We have all experienced bloating. That feeling of uncomfortable fullness can last for a brief moment or be an every-day inconvenience.
Abdominal bloating can be the consequence of “patterns of disharmony” in traditional Chinese medicine. Since traditional Chinese medicine views the body as a system and not a sum of isolated parts, a symptom such as bloating is an expression of disruption in the body.
Individual experiencing bloating
Often, bloating can appear as a part of a pattern of symptoms. These symptoms may include loose stools and poor appetite. Ultimately, this pattern can be an expression of dampness in the body.
Dampness can appear as several things. First, an internal issue in the digestive system and a related decrease in circulation. When internal dampness occurs in the digestive system, it can appear in the large intestines. Second, from an external environment, such as damp weather or damp-producing foods.
Think dampness = diarrhea and loose stools.
Dampness can produce a feeling of heaviness, swelling, bloating, and puffiness in the skin. Those experiencing dampness may report low energy and an easy ability to gain weight.
I think most of us can relate to the feeling of not wanting to move when we are bloated. We feel heavy like a damp towel, not airy and light like a fresh one out of the dryer.
Up Close Dampness in Diarrhea
In diarrhea, dampness adds fluid to stools and impairs digestion. In normal digestion, as stools moves through the intestines, nutrients are extracted. When diarrhea occurs, digestion movement is increased and nutrient absorption is decreased.
While this impaired digestion is partly due to increased transit time, a change in gene expression in the intestines are also shown. This change involves dampness as well. Researchers in 2013 evaluated the mucosal lining of the jejunum, part of the small intestine, in diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome.
Irritable bowel syndrome is an inflammatory condition that can involve either diarrhea or constipation. A biopsy of the jejunum from 45 IBS-diarrhea patients in comparison to a biopsy from 30 healthy subjects, found an increase in the mucosal mast cell number and activation in the biopsies from the IBS patients.
Mast cells are white blood cells that are involved in the allergic response and release granules to signal a further immune response. The abnormal collection of mast cells can be thought of as dampness.
Herb just beginning to grow
An animal study in 2011 interestingly looked at the Huangqin decoction to lower the mast cell count in rats experiencing dampness and ulcerative colitis. The dampness was established by an external hot and humid environment and internally, the inflammatory diarrhea in ulcerative colitis.
The researchers first found that in comparison to control rats, the rats with the ulcerative colitis had increased mast cell counts. After a one-week treatment of the Huangqin decoction, the mast cell count in the ulcerative colitis rats significantly decreased.
Bai Zhu (Atractylodis macrocephalae rhizome) is an herb utilized for dampness found in the gut where diarrhea and bloating may occur.
In 2022, researchers conducted an animal study to evaluate Shen Ling Bai Zhu San (SLBZS) as a therapy. Rat models were utilized to understand how SLBZS could modulate the intestinal flora, which is disrupted in Ulcerative Colitis.
Compared with the model group, rats that received the SLBZS had increased diversity of the intestinal flora. This increased diversity, including higher levels of Actinobacteria and Bacteroides, is associated with improved clinical outcomes for Ulcerative Colitis.
The study sugggested that SLBZS holds the potential as a therapy for Ulcerative Colitis as it regualtes the structure of the intestinal microbiome and the related metabolic therapies.
Researchers in 2001 completed an animal and pediatric clinical study to observe the effects of Qi wei Bai zhu Powder (QWBZP) on rotaviral gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is an illness where dampness can occur in the form of runny diarrhea.
The control groups received an oral rehydration solution while the therapeutic groups received oral liquid QWBZP.
Amongst the eighty-three patients with rotaviral gastroenteritis, those who received QWBZP had higher efficacy than those who received an oral rehydration solution. The results in the mice models revealed a similar statistical advantage of QWBZP over the oral rehydration solution.
Therefore, the researchers concluded that QWBZP holds potential as a therapy for rotaviral gastroenteritis.
Individual experiencing gut issues
Moxibustion for Diarrhea
Moxibustion is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the burning of mugwort leaves. Instead of internal consumption of the herb, moxibustion is an external therapy. Several studies have supported moxibustion for IBS with diarrhea.
A randomized controlled trial in published earlier this year compared moxibustion in comparison to a placebo for patients with diarrhea dominant diarrhea. Seventy six patients received three sessions of moxibustion or a placebo per week for six weeks.
After the completion of the therapy, the moxibustion was substantially more effective than the placebo in reducing diarrhea. The effectiveness was based off of patient reported relief in diarrhea.
Similarly, an earlier randomized controlled trial in 2020 showed similar results in a larger sample size of 126 patients with IBS-Diarrhea. These patients rated improvements through the score of IBS quality of life, gastrointestinal symptom score, and the score of IBS symptom severity scale.
Dampness can be responsible for gut fluid build-up and excess release. The build-up can be experienced as bloating while the release can appear as diarrhea.
Traditional Chinese medicine approaches these symptoms by targeting the dampness to restore homeostasis to the body. Consider many of the above herbs and therapies to help support your body!