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I thought my digestion was “normal.” It’s not?

  • 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.
What causes indigestion?
  • Diet:
    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.
  • Lifestyle:
    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 food.
  • 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 Bowel Syndrome).
    -  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 stools.

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 Counseling.

  • 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 Rights Reserved.

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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2001 S. Barrington Ave. Ste 116 Los Angeles, CA 90025  l  310-729-9061  l  © Jordan Hoffman Acupuncture 2010
This site and any articles on this site are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice and are intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of the information on this site and any articles.