Relief for IBS

Summer Heat have you and your body Irritated?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, otherwise known as “spastic colon,” is a common disorder that affects the colon and causes many disruptive symptoms. Many of these symptoms can be managed with a simple change in diet and lifestyle. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture may be able to help.

IBS symptoms may include gas, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea, pain, mucus, an uncomfortably full feeling and abdominal cramping. Most of these symptoms develop over time, and there is no structural or anatomical change that can be detected as cause. Doctors are unsure of the origin, though stress and diet are said to be triggers of distressing symptoms. Women suffer from IBS more frequently than men.

One of the most common diagnosis of IBS in Traditional Chinese Medicine is what is known as a “liver-spleen disharmony” due to stress. Normally, the liver is in charge of the free flow of energy (or vital force), blood and oxygen to the spleen and stomach, the organs who do their job of digesting food by transporting and transforming food and descending energy downward. When the liver energy becomes stagnant through emotions such as stress, frustration, anger, moodiness and tightness in the body (the liver is sensitive to these emotions), this encumbers proper digestion and what can result is acid, belching, nausea, abdominal distention and bloating. Diarrhea or constipation can occur or irregular bowel movements. Other common symptoms of stagnant liver energy are PMS, cramping with clots and irregular menses. Easing stress would be the most important aspect of the treatment plan to get to the root of the issue.

Another common cause of IBS is food sensitivity. Eliminating trigger foods has been shown to help symptoms tremendously. Here are some things to consider eliminating:

Too many cold, raw vegetables: Eating too many cold, raw vegetables dampens the digestive fire and leads to malabsorption. Cook vegetables instead and eat them warm.

Cruciferous vegetables and legumes: These are healthy but can cause gas and bloating in sensitive individuals.

Dairy: Lactose intolerance can lead to digestive ailments. If you aren’t sure, try eliminating dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

Eating fast, while angry or hurried: When you eat or drink quickly, you might be inhaling too much air and eating too much. Eat slowly and mindfully.

Other triggers: Sensitivities might include chocolate, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, greasy food or processed food. Hormonal changes could also be a factor in increased IBS symptoms.

How to know for sure? It is best not to self-diagnose symptoms, so see your medical provider to see if you have IBS and not something more serious. Your Chinese medical practitioner can help you by diagnosing the symptoms according to a more eastern perspective, administering acupuncture and perhaps prescribing an herbal formula, and adjusting your diet to eliminate triggers that are irritating for your particular constitution.

Some remedies for IBS include; acupuncture to improve flow in the abdomen and ease stress, herbs, increasing fiber (gradually, or it could worsen symptoms), massaging the abdomen (9x clockwise, 9x counter-clockwise), exercise to move things around such as tai qi or qigong, and probiotics to increase good bacteria in the stomach. Peppermint, magnesium, and chamomile can soothe and ease symptoms.

Liver Tune-Up

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is ruled by a particular organ system and spring is connected to the liver. What does this mean? Well, you probably notice changes in the way you feel, both physically and mentally, as the seasons change. I know I tend to feel a bit more contemplative and introspective during the winter months. Once spring hits, I’m ready to recharge and get things done. The liver energy is strong and assertive, the type of energy you need to create plans and then propel them into motion. However, if your liver is a little out of balance, you might notice you are more irritable or on edge than usual. Here are a few signs that your liver is in need of an acupuncture tune-up:

1. You’ve noticed an increase in headaches lately, and these headaches seem to feel worse when you aren’t active. Generally these headaches tend to manifest at the vertex of your head.

2. You might begin to feel constipated or bloated. Your bowel movements might become irregular, alternating between constipation and loose stools. Hard, difficult stools that appear pebbly are also a sign of liver imbalance.

3. Your friends or coworkers are scared of you, because you are cranky, cranky, cranky. When liver energy is out of balance you might feel agitated, irritated and generally out of sorts. Sometimes irritation can expand into outright anger more easily than it would if this energy was flowing smoothly.

4. Ladies, you may notice your PMS symptoms have been worse lately. Bloating, breast tenderness, sensitivity…you can blame all of the above on your liver. If your periods are more painful or clotted, this is also due to a stagnation of liver energy.

5. Your eyes are red, itchy or irritated.

6. Your shoulders, neck or jaw are uncomfortably tight. If the liver energy is out of balance, it can flow upward. This causes everything in your body to rise up: you might grind or clench your teeth, your shoulders will levitate up around your ears, and you might experience symptoms of TMJ.

7. Your allergies are in full force, complete with itchy, red, watery eyes.

If you are suffering from any of these issues, your body is crying out for help!  Here are a few dietary tips to help:

  • Eat simply and lightly, pay particular attention to posture and tension during and after eating.
  • Eat a diet that is rich in vegetables and moderate in fruits which will help resolve stagnation.
  • Bitter foods will help resolve stagnation affecting the Liver and Stomach.
  • Moderate amounts of the pungent flavor will help to stimulate the system out of stagnation.  Onions and citrus peel are good for this purpose.

A trip to your Acupuncturist is also in order!

Spring Forward with Acupuncture

The seasons are changing from Winter to Spring and with that comes the changing of the clocks.  Ok,  so we changed the clocks. We have gone around our homes, cars, jewelry and changed as many of them as we can.  And we will probably miss a few and feel totally out of sync.  Are you feeling it?  That sleepy, groggy, I can’t get it together feeling? So, what’s going on here??

Since December, when we awake it’s been dark outside.  Well, now sunrise will greet us each and every morning when we rise from our slumber. Don’t get me wrong, we get that extra hour added on at the end of the day, (which is great for all those outdoor activities) but for your inner clock, that’s no help. It is early morning light that we rely on to keep in sync with our natural world. The easiest explanation is that the time shift confuses the circadian clock in our brain. Your inner clock relies on timed exposure to light, especially natural light, to keep itself in synchronization with the daily cycle of 24 hours.

So when you’ve lost an hour of sleep and your daily rhythm is thrown off, it can also throw off your inner clock and sleeping patterns. Most of us need a week or more to adjust, and some researchers suggest that our clocks never fully adjust to Daylight Savings Time.  Due to these changes, many people also suffer from headaches, drowsiness, and additional stress. In fact, sometimes the stress can overwhelm the body.

Stress no more! Acupuncture is a wonderful ally for the body to help it adjust to Daylight Savings Time. One way to make this transition is to use the energy of the meridians that we all have, they are rivers of energy that flow through our bodies. The meridians have many points on them. Acupuncture stimulates the body to adjust and heal itself. When we gently contact these meridians it balances our daily time clock. When the energy flows free of obstructions we experience a sense of ease.

Each season is linked with an organ system in the body. Spring is the Liver and Gall bladder organ and meridian. Spring is when the liver should thrive. According to TCM, the liver is responsible for smooth flowing Qi (chi) or energy through the body. The liver and gall bladder meridians govern the muscles, tendons, and nerves in the body. The liver also controls the eyes. However, during times of transition like early spring, the liver can become out of harmony and vulnerable. Acupuncture improves the function of the liver meridian and can restore balance to the organs.

The five elements of TCM suggest seasons and change of season correspond to the flow of energy and the balance of Yin and Yang. Spring and the liver/gall bladder meridian go hand in hand. This is an ideal time for cleaning, harmony and rejuvenation.

Here are some signs that your liver/gall bladder meridian may be out of balance this time of year.

  1. You feel extra tense. The liver meridian controls the flow of energy. If the energy is not moving, things like emotional stress and the posture of your body can get disturbed.
  2. Muscle stiffness, aches and pains, headaches. The liver/gall bladder nourishes the tendons, ligaments and connective tissue. You may notice increased stiffness and tension now or in the coming weeks. Menstrual cramps may be worse than usual. This is known as stagnation in TCM.
  3. You feel Irritable and frustrated. Each organ has an emotion attached to it, and the liver emotion is anger.
  4. Dry or fatigued eyes are a sign of liver imbalance.
  5. Digestive problems. Digestion is dependent on smooth flow of qi or energy.

Things to do for Liver/Gall bladder Qi Stagnation

  1. Move your Qi. Get outside and move. Exercise, walk, run, bike, etc.
  2. Eat greens. Green is the color associated with the liver meridian. Eat fresh, leafy green vegetables.
  3. Taste associated with the liver is sour. Sour strengthens the liver qi. Add lemon to your water, use olive oils in your cooking and salad dressings.
  4. Stretch. Try some yoga, tai chi, or chi gong or any movement patterns.
  5. Eye exercise. Take breaks from the T.V. and computer.
  6. Detox the liver. Many herbs can help, including milk thistle tea.
  7. GET ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT.

I recommend 1-2 acupuncture treatments to balance your meridians at the change of seasons.Each season change has specific points as well as your own specific constitutional points to use for balance. Acupuncture treatment in spring can help your muscles, tendons, fascia and connective tissue. Acupuncture and spring specific treatment can also help your emotional wellbeing by balancing your stress, anger, frustrations and insomnia. Seasonal acupuncture treatments can help tonify your meridians and organs and balance minor issues before they become serious problems.

One of our focuses this month is sleep, and getting a good and healthy amount of it.  Acupuncture will calm and balance the body as well as help it to sleep. Acupuncture works extremely well for re-adjusting our bodies internal rhythms during these seasonal transitions.