As the body is an integrated whole it will come as no surprise that balanced digestive function involves far more than just the stomach and intestines. Thus as an acupuncturist there are some key areas I focus on regulating if they show to be out of balance.
Some examples include, checking the state of the nervous system by palpating key areas/meridians on the body that are indicative of the state of nervous system balance. The reason it is extremely important to engage the parasympathetic (rest and digest) aspect of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is that healthy digestion, absorption and assimilation depend on the integrity of the ANS. So this is one aspect I make sure to address in the acupuncture clinic for anyone who presents with IBS type symptoms, for example.
I also check reflective areas that relate to pancreatic function, in Classical Chinese Medicine the Earth element relates to ‘rotting and ripening’ food & ‘transformation and transportation’ of nutrition into a useable form of fuel for the body. In this instance we can draw a relationship from this classical Chinese concept of the earth element, to the role of the pancreas which in its exocrine function plays a role in secreting digestive juices and enzymes into the small intestine to further break down larger macro molecules. As well as the endocrine role of the pancreas in secreting insulin and glucagon so the body can transport, store and utilise these nutrients (glucose) as needed for fuel. Thus the importance of addressing through acupuncture any energetic or physical (i.e. pancreatitis) imbalance occurring associated with the concept of pancreatic or earth element function.
Gall bladder function either physical (i.e. gall stones or cholecystitis) or energetic need to be evaluated. From a physical level any inflammation, irritation, stones or gravel that can be irritating the gallbladder/biliary duct and affecting the secretion of bile will impact on the digestion of fats mainly. Thus if digestive symptoms (nausea, gas, heartburn) are due to these issues it is extremely important to have it diagnosed by a medical doctor. Once we know what we are working with, acupuncture can play a major role in treating the condition and ameliorating the signs and symptoms. From an acupuncture perspective when the gallbladder (wood element) is in excess it overacts and impedes the earth element from carrying out its digestive function, thus an individual may present with all the signs and symptoms associated with gallstones yet the ultrasound shows clearly no stones. This highlights the sensitivity of acupuncture and how energetics can be shifted and show prior to the physical manifestation (i.e. gallstones in this case).
From an acupuncture meridian perspective I palpate the fire point of the small intestine meridian, large intestine meridian, stomach meridian, spleen meridian, liver meridian, kidney meridian, and gallbladder meridian. Any meridian that I find pressure pain on the associated fire point I release through various acupuncture techniques. I do this to release any heat or inflammation that may be associated with the meridian, concept, or organ. This technique greatly benefits the energetics of the individual and subsequently can benefit the digestive signs and symptoms experienced.
I would like to highlight that the thoughts and ideas expressed above are heavily influenced by the work of acupuncturists Kiiko Matsumoto, Avi Magidoff and David Euler, as well as my own personal practice, testing and study.
As always, any questions please feel free to contact me.
Giancarlo Nerini – Licensed Acupuncturist