According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are four possible causes for Crohn's disease. These are damp-heat in the Large Intestine, Spleen deficiency, Spleen and Kidney deficiency and qi/blood stagnation.
In this article we will look at each of these patterns and their symptoms, as well as how TCM and acupuncture may help.
Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine
Damp and heat are two of six pathogenic factors known as the six evils. They usually stem from an external source such as diet, climate or other environmental influences. Once inside the body, these can affect any of the internal organs causing a variety of issues.
In the Large Intestine, damp and heat can combine to cause a number of unpleasant symptoms including:
- Diarrhea which comes on suddenly
- Mucus or blood in the stools
- Foul smelling stools
- Abdominal bloating and pain
Damp-heat in the Large Intestine can be seen as build up of digestive waste which is not being expelled as it should. It is important to avoid toxins such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine as well as taking plenty of exercise to promote sweating and cool the body down.
Avoid heating foods such as strong spices, red meat and roasted or fried foods. Instead, eat more cooling foods such as green vegetables, squashes, mung beans and watermelon.
The Spleen is one of the major digestive organs in TCM. It is known as the organ responsible for “transformation and transportation”. This means that it responsible for extracting the nutrients from food and moving them to where they are needed in the body.
Being so important in the digestive process, the Spleen is easily affected by what food you eat. Foods which are cold or raw are difficult to digest and put a strain on the Spleen, causing digestive issues such as Crohn's disease.
The symptoms of Crohn's disease due to Spleen deficiency are:
- Frequent and severe diarrhea
- Watery stools with undigested food
- Dull abdominal pain
- Poor appetite
As well as being caused by diet, some people are genetically predisposed to Spleen deficiency. If this is the case, you will need to be even more careful about what and when you eat.
Avoid cold and raw foods, high fibre foods and iced drinks. Stick to warming foods which are easy to digest such as soups, stews or oatmeal. Drink water warm or at room temperature, and avoid having too much to drink at mealtimes.
The Spleen is most effective in the mornings, so it is a good idea to eat a large breakfast and smaller meals later in the day. Avoid eating on the go and be sure to chew every mouthful properly.
Spleen and Kidney Deficiency
Over time, chronic illness can cause the Kidney to become deficient as well as the Spleen. As well as the symptoms listed above, Kidney deficiency can cause:
- Early morning diarrhea
- Pain which is worse with cold and better after emptying your bowels
You can improve the health of your Spleen by following the above guidance, and take care of your Kidneys by getting enough rest, taking regular, gentle exercise, and keeping warm.
Qi and Blood Stagnation
Qi and blood stagnation happen when their normal circulation is blocked for some reason. In Crohn's disease, this describes the acute stage of the disease, also known as a flare-up. The symptoms may be similar to those of appendicitis, so if you have them you should get checked by a physician to rule this out.
The symptoms of Crohn's disease due to qi and blood stagnation are:
- Abdominal bloating with severe pain
- A mass in the lower right abdomen which may be felt through the skin
- Loss of appetite
These flare-ups can be managed by eating a bland, low fibre diet and eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, turmeric, and green tea. Acupuncture and herbs may also be especially helpful at this time.
How can TCM and Acupuncture Help Crohn's Disease?
Acupuncture is a useful tool in managing any kind of inflammatory condition, including Crohn's disease. From a TCM perspective, it helps to clear pathogens such as dampness and heat, supports the internal organs and promotes the circulation of qi and blood.
Chinese herbs may be used to support acupuncture treatment and making dietary changes is crucial. Dietary therapy is an important part of TCM, and is tailored to every patient's individual needs. This is why if you are suffering from Crohn's disease, it is important to see a qualified practitioner to get the right advice for you.