Digestive disorders can be simple like flatulence or gas, or they can be much more serious, such as Crohn’s disease. But regardless of the severity of the disease, there is no doubt digestive disorders affect far more people than they should, especially in the United States. A recent survey reports nearly 74 percent of all Americans are living with digestive issues. Most people don’t report it to their doctors either, because they assume it is normal to have gas, bloating or abdominal pain. But these symptoms can be indicators of much more serious underlying problems.
The gut is also the “second brain” of the body. When there are problems in the gastrointestinal tract, it can manifest mentally as well as physically. The enteric nervous system, our gut/second brain, is composed of more than 100 million nerve cells that line the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to the rectum. The ENS can trigger emotional shifts experienced by those suffering from gastrointestinal issues. But what science is also discovering is that emotional problems can also trigger issues in the ENS. It’s a two-way street and if one is out of whack, then the other may be also.
There are ways we can help our gastrointestinal tract and digestion, though. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that has been around for thousands of years, and it focuses on treating the person holistically, meaning every part is addressed at once instead of individually. TCM uses modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, formulas and nutrition to treat each patient. Here are some herbs used frequently in TCM to help with digestion and gastrointestinal issues.
1. Dandelion or Pu Gong Ying: This herb has been used for millennia for liver and digestive problems. It is used specifically for its diuretic properties. Pu Gong Ying promotes healthy digestive functioning and unlike pharmaceuticals used as diuretics, this herb actually restores potassium rather than depleting it.
2. Hawthorn Berry or Shan Zha: Shan Zha is a great herb to have on hand after those big family dinners, like Thanksgiving. This herb works to remove food stagnation in the digestive tract, and it works especially well on meats and fats that are harder to digest.
3. Orange Peel or Chen Pi: One of the best herbs around for regulating the whole digestive system. It is used for spleen and stomach issues in TCM, including nausea, belching, vomiting, abdominal distention and pain. Due to its bitter flavor, it can also drain dampness that may cause loose stools.
4. Ginger or Sheng Jiang: Ginger is a great digestive herb, as well as a warming spice that helps the circulatory system. It is a natural remedy for heartburn and nausea. It also helps expel gasses from the gastrointestinal tract.
5. Peppermint: While not formerly used in TCM, it is still one of the best digestive herbs available. Peppermint can be used to relieve indigestion, soothe stomach aches and relieve diarrhea caused by colic. It is also a good addition to help treat irritable bowel syndrome.
Herbs can be very beneficial and help keep the body free from illness. The herbs mentioned above are just a few examples that would be good to have around if you suffer from digestive issues. Ask us to find out more about these herbs. We can help you navigate the world of medicinal herbs and find the exact combination right for you.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.