I thought my digestion was “normal.” It’s
What causes indigestion?
- Most people think their digestion is “just fine.”
They have simply gotten used to the discomfort or have never
been given the proper guidance on what is actually “normal.”
- Common symptoms of indigestion include: mild nausea, acid
reflux/heartburn/hyperacidity, upper abdominal discomfort, bloating,
fullness and distension, gas, belching. If 1 tablespoon of lemon
juice or apple cider vinegar makes your indigestion go away
than you need more stomach acid, if it makes it worse then you
have too much.
Over-consumption of sweet foods, icy and cold foods, complex
carbs can lead to gas, alcohol, rich foods, fried or junk foods;
antibiotics & Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs)
can both damaged the GI tract. Improperly digested foods can
ferment producing the symptoms commonly associated with indigestion.
It’s not just about WHAT you eat, but WHEN you
eat, WHY you eat and HOW you eat. Mental, emotional and psychological
stress can all have a significant impact on our ability to process
- Your present pattern of imbalance:
- Food Stagnation: Thanksgiving Syndrome!
Symptoms include: distension, fullness relieved by belching
or passing gas, worse with pressure and overeating, foul belching
or bad breath, acid reflux, nausea or the occasional vomiting
of undigested food, foul gas, tendency toward constipation,
difficult or irregular stools, and occasional diarrhea.
- Liver Invading the Stomach: Stress induced
indigestion. This recurs when stress levels are high, and is
usually worse in the afternoon, with accompanying irritability
and moodiness, alternating constipation and diarrhea (Irritable
- Mixed Cold, Heat and Deficiency: Very common
pattern in our on-the- go society. Symptoms include: distension
that is soft on palpation, mild morning nausea or dry heaves,
loss of appetite, heartburn, Borborygmus (stomach gurgling),
and a tendency towards diarrhea.
- Phlegm-Damp Accumulation: This pattern tends
to occur in overweight patients due to long-term digestive weakness
producing Dampness and Phlegm that causes stagnation and easy
weight gain. Symptoms include: all of the above plus fatigue,
sluggishness, heavy limbs, frequent desire to sleep, poor concentration
or foggy-headedness, dizziness, chest stuffiness, mucus, oily
skin and a musty body odor.
- Spleen Qi/Yang Deficiency: The Spleen is
responsible for the Transformation and Transportation of food
and is akin to the Western Pancreas with all the essential enzymes
it produces. Symptoms include: loss of appetite, early satiety,
loss of taste, distension that is worse with eating especially
raw foods, pale complexion, low voice, tiredness, loose stools,
plus cold symptoms like limbs, and undigested food in loose
What can I do about my indigestion?
- Create the awareness of what specific foods cause your indigestion,
and experiment with avoiding them. If this produces no change,
then as always food is your first medicine. Enzymes pre-meal,
peppermint, chamomile, ginger, fresh parsley; decease liquid
intake with meals
- Food Stagnation: smaller portions, ginger
tea, digestive enzymes pre-meal, exercise, eat dinner earlier;
veggies and complex carbs, decrease fats and heavier proteins.
- Liver Invading the Stomach: similar to Food
Stagnation, but here it’s all about stress!
- Mixed Cold, Heat and Deficiency: this is
more complicated to treat as there is a combination of excess
heat and deficient cold. For the excess heat, you would look
toward bitter, cool, pungent foods; raw foods like fruits and
veggies, decrease proteins to primarily fish; avoid spicy or
overly spiced and complicated meals. But with the deficient
cold you would look toward the Qi and Yang deficient foods below.
Here, a Chinese Medicinal formula can be the most effective
way to go.
- Phlegm-Damp Accumulation: decrease carbs,
except rice barley and millet; decrease sugars and sweets, fats
and oils, and raw foods. Ginger and other warming acrid spices
like garlic, mustard, horseradish, and pepper are helpful. Plus
the food suggestions below for Qi Deficiency.
- Spleen Qi/Yang Deficiency: lightly cook
all veggies, avoiding raw foods and sweets; have soups and stews,
broths; chew your food more thoroughly; simpler combinations
of foods; smaller portions and more frequent meals. For Yang
Deficiency add more warming foods and spices like cinnamon,
ginger, cloves and garlic; avoid cold raw foods.
- Acupuncture and Chinese Medicinal Herbs:
Your second and third lines of defense. Sometimes, modifying
your daily food intake is not enough, and you need some extra
assistance. Working together, we can create a specific treatment
plan to meet your individual needs. This can include Acupuncture,
a Chinese Medicinal Herbal Formula, and Nutritional and Lifestyle
- Cautions about Over-the-Counter products like Tums, Rolaids,
etc.: These can be helpful in the moment, but are really just
a band-aid, and do not address the underlying pattern of imbalance.
They can also lead to further digestive problems like constipation.
© Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2007. All
The information presented here is not medical
advice, is not intended as medical advice, and is intended to
provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese
Medicine and Acupuncture and is not intended to cover all the
issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed
health practitioner before using any of this information.
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