noodle guy comp
My friend, the noodle maker (by hand!) in Beijing, 2002.

Gastro-intestinal issues play a “central” role in Chinese Medicine. That’s a pun, actually, as the stomach and spleen are considered the center of body processes and which all revolves. That’s why if a patient comes in for stomach problems I would ask them about their moods and if they come in for anxiety I would ask them about their stomach. We know that much of the endorphins that makes us feel good come from the stomach and helps explain why we feel so awful when our stomachs are off.

We, in Chinese Medicine, do pretty well with stomach disorders (gastrointestinal ) using both acupuncture and herbs.


I find great satisfaction in treating patients with IBS and other issues of the stomach and digestive tract. Chinese Medicine seems particularily suited to treat these disorders where no other therapies seemed to have helped the patient. 


Chinese Medicine Promising for Irritable Bowel Syndrome [CFS & FM News]
CHICAGO–Chinese medicine may be effective for relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), although support for probiotics is lacking, according to researchers from Northwestern University Medical School. The researchers published a research review in the Feb. 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine (163, 3:265-74, 2003) (
According to the researchers, IBS is a common disorder that brings with it a significant burden of illness, poor quality of life, high rate of absenteeism and high health care utilization. Because management options are difficult and many times ineffective, researchers noted many physicians and patients lean toward alternative therapies to alleviate symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain and irregular bowel habits.
Of these therapies, the researchers cited “guarded optimism” for traditional Chinese medicine, as well as psychological therapies although they noted further trials are needed to definitively prov the benefits of either regimen. The researchers also stated oral cromolyn sodium may be useful for treating chronic unexplained diarrhea, and appears as effective as and safer than elimination diets, which are commonly used to treat symptoms of IBS, although there is no evidence of food intolerance in IBS.
In reviewing the literature on probiotic use in IBS, the researcher stated a lack of supporting evidence for a benefit of this treatment which is believed to improve the levels of beneficial bacteria in th gut.
Contrarily, investigators from United Kingdom reviewed IBS research and noted there are some studies showing improvement in IBS symptoms with probiotic administration (Br J Nutr, 88 Suppl 1:S67-S72, 2002) The researchers also noted IBS patients tend to have low numbers of the beneficial bacteria classes Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. And, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles, found the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum to be superior to placebo for improving IBS symptoms such as pain, bowel habit regularity and flatulence (Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol, 5, 4:267-78, 2002). Similar to the team from Chicago, the Los Angeles researchers also cited Chinese medicine as being effective for improving bowel symptoms and quality of life in IBS patients

From Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine:
The stomach governs the reception and decomposition of water and grain.
The stomach receives and grinds to create the initial digestion of food and drink. Although the decomposition of food and drink into chyme is primarily associated with stomach qi, both reception and digestion are also closely related with the spleen. Because essence, qi, blood and fluids are produced from food and drink, the stomach is called “the sea of water and grain”.

The stomach qi governs free flow and descent.
The stomach and spleen are both located in the middle jiao and are the hub of the ascent and descent of qi movement (qì jī, 气机). The descent of stomach qi and the ascent of spleen qi depend on each other. Stomach qi failure to descend not only affects the descending of qi of the six fu-organs, but also that of the whole body.
After food is received by the stomach it is “ground up”, digested, and then transmitted to the small intestine. It is important that this process has “free flow” and that food is not retained for too long a time. “Descent” refers to free and downward movement of the stomach qi associated with the process of digestion from the beginning of the process through to the elimination and excretion of the waste products.

The stomach is a “yang-earth” organ that is said to dislike dryness and prefer moisture. Diseases easily consume fluids in the stomach, and the stomach requires sufficient fluids to receive and process foods and drinks. Reception and decomposition in the stomach relies both on stomach qi and the moistening fluids present in the stomach. For stomach qi to descend normally, stomach fluids must be available in sufficient amounts.
The severity of a disease and its prognosis can be determined according to the strength of the stomach qi. The patient may be strong or weak, but if the stomach qi is good, the condition of the illness is relatively mild and the prognosis is good. When there is a severe lack of stomach qi, the prognosis is poor as the condition may be chronic or even fatal. Therefore, when talking with a patient with a chronic disease, questions regarding diet, taste, appetite and elimination are all very important.

The state of the stomach and spleen is easily seen on the tongue. A dry or “peeled” coating at the very middle of the tongue indicates stomach yin deficiency. In a serious disease, the appearance of a moist coating on a tongue that had been previously dry is a sign of recovery.