Traditional Chinese Medical Theory for Digestive Disorders
In traditional Chinese medical theory, the Spleen is the key organ
involved in gastro-intestinal disorders. The Spleen has primary
responsibility for "transforming" and "transporting" food essence in
the body, including the excretion of waste material. The Spleen and
Stomach are Yin/Yang partners, and each one can develop characteristic
problems. The Spleen needs to be somewhat moist in order to function
well, but if it becomes deficient in Chi, it will become overwhelmed by
moisture, and a pathological condition of Dampness (or Damp Heat) can
settle into the body. The Stomach, on the other hand, needs to be on
the dry side to function well, and when its balance is upset, it can
easily overheat, and a painful condition of Stomach Fire can develop.
Other organs, especially the Liver, can also contribute to
gastro-intestinal distress. The four most common patterns seen when
gastro-intestinal problems are differentiated are as follows: Spleen
Chi Deficiency, which is caused by chronic fatigue or chronic illness;
Damp Heat Retention, which is caused by improper diet, environmental
factors, or infections; Disharmony of Liver and Spleen, which is caused
by emotional disturbance; and Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency, which
is caused by chronic illness or aging. To treat these imbalances,
Chinese medicine commonly uses acupuncture, herbal medicine, and
moxibustion. When applied properly, these modalities balance Yin and
Yang, harmonize Chi and Blood, nourish the organs, and eliminate Damp
Conditions which respond well to acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal medicine include:
- gastrointestinal infections such as virus infections from rotavirus
- bacterial infections from salmonella, shigella or escherichia coli
- inflammatory diseases such as chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis, chronic enteritis, and gastroenteritis
- peptic ulcers such as duodenal ulcer and gastric ulcer
- circulation problems in the gastrointestinal system such as gastrointestinal tract bleeding and intestinal cramps
- gastrointestinal tumors such as stomach cancer, tumors of the small intestine, or colon cancer
- inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- and other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and short bowel syndrome.
Moxibustion for Gastrointestinal Conditions
Traditional Chinese medicine employs several healing techniques to
treat patients, including acupuncture, herbal formulas, and
moxibustion. Acupuncture and herbs are familiar to most people in this
country, but moxibustion is less well known. Moxibustion is a
therapeutic technique of applying an ignited cone or stick of mugwort
or other medicinal herbs over the affected part of the body or on the
acupuncture points. Moxibustion is often used to warm up cold
conditions, or to tonify deficient conditions, but it is also an
effective agent against certain types of inflammation, and can be used
to treat most gastro-intestinal conditions.
How do we explain these beneficial effects of Chinese medicine
modalities in a modern clinical sense? How does it work from the
viewpoint of biomedicine? Numerous modern studies, most of them
conducted at China's leading research and teaching institutes and in
hospital settings, show that acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal
medicine can bring about bio-chemical changes.
The following are a few examples:
Excretory Rate of D-Xylose.
The excretory rate of D-Xylose is an index of the absorption function
of the intestines. Patients with chronic gastritis, chronic enteritis,
or peptic ulcer tend to have a lower excretory rate of D-Xylose. A
number of clinical studies in China show that acupuncture and
moxibustion can increase the D-Xylose excretory rate significantly.
Serum Gastrin. Gastrin
is a hormone in the digestive tract, secreted mainly by cells in the
stomach in response to eating food. Gastrin causes the stomach to
produce more acid and also stimulates contraction of muscles in the
wall of the stomach, ileum, and colon. This contraction propels food
through the digestive tract. A very recent study at the Affiliated
Hospital of Sichuan Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine found that
moxibustion (moxa made with astraglus, codonopsis, etc.) at acupuncture
points St 36, Ren 4, and Ren 12 can raise the serum gastrin level.
T-lymphocytes and their Subgroups.
T-lymphocytes and their subgroups reflect the status of cells' immune
functions. Substantial evidence shows that Spleen Deficient patients
have a lower immune function at the cellular level. Clinical studies in
China show that acupuncture and moxibustion can increase T-lymphocytes
and their subgroups in the blood.
patients with gastro-intestinal disorders seem to have a
lower-than-normal immune response. Immnuglobulins are proteins in the
blood serum and tissue fluids that are produced by cells of the immune
system. They help to destroy antigen-bearing microorganisms in the
bloodstream and tissues. Extensive research shows that moxibustion adt
acupuncture points St 36, Ren 12, and Ren 8 can increase the levels of
Immnuglobulins Ig A, Ig G, Ig M, and thereby benefit a variety of
health conditions such as chronic gastritis, antral gastritis, gastric
ulcer, atrophic gastritis, gastroduodenal ulcer, and gastroptosis
(stomach has "dropped" from normal position).