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Common Digestive Issues – How TCM can help?

Did you know that most digestive issues stem from  our bad lifestyle habits, unhealthy diet and stress? This means that by taking steps to improve your lifestyle, you can help alleviate and even prevent many of these problems from occurring. 

In this post, we will share three of the (most) common digestive issues– and how TCM can help

1. Indigestion

One of the most common digestive issues is Indigestion. Indigestion (dyspepsia) is defined as a discomfort at the upper abdomen. This discomfort includes bloating, early fullness during a meal, burning sensation and/or nausea. 

According to TCM principals, our digestive system is governed by the spleen and it is in charge of digesting the food and water we consume, converting them into Qi and blood, subsequently transporting them to different parts of our body for nourishment. The two main syndromes for indigestion in TCM include: Spleen deficiency 脾虚食滞 and Liver-Stomach disharmony 肝胃不和.

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Instructions: 

  1. Place the ingredients as required in a cup
  2. Add boiling water and let it seep for 5 minutes

2. Constipation

Apart from indigestion, the other most common digestive issue that bothers people from all generations is constipation. Constipation happens when bowel movement becomes less frequent (more than 3 days once) and stool becomes difficult to pass. Besides the above mentioned, constipation is usually accompanied with other symptoms such as hard or small stool, bloating and the feeling of incomplete bowel clearance. 

From a TCM point of view, constipation is the result from the weakened large intestine function to transmit waste products. There are 3 main syndromes of constipation and they are: Spleen deficiency 脾虚食滞,  Dampness heat 肠胃湿热 and Qi and Blood deficiency 气血两虚.

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3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal issue that one in ten Singaporeans suffers from. It is a disorder that affects mainly the large intestine with symptoms that include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and the feeling of incomplete bowel clearance. Diet, poor sleep, changes in gut microbiota and stress may all trigger symptoms. Symptoms and severity may vary from person to person. Even though the exact cause of IBS is still unknown, there is much research done on the relationship between stress and IBS.

IBS is classified into 2 main subtypes, including IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) and IBS with constipation (IBS-C). According to TCM Zang Fu theory, IBS-D correlates to the Liver depression and spleen deficiency syndrome (肝郁脾虚) while IBS-C is due to Dryness and heat in intestine syndrome (热结肠燥).

Instructions: 

  1. Wash the ribs and cut them into smaller pieces and blanch them to remove remaining blood. 
  2. Wash the coix seeds, lentils and mandrian peels.
  3. Cut the winter melon into smaller pieces and slice the ginger.
  4. Add all the ingredients into a casserole and add an appropriate amount of water.
  5. On the fire to high heat until the soup starts to boil.
  6. Once the soup is boiling, turn the heat down to low heat and simmer for 1.5hours. 
  7. Once done, season the soup with an appropriate amount of salt and it is ready to be served.

Self care tips to avoid common digestive issues:

  • Avoid overeating and have regular and smaller meals
  • Reduce intake of stomach irritants such as dairy, cold, uncooked and oily fried food 
  • Maintain a work life balance and avoid staying up late
  • Exercise regularly at least 3 times a week
  • Engage in stress relieving activities like yoga and meditation
  • Practise regular bowel habits of going to the toilet at the same time daily
  • Do not exercise on a full stomach. Opt to exercise before a meal or at least an hour after a meal 

All in all, food and stress are external factors affecting our digestive system, leading to these common digestive disorders. Since syndrome differentiation is the essence of TCM and there is “no one size fits all” treatment plan, a consultation with a physician to more accurately diagnose your body constitution is best. Depending on your condition,  a personalised herbal formula and acupuncture treatment can be prescribed to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes.  

Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Physician Chelsea Tan

Management Trainee

Double Degree (Honours with Merit): Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences & Bachelor of Medicine (Chinese Medicine), Nanyang Technological University and Beijing University of Chinese Medicine

Chelsea’s knowledge and passion for TCM grew as she witnessed the diversity of TCM holistic treatments as well as its effectiveness when East meets West. During her two years of internship at Dong Fang Hospital, Beijing, Chelsea honed her skills and gained experience under the guidance of different mentors.

Being a beneficiary of TCM herself, she can empathise with her patients and hopes to reach out to more people and share with them that TCM is more than its usual stereotypes like herbal tea and treating sprains.

Chelsea’s warm and amiable disposition provides a harmonious ambience for patients. She values the importance of establishing a good patient-physician relationship to increase effective communication and understanding so as to achieve better treatment results. Being a passionate learner, Chelsea continues to seek ways to improve herself to provide the best treatment for her patients.

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