“The doctor who wants to nourish life has to tonify stomach and spleen.”
~ Zhang Jie Bin, Ming Dynasty
The importance of digestive health cannot be overstated, especially to the Chinese Medicine practitioner! There is an entire Chinese school of thought devoted to strengthening the digestive system as a way of preventing and treating all diseases. Healthy digestion is absolutely essential to healthy wellness – beginning with our food choices, to how effectively our bodies break down and absorb nutrients, all the way down to proper elimination of specific foods.
What makes digestion such an important focus of Chinese Medicine, is that most people have experienced some bit of digestive trouble in their lives, even if just temporarily. Living in our modern world takes its toll, and as people have become busier, food becomes a matter of convenience: we eat when we’re on-the-go, we make suboptimal food choices with unhealthy ingredients, and we (and our food) are exposed to new environmental toxins all the time. As such, our bodies are continually adapting to stressors, and remarkably so! But in this modern world, some of the most common conditions are related to digestion. Whether it’s indigestion, heartburn, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea, digestive complaints often make an appearance at some point, but hopefully not for the long-term! Chinese Medicine excels in treating both acute and chronic digestive complaints.
The Chinese Medicine practitioner focuses on all aspects of digestion with the patient – from nutritional counseling, to aiding the proper functioning of absorption and elimination. The crux of Chinese Medicine is to bring balance to the body. We look at how all of the different body systems function interdependently, with the belief that strengthening the digestive system will strengthen all other systems.
In recent years, modern science has even begun to acknowledge this systemic balance that revolves around digestion, with mention of the “gut brain.” In essence, we know that our gut health is very closely linked with our nervous system, so digestive complaints (especially chronic) are often the symptoms or cause of anxiety, depression, or other mood changes.
In our practitioner-patient relationship, we can exert a huge influence over our digestive health, often simply by changing dietary habits, and using acupuncture with appropriate herbs to restore and facilitate proper functioning of the digestive system.