Ulcerative Colitis – Treating with Chinese Medicine

Chinese medical texts rarely differentiate Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or other chronic inflammatory intestinal disorders. In Chinese medical terms, most ulcerative intestinal disease is classified as spleen deficiency type, because it is believed that the spleen Qi is necessary to maintain the health of the intestines.

More specifically, any bowel-related issues can be caused by four major factors, all of them involving stomach/spleen deficiency.

  1. Stomach/Spleen Deficiency: Most common cause of any bowel-related and any other digestive disorders.
  2. Deficiency Complicated by Cold: Usually cold in the stomach and spleen meridians affect either the small or the large intestines.
  3. Deficiency Complicated by Damp Heat: Severe pain and/or bleeding can be caused by damp heat lodged in the intestines.
  4. Qi and Yin Deficiency: deficient Qi causes stagnation of the stomach and the spleen over time; not enough Yin (cooling element) makes Yang (hot element) invading the stomach, spleen, and liver meridians.

Chinese medical practitioners can establish protocols by examining the underlying causes of ulcerative colitis, not just symptomatic demonstrations. Quite often, acupuncture alone cannot effectively deal with this particular disease, and Chinese herbal concoctions (most notable is Jianpilling) are strongly recommended, along with strict diet changes.

A word of caution is that Chinese medicine, however, has its limitations. If the patient has such complications as toxic colitis or toxic megacolon, immediate hospitalization is required. In addition, serious complications such as massive hemorrhage, free perforation, or fulminating toxic colitis require immediate surgical intervention.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes ongoing inflammation and ulcers (open sores) in the innermost layers of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The ulcers bleed and produce pus and mucus, and the inflammation causes the colon to empty frequently, causing diarrhea.

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Ulcerative colitis is similar to Crohn disease, another IBD. Crohn disease can happen anywhere in the digestive tract, often in patches, and can spread deeper into tissues.

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Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, is usually confined to the innermost layers of tissue and is uniform throughout the colon. Ulcerative colitis can be painful and have life-threatening complications.

Strengthen Your Digestive Health with Acupuncture

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.

digestive 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).

digestive health 2

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.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is part of disease called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It presents with inflammation in the lining of the large intestine, specifically the colon and sometimes the rectum. The lining becomes inflamed due to small wounds or ulcers, which then produce mucus and pus.

ulcerqtive colitis

The inflammation and ulceration an cause pain and different problems, including frequent, watery diarrhea, persistent diarrhea with pain and bloody stool, urgent bowel movements, incomplete evacuation of the bowels despite a feeling of urgency, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, weight loss, body fluid depletion, fatigue, fever or urgent diarrhea that wakes you up in the middle of the night.

How can Chinese medicine help patients with ulcerative colitis?

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An article published in the 2013 issue of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that “acupuncture and moxibustion (a traditional technique that uses the smoke from the herb mugwort to penetrate the skin) demonstrated better overall efficacy than oral sulphasalazine in treating inflammatory bowel disease.”

Sulphasalazine is a doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical drug that is commonly used in the treatment of ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.