Irritable Bowel Syndrome is very responsive to Chinese medicine due to its unique perspective on our body. However, in terms of treatment for IBS, there is no one-size fit all approach. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a complex disharmony. It is essential that the practitioner uses appropriate methods of assessment (tongue, pulse, interviewing, listening, palpation) in order to prescribe individualized prescription on acupoints and herbs. [Read more about TCM understanding on IBS] [Read more about TCM diagnostics]
A brief introduction of common herbs used for IBS
Damp Heat in the Large Intestine: This pattern of IBS presents with abdominal pain and diarrhea with urgency and a burning sensation. The stools are usually smelly and sticky.
Da Huang | Rhubarb
Drains damp-heat via the stool
Clears heat and reduces fire toxicity
Drains heat and purges accumulations
Bai Zhu | Atractylodes (White) Rhizome
Tonifies the Spleen system
Strengthen the Qi energy
Cold stomach, also known as Stomach Yang Deficiency: Yin and Yang are dynamic opposites that describe and define each other. Yang functions in the body to create warmth and the ‘fire’ that transforms fluids and food into substances and energy the body needs. When this Yang function is weak, slow, tired and withdrawn.
Sheng Jiang | Fresh Ginger
Gently warm the Stomach system to provide the digestion power
Gan Jiang | Dry Ginger
Strong Fire energy for both Stomach and Spleen system
Liver Qi Stagnation: this pattern of IBS is highly related to stress and emotion which are accompanied by irritability, depression and mood swings. Also, it often shows symptoms around the cycle. Stools may be pellet like and difficult to move and then become loose around menstruation.
Chai Hu | Bupleurum
Relieves liver Qi stagnation
Assist the Qi circulation in Stomach and Spleen system
Zhi Zi | Gardenia
Drains Liver and Heart system damp heat
It is just a brief introduction of herbs. In the actual practice, patients will get a mixture of 5-10 herbs according to the situation. One should not take herbs without a TCM practitioner check-up.
Simple recommendations that you can do by yourself to speed up the recovery of IBS
Eat regular meals Breakfast, lunch and dinner with warm food. If you could do one thing to improve your digestion–this would be the first thing I would recommend. The system really loves regularity and discipline. [Read more: TCM Dietary advice] [Read more: When you eat is just as important as what you eat] [Read more: Circadian Rhythms and the Chinese Medicine Body Clock]
Sit down and eat slowly Digestion power increases when you are calm, relaxed and focused. So try to stay away from your TV and phone when you eat. Also, try not to chat and talk while eating.
Avoid spicy food It gives too much Fire energy and easily triggers allergic reactions.
Avoid cold and raw food Too many raw or cold foods put out the necessary and essential digestive fire. In the long run, incomplete digestion also leads to toxin accumulation and weight gain.
Avoid dairy and heavy sugar Dairy means anything made of milk, no matter which type of milk, cheese or yogurt. Heavy sugar are those juicy and sweet fruit, also dessert and chocolate. This kind of food produces much damp-heat in the body that are difficult to get cleaned.
Increase fiber This best way to do so is by gently cooking your green vegetables. They shrink so you can eat larger amount in one bite. Also cooked greens are easier to be digested. Remember to eat with grains to provide the power of gut movements.
Don’t eat late Try not to eat too close with your sleeping time. Your body actually has plenty of regeneration and cleaning work to do while sleeping. Eating too late will divert the energy from those necessary tasks.