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Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Digestion

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It is estimated that approximately 62 million Americans experience digestive problems on an ongoing basis. This is due to the harmful repercussions of the standard American diet, coupled with the high level of stress that the average American experiences. Digestive problems can range from minor annoyances, such as gas and bloating, to life-threatening illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, unremitting diarrhea, and various cancers that target digestive organs. Whatever the case, it is always worth being proactive about our digestive health. The information contained in this article on acupuncture and natural therapies should definitely get you going in the right direction, not only with your digestion but also with your health in general.

Let’s take a look at a few common disorders and what can be done about them. These are just examples. It’s highly recommended to only take herbs and supplements that are recommended by a licensed acupuncturist. Personalized diet recommendations based on Eastern nutrition principles will be offered at your acupuncture appointment.


The standard American diet can easily lead to chronic constipation. This diet is low in fiber and antioxidants and high in difficult to digest additives and refined ingredients. Many, many people are constipated and they don’t even know it. They may have regular bowel movements, but they are still not flushing their systems thoroughly, which creates intestinal toxicity. Intestinal cleansing is often a top priority in healing numerous chronic health problems. There are several natural herbal remedies and nutritional supplements that can relieve constipation and heal the underlying imbalances.

Drink a large glass of room temperature or warm water every morning.  Lemon and a pinch of salt will help its cleansing effects.

Chinese herbal formulas such as ma zi ren wan and run chang wan are gentle laxatives that are not habit forming.

Aloe vera juice reduces inflammation and promotes peristalsis (smooth muscle contraction in the bowel).

Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal complex that gently eases constipation and removes stagnant waste from the intestines.  This can be taken daily on a longterm basis.

Psyllium is a high fiber product that alleviates constipation.  Take with two glasses of water.

Flax meal and and chia seed are excellent high fiber sources for constipation.  Add to porridge or smoothies.

Fill half your lunch and dinner plate with vegetables. A daily salad and at least one serving of cooked green vegetables like spinach or broccoli can make all the difference.

Smooth Move or other senna based teas can be useful for severe constipation.  They shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks.


Chronic diarrhea can be dangerous for your health.  Diarrhea is related to spleen weakness or intestinal inflammation. It is always a top treatment priority to heal this condition. Stress and anxiety can trigger regular bouts of diarrhea, as can processed and refined foods or sensitivities and allergies to foods like gluten, dairy, eggs, or soy. Here are a few basic remedies for diarrhea:

Chinese herbal formulas such as bu zhong yi qi tang (ginseng and astragalus), si jun zi tang (4 Gentlemen), liu jun zi tang (6 Gentlemen), and jin gui shen qi tang (Golden Cabinet Kidney Qi Pills)” are helpful for alleviating diarrhea due to deficiency. Tong xie yao feng, Isatis Cooling, and jia wei xiao yao wan are helpful for diarrhea due to heat and inflammation.

Western herbs such as slippery elm, chamomile, peppermint, and ginger harmonize and soothe the stomach to stop diarrhea.

Probiotics such as acidophilus are useful as long-term adjuncts in treating diarrhea.

Bloating and gas

These symptoms tend to arise from eating too much or too fast, excessive stress, refined foods, coffee and alcohol, and sugar. Aside from slowing down and eating less of these foods, here are a few herbal suggestions:

Chai hu shu gan wan — the quintessential Chinese formula for the combination of stress and gas.

Xiao yao wan — Excellent for digestive problems that arise during menses and excessive stress.

Liu jun zi tang — Strengthens the spleen and takes phlegm out of the gut, which is often related to gas and bloating.

Acidophilus and bifidus — Bloating and gas can be related to candida overgrowth, which is a pathological yeast that causes an array of physical and emotional imbalances.

Diet is very important.  One diet that has been shown to be effective is a low FODMAP diet.  FODMAPs are a particular type of carbohydrate that is difficult to digest, and leads to gas and bloating.  For more information, start here.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a very common problem that affects millions of Americans. Doctors will often diagnose IBS when the patient’s symptoms don’t seem to match up with anything else, so they call it irritable bowel. This disorder is characterized by bowels fluctuating from constipation to diarrhea with intermittent abdominal pain or distention. People with IBS tend to be sensitive to a variety of foods including high fiber foods, refined sugar, wheat, and gluten products. Symptoms can continue indefinitely and can be resistant to conventional treatments.

I have treated many patients with IBS, usually with very positive results. Acupuncture theory asserts that IBS typically involves a disharmony between the liver and the spleen. The liver becomes hyperactive due to stress, anger, and frustration, which causes it to weaken the spleen, causing loose bowels and fatigue. Treatment involves relaxing the liver and strengthening the spleen.

Herbal formulas such as Irritease by Kan Herbals. In general, I recommend committing to weekly acupuncture and herbal treatment for 4-8 visits, depending upon the severity and duration of your symptoms.

Acidophilus and bifidus can be helpful to promote a healthy gut balance

Chamomile and peppermint have a soothing effect on the gut and can reduce irritation

Need Help?

Most digestive disorders respond very well to consistent acupuncture and herbal treatment. Making dietary changes that restore and detoxify the gut also enhances treatment progress. Digestion is one of the main reference points for gauging one’s overall health. If there are weaknesses or imbalances here, it is likely that one’s overall health is compromised. Maintaining healthy digestion is an essential component in our quest for optimal health.

I should mention that for those of you suffering from crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer, it is definitely best to seek out professional alternative and allopathic medical treatment. These diseases are simply too involved to offer blanket solutions in this article. There are many powerful natural remedies for these diseases, but their application is specific to your unique needs.

If you would like to find out more about how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you with your digestive problems, and you live in the Denver area, contact Katie Robinette today.


A healthy digestive system is the foundation of good health.  Take care of yours and reap the benefits!

Questions?  I’m happy to help. Please call, schedule a free consult, or fill out the form below to send me an email.

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