;
  • Details of symptoms, such as appetite, bowel habit, form, frequency, associated symptoms;
  • The aggravating and relieving factors;
  • Western medicine diagnosis if there is;
  • Your treatment history and current management, such as medication, diet plans, supplements, etc.;
  • Other details of your general health such as your emotions, energy, menstrual cycle for female;
  • Palpation of your abdomen /back, your pulse and your tongue;

From all the informations that we’ve collected, we will make a Pattern Diagnosis (particular pattern of disharmony) according to TCM.

We then determine what organ and meridian systems are contributing to your digestive issues. We may suggest adjunct therapies such as acupuncture, moxibustion, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary changes, breathing techniques and exercises in order to maximise your healing.

To know if acupuncture Chinese medicine can be beneficial for your digestive health, such as IBS, colitis, please feel free to contact us.

Coburg and Ringwood Clinics

Located in Coburg and Ringwood, our acupuncture Chinese medicine clinics provide complementary care for the community in Melbourne Eastern and Northern suburbs.


Listed are a few recent researches of acupuncture TCM for some common digestive issues. Content are for patient’s reference only. You should contact your health practitioner directly for your health concerns.

Acupuncture plus Chinese Herbal Medicine for Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhoea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – 2019 reviews

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis

 2014 Feb 21;20(7):1871-7.

Efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine for Diarrhoea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trials

. 2016; 2016: 4071260.

Herbal Medicines for the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review

. 2016 Aug; 8(8): 2719–2725.