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IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, no specific category exactly fits the modern time syndrome referred as IBS. This condition would have been categorising as their particular symptoms such as stomach pain, constipation and diarrhoea etc.

Chinese Medicine follows the holistic ideology and that each organ is intimately connected to each other to function in harmony. Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects the large and small intestines in Western Medicine, but in Chinese medicine, the Spleen, Liver, Kidney and Large Intestine can all play a role in the pattern of disharmony.

Under normal conditions:

  • The spleen is responsible for transforming the food we eat into useful essences such as blood and Qi. It also has the transportation function where it sends away the essence it had converted before and controls the water movement in the body. Therefore the spleen controls the movement of Qi in the body.
  • The liver is responsible for producing and storing blood and along with the spleen to nourish the body by carrying blood and Qi around.
  • The Kidney is responsible for the function of controlling urination and supporting spleen and liver function.
  • The Large Intestine, as the last part of the digestive system, can easily be influenced by the spleen as the spleen supplies water to maintain the large intestine moisture at the right level.

There are several common patterns in Traditional Chinese Medicine relating to disharmony in IBS:

  • Spleen Qi deficiency: fatigue and diarrhoea, worse when they are overexerting themselves; abdominal pain which may be relieved by pressure. Patients may also have gas and bloating.
  • Spleen Distressed by Dampness: May experience symptoms of Spleen Qi deficiency along with a feeling of nausea or heaviness. The bowel movements may feel incomplete or lined with mucus.
  • Excess Cold in the Spleen: be “doubling over” in pain; feeling as if curling up will somehow offer relief. Here the patient cannot tolerate being touched. This pain may be accompanied by constipation.
  • Spleen and Kidney Yang deficiency: feeling cold or having cold limbs. Diarrhoea, usually in the morning ,may contain undigested food; chronic low back pain, low libido, frequent urination, or in severe cases, urinary incontinence.
  • Liver Qi stagnation: Pellet shaped stools and distending pain in the area below the ribs. There may also be nausea, belching or acid reflux. Symptoms triggered/aggravated by stress.
  • Liver/Spleen disharmony: Abdominal distension and pain, alternating constipation and diarrhoea. Stress, frustration, and anger aggravate the condition.
  • Damp-heat in the Large Intestine: Abdominal pain and diarrhoea with a sense of urgency are key symptoms. The diarrhoea is commonly yellow and explosive with a strong odour and a sensation of burning. Also, there may be a feeling of heaviness of the body and stuffiness in the chest.

The patterns of disharmony mentioned above may even appear in combination and treatment must be adjusted appropriately. In any severe case of IBS, TCM will be customised for the individual, and traditional herbal formulae will be modified for the patient.

Treatment with Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture combined for IBS aims to eliminate the underlying cause of the condition by relieving stress, bringing the body into balance, improving bowel function, increasing immunity against infection, and promoting health in general.

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