Digestive Conditions & Treatments In General

The digestive systems in TCM involve zang-fu organs, channels and related Qi-mechanism

  • Spleen and Stomach
  • Liver and Gall bladder
  • Intestines


Stomach controls the rotting and ripening of food. Stomach Qi is to descend (descent of the turbid).

Spleen controls transformation and transportation of nutrients. Spleen Qi is to rise (raising of the pure).


Liver controls the smooth movement of Qi in every zang-fu organs. 

Gall Bladder stores and releases the pure fluid (bile) to assist digestion, a subsidiary of the Liver function.

Liver and Gall Bladder form the important Wood Earth balancing relationship between Liver, Stomach, and Spleen. If the Wood and Earth are in harmony, a generating cycle is ensured: food moves down smoothly, the pure ascends to Lung and Heart and further distributed to the whole body.

When Liver Qi Stagnant, Qi-mechanism is constrained and pent-up, seeking an abnormal way of releasing the energy, and causing digestive disharmony: pain, bloating, nauseous, vomiting, acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, etc. In TCM this is termed the rebellious Qi of Stomach and Spleen.


The intestines in TCM belong to the family of Stomach. So any functional disharmony is to be viewed as part of Stomach and Spleen functions.


Treatment & Intervention methods:

  • Diet & Herbs

Food in TCM can be further categorized according to five tastes and four quality into yin, yang, heat, cold, damp, Qi, and Blood. Diet adjustment is the basic change patients can make to bring out effect instantly.

Herbs can be used alone or together with food, to enhance the quality of the food and Qi-mechanism.

  • Acupuncture

Acupuncture is good at balancing the Wood Earth disharmony between Liver, Gall Bladder, Stomach, and Spleen. As a complementary therapy, it can be used with one's usual care medications. 

  • Exercises

Every day 30 minutes walk is sufficient to keep one's Qi-mechanism in good order.

Taiqi, qi-gong, and yoga are good forms of exercise to harmonize Wood and Earth relationship.   

  • Relaxation & Meditation

Qigong, reflective meditation, and breathing relaxation can bring out calmness, and regulate brain-gut axis and neuroendocrine system (2: p.7).

  • Abdominal Acupressure Tuina - Massage

An effective way of regulating Qi-mechanism and bowel movements.

  • Reflexology: Auricular      acupuncture, Hand or Foot massage

Human ears, hands, and feet, all contain a miniature image of the whole body, can be used to bring out calmness, and regulate brain-gut axis and neuroendocrine system. These are the very gentle form of treatments and are good options for children, the elderly, and people are scared of acupuncture needles.


1. Maclean W (Acupuncturist). Clinical handbook of internal medicine: the treatment of disease with traditional Chinese medicine Volumn2. University of Western Sydney Macarthur; 1998. 

2. Ma X-P, Hong J, An C-P, Zhang D, Huang Y, Wu H-G, et al. Acupuncture-moxibustion in treating irritable bowel syndrome: how does it work? World J Gastroenterol [Internet]. 2014;20(20):6044–54. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=4033444&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract 

3. Shang H-X, Wang A-Q, Bao C-H, Wu H-G, Chen W-F, Wu L-Y, et al. Moxibustion combined with acupuncture increases tight junction protein expression in Crohn's disease patients. World J Gastroenterol [Internet]. 2015 Apr 28 [cited 2017 Jun 27];21(16):4986. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25945013

4. IBD or IBS: What’s the Difference? [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jul 31]. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/ibs-ibd-differences#1

Learn More About Specific Digestive Conditions

  • IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • CD - Crohn's Disease

IBS is a functional condition (not a disease, no structural damage) normally having bowel symptoms: cramping, pain, gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements; it can be dominated by diarrhea, constipation, mixed or alternation of the two. The impacts of IBS on people's life quality are huge: embarrassment, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and the list goes on and on. 


CD is a nonspecific granulomatous inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) from an unknown etiology from Western Medicine point of view. The main clinical manifestations are recurrent episodes of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss and are often complicated with the abdominal mass, anal fistula, and intestinal obstruction(3).

CD can be differentiated from irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) by (4):

  • CD has structural damages done by long-term      inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract including mouth to anus.
  • IBS has frequent diarrhea but only functional symptoms      and discomfort.

Jason's own clinical experience suggests similar results, with some patients reporting noticeable improvements after 3 - 4 treatments. Acupuncture may be just used as a maintenance for CD patients.

Find out more