Dear Ariele,

I’m 26 years old and was recently diagnosed with IBS.  Basically, I’m either constipated or have diarrhea, and my stomach always hurts and is bloated.

And I’m SO gassy!  I feel healthy otherwise, but sometimes get headaches.  My doctor says stress is causing it, and wants to put me on an antidepressant, which I really don’t want to take.

Can you help?

*Lori R.

Hi Lori,

I always think of IBS as an interesting diagnosis; basically you told your doctor that your bowels were irritated, and he gave you a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome … it doesn’t really tell you anything you didn’t already know!  What I love about Chinese Medicine is that ten people can come in with the same diagnosis of IBS, and they can each have a different Chinese Medical diagnosis, which I would treat with different acupuncture protocols and herbs.  While I can’t diagnose you without seeing you, here are a few suggestions I would make to anyone who is experiencing digestive troubles:

  • Eat regular amounts at regular times.  For example, don’t just drink coffee all day and then eat a gigantic dinner.  Try to feed your body regular amounts at regular intervals throughout the day so that your digestive organs know what to expect.
  • Quality is crucial.  Eating as many whole foods as possible is so important. Processed chemical and preservative-laden foods wreak havoc on your system. Your body does not know what to do with them, and we end up with a lot of leftover “sludge” that your liver has to process.
  • I believe everyone should be taking probiotics regularly.  Not only do we take far more antibiotics than is necessary, but our food supply is also full of antibiotics. This destroys our gut flora or “microbiome,” which is crucial for healthy digestion.
  • If even a small quantity of food makes you feel bloated, consider taking a digestive enzyme before every meal.
  • You want to keep your digestive fires burning… if you are constantly putting raw, iced or cold foods into your body, you’re going to really diminish digestive strength.  I know that the whole “raw-food” idea is all the rage, but most acupuncturists cringe at that diet.  It’s great to eat clean and natural, but try steaming or lightly sauteing your veggies.  Nix the iced cold protein shakes and iced coffee. Think about what your shoulders do when you go out on a cold day — tense up, right?  It’s the same with your intestines.   If you want to do a cleanse, instead of a juice-cleanse, try a bone-broth soup cleanse.  It is so healing for your digestive tract. Add lots of ginger and lemon to your diet to warm and alkalize the bowels. Moxibustion (shown in the pictures above) also does wonders for warming up a cold gut.
  • Your doctor is correct in that stress can definitely contribute to digestive disturbance. Definitely try to fit some relaxation into your day, whether it’s a five minute meditation in the AM or before bed, a yoga class or yes, an acupuncture session.

There are so many ways to help your digestion before resorting to antidepressants.  I have patients who were diagnosed with IBS and even Crohn’s disease who officially say they no longer suffer from either.  For more detailed tips, visit my blog.  Good luck and keep me posted!

xo, Ariele

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