I have chronic digestive problems such as acid reflux, poor appetite, constipation or fullness and distention in the lower abdomen. How do I take care of myself at home after an acupuncture visit?
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the digestive system equates to the “spleen and stomach”. Chronic digestive problems are due to deficiency of these organ systems. This condition can be made worse after catching a cold, after eating cold food or indigestible food, by overeating, eating late and worrying while eating, drinking alcohol, and from emotional problems like stress and anxiety.
In order to support and maintain the benefits of treatment at home, patients must take care of both what and how they eat. It is best to eat warm, cooked food, easily digestible food, and avoid consuming too many drinks with ice. Eat small, frequent meals, and eat them at regular, consistent times of day. If the patient has caught a cold, they should drink ginger tea or ginger soup.
Exercise and a healthy body are extremely important to maintaining a strong digestive system. Patients are advised to do some kind of traditional Chinese exercises or mediation, like Qi Gong and Tai Ji Quan. One particular benefit of these exercises, among the many reasons to do them, is that they can be practiced virtually anywhere, at home, in an office, outside, and even while travelling. An example sequence that patients can use as a foundation for this kind of practice is outlined here. 1) Start in a standing position with the feet apart, with the body relaxed and the mind quieted. Regulate the breath to be even and steady. 2) Slowly lift both arms up in front of the head with palms up. 3) Slowly push the arms down with palms turned down and knees bent, and lower the upper body. 4) Next, slowly lift the arms up with palms turned up, and straighten the upper body. 5) Return to step 2. 6) Follow the above process to regulate breathing, exhale while slowly lifting the arms up in front of head and inhale while slowly pushing palms down. 7) Repeat these steps for about 5 minutes.
Another form of self-care that can help maintain the benefits of treatment for digestion at home is a kind of simple self-massage. Outlined here is one form of self-massage on the abdomen. Before you begin, you will need a smooth towel or small cloth to place on the abdomen, to facilitate ease of movement of the hands over the abdominal region. 1) Begin by laying on your back on a bed, or sit comfortably on a chair. Relax any belt you may have on. Relax the body, and quiet the mind. 2) Put a thin towel or cloth on the abdomen. 3) Using one palm, rub in a circle about 20 to 30 times per minute for about 3 minutes. Apply gentle and mild force, keeping the motion steady and moderate. 4) Put the palm on the towel, and commence kneading for about 3 minutes. The kneading frequency is kept to about 20 to 30 times per minute. 5) Gently grasp the muscles of abdomen, lift slowly, then relax, repeating this motion 5 times per minute for 2 minutes. 6) With both hands on top of each other, knead on abdominal muscles in a circular motion 30 times per minute for 3 minutes. If you have constipation, rub clockwise; if you have loose stools or diarrhea, rub counter-clockwise. The abdomen should feel comfortably, even pleasantly, warm after doing these exercises.