Epigastric distension according to Chinese Medicine

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Epigastric distension 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 epigastric distension 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 epigastric distension is often associated with irritability, nausea and hypochondrial distention in the pattern “Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause epigastric distension.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of epigastric distension 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 epigastric distension.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause epigastric distension

In Chinese Medicine epigastric distension 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

Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation

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

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, nausea and hypochondrial distention.

Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation 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 Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation here

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

Rebellious Liver Qi

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Liver Qi include irritability, belching and hypochondrial distention.

Rebellious Liver Qi is often treated with Chai Hu Shu Gan San, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Chai Hu Shu Gan San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote qi movement", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood".

Read more about Rebellious Liver Qi here

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, belching and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation here

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

Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach include irritability, belching and epigastric pain.

Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach is often treated with Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Inula Flowers - Xuan Fu Hua - as a key herb). Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi".

Read more about Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach 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 epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include irritability, belching and nausea.

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 epigastric distension

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 epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness with Liver Qi Stagnation' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Obstruction Of The Spleen By Dampness With Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, nausea and hypochondrial distention.

Read more about Ping Wei San here

Si Ni San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Regulates Liver and Spleen. Eliminates Internal Heat.

Why might Si Ni San help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Liver Qi' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Rebellious Liver Qi include irritability, belching and hypochondrial distention.

Read more about Si Ni San here

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Augments the Qi. Warms the Middle Burner. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops hiccup.

Why might Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Rebellious Liver Qi Invading The Stomach include irritability, belching and epigastric pain.

Read more about Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang here

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with epigastric distension?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat epigastric distension

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with epigastric distension?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Ping Wei San or Si Ni San 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 Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with epigastric distension?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang or Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with epigastric distension?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiao Xian Xiong 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 Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with epigastric distension?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Chai Hu Shu Gan San or Si Ni San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with epigastric distension?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Si Mo Tang or Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Conditions associated with epigastric distension

Low breast milk supply Morning sickness