Traditional Chinese Medicine Internal Organ Syndromes

Stomach Syndromes

Stomach syndromes typically include digestive disturbances because all the stomach's functions involve breaking down food. Since the stomach and spleen are intimately related in a yin/yang polarity, imbalances in one organ often affect the other.

Stomach Fire: This syndrome of internal excess heat is characterized by a burning pain in the upper abdominal area, excessive hunger even after eating, thirst, bad breath, canker sores in the mouth, pain and bleeding in the gums, nausea, vomiting, red tongue with a thick, dry yellow coat, and a strong, rapid pulse. Some parallel Western diagnoses might be gastric ulcer or stomatitis, and treatment involves herbs that clear stomach fire, such as Coptis (huang lian).

Food Stagnation: This excess syndrome, usually due to overeating, can have either cold or heat signs. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, a full, bloated feeling in the stomach, nausea, vomiting, bad breath, and acid belching. Treatment of food stagnation includes herbs that move qi in the stomach, such as green tangerine peel (qing pi), along with herbs that relieve the food stagnation itself. If the person has overindulged in fatty foods, the herb of choice is hawthorn berries (shan zha); when the syndrome results from overeating of grains, barley sprouts (mai ya) are preferred.

Stomach Yin Deficiency: Symptoms of this deficiency syndrome include a lack of appetite, thirst with an inability to drink more than a few sips, dry mouth and lips, dry stools, a thin, rapid pulse, and a red tongue with no coat, especially in the center. Since the stomach yin is the source of the tongue coat, its corresponding area in the middle of the tongue appears especially peeled. This syndrome can match a Western diagnosis of chronic gastric ulcer or chronic gastritis. The herbal treatment focuses on tonifying stomach yin with herbs such as Dendrobium (shi hu) and Ophiopogon (mai men dong).

Stomach Deficient and Cold: A pattern of deficiency typically involving the spleen, it has symptoms of "dirty water stagnation": When the person moves, it is possible to hear liquids splashing. Other symptoms of this pattern are dull pains in the stomach area that are relieved by pressure and warmth, excessive sputum in the mouth, fatigue, bloating, and diarrhea. The pulse is slow, weak, slippery, and deficient, while the tongue is pale with a greasy white coat. This pattern of deficiency could possibly correspond to a Western diagnosis of food allergies, infection with the Candida organism, or chronic gastroenteritis. Moxibustion to points on the abdomen is quite helpful in treating a cold disorder such as this. Herbal therapy includes use of herbs that are warming to the stomach such as ginger (gan jiang), tonics such as ginseng (ren shen), and dampness-draining herbs such as Poria (fu ling).

On the next page, learn about the symptoms and signs of gallbladder and urinary bladder syndromes. These syndromes are frequently affected by other organs, such as the liver and kidneys.

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