One seemingly minor – but in the world of Chinese medicine not at all insignificant – digestive complaint that we have all experienced is “indigestion.” We all recognize the unpleasant symptoms – belching, bloating, the sinking feeling that we have over-indulged and now must pay with several hours of thoroughly distracting, energy-sapping abdominal unpleasantness. How many of us haven’t found ourselves in this pickle at the conclusion of a large holiday meal, wishing we could turn back the clock to the moment before that fateful decision to have one more serving of that dish, that glass of wine that did you in? In Chinese medicine, this condition is frequently attributed to the “accumulation” or the “stoppage” of food. These seemingly quirky expressions turn out to be a very useful way for thinking about the pathological result of a process we implicitly recognize in the word “indigestion,” the absence of digestion, the sensation of food lingering un-digested.
THE DIGESTIVE GOAL IN CHINESE MEDICINE: HARMONY
Proper digestion is central to the Chinese conception of good health. Not only are there numerous Chinese medicine treatments for all varieties of digestive ailments, but doctors of traditional Chinese medicine theory are particularly attentive to the role of digestion in many conditions, especially chronic diseases that linger and diminish our quality of life. DAO Labs’ Digestive Harmony is based on a combination of herbs for treating the problem of “food accumulation” within Chinese medicine. The goal is one of digestive harmony: the notion of harmony is significant because it refers to the action of the stomach, which according to Chinese medicine theory begins the digestive process through the “harmonious descent” of food. The notion of food accumulation or stoppage therefore is not just a reference to the empirical sensations of indigestion but also a description of an interrupted physiological process. Moreover, this physiological breakdown in turn becomes the source of further pathological disruption because food accumulation can obstruct the proper movement of Qi and fluids.
Food accumulation thus helps us to understand the symptoms for which Digestive Harmony is designed to treat. When food fails to descend, the normal rising and falling of Qi is obstructed, causing abdominal fullness and a loss of appetite in mild cases and considerable bloating and pain in more severe cases. If the descent of Qi is completely blocked, it may actually reverse, causing unpleasant, potentially sulfurous, belching, reflux, and even vomiting.
Traditional Chinese theory continues: when the movement of fluids is obstructed, dampness will build up, which in turn leads to loose stools or diarrhea. An emergency trip to the bathroom may provide some temporary relief to the bloating and pain, but these discomforts usually return if the problem of food accumulation remains unresolved.
“HEALTHY FOODS” AND THE CHALLENGES OF DIGESTION
It is also important to understand the cause of food accumulation. Most Traditional Chinese medical doctors believe the condition has two elements: the overindulgence in food and drink or an underlying deficiency in the primary organs of digestion, the spleen and stomach. According to Chinese medical theory, the first cause is generally the most important for adults. When we eat rich and hard-to-digest foods, when we skip meals (or try to get by on a snack) and then overeat at the next one, we are all in danger of getting a bout of indigestion. Too often, we let busy schedules take precedence over regular meal times. At other times, we may get ourselves in trouble by failing to understand what foods can be hard on our stomachs.
In general, raw and uncooked foods, particularly certain fruits and vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, onions, etc. require more effort to digest and may challenge a delicate digestion system. That means that foods we often consider “healthy” can in some situations upset our stomachs.
The second issue, the underlying deficiency of the spleen and stomach, may often play a minor role in folks who frequently struggle with the problem of “food accumulation.” Repeated bouts of indigestion ultimately will injure the spleen and stomach making one all the more susceptible to future occurrences. But this issue is considerably more significant for children. In Chinese medicine, children are known to have a tendency towards poor digestion. Combined with the tendencies of most kids to be picky eaters, the problem of food accumulation is a particular concern for children. Moreover, food accumulation can frequently be a complicating factor for many childhood illnesses. For example, a common cold for adults rarely goes beyond the upper respiratory tract, but in children it frequently leads to “food accumulation.” In fact, children may be complaining of a tummy ache and having bouts of diarrhea long after the cold or other illness seems to have resolved.
THE HERBAL SOLUTION: A 2,500 FORMULA
Fortunately, the combination of herbs contained within, layered with nearly 2,500 years old Chinese theory, DAO’s Digestive Harmony can bring real relief to many of these above situations. It works according to the principle of “reducing and guiding” the food accumulation down and through the digestive tract. The first set of ingredients in the formula are commonly used herbs for gently “reducing” food accumulations and directing them downward. These items are paired with another small herbal combination, famous for treating dampness and phlegm in the abdomen. Tangerine peel is widely used in Chinese medicine for digestive complaints and is particularly useful for promoting the proper flow of Qi. Pinellia breaks up phlegm (caused by congealed dampness) and has strong descending properties. Poria drains dampness and strengthens the spleen to allow it to more effectively move the body’s fluids. Lastly, forsythia buds are used in this formula to drain any internal heat that may result when physiological processes are blocked and obstructed.
More than only a simple band-aid, or just a temporary respite, Digestive Harmony is a very safe and effective tool for strengthening one’s digestive health. Too often, we mistakenly assume that our digestive troubles are “just” who we are, something we have to live with. But in fact this is rarely the case in the hands of a good doctor of Chinese medicine. Digestive Harmony can be indispensable tool on the road to reclaiming digestive tranquility. It can offer strength during times of indigestion, when our inner sense of moderation fails us. But when taken on a daily basis, perhaps for a week or two, it can also begin to correct on-going digestive issues – such as ones that plague children or those of us who have struggled with delicate digestion for years.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease or symptom.