Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is a condition in which a part of the stomach protrudes upward into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm.  It is more common in people who are obese, particularly upper middle-aged people as well as in smokers.  Most of those with a hiatal hernia are asymptomatic, but in some, spasms in the esophagus can result in acid reflux and bloating after meals.  A special chiropractic adjustment technique can help relieve hiatal hernia.

Western Treatments

If you experience heartburn or acid reflux as a symptom of hiatal hernia, your doctor may prescribe medications that include the following:

  • Antacids that neutralize stomach acid.  Over-the-counter antacids, such as Gelusil, Maalox, Mylanta Rolaids and Tums, may provide quick relief.
  • Medications to reduce acid productions.  Called H-2 receptor blockers, these medications include cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR) and ranitidine (Zantac 75).  Stronger versions of these medications are available as prescriptions.
  • Medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus.  Proton pump inhibitors block acid production and give the esophageal tissue time to heal.  These inhibitors include lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR), and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC).  Stronger versions of these medications are available as prescriptions.


In a small number of patients, surgery is required to address hiatal hernia.  This option is generally reserved for emergency situations and for those who do not respond to medications meant to relieve heartburn and acid reflux.  Hiatal hernia repair surgery is often combined with surgery for gastro esophageal reflux disease.

An operation for a hiatal hernia may involve pulling your stomach down to your abdomen and making the opening in your diaphragm smaller, reconstructing a weak esophageal sphincter, or removing the hernia sac.  IN some cases, this is done using a single incision in your chest wall (thoracotomy) or abdomen (laparotomy).  In other cases, your surgeon may insert a tiny camera and special surgical tools through several small incisions in your abdomen.  The operation is then performed while your surgeon views images of the inside your body that are displayed on a video monitor (laparoscopic surgery).

A TCM Approach

To help move food through the digestive system and eliminate bloating, I have used a formula including the following:

  • Poria sclerotium
  • Coix seed
  • Barley Shen Qu
  • Magnolia Bark
  • Angelica Root
  • Pueraria root
  • Plus eight other herbs

This mixture is sometimes combined with a formula including:

  • Calcium carbonate
  • Bupleurum root
  • Ginseng root
  • Ginger rhizome
  • Pinellia rhizome
  • Scute root
  • Plus four other herbs

When phlegm signs are present, the following formula is useful:

  • Pinellia rhizome
  • Citrus peel
  • Poria sclerotium
  • Aurantium fruit
  • Bamboo shavings
  • Arisaema rhizome
  • Plus three other herbs

To help address abdominal spasms, use:

  • White Peony root
  • Pueraria root
  • Clematis root
  • Spatholobus stem
  • Licorice root
  • Plus two other herbs

For spasms accompanied by loose stools, use the previous formula with the following:

  • Bupleurum root
  • Pueraria root
  • Pinellia rhizome
  • Cinnamon twig
  • White Peony root
  • Plus four other herbs

Herpes Simplex of the Esophagus

Herpes simplex is a virus than can cause inflammation and ulcers in the esophagus.  This leads to symptoms that include acid regurgitation and heartburn.  Acyclovir is an antiviral drug that is the most common treatment of the Herpes simplex virus.

Western Treatment

There is no cure for herpes.  Treatments with antiviral medications (such as Acyclovir) may:

  • Help sores heal sooner during an outbreak
  • Lessen the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks
  • Reduce the frequency of recurrence
  • Minimize the chance of transmitting the herpes virus to another

Popular antiviral medications include:

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • Famciclovir (Famvir)
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

These medications may be recommended by a doctor only during outbreaks, or on a daily basis.

TCM Treatment

I have found two herbal combinations to be effective against the herpes simplex virus.

Combination one contains the following and can be combined with the second:

  • Isatis extract leaf and root
  • Oldenlandia herb
  • Lonicera flower
  • Prunella herb
  • Andrographis herb
  • Laminaria leaf
  • Viola herb
  • Cordyceps fruiting body
  • Licorice root

The second formula includes the following and should be combined with the first mixture when heat signs are present:

  • Isatis extract leaf and root
  • Astragalus root
  • Bupleurum root
  • Laminaria leaf
  • Codonopsis root
  • Epimedium leaf
  • Lycium fruit
  • Dioscorea root
  • Ligustrum fruit
  • Broussonetia fruit
  • White Atractylodes rhizome
  • Licorice root

If the patient has cold signs, combine the second mixture with the following:

  • Red Ganoderma fruiting body
  • Tremella fruiting body
  • Poria sclerotium
  • Polyporus sclerotium

Healing Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are a common condition that can be caused or aggravated by diarrhea and constipation.  Hemorrhoids are varicose veins in the rectum, which can lead to rectal pain, bleeding, and itching.  They can also be relatively symptomless.  Occasionally, hemorrhoids can prevent the anus from closing fully, which can lead to the soiling of underwear.  The condition can also cause fissures in the skin around the anus.  External hemorrhoids are found outside of the anus and are often accompanied by pain unless they are prolapsed.  Prolapsing can close off the anus and can be extremely painful.  It’s important to note that bleeding from the rectum can also signal rectal cancer or polyps.  In the case of bleeding, you must have a medical diagnosis of the symptoms.  Surgery is necessary if a blood clot develops in a hemorrhoid.

Self Help

    The mild pain, swelling and inflammation caused by hemorrhoids can often be treated at home.

  • Sitz Bath: Dissolve 1/4 cup of Epsom salts into 4 inches of water in a bathtub.  Soak in this mixture for 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day for best results
  • Add a comfrey or yarrow tea to the Sitz bath by first steeping 4 ounces of the dry herbs in 32 ounces of boiling water for 10 minutes
  • Topical treatments.  Apply over-the-counter creams or suppositories containing hydrocortisone, or use pads containing witch hazel or a numbing agent
  • Keep the anal area clean.  Baths are preferable to showers with this condition.  Cleanse the skin around the anus gently with warm water.  No soap is necessary and it may actually aggravate the problem.  Do not use alcohol based or perfumed wipes.  Gently dry the area with a hair dryer after bathing
  • Don’t use dry toilet paper.  Use moist towelettes or wet toilet paper to clean the area after bowel movements
  • Apply cold.  Apply ice packs or cold compresses to relieve swelling
  • Take oral pain relievers.  Acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen can temporarily help relieve discomfort.

Western Treatments

When Western medical treatment becomes necessary, there are a variety of options available.

  • Medications.  When hemorrhoids produce only mild discomfort, your doctor may suggest creams, ointments, suppositories or pads.
  • Rubber band ligation.  Your doctor places one or two tiny rubber bands at the base of each internal hemorrhoid.  With no circulation, the hemorrhoid withers and falls off within a week.
  • Injection (sclerotherapy).  With this procedure, your doctor injects a chemical solution into the hemorrhoids tissue, which shrinks it.
  • Coagulation (infrared, laser or bipolar).  These techniques use laser or infrared light or heat.  They cause small, bleeding, internal hemorrhoids to harden and shrivel.
  • Surgical removal.  A hemorrhoidectomy is when a surgeon removes excessive tissue that causes bleeding.
  • Hemorrhoidal stapling.  This technique blocks blood flow to hemorrhoidal tissue.  This procedure is generally less painful than a hemorrhoidectomy and allows an early return to regular activities.

A Case Study in TCM Treatment

A 32-year-old businesswoman complained of internal hemorrhoids, which caused burning, itching, and straining upon bowel movements.  She also experienced PMS, occasional vaginal yeast infections and she had a history of asthma.  Traditional Chinese diagnosis revealed that her pulse was superficial and wiry, and her tongue had red spots, was pale in the center and had a thin white coating.  She was advised to use over-the-counter remedies for hemorrhoids daily including ointment and witch hazel pads.  Initially, she was prescribed two herbal formulas.  The first contained Bupleurum root, Tang Kuei root, White Peony root, salvia root, poria sclerotium and White Atractylodes with a few other herbs in smaller quantities.  The second contained sanguisorba root, pulsatilla root, sophora flower, Rehmannia root (raw), Fraxinus cortex, phellodendron cortex and lonicera flower.  These two formulas helped bring the hemorrhoids and accompanying symptoms under control.  At this point, the second formula was discontinued and a third was added to treat the underlying condition, which was stress and anxiety.  This formula included biota seed, fu shen sclerotium, polygala root, zizyphus seed, ophiopogon tuber, codonopsis root, amber resin and a number of enzymes.

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements–a truly unpleasant condition for those who have experienced it first hand.  It is commonly seen among seniors when the muscles and ligaments that control defecation become less efficient.  A similar loss of control can be the result of abscess or inflammation in the rectum, anus, or perianal area, or from the trauma, injury, or surgery, as well as a nervous disorder like diabetic gastroparesis.  Chronic diarrhea may also be a contributing factor.  To address this condition, a bowel training program can be implemented, which involves sitting on the toilet at a certain time every day.  It is also a good idea to increases dietary fiber in the diet so that more normal stools are produced.  Biofeedback, self-hypnosis and surgery may also be helpful.

Self Help

It is important to talk to your doctor about fecal incontinence as the underlying causes could be serious.

Western Treatments

The treatment of fecal incontinence varies depending on the causes and symptoms.

  • Anti-diarrheal drugs
  • Laxatives, if chronic constipation is the cause
  • Medications to decrease the spontaneous motion of your bowels
  • Dietary changes –  Stool consistency is dependent on what you eat and drink so your doctor might recommend eating foods high in fiber, or drinking plenty of fluid, for example
  • Exercise – Exercise can help fecal incontinence caused by muscle damage as it can restore muscle strength, sphincter control, and awareness of the urge to defecate
  • Bowel training – Making a conscious effort to have a bowel movement at specific time of day can help establish greater control
  • Sacral nerve stimulation – Implanting a device that sends small electrical impulses continuously to the nerves that control your pelvis can strengthen muscles in the bowels (this is usually done only after other treatments have failed)


Fecal incontinence may require surgery to correct an underlying problem such as rectal prolapse, or sphincter damage.  The types of surgery available include:

  • Sphincteroplasty - A procedure that repairs a damaged or weakened anal sphincter.
  • Treating rectal prolapse, a rectocele or hemorrhoids - This sort of surgical correction will likely reduce or eliminate fecal incontinence.
  • Sphincter replacement - An anal sphincter can be replaced with an artificial one, which is essentially an inflatable cuff placed in the anal canal.  It remains inflated until an external pump deflates the device and releases stool during defecation.
  • Sphincter repair - This surgery takes muscle from the inner thigh and wraps it around the sphincter, restoring muscle tone.
  • Colostomy - With a colostomy, stool is diverted through an opening in the abdomen into a special bag which collects it.  This is usually a last resort.

A Case Study in TCM Treatment

A 78-year-old patient first experienced incontinence after chemotherapy treatments for stomach cancer.  She confided that she was very worried about her adult son, who was a drug addict.  Traditional Chinese diagnosis found her pulse to be sinking and thin, and her tongue pale, flabby, and red at the tip.  She was prescribed a formula containing ailanthus cortex, baked astragalus root, White Ginseng root, White and Red Atractylodes rhizomes, poria sclerotium and a number of other herbs.  After four weeks, the patient observed she no longer experienced spontaneous evacuations, which greatly improved her self-esteem.

Candidiasis, Candidly Speaking

It is commonly thought among holistic healthcare professions that Candida yeast infections can cause, or can contribute to, all digestives symptoms and can induce a plethora of other unwanted symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle aches and some menstrual irregularities.  This idea is not held by many Western doctors who often have the opinion that candidiasis is only a problem with vaginal yeast infection, thrush and Candida esophagitis.

Candida is a resident member of our intestinal tract, which is normally kept from getting out of control by healthy intestinal bacteria, the right acid/alkaline balance and a properly working immune system.  Immune suppressive drugs such as antibiotics, hormones (including birth control pills), steroids, and chemotherapy can result in yeast overgrowth.

I have found through my own experience that dietary supplements, herbs and an anti-yeast diet can go a long way in treating digestive disorders.  This holds particularly true among patients who have a past history of using the drugs mentioned above–especially antibiotics–and if there are accompanying signs such as a history of vaginal yeast infections, athlete’s foot, jock itch, or fungal infections of the nails or skin.  Symptoms that worsen in damp weather or in moldy buildings, and cravings for sweets and yeast-containing foods (beer, wine, bread and cheese, for example) are among other indicative symptoms.  Physicians can administer tests that can detect excess levels of Candida, but they are expensive.  It’s also important to consider that a patient can have a sensitivity to normal levels of yeast.

Self Help

  • Pau D’arco tea (6 cups daily) has anti-Candida properties and is an excellent beverage for those undergoing anti-Candida therapy
  • Garlic has antifungal properties, but should not be used by persons with hot constitutions or with a sensitivity to garlic (dosage is 1 or 2 cloves a day)
  • Yeast Guard is a homeopathic suppository that can be used
  • Citrus seed extract (use as directed) can be considered

Western Treatment

Western medicine commonly treats Candidiasis with antifungal medications also known as antimycotics.  Some of the most common are found below:

  • Nystatin is an antifungal medication with over forty years on the market.  It comes in cream, ointment, suppository, tablet, and powder forms.  The powder has several advantages as it can be used in a gargle, douche or enema for rapid effect.  Nystatin is safe for long-term usage, but physician’s dosage recommendations should be followed closely.  When starting antifungal medication, symptoms may worsen, this is known as a die-off reaction.  Rebound reactions, in which the yeast infection recurs with severe intensity when a drug is discontinued also occur.
  • Nizoral (ketoconazole) is a broad-spectrum antifungal drug.  Some patients tolerate Nizoral better than Nystatin, however, a small percentage experience liver problems from the use of this drug.  Any patient with a history of liver issues or who intends on taking the drug for more than three months should have their liver function monitored.
  • Diflucan (fluconazole) is more effective than NIzoral at combating yeast infections.  It works faster and is not harmful to the liver.  However, it can cost 5 to 10 times more than Nizoral.
  • Sporanox (itraconazole) appears to be more effective than Nizoral.  Some patients may be intolerant of Diflucan, but better able to tolerate Sporanox and vice versa.

A Case Study in TCM Treatment

A 45-year-old man, a cook by profession, presented with numerous health complaints including sinusitis, frequent ear infections, chronic sore throat, frequent and burning urination, fatigue, low back pain, poor sleep, joint pain, tinnitus, hypertension, poor digestion, constipation and chronic cold hands and feet.  After being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome by a medical doctor, he was placed on antifungal drugs including Nystatin and Diflucan.  He was also prescribed acupuncture, vitamins and homeopathics.  These remedies helped, but the patient reported being so tired, he could “barely make it through the day.”  Despite some improvements, he still had many of the same complaints.

Traditional Chinese diagnosis found his pulse to be racing and his tongue purplish with a thick coating on the sides.  He had heat signs in the Upper Burner and kidney yang deficiency.  The treatment principle was to tonify the yang and remove pathogenic heat and dampness.   He was recommended that he abstain from alcohol, reduce his intake of sugar (including fruit sugar) and increase his protein intake.  As the patient was ejaculating several times a day, he was urged to limit this since ejaculation is said to deplete the kidney Essence, causing fatigue, low back pain, weakness and frequent urination.

He was prescribed two herbal formulas.   The first contained coptis rhizome, lophatherum herb, bupleurum root, raw rehmannia root, tang kuei root, White Peony root, and several other complementary herbs.  The second contained isatis leaf extract leaf and root, astragalus root, bupleurum root, laminaria leaf, codonopsis root and more.  Two weeks later, he reported slightly more energy and less burning with urination.  His pulse was not as excessive and his face less red.  His daily dose of the first formula was reduced by one third daily and a third mixture containing ginseng root, poria sclerotium, White Atractylodes rhizome, zizyphus seed, salvia root, and amber resin among others was added.

After one month on the second protocol, the patient reported more energy, and no longer had burning with his urination.  His pulse was hollow and slightly irregular, but his tongue was normal.  At this point, the first mixture was discontinued but because his fatigue was still a problem, he was recommended another mixture containing  Red Ganoderma fruiting body, tremella fruiting body, poria sclerotium and polyporus sclerotium, which caused some digestive discomfort.  Despite this, because he indicated he experienced an increase in energy, he opted to remain on the original dosage rather than lower it, or stop it completely.  Although his treatment protocol varied over the next nine months, most of the patient’s symptoms disappeared completely through herbal therapy.


Diarrhea is characterized by the frequent passage of watery stools. Some of the more common causes are viruses, food poisoning, parasites such as Giardia, anxiety and nervousness, or reactions to food, alcohol, or medications.  Antibiotics, antacids and other products containing magnesium, antihypertensives, laxatives that are not bulk-forming and medications for irregular heartbeat can all cause diarrhea.

Because diarrhea is a healthy eliminative function that is intended to rid the gut of irritants causing the problem, experts consider it best to let the diarrhea run its course, if possible, while using rehydration products to prevent dehydration. Seek medical assistance when severe diarrhea renders you weak, when your temperature is above 101 degrees, when there is blood or black tarry stools or when diarrhea persists for more than 10 days.  Other symptoms accompanying diarrhea that warrant medical attention include severe abdominal pain, confusion, unresponsiveness or dizziness while standing.

One type of frequently occurring diarrhea is due to antibiotic use. Antibiotics can cause the intestines to become inflamed.  The result is diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever.  The symptoms usually begin 4 to 10 days after starting the antibiotic, but can develop after the drug has been stopped.  The most serious form of antibiotic-associated diarrhea is pseudomembranous colitis, caused by overgrowth of the Clostridium difficile organism.  If diarrhea has been developed from antibiotics, the physician who prescribed the drug should be consulted. It may be necessary to switch to another medication.

Self Help    

Most diarrhea cases clear up within a few days without treatment. To help cope with symptoms until the diarrhea goes away, one can try the following:

  • Probiotics contain healthy strains of living bacteria that are similar to the healthy bacteria found in the digestive system. Probiotics may boost the number of healthy bacteria present to fight germs in the digestive tract. Beneficial bacteria can also be found in yogurt and cheese.
  • Eat baby food – it’s easy to absorb.
  • Eat rice congee – 1 cup of rice cooked in six to eight cups water until porridge results
  • Drink plenty of clear liquids including water, broths and juices every day. Use rehydration formulas or sports electrolyte drinks to replenish lost fluids. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid certain foods such as dairy products, fatty foods, high-fiber foods or highly seasoned food for a few days.
  • Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, such as Imodium A-D and Pepto-Bismol may help reduce the number of watery bowel movements one may experience.

Western Treatments

If one has tried lifestyle changes and home remedies without success, a doctor may recommend medications or other treatments. The doctor will advise steps to replace the fluids and salts lost from diarrhea. For most people, replacing fluids means drinking water, juice or broth. If drinking liquids upsets the stomach or causes diarrhea, the doctor may recommend replacing fluids intravenously.

Antibiotics may help diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. If a virus is causing the diarrhea, antibiotics won’t help.  If an antibiotic medication caused the diarrhea, the doctor may modify the treatment plan by lowering the dose or switching to another medication.  If the diarrhea is caused by a more serious disease or condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease, the doctor may work to control that condition.  The patient may be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, who can help devise a treatment plan.

A Case in TCM Treatment

A 64-year-old Japanese-American man reported a lifetime of diarrhea and tiredness after eating; particularly following lunch. Because of his age, he was referred to a gastroenterologist for tests; they were all normal. He was a tennis player and avid gardener.  His diet consisted of mostly Japanese food. He seemed to have a sensitivity to fruits, which gave him gas.  Traditional Chinese diagnosis found that his pulse was wiry and his tongue was red.  He wanted to try herbs, which had previously helped him when he had kidney stones.  He was advised to go on a soy-free and low fermented-food diet, eliminating soy, alcohol, dairy, fruits and high-fat foods for two weeks.

He was started on the herbal formula containing licorice root, cardamon fruit, capillaris herb and other herbs at which one tablet was to be taken three times daily for the first week and then two tablets at three times daily the second week. He was also given a formula containing bovine colostrum complex to take at two tablets, twice a day.  Within two weeks, his condition was alleviated.  He was then to start reintroducing the foods he had previously eliminated.  In the subsequent weeks, he found that soy, milk and alcohol contributed most to his diarrhea.  After six weeks, a formula containing lotus seed, nutmeg seed, White Ginseng root and other herbs were to be taken at three tablets three times a day, was substituted for the formula containing Licorice root, cardamon fruit, capillaris herbs and other herbs, in order to address spleen qi deficiency.  Forty years of diarrhea would have damaged the digestive system and would be a major contributor to his fatigue.  The formula containing bovine colostrum complex was reduced to one tablet to be taken twice daily; the formula containing licorice root, cardamon fruit, capillaris herbs and other herbs was restarted at three tablets, three times daily. He continued taking the formula containing the licorice root, cardamon fruit, capillaris herbs and other herbs for three months and reported his afternoon fatigued greatly improved.

Canker Sores and Cold Sores

Stress, fatigue or food allergies can trigger canker sores, painful ulcerous sores, usually inside the mouth. Iron deficiency in anemia, as well as having a deficiency in vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 or folic acid, are known to trigger attacks. Canker sores can be painful and can make eating and talking difficult.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus (HSV-1), which is usually transmitted by a person who has an active infection. Towels, razors and eating utensils can spread the herpes virus. Symptoms include fluid-filled blisters, or a red, painful area of the skin. Stress, menstruation, sun exposure or illness can trigger recurrences. When you have a cold sore, avoid contact with infants as well as those with weak immune systems. If you feel you have a cold sore, consult a physician for an examination and possible tests.

Self Help

If you have recurrent canker sores, evaluate food sensitivities to citrus fruits, tomatoes and other high acid level foods. Canker sores may also be caused and aggravated by smoking. Gluten-containing foods such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, and spelt are known to trigger canker sores.

To heal active ulcers and sores, take clove oil or myrrh tincture: Dab the liquid on the ulcer several times a day, making sure to hold the liquid in the mouth for as long as possible and moving the tongue to insure that the liquid remains in contact with the ulcer.

To speed healing of a canker sore, you can rinse your mouth with salt water or a mixture of one teaspoon baking soda in half a cup of warm water. Over-the-counter products such as Anbesol and Orajel can also help numb the pain of canker sores. To help relieve pain for canker sores and cold sores, apply ice or washcloths soaked in cold water over the sore to ease symptoms. Some over-the-counter medications contain a drying agent, such as alcohol, may speed the recovery of cold sores.

Western Treatments

Treatment usually isn’t necessary for minor canker sores; most go away on their own in a week or two. Severe episodes can lead to fever and swollen glands and may require antibiotics, antihistamines or corticosteroid preparations. If several canker sores are present, a doctor may prescribe a mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone to reduce pain and inflammation. During the cautery of the sores, an instrument or chemical substance is used to burn, sear or destroy tissue.  By chemically cauterizing canker sores, healing time may be reduced to one week.

Cold sores usually heal within two weeks; antiviral medications such as acyclovir, penciclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir may be prescribed to help cold sores heal more quickly. Some of these products are packaged as pills to be swallowed, while others are creams to be applied to the sores. Some antiviral drugs can be administered intravenously for severe infections.

A Case in TCM Treatment

A healthy 29-year-old secretary frequently came down with canker sores, which lasted up to two weeks. Although she had signs of poor digestion, such as abdominal pain and burning as well as food intolerance, she was only interested in help for the canker sores. Traditional Chinese diagnosis found her pulse slightly fast and tongue bright red with cracks. As she was currently suffering an outbreak, it was suggested she dab clove oil on the sore three times per day and take three tablets of a formula with licorice root, White Peony root, scute root and other herbs four times a day. She telephoned the next day to say that the canker sores were gone.

Bacterial Overgrowth

Bacteria can grow in the intestine to the point where absorption of food is impaired. Conventional doctors diagnose the condition rarely, usually in diabetics and after bowel surgery.

Symptoms of bacterial overgrowth often include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • An uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating

After abdominal surgery, you should see your doctor if you have:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Rapid, unintentional weight loss
  • Abdominal pain lasting more than a few days

Self Help

Damage to the small intestine may cause one to lose the ability to digest milk sugar, also known as lactose. In that case, it is important to avoid most products containing lactose, or use lactase preparations that help digest milk sugar. Some people may be able to tolerate yogurt because the bacteria used in the culturing process naturally break down lactose.

Western Treatments

Standard medical treatment is to administer antibiotics in a cyclical fashion, such as one week per month. A short course of antibiotics often significantly reduces the number of abnormal bacteria. But bacteria can return when the antibiotic is discontinued, so treatment may need to be long term.

Doctors may also switch among different drugs to help prevent bacterial resistance. Antibiotics may wipe out most bacteria, normal and abnormal. As a result, antibiotics can cause some of the very problems they are trying to cure, including diarrhea.

Correcting nutritional deficiencies is crucial in treatment, particularly in people with severe weight loss. People with bacterial overgrowth may need treatment to improve vitamin deficiencies. Intramuscular injections of vitamin B-12 as well as oral vitamin, calcium and iron supplements may be needed.

A Case in TCM Treatment

Holistic doctors diagnose this condition more commonly and administer herbal supplements and antibiotics to address their most acute symptoms. Based on the individual’s symptoms and constitution, treatment based in traditional Chinese medicine can be applied to help relieve many of the painful side effects.

  • Acidophilus and bifidus supplements 3 times per day on an empty stomach
  • A formula containing Bovine Colostrum Complex 1 to 2 tablets twice daily for loose stools
  • A formula containing isatis extract leaf and root, echinacea root and leaf, platycodon root and other herbs or a formula containing phellodendron cortex, licorice root, cardamon fruit and other herbs 1 to 2 tablets twice daily for their antimicrobial effects
  • A formula containing magnolia bark, angelica root, red citrus peel and other herbs 2 tablets twice daily to resolve gas, bloating and food stagnation

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia affect one to two percent of women between the ages of 12 and 18. About five percent of anorexics are male. Holistic doctors believe that a zinc deficiency may contribute to these conditions, but psychological considerations are also important. Frequently there is a difficult mother-daughter relationship. In addition to being obsessed with the idea of being fat, there can be a great fear of growing up. About half of anorexics develop bulimia, which is characterized by binge eating followed by purging through induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, extreme dieting, or fasting. Bulimics usually have abnormal hunger sensations and then induce vomiting. They also over-exercise, leading to general depletion of nutrients and energy.

Symptoms of anorexia or bulimia can include swollen neck, erosion of the teeth due to excessive vomiting, underweight, weakness, cessation of menstruation and low pulse rate and blood pressure. Because laxatives deplete the body of potassium, these individuals also experience irregular heartbeat and even heart failure. Thirty percent of anorexics struggle with the disease all their lives and the same number experience at least one life-threatening episode.

Self Help       

  • Withdraw from junk food slowly
  • Consider protein powders
  • Supplement with multivitamins and minerals such as potassium, selenium and zinc. Try to get at least 1,800 to 5,600 mg per day of potassium in food or supplement form. Take vitamin B12 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day to improve mood
  • Use acidophilus/bifidus supplements to improve balance of intestinal microflora
  • Take herbs such as fennel and ginger to stimulate the appetite

Western Treatments

The first goal of treatment is getting back to a healthy weight.  Dieticians and other healthcare providers can design an eating plan to help the patient achieve a healthy weight, normal eating habits and good nutrition. The patient’s family will also likely be involved in helping him or her maintain healthy eating habits.

Psychotherapy involves talking about eating disorders with a mental health provider. There’s evidence that psychotherapy helps improve symptoms of eating disorders. These types or therapy can be beneficial:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to help identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and replace them with healthy, positive ones.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy, which addresses difficulties in close relationships, helping improve communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy to help learn behavioral skills to tolerate stress, regulate emotions and improve relationships with others – all of which can reduce the desire to binge eat.
  • Family-based treatment to help parents intervene to stop their teenager’s unhealthy eating behaviors, then to help the teen regain control over his or her own eating and to help with the family deal with the problems the eating disorder can have on the teen’s development and the family.
  • Group therapy gives the patient a way to connect with others facing eating disorders. Informal support groups may sometimes be helpful.

A Treatment in TCM Diagnosis

A 24-year-old student had a 10-year history of bulimia. Her weight fluctuated between 104 and 190 pounds. When she was seen at our clinic, she weighed 150 pounds. She was a vegetarian, so to elevate her energy level, she consumed sugar and sweets. Her pulse was weak and her tongue had a yellow coating. Because she also had PMS, a vegetarian protein powder, a formula with bupleurum root, White Peony root and salvia root, along with other herbs and another formula with siler root, rose hips fruit, zinc citrate and other herbs, was recommended. She was also referred to a hypnotherapist to help improve her self-esteem. After two weeks, she reported more energy than she ever had before.

Adhesions and Obstructions

Adhesions are fibrous bands or scars that affect the small intestine. They result from prolonged infection, prolonged inflammation, or may follow surgery. The scar tissue can disrupt the rhythmic contractions that move partially digested food through the intestine. Spasmodic pain may arise and the intestine may become obstructed.

Signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction include:

  • Crampy abdominal pain that comes and goes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Inability to have a bowel movement or to pass gas
  • Swelling of the abdomen

Untreated intestinal obstructions can cause serious, life-threatening complications, such as tissue death and infection. Intestinal obstruction can cut off blood supply to part of the intestine and the lack of blood causes the intestinal wall to die. Tissue death can result in a tear in the intestinal wall, which can lead to infection.

Self Help

If you have a partial obstruction, which some food and fluid can still get through, your doctor may recommend a special low-fiber diet that is easier for your partially blocked intestine to process. If the obstruction does not clear on its own, you may need surgery to relieve the obstruction.

Western Treatments

Exploratory or laparoscopic surgery can remove the adhesions, but recurrence is common. Herbs may be helpful in resolving the scar tissue and obstruction, as in regulating intestinal function.  If you do decide to undergo such therapy, you should be supervised by a health professional.

A Case Study in TCM Treatment

A 43-year-old woman who had undergone surgery for adhesions of the colon experienced severe abdominal pain and constipation following the procedure. A traditional Chinese diagnosis found that her pulse was sinking, wiry and her tongue was dry.

It was recommended the patient take an herbal mixture containing salvia root, lonicera flower, ilex root, gingko leaf extract and other choice herbs three times daily. After two weeks, the patient had significantly less pain and constipation.