Tip: Keep a food diary to help keep track of what food triggers a trip to the toilet.
Q: I am a 25-year-old man. I have a sensitive stomach and I have to make trips to the toilet almost after every meal. This is particularly the case after I have eaten spicy food and fruit or drunk coffee and tea.
My uncle says my body may be too “cold” and recommends that I take traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Is there any medicine I can take to strengthen the stomach or improve the digestive system?
In TCM, a sensitive stomach is probably due to the deficiency in the function of the stomach, spleen and liver.
The stomach receives and digests food. When the stomach is weak due to chronic illnesses, it will not be able to digest food and indigested food can be found in the stool. After food has been digested in the stomach, the nutrients will be transformed into qi (energy) and blood and distributed to various parts of the body by the spleen.
When the function of the spleen is weakened by tiredness or poor diet, such as cold, spicy or oily food, the spleen will transform the nutrients into phlegm, “dampness” and “heat”, instead of qi and blood.
This will trigger diarrhoea immediately after meals, together with the formation of white mucus, chest congestion, abdominal pain, a yellowish complexion and fatigue. The liver regulates the circulation of qi.
When the function of the liver is weakened due to intense emotions, such as anxiety, anger or depression, the qi will stagnate in the liver and create blood stasis. This will weaken blood circulation and trigger stomach pain.
Stagnated qi in the liver can further affect the spleen and stomach, weakening the digestive function and triggering loose stool with abdominal pain many times within a day during mood swings or after meals.
After the release of loose stool or diarrhoea, the abdominal pain will reduce or stop.
Chinese medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping can help to reduce your symptoms by strengthening your organs and dispelling the disease-causing factors.
Moxibustion involves burning a small herb above acupuncture points to help healing.
Cupping involves using fire and cups to create a vacuum on the skin to enhance blood and qi circulation.
Chinese medicine such as millet sprout and germinated barley are used to strengthen the stomach and help in digestion.
Medicinal changium root, milkvetch root, largehead atractylodes rhizome and Indian bread strengthen the stomach and spleen to reduce diarrhoea.
Oriental waterplantain rhizome, pinellia tuber, white hyacinth bean, lotus seed, coix seed and officinal magnolia bark reduce diarrhoea and “dampness”.
Chinese thorowax root, combined spicebush root, white peony root, villous amomum fruit, dried tangerine peel and cablin patchouli herb strengthen the liver and enhance qi circulation to reduce abdominal pain.
You should have fixed amounts of food at fixed times to avoid being hungry or too full.
Keep a food diary and abstain from those types of food and drinks that can increase the frequency of your trips to the toilet.
These usually include spicy, oily, raw and cold food, nuts, dairy products, caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Instead, you should take easily digested food such as warm porridge and food that is low in fat and high in protein.
Avoid smoking, stress and mood swings. Have sufficient sleep with regular exercise to enhance your energy circulation and improve your immune system to prevent reccurrence of symptoms.
Ms Lim Lay Beng
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner at YS Healthcare TCM Clinic
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