More than 95 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders ranging from constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome to more serious conditions such as acid reflux (GERD), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In fact, more than 35 million physician office visits a year are due to gastrointestinal complaints. Reports confirm that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can offer relief from even the most complex digestive problems.
Evidence that Oriental medicine has been used for digestive disorders can be found in early medical literature dating back to 3 AD, where specific acupuncture points and herbal formulas for borborygmus (rumbling or gurgling in the intestines), abdominal pain and diarrhea with pain are discussed.
According to Oriental medical theory, most digestive disorders are due to disharmony in the spleen and stomach. The spleen plays a central part in the health and vitality of the body, taking a lead role in the assimilation of nutrients and maintenance of physical strength. It turns digested food from the stomach into usable nutrients and Qi (energy). Many schools of thought have been formed around this organ; the premise being that the proper functioning of the “middle” is the key to all aspects of vitality.
It is estimated that more than 20 percent of the general population is affected by acid reflux. While other groups are impacted, at least half of all asthmatic children experience symptoms, and pregnant women tend to suffer more than the average population, with half reporting severe symptoms during their second and third trimesters.
Two examples of diagnoses would be rebellious stomach Qi and food accumulation in the stomach. Qi is a vital energy necessary for all life to exist. Both of these diagnoses call for an acupuncture treatment that will redirect energy downwards, as should naturally happen just after eating or drinking. Rebellious stomach Qi is a perfect description for some of the symptoms of acid reflux.
The stomach, according to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, is needed to ripen and rot food. After this process of fermentation occurs, only then may the nutrients be extracted during the next phase of digestion. Without strong stomach Qi, issues regarding malnutrition may arise. This is why an acupuncturist will need to evaluate a patient with acid reflux and address any nutritional deficiencies that may be present. Diet is very important in helping to calm symptoms.