The Importance of the Digestive System in Acupuncture - Upper East Side, New York
Updated: Apr 6
In chapter 10 of the Ling Shu, an interesting observation occurs when discussing the 12 channel system of acupuncture. It states that the first channel where circulation begins is the lung channel. In the Nei Jing, the first thing listed is of extreme importance. We know that we can live without food or water for a few days to a few weeks, but without oxygen we would perish within minutes. We also know in terms of Chinese medical physiology, it is the lung system which actually moves circulation in the channels. Further along in the chapter it states where the lung channel begins. "The lung channel begins in the middle jiao." The middle jiao is referring to our digestive center, which is composed of the stomach and pancreas systems. Here it is indicating that the entire channel system is fed and nourished by our digestion, where everything begins.
I am a New York City acupuncturist practicing in the Upper East Side neighborhood and have noticed clinically, that if a person has digestive illnesses, no matter what other ailment(s) they may be experiencing, these ailments cannot be fixed with acupuncture or herbs unless the digestive system is working properly. Great health must be built on a solid foundation of proper digestion, sleep, and exercise. So how does the digestive system function in acupuncture? If you've read previous blogs the answer always lies within the channel system.
The channel systems of acupuncture not only connect to the organs after which they are named, but also nourish the five tissue planes along its respective pathway, that is the skin, the tissue under the skin called the subcutaneous tissue, the vessels, tendons/muscles, and the bones. If the digestive center malfunctions and people experience illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain, nutrients are neither properly extracted from food nor are they absorbed. These nutrients or lack thereof flow within the channels and heal areas of injury and inflammation. If the nutrients are lacking, there is no substance to begin repairing dysfunction of the five tissue planes. Conversely, if the 5 tissue planes show pathology and are located along the pathways of the digestive system, they would also need to be treated in order to promote circulation to the digestive system. The entire body works as one functional unit and not as separate parts.
Every channel will enter into the abdomen as it connects to the organs. Therefore, the abdomen and organs are very important areas to keep open and make sure circulation flows uninhibited. In addition to treating pain, we need to ensure the digestive system is working properly. In Ling Shu chapter 7, functional regions of anatomy relating to the digestive system are discussed. These regions directly connect to the digestive organs themselves. The most common impairments within the abdomen occur at the outflow tracts of abdomen, in the subcutaneous tissue, and cold impairments. Cold impairments often occur due to exposure to cold weather or eating too much cold and raw food. There are some people who do fine on raw food diets, they usually have strong digestive fire. There are others, who constitutionally cannot handle cold foods even in small amounts. Those who have cold intolerance, I would recommend drinking ginger tea. Ginger is a common herb to improve circulation in the abdomen, alleviate pain, and because of it's warm nature dispels cold.
Acupuncture is one of the best therapies for cold impairments of the abdomen. There are 3 needling techniques to treat cold depending on its location. One technique treats cold in the skin/superficial layer, another technique for treating cold in the mid level, and the last technique for treating deep contracted cold. In addition we use supplemental warming techniques like moxibustion to help dispel cold. Moxibustion is the technique of burning mugwort, which produces heat. It is the ancient version of infrared therapy. It is warming and counteracts inflammation.
Utilizing all of these tools, acupuncture is able to treat digestive illnesses. With modern research we are learning that the digestive system is being likened to our "second brain." We are finding the the digestive system may play a role in our overall health and feelings of well being. At our Upper East Side acupuncture clinic we will treat you fully and wholly to ensure your system is functioning optimally and you are feeling and living the best possible life.