Our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) starts from the mouth and ends at the anus. There are a number of diseases associated with our GI tract ranging from excessive gas build-up, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea to more serious conditions such as acid reflux (GERD), ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and Crohn’s disease. Most of these conditions are chronic, although some conditions of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can be life-threatening.
Early Chinese medical texts state that “The origins of any chronic disease can be traced back to compromised digestive function.” In other words, Chinese medicine views digestive health as the foundation to total health.
According to Chinese medical theory, most digestive disorders are due to disharmony in the spleen and stomach. In fact, it’s not so much the stomach that holds the key in maintaining optimal digestive function, it’s the SPLEEN.
Unlike Western medicine that views the spleen as not-so-vital, Chinese medicine considers the spleen an extremely important organ, not only for digestive functions, but for reproductive health, immune functions, and vascular strength.
The spleen (which includes the pancreas in Chinese medical theory) takes a lead role in the assimilation of nutrients and maintenance of physical strength. It turns digested food from the stomach into usable nutrients and Qi (energy).
The liver also plays a critical role in the digestive process. When the spleen is weak, the liver cannot move smoothly, so that the combined effects of weak spleen and liver often result in serious digestive disorders.
In addition, the large/small intestines, the gallbladder, and the kidneys are intricately involved in our digestive process. Therefore, maintaining optimal digestive heath always requires a holistic approach that takes into a whole body into account, not just the organs associated with the GI tract.