Digestive Conditions

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24 05, 2011

Indigestion

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, is not a disease but rather a collection of symptoms that cause discomfort in the upper abdomen. Most people suffering from indigestion have one or more of the common symptoms: nausea, bloating, belching, a sensation of pain, heat, or burning in the upper abdomen, or feeling full early on in a meal or an uncomfortable fullness after a meal that lasts longer than it should. People with indigestion may also experience heartburn, although heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Symptoms of indigestion might be felt occasionally or as often as daily.

There are many possible causes of indigestion. Some are related to how we eat, such as overeating or eating too quickly. Other causes relate to what we eat, such as eating greasy or spicy foods, or too much caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages or chocolate. Lifestyle causes can include smoking, nervousness, or stress. Indigestion can also be caused by other digestive conditions like peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, gallstones, or stomach cancer, or by medications, including antibiotics and some pain relievers. In some cases, a cause for indigestion can’t be found and it is labeled ‘functional dyspepsia’- a type of indigestion caused by the stomach's inability to accept and digest food and then pass that food to the small intestine.

Treatment for indigestion includes lifestyle changes, including avoiding offending foods, eating smaller and more frequent meals, managing stress, and getting regular exercise. Your doctor may change medications you are taking if they are causing indigestion, or other medications may be recommended to reduce stomach acid, reduce pain, or aid digestion.

In Chinese medicine, indigestion usually falls into the category of epigastric pain, because the symptoms are typically experienced in the epigastric region of the body, the area of the abdomen from the sternum to the navel. There are different patterns of disharmony that cause indigestion, which account for the very different ways in which people will experience the symptoms of indigestion. Indigestion can be caused by a number of factors, including our external environment such as being exposed to cold or damp conditions; our diet, including how much we eat, what type of food we eat, and when or how we eat; emotional upset such as frustration or worry; overwork; and a constitutional or genetic weakness that can make a person prone to digestive disorders. These factors can over time weaken the stomach and disrupt the digestive system’s normal functions.

When pinpointing the cause of indigestion and epigastric pain, we look at various symptoms. What is the nature of the pain- is it dull or severe, stabbing, burning, is it accompanied by a feeling of fullness? When does the pain occur: in the morning, afternoon, or at night? What relieves or aggravates the pain- is it better or worse after eating, with pressure, with heat or cold, with rest or exercise? Is there belching, nausea, vomiting, or regurgitation? Is there a feeling of bloating and if so, how does it feel? These questions help an acupuncturist to determine what aspect of digestion is not functioning properly and what imbalances need to be corrected.

Acupuncture can be very effective in helping to resolve the symptoms of indigestion. Treatment can help the stomach to better digest food and move it through the digestive tract, so that the stomach and other digestive processes are functioning properly again. It can also help to relieve pain, nausea, and bloating that often accompany this type of digestive condition. Indeed, like many digestive disorders, acupuncture is an excellent option for resolving indigestion and getting you back to your regular self.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. For more information visit www.okanaganacupuncture.com.

13 05, 2011

Ulcers (Peptic)

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the upper portion of the small intestine. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is burning pain that can be felt anywhere from the navel up to the breastbone, and can be worse on an empty stomach or at night and can disappear then return for a few days or weeks. This pain is caused by the ulcer, and is aggravated by stomach acid coming into contact with it. Less common symptoms may include dark blood in stools or stools that are black or tarry, nausea or vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and appetite changes.

Peptic ulcers occur when the acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the upper digestive tract, from the esophagus to the small intestine. The acid can create a painful open sore that may bleed. The digestive tract is coated with a mucous layer that normally protects against acid. But if this balance is disrupted, either by an increase in the amount of acid or a decrease in the amount of mucus, an ulcer can develop. Left untreated, peptic ulcers can lead to internal bleeding, infection of the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) and scar tissue that can interfere with the functioning of the digestive tract.

Ulcers can be due to a variety of causes, including a bacterial infection in the digestive tract and frequent or regular use of pain relievers or prescription medications that irritate or inflame the lining of the digestive tract. Other factors that contribute to ulcers are smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress.

Western medical treatment for peptic ulcers typically involves antibiotics along with medications to reduce the level of acid in the digestive system to relieve pain and encourage healing. A switch in medications may be needed if they are contributing to the ulcer.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), peptic ulcers are considered a type of epigastric pain. Internal imbalances in the stomach or liver organs are typically at the root of this. The accompanying symptoms, such as the nature and time of pain, thirst, nausea, taste in the mouth, and feelings of distention or fullness, will point towards the underlying imbalance that is causing the ulcer, and direct the acupuncturist towards the appropriate treatment. This in turn makes acupuncture a very effective tool in the treatment of ulcers. In fact, acupuncture can give excellent results in the treatment of epigastric pain, relieving pain and promoting healing of the ulcer. Acupuncture also works to strengthen the digestive system and encourage its healthy functioning. This makes the stomach less susceptible to digestive disturbances such as ulcers.

A number of factors contribute to ulcers and knowing these can help with the prevention. External factors such as exposure to cold and dampness can play a role, and diet is of course also very important, as poor eating habits can weaken the health of our digestive system and make it more prone to disorders. This can include not only the foods we eat, but also how much we eat (over-eating, under-eating, or eating irregular amounts throughout the day), eating too fast or eating on the run, eating late in the day, eating when emotionally upset, or going back to work too quickly after work. Another contributing factor is our emotions- not only stress but also anger, frustration, worry and over-thinking. Finally, our genes also play a role, as we are all born with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these weaknesses means that we can adjust our habits accordingly to prevent problems down the road and  promote optimal health.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

18 01, 2011

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when one or more diverticula- small, bulging pouches that form in the digestive tract- become inflamed or infected. Diverticula can form anywhere in the digestive system, from the esophagus to the small intestine, but are most commonly found in the large intestine. They usually develop in naturally weak places in the large intestine that eventually give way under pressure, causing marble-sized pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticula are common, especially after the age of 40, though a person may not ever know they have these pouches because they seldom cause problems.

Sometimes, however, the pouches become inflamed or infected, and diverticulitis occurs. When this happens, it commonly causes symptoms of severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen, abdominal tenderness, fever, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Exactly how diverticula become inflamed or infected isn't understood but factors that increase the risk include age (it is most common after the age of 40), a low-fiber diet, lack of exercise, and obesity.

Mild cases of diverticulitis are typically treated with rest, antibiotics, and a liquid or low fiber diet for a few days until symptoms improve and the infection heals. Pain medication may also be prescribed if the pain is moderate or severe. Surgery may be recommended for more serious cases of diverticulitis to remove the diseased part of the colon.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine (TCM) can be an effective option for diverticulitis. Like other digestive disorders, diverticulitis is an inflammatory condition and acupuncture can help to relieve inflammation and strengthen the digestive system to promote proper functioning. In TCM, diverticulitis is classified as a type of abdominal pain because this is the main presenting symptom with the condition. It can develop as a result of our environment, such as cold or dampness, our diet, or emotional stress, which over time, combined with a person’s constitution (genetics), can make the body prone to digestive disorders.

Diagnosis is further made according to the nature of the pain, how it reacts to pressure, food or drink, activity/rest, heat, and bowel movements. This information can point an acupuncturist more specifically towards what is going on inside the body to cause the disorder, in order to target this imbalance in treatment and resolve the condition. There are actually 6 different types of abdominal pain in TCM that could lead to diverticulitis, and by understanding very specifically the cause of the condition, which can vary from person to person, we can very effectively focus on resolving the imbalance. With acupuncture we can relieve the symptoms of diverticulitis such as inflammation, pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Acupuncture can also help to strengthen the immune system and the digestive system to ensure that both are functioning properly in order to resolve the condition and prevent future flare-ups from occurring.

Of course, with a digestive disorder it is very important to support treatment with lifestyle changes, particularly diet. Diverticulitis can be prevented or improved through a high-fiber diet, regular exercise, and drinking plenty of fluids. In addition, avoiding food or drinks of a cold temperature, sour foods, and greasy foods can help to manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Diverticulitis doesn’t mean a person has to suffer; with healthy habits, one can live a comfortable, symptom-free life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Gastritis

Gastritis is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that all share a common symptom of inflammation of the stomach lining. Gastritis can be chronic or acute, and for most people it is not serious and resolves quickly with treatment.  Symptoms include a gnawing or burning pain or ache in the upper abdomen that may be either worse or better with eating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, belching, bloating, a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating, and weight loss.

Acute gastritis happens suddenly and is more likely to cause nausea and burning pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Chronic gastritis develops gradually and symptoms are usually a dull pain and a feeling of fullness or a loss of appetite after a small amount of food. In many people, chronic gastritis may cause no symptoms at all. In rare, severe cases, gastritis may cause stomach bleeding- requiring prompt medical care.

Gastritis is a result of the stomach's protective layer becoming weak or damaged. The stomach has a mucus-lined barrier that protects it from the acids that help digest food. Weakness in the barrier exposes the stomach lining to damage and inflammation from digestive juices. This can result from a bacterial infection, regular use of pain relief medications, severe stress, alcohol intake, bile reflux disease (when bile flows up into the stomach), an auto-immune dysfunction, or it can be a result of different conditions or diseases. Treatment may involve addressing the underlying problem, such as stopping the use of substances which lead to gastritis or taking antibiotics if it is due to a bacterial infection, or taking medications to reduce or neutralize stomach acid.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), gastritis conditions are classified as stomach pain, which includes both gastritis and ulcers. Gastritis is a loose term that can apply to so many different conditions, and Chinese medicine does not rely on Western diagnosis for treatment, but rather looks closely at the specific symptoms experienced, in order to determine the specific causes for each person.

From a TCM perspective, gastritis can be caused by a number of different factors. Acute gastritis can be caused by the abdomen being exposed to cold temperatures or damp conditions, which can cause a blockage in the qi-energy of the stomach and intestines. Diet is of course a major factor. Eating too little or too much food, eating too much cold food, hot-spicy food, sugar and sweets, or greasy, fried, or dairy foods can damage the function of the stomach. Irregular eating habits such as eating too fast or on the go, eating late in the evening or at night, eating while stressed or emotionally upset, skipping breakfast, eating while performing other activities, or eating irregular amounts of food from day to day may also be factors. Emotional upset such as anger, frustration, resentment, worry and stress can lead to stomach problems, as can overwork and physical over-exertion. And finally, our inherited constitution may mean for some people a weakness in the stomach, which makes it prone to disorders such as gastritis.

Because of the accuracy in diagnosis, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can yield excellent results in the treatment of gastritis and promote healing of the stomach lining.  Acupuncture can also help with many of the symptoms of gastritis including nausea, pain, and vomiting, and can help to reduce stress and improve overall digestive functioning. Combined with lifestyle and dietary changes, it can be an effective treatment option for resolving gastritis, strengthening a weak digestive system, and preventing future stomach disorders from occurring.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract lining. This inflammation often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissues. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. When the disease is active, the most common symptoms are severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool, ulcers in the intestinal walls, and reduced appetite and weight loss as a result of digestive discomfort and the body’s reduced ability to absorb nutrients. Other symptoms that may accompany Crohn’s diease include fever, fatigue, arthritis, eye inflammation, skin disorders, and inflammation of the liver or bile ducts.

The cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown but it is believed to be caused by a combination of heredity and a malfunctioning immune system. Diet, stress, and certain medications may aggravate the condition. There is also no known medical cure for Crohn's disease, and medical treatment focuses on reducing the inflammation in order to relieve symptoms and if possible to promote long-term remission. Treatment for Crohn's disease usually involves medications such as anti-inflammatories, immune system suppressors, and antibiotics, combined with other medications to help with the symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove a section of the intestinal tract.

Because Chinese medicine (TCM) developed independently from Western medicine, it has a different view of Crohn's disease. Chinese medicine has its own disease classifications that do not always correspond with Western medical classifications. TCM diagnosis is based on the collective symptoms that a person is experiencing, and together these symptoms create a picture that leads us to the cause. Depending on symptoms, we may classify Crohn’s disease as a type of abdominal pain or diarrhea, or both.

Because Crohn’s disease affects the body’s digestive system, it may involve a weakness or disorder of the stomach, spleen, large intestine, and/or kidneys. This is usually due to a constitutional weakness (genetics) that can be aggravated by diet, environment, emotional stress, overwork, or chronic illness, leading to the development of this condition. Acupuncture treatments can help to relieve the symptoms of a flare-up of Crohn’s disease. Diarrhea and abdominal pain particularly respond well to acupuncture. Not only does acupuncture help with the symptoms of a flare-up, but it can also help to strengthen the body and correct functioning to promote faster remission and a reduction in the frequency and severity of future flare-ups.

Because we are dealing with a more complex, chronic condition, recovery from Crohn’s disease with acupuncture will be a gradual and steady process, rather than an instant fix. Acupuncture engages the healing process, and each treatment builds on the progress of the last. Conditions like Crohn’s disease that develop over a longer period of time take more time to reverse and undo. However, acupuncture is a positive option that can help sufferers of Crohn’s disease live more symptom-free and experience a better quality of life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

3 01, 2011

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon), causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although at times symptoms may be worse and at other times they may improve or even disappear completely. As many as 1 in 5 adults experience IBS.

It's not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food through the intestinal tract. With IBS, the contractions may be stronger and longer than normal, forcing food to move through the intestines more quickly, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In other cases, the opposite occurs and food passage slows, and stools become hard and dry. Abnormalities in the nervous system or colon may play a role in IBS. Certain foods, stress, hormones, and illnesses may trigger IBS symptoms.

Because it's not clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome, Western medical treatment focuses on the relieving of symptoms. Treatment may include fiber supplements, eliminating foods that trigger symptoms, and medications such as antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medications, and anti-depressants, among others. Many people may have only mild symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that can be managed by learning to manage stress and making changes to diet and lifestyle. However, sometimes symptoms can be disabling and may not respond well to medical treatment.

Acupuncture offers a positive option for IBS sufferers. Often irritable bowel syndrome is used as a catch-all phrase for all cases of abdominal pain which do not have another explanation. In Chinese medicine, the various cases of IBS do not fall into one broad disease category, but are broken down into many different disorders because the causes can be so varied. This is why individual symptoms may vary so greatly from person to person, because the underlying problem is usually very different for each person. In Chinese medicine terms, IBS may be classified as a type of abdominal/intestinal pain, epigastric/stomach pain (occurring in roughly half of IBS sufferers), or as a type of diarrhea, depending on the individual symptoms experienced.

For IBS with abdominal/intestinal pain, the cause is usually due to the liver-energy becoming blocked, which may further cause problems with the spleen’s digestive functions. The blocked liver-energy causes symptoms of bloatedness, constipation, and belching, as well as moodiness and irritability, symptoms which may be aggravated by emotional upset. If the spleen is also involved, there will also be fatigue and alternating constipation and diarrhea. Acupuncture treatment helps to move the liver-energy in order to resolve the retention of food, relieve pain and improve digestion, and corrects spleen functioning to resolve diarrhea and improve energy.

For IBS with epigastric/stomach pain, the cause can be due to a variety of different imbalances with the stomach, leading to improper or incomplete digestion of food. This can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from pain, nausea and vomiting, to belching, headaches, diarrhea, or constipation. The specific symptoms experienced will depend on the specific problem that is occurring with the stomach, whether it is due to heat or cold damaging the stomach, or because the stomach-energy is blocked. In any case, acupuncture can help the stomach to function properly so that digestion is corrected, resolving symptoms.

In any case, acupuncture offers very effective and lasting relief for IBS sufferers, helping to resolve symptoms and prevent future flare-ups and allowing those with IBS to live a more regular, symptom-free life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

16 12, 2010

Nausea

Nausea is a common ailment with many different causes, from stomach flu, morning sickness and medications to vertigo, motion sickness, migraines, surgery, cancer treatment, the foods we eat, and GERD, among many others. Morning sickness is a type of nausea commonly experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy. It varies in severity and there is no clear cause, although it is thought to be the result of hormonal changes in the body.

In Western medicine we can treat nausea at home with plenty of rest and sipping small amounts of fluids to stay hydrated, eventually moving to small amounts of bland, easily-digested foods. Of course if there is no real change over a long period of time, other more serious, medical conditions should be considered.

Acupuncture offers great relief for nausea and vomiting with little or no side-effects. There has been a lot of research into the benefits of acupuncture for nausea caused by chemotherapy and radiation, pregnancy and morning sickness, surgery, and HIV, demonstrating its effectiveness for nausea.

Nausea and vomiting are signs that the stomach qi-energy is flowing in the wrong direction. Normally, the action of the stomach is to move food downwards. However, sometimes the stomach energy will begin to flow upwards due to a disorder of the stomach due to stomach vacuity, cold, heat, dampness, or food stagnation in the stomach. Depending on the type of pattern, there may be a variety accompanying symptoms ranging from bloating and loss of appetite to headaches, dizziness, chest pain, and acid reflux.

Acupuncture focuses on harmonizing the stomach energy and promoting the proper flow of qi-energy so that the stomach is functioning properly again. We combine this with correcting any other presenting imbalances such as warming the stomach if there is cold, draining fire for stomach heat, and drying dampness. A series of treatments is typically necessary to resolve nausea or vomiting, although relief can be quite immediate. Indeed, as many studies have shown, acupuncture is in fact very effective for the relief of nausea, whatever the cause.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

18 11, 2010

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools, bloating, and abdominal cramps or pain, as well as more frequent trips to the toilet. Acute diarrhea is something that nearly everyone has likely experienced at one time or another and usually lasts only a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea, however, typically lasts longer and can be a discomfort and disruption to our lives.

Diarrhea can be caused by foods we eat, medications we take, viruses, bacteria, or parasites, surgery, or digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis. Our digestive system takes a lot of stress because in our busy lives we often eat poorly or eat on the go or when we are stressed.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine (TCM) can help with diarrhea. In Chinese Medicine there are six patterns that can lead to diarrhea. For all of them, the main cause is a disruption in the normal function of the spleen and stomach, which affects our digestion. Acute diarrhea is often brought on by poor diet; external cold, heat, or damp climate or living conditions; or emotional stress. Chronic diarrhea is most often caused by a yang deficiency of both the spleen and kidneys, which in turn impairs the spleen and stomach’s ability to break down food into something useful, and then transport the useful part throughout the body.

The first three types of diarrhea are often acute, causing a sudden onset which will also include other symptoms depending on the cause. A cold-damp pattern of diarrhea will be accompanied by abdominal pain, fever, aversion to cold, stuffy nose, headache, and general aches and pains. Damp-heat pattern diarrhea will be accompanied by abdominal pain, urgency, burning sensation, irritability, and thirst. The third acute pattern is called “retention of food”- this is common when people have eaten poorly or have eaten far too much undigestible food or poor-quality food. This causes diarrhea with abdominal pain, rumbling digestive sounds, fullness in the abdomen, burping, acid reflux, and loss of appetite.

Chronic diarrhea makes up the other three types of patterns. Liver and spleen dysfunction pattern diarrhea will be accompanied by distention and congestion in the chest and rib side, burping, poor appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea brought on by depressed moods, and frequent irritable or angry moods. Deficiency of the spleen and stomach pattern diarrhea is accompanied by chronic loose stools, frequent bowel movements after eating heavy, oily or greasy foods, loss of appetite, bloating after eating, and fatigue after eating and throughout the day. Kidney and spleen deficiency pattern is due a lack of yang, or warming, energy. The yang energy is what supplies the warmth and the ability to “cook” the food in our stomach as well to transform it into something useful and transport it throughout the body. When this function is impaired due to deficiency, there is early morning diarrhea, a cold sensation in the abdomen with pain and rumbling just before bowel movement, a feeling of always being physically cold, and a sore low-back and knees.

Acupuncture helps to strengthen these weakened organs and resolve imbalances in order to improve the transformation and transportation of food. A real positive of acupuncture is the ability to differentiate the cause of a person’s diarrhea, and so to treat it effectively and fully resolve the problem. With the digestive system functioning properly, diarrhea and other digestive problems are relieved. Also, a strengthened digestive system and healthy functioning means that future digestive upsets are less likely to occur.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

28 10, 2010

Constipation

Constipation is a frequent gastrointestinal problem that can cause a lot of discomfort and put strain on the digestive system. Being constipated means not being able to have regular bowel movements but it can also include having difficulty passing stools, hard stools, or a feeling of blockage or of incomplete passage after a bowel movement. Fortunately, constipation is usually temporary, but chronic constipation can cause further problems or can be a sign of an underlying disorder. A number of factors can cause constipation, including not drinking enough fluids, eating a poor diet or not enough fiber, not enough physical activity, illness, long term use of laxatives, or it can be a result of certain medications or diseases.

In Western medicine, the solution for constipation in most cases is simple and involves eliminating the factors that are causing the problem. In other words, eating lots of dietary fibers (vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains), drinking a lot of fluids, getting regular exercise, and taking time for the toilet and not ignoring the urge for a bowel movement. However, in some cases, constipation can be a chronic problem that isn’t easy to resolve in spite of our efforts. This is where acupuncture can help.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), constipation results from a stagnation of internal heat and dryness resulting in a lack of fluids, stagnation of the flow of energy from emotional upsets, deficiency of qi-energy or blood from internal injury, strain, stress or a lack of physical exercise.  Constipation is classified into five categories of imbalance that inhibit the proper function of the large intestine, as well as the spleen, stomach and kidneys.  In order to understand what type of constipation we are dealing with, we look at other symptoms that a person may also be experiencing along with the constipation.

  • Heat constipation will have added symptoms of flushed, red complexion, fever, thirst, dark, scanty urine, halitosis, abdominal distention and sometimes even pain, and elimination every several days.
  • Qi stagnation type will have symptoms of frequent belching, rib distention or pain, reduced food intake, and abdominal distention.
  • Qi deficiency type will show a difficulty in elimination with the desire to go, lack of strength to move the bowels, stools will be neither dry nor soft, shortness of breath, fatigue, spontaneous sweating.
  • Blood deficiency constipation will have other symptoms of dry hard stool, pale complexion, dizziness and vertigo, palpitations, pale lips and nails, pale tongue.
  •  With cold type constipation there will be difficulty eliminating, large quantities of urine, pale complexion, dizziness and vertigo, cold limbs, a preference for heat and aversion to cold, abdominal coldness and pain, and cold achy low back and knees.

It is interesting that Chinese medicine has such specific differentiations for constipation, whereas Western medicine sees all of the different types of constipation as the single same problem. Once again, it is this very specific diagnosis that makes acupuncture so effective. Because we are pinpointing where exactly the problem lies, we really get an understanding of what pattern of imbalance is causing the constipation to occur. From there it is a matter of targeting the imbalance and correcting it in order to restore the body’s normal, healthy functioning. This in turn, helps to resolve not only the problem of constipation and improve digestion, but also help with the various and seemingly unrelated symptoms that tend to go along with the constipation.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

8 10, 2010

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is pain and discomfort experienced anywhere in your torso between your chest and your pelvis. Abdominal pain may appear as an accompanying symptom to many diseases such as abdominal masses, appendicitis, hernia, and many gynecological disturbances. Unless the pain is servere, abdominal pain is usually not considered a medical emergency. In many cases of abdominal pain, no definitive diagnosis can be made, and is considered benign. In this article we will be discussing uncomplicated abdominal pain which will not include the diseases just mentioned.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), abdominal pain can be caused by a problem with the actual organs contained in the abdomen as well as a disruption in the energetic meridian that passes through the abdomen. There are many factors that can cause these kind of disruptions such as the body retaining either excess heat or cold from our environment, excessive diet and drinking, emotional upset leading to stagnation of energy causing obstruction or lack of nourishment to the meridians, or yang energy deficiency causing again a lack of nourishment as well as obstruction, all of which can result in abdominal pain.

With Chinese medicine it is important to differentiate what type of abdominal pain is being experienced. To do this we look at the symptoms of the abdominal pain to see what they represent. It is important to first differentiate whether it the imbalance is due to heatt, cold, excess or deficiency. Abdominal pain that is aggravated by pressure and occurs after eating usually indicates excess, while abdominal pain relievable by pressure and occurring during hunger usually shows deficiency. If the pain is relieved by heat it means a cold syndrome, while if it were relieved by cold it indicates a heat syndrome. All of these are diagnostic descriptions that help an acupuncturist determine what aspect of the body is experiencing imbalance.

Differentiation also considers whether the pain is caused by qi-energy or blood disorders. A migrating and distending pain indicates stagnation of qi-energy, and a localized stabbing pain indicates blood stasis. In order to identify what organs are involved, we look at where the pain is located. If the abdominal pain radiates to the upper side abdominal region, it usually indicates a disorder of the liver and gallbladder. If it is located around the belly button it indicates a disorder of the spleen, stomach, intestine and bladder. If the pain radiates to the lower back it relates to the kidneys.

All of these indicators help an acupuncturist determine a treatment plan for treating abdominal pain and help identify the underlying cause. By doing so, we are able to address the problem in a way that allows us to resolve the problem, rather than simply relieve or mask symptoms.

Because abdominal pain is an example of a symptom that can have so many different causes depending on the individual, it is a good example of why acupuncture is so effective and how it can cater to each person’s individual health picture in order to best address health problems and improve all-round health.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

16 02, 2009

Heartburn / GERD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is commonly known as chronic heartburn or acid reflux, because of the burning sensation in the chest and sometimes throat, as well as a sour taste in the mouth, which are tell-tale symptoms. Heartburn is a symptom of a condition in which stomach acid or occasionally bile flows back into the esophagus. This constant backwash or reflux can irritate the lining of the food pipe and cause inflammation, and lead to further problems such as ulcers and constricting of the esophagus.

Many people manage the discomfort of heartburn with over-the-counter remedies, which may offer temporary or only partial relief. For more severe GERD, prescription medications or even surgery may be recommended, and new alternative treatments are being developed.

GERD occurs when the muscle that holds the esophagus closed where it meets the stomach relaxes abnormally or weakens, allowing stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus. GERD can also be caused by anything that puts extra pressure on the stomach and diaphragm, such as a hernia, obesity, or pregnancy. GERD commonly develops in people who have diabetes, and there is also a link between GERD and asthma sufferers.

Certain foods can aggravate GERD such as fatty or spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine, onions, tomato sauce, carbonated beverages, mint, and alcohol. Eating large meals or lying down soon after eating can also aggravate GERD, as can taking certain medications. Smoking may also aggravate GERD. Eating smaller meals, wearing clothes that do not constrict the abdomen, and eliminating heartburn triggers, such as certain foods, can help to reduce this condition.

In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), GERD is seen as a liver and stomach function disorder. The condition may worsen in the spring, when the liver is most active, or with emotional upset, which aggravates the stomach. Conventional medicine often does not make the connection between the liver and the stomach, and therefore treatment often focuses solely on treating the stomach, which may help alleviate the symptoms but not the root cause. In Chinese medicine, the liver and stomach are very closely related, with the liver helping to regulate the stomach and keep it in balance if it becomes too excessive or unbalanced. If the liver is not functioning properly, it can cause problems in the stomach. One of these problems is the disruption of the flow of stomach energy, which normally moves in a downward direction. When the stomach energy is pushed upwards, acid reflux is the result.

Acupuncture treatment balances the function of the liver and the stomach, so that these organs work in harmony again. To support a healthy balance between the liver and stomach, healthy eating habits are important, as are finding ways to manage stress and emotions. Because the liver is very closely tied to our emotions, prolonged anger, stress, frustration, or emotional upset can cause the liver to become unbalanced and interfere with its ability to do its job properly. Bringing it back into balance will see many symptoms resolving without the need for medications or other interventions. As with many conditions, acupuncture can give positive results to heartburn sufferers, in a gentle and non-invasive way.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.