Digestive Conditions

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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.