Abdominal bloating according to Chinese Medicine

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Abdominal bloating can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like abdominal bloating here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here abdominal bloating is often associated with edema, loose stools and poor appetite in the pattern “Cold-Damp invading the Spleen”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause abdominal bloating.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of abdominal bloating we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat abdominal bloating.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause abdominal bloating

In Chinese Medicine abdominal bloating is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Cold-Damp invading the Spleen

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Slow (Chi)

In addition to abdominal bloating, other symptoms associated with Cold-Damp invading the Spleen include edema, loose stools and poor appetite.

Cold-Damp invading the Spleen is often treated with Ping Wei San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Black Atractylodes Rhizomes - Cang Zhu - as a key herb). Ping Wei San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Dampness".

Read more about Cold-Damp invading the Spleen here

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to abdominal bloating, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, loose stools and restlessness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian), Firm (Lao)

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

Blood Stagnation, like the name indicates, is when Blood flow becomes Stagnant. It can happen in the whole body or in specific Organs.

It is one of the most important diagnostic conditions in Chinese Medicine because it is frequently the cause of intractable pain syndromes anywhere in the body.

In addition to abdominal bloating, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation include abdominal pain, dizziness and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Scanty Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Blood Stagnation is often treated with Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Tao He Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dispels Heat and".

Read more about Blood Stagnation here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm-Fluids in the Stomach and Small intestine

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

When the transportative and transformative functions of the Middle-Burner are damaged (often by Cold), Phlegm-Fluids accumulate in the Stomach and epigastric area. This leads to the symptoms such as the vomiting of watery fluids or splashing sounds in the stomach.

In addition to abdominal bloating, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids in the Stomach and Small intestine include dizziness, loose stools and chest fullness.

Phlegm-Fluids in the Stomach and Small intestine is often treated with Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Chai Hu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer)".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the Stomach and Small intestine here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to abdominal bloating, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, vomiting and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

Five herbal formulas that might help with abdominal bloating

Ping Wei San

Source date: 1051 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Dries Dampness. Improves the Spleen's transportive function. Promotes the movement of Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Ping Wei San help with abdominal bloating?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Cold-Damp invading the Spleen' of which abdominal bloating is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Cold-Damp Invading The Spleen include edema, loose stools and poor appetite.

Read more about Ping Wei San here

Lian Po Yin

Source date: 1862 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Why might Lian Po Yin help with abdominal bloating?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which abdominal bloating is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Lian Po Yin here

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Why might Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang help with abdominal bloating?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which abdominal bloating is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Scanty Menstruation.

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with abdominal bloating?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the Stomach and Small intestine' of which abdominal bloating is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids In The Stomach And Small Intestine include dizziness, loose stools and chest fullness.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with abdominal bloating?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which abdominal bloating is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Scanty Menstruation.

Read more about Wu Ling San here

Acupuncture points used for abdominal bloating

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat abdominal bloating

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with abdominal bloating?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal bloating as a symptom, like Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with abdominal bloating?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal bloating as a symptom, like Wu Ling San or Wu Pi Yin for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with abdominal bloating?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal bloating as a symptom, like Tao Hong Si Wu Tang or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with abdominal bloating?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal bloating as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with abdominal bloating?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat abdominal bloating as a symptom, like Tao Hong Si Wu Tang or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here