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Beat the bloat | Yi TCM

Beat the Bloat

14 Mar 2024

By: Kang Ting Tan

The sensation of abdominal bloating is commonly characterized as a feeling of tightness, fullness, discomfort, or swelling akin to a balloon in the abdomen. It arises when the gastrointestinal tract becomes filled with gas, often accompanied by burping, flatulence, or pain.

In addition to inducing physical discomfort, it can also impact one’s outward appearance.

 

Presently, bloating is remarkably prevalent as a symptom experienced by numerous individuals.

 

What are the causes of Bloating?

  • Eating too fast

  • Overeating

  • Irregular eating habits

  • Wheat allergies or Lactose intolerance (Milk and dairy products)

  • Constipation 

  • Stress

  • Occurs in the period 1-2 weeks before and during the menstrual cycle (for females)

  • Consuming food high in FODMAPS*

*FODMAPs stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols”

FODMAPs is an acronym for a group of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly digested by many people. 

In certain individuals, this group of poorly digested carbohydrates reach the end of the intestine and get fermented by the hydrogen-producing gut bacteria. The excessive hydrogen produced can lead to bloating, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea. 

  1. Fruits: Apple, apricot, blackberry, cherry, mango, peach, pear, prune, watermelon

  2. Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom (Enoki, portobello, fresh button or shiitake mushroom), garlic, shallot

  3. Legumes: Baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils

  4. Wheat, Barley or rye

  5. Dairy products: Milk (from cows, goats and sheep), yoghurt, ice cream

  6. Sweeteners: Sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, high fructose corn syrup 

 

 

Research indicates a significant correlation between FODMAPs and digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Types of Bloating in TCM Perspective

1. Food Stagnation

( 饮食内停

Abdominal distention that aggravates after food

 

Other symptoms: Nausea; flatulence, bad breath and smelly stools. Commonly occurs after overeating

2. Liver Stomach Disharmony (肝胃不和)

Expanding feeling of bloating, often triggered by stress or negative emotions

 

Other symptoms: Prone to mood swings; excessive sighing;  loss of appetite; bitter taste in the mouth and irregular bowel movements

3. Dampness and Phlegm Retention 

(痰湿中阻)

Abdominal and chest discomfort

 

Other symptoms: Prone to excessive sebum secretions on the face and scalp, often have cravings for food high in fat and sugars, aversion to humid and wet weather and sticky stools. 

4. Spleen Qi Deficiency

(脾胃虚弱)

Bloating persists most of the time in a day, especially after a meal

 

Other symptoms: Easily fatigued; decreased appetite; puffiness around the eyes or face especially in the morning and loose stools.

TCM Approach to Bloating

TCM employs a holistic approach to health. Depending on the cause, duration, symptoms diagnosed by the TCM practitioner, the following combinations of methods are used to treat abdominal distention. 

  1. Acupuncture 

  2. Herbal medication

  3. Auriculotherapy 

  4. Dietary and Lifestyle modifications 

 

 

Ways to reduce or eliminate bloating 

  1. Chew your food, aiming for at least 20-30 chews per bite.

  2. Establish regular meal times to promote digestive health.

  3. Practice mindful eating by consuming food and beverages slowly. Refrain from eating while studying or working during meal times.

  4. Be aware of any food intolerances you may have. Keep a food diary to monitor and identify any foods that contribute to bloating.

  5. Drink warm water. Avoid drinking cold drinks or eating spicy, cold or raw food.

  6. Exercise regularly. Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least twice a week.  This helps to improve the qi and circulation of the body and intestine movement. 

 

 

 

Consume lemongrass or ginger tea. 

They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can improve digestive health.

 

Lemongrass tea:

  • Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons of fresh chopped  lemongrass

  • Steep for at least 5 minutes

  • Strain the tea

  • Enjoy it warm


Ginger tea

 

  • Remove the skin of the ginger

  • Add half a teaspoon of freshly grated/sliced ginger and 1 teaspoon of honey (optional) to a cup

  • Add hot water and stir

  • Enjoy it warm

Bloating has many possible reasons. 

In rare cases, it can also be caused by abdominal masses such as tumours. 


If bloating continues and consistently causes discomfort for over 6 weeks, or if it significantly impacts your daily activities, it’s recommended to consult a medical professional for treatment.