The Face-off : Liver and Spleen
If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you might be (probably are) frustrated that western medicine doesn’t have much for you in terms of treatment. In this case, hooray for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)! In TCM, we take your specific symptoms and try to find what the pattern is, or WHY it’s happening. There are many ways the body can present digestive symptoms and a million ways to treat it in Chinese medicine. I’ll be going over why your digestion might be feeling a little wonky in this season specifically: spring time!
Quite often in the spring, digestion can be off for anyone, not just people with IBS. Normally in Chinese medicine, the spring is the time of waking up! We all start to move and stretch after winter. There’s more heat in the universe to warm us up, get things moving, and we all feel the dynamics of the body going through those energetic changes - from the inside out. The liver organ, specifically, is in charge of the flow of qi (or energy) and sometimes as we’re going through a transitional season, it can be hard for the body to have a smooth flow on its own. Insert: needles!! (Hehe, acupuncture joke).
One of the most common patterns we see is called “liver overacting on spleen” when the liver energy encroaches on the spleen and stomach, the most important organs for digestion, according to TCM. Different kinds of constraint and inconsistencies in the way qi is moving can cause the typical IBS symptoms like constipation, intermittent diarrhea, gas and bloating, etc. When you throw extra stress in the mix as well, people can experience more severity of those symptoms, stomach pains, and digestive upset immediately following a stressful event. Yikes! Acupuncture can be extremely beneficial to help MOVE the qi and get it to flow correctly. We also use moxibustion, or mugwort, to help nourish the spleen and stomach. When you burn mugwort on certain acupuncture points, it boosts the ability of the spleen and stomach to function correctly. Therefore, those organs aren’t as vulnerable under the liver’s attack! We often use both together, or separately based on what your needs are specifically.
Other ways you can soothe the liver qi are taking out the things that are causing you stress! Also, exercise more, get outside, breathe fresh air and get your extra vitamin D from natural sunlight. To naturally boost the spleen and stomach, make sure you’re eating well (as always), warm, cooked nourishing foods and rest well! For IBS, you want to bump up your probiotic use and potentially incorporate prebiotics as well. Ask us about what might be right for you next time you’re in the office! Happy spring!