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Bloating and Nausea

Bloating and Nausea treatment potential for acupuncture and herbal medicine in traditional chinese medicine

Bloating and Nausea: Understanding and Managing Symptoms from Western and Chinese Medical Perspectives

(Organ names in Chinese medicine differ from Western medicine's understanding).

Bloating and nausea are two common symptoms that can occur together or separately, affecting many individuals. While these symptoms can have various causes, both Western medicine and Chinese medicine offer different perspectives on the underlying mechanisms and approaches to managing these symptoms.


Western Biomedical Understanding and Treatment Approach

In Western medicine, bloating and nausea are often associated with digestive system disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or gastroparesis. Bloating refers to the feeling of fullness or tightness in the abdomen due to excess gas, while nausea is the feeling of discomfort in the stomach accompanied by an urge to vomit. Both symptoms can be caused by overeating, consuming fatty or spicy foods, stress, infections, or certain medications.


Treatment options for bloating and nausea vary depending on the underlying cause. Over-the-counter antacids, proton pump inhibitors, or H2 blockers can provide relief for GERD and acid reflux symptoms. Antiemetic medications such as ondansetron can be used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy or surgery. Dietary and lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals, and reducing stress can also help manage symptoms.


Chinese Medical Theory and Approach to Managing Symptoms

According to Chinese medical theory, bloating and nausea can be caused by imbalances in the body's energy or Qi, which flows through channels or meridians in the body. These imbalances can be caused by various factors such as diet, emotions, weather changes, or environmental factors. Chinese medicine also recognizes the importance of the digestive system and the organs involved in the process, including the TCM-Spleen and TCM-Stomach.


One approach to managing bloating and nausea in Chinese medicine is through acupuncture. Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points along the meridians to stimulate the body's natural healing processes and restore the flow of Qi. Another approach is herbal medicine, which uses natural substances such as ginger and peppermint to relieve digestive symptoms, however, Chinese Herbs are constructed with much care and may include anything from four to 12 herbs that synergetically work together and are very individualised in their application. Chinese medicine also emphasizes the importance of dietary and lifestyle changes to prevent and manage bloating and nausea, such as avoiding cold or raw foods, eating warm and cooked foods, and reducing stress.

Three perspectives of Chinese medical theory that are relevant to understanding bloating and nausea are:

  1. The Five Elements Theory: According to this theory, the body's energy can be classified into five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water) that interact with each other and influence different organs and functions. Bloating and nausea can be caused by imbalances in the Earth element, which governs the digestive system.

  2. Channel Theory: According to this theory, the body's energy flows through channels or meridians that connect different organs and functions. Bloating and nausea can be caused by blockages or imbalances in the Stomach and Spleen meridians, which affect digestion.

  3. Shan Han Lun and Wen Bing: These two theories are used to diagnose and treat external and internal diseases based on the pattern of symptoms and signs. Bloating and nausea can be caused by various patterns such as Dampness, Cold, or Qi Stagnation, which require different herbal formulas and acupuncture points.

While Western medicine and Chinese medicine offer different perspectives on bloating and nausea, a complementary approach can be effective in managing symptoms. Western medicine can provide immediate relief for acute symptoms, while Chinese medicine can address the underlying imbalances and prevent recurrence. Integrating dietary and lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and natural remedies can also support both approaches and improve overall health.


  1. Lee, A. C., & Kemper, K. J. (2016). Bloating and Gas. The American Journal of Medicine, 129(8), 799-801.

  2. Ma, Y., Wu, L., Zhou, Y., & Xu, Y. (2019). The Therapeutic Mechanism of Traditional Chinese Medicine on Functional Dyspepsia. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, 1-9.

  3. Lee, S. Y., Yu, J. S., Lee, H. Y., & Kim, J. H. (2020). Effects of Traditional Korean Medicine for Nausea and Vomiting: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2020, 1-12.

  4. Ji, J., Lu, Y., Tian, Z., Wang, T., & Zhao, J. (2020). Understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine Cold and Hot Syndrome in the Treatment of Gastrointestinal Diseases. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2020, 1-9.

  5. Chan, Y. Y., Kim, K. H., Cheung, W. Y., & Wu, J. C. (2017). Herbal Medicine for Functional Dyspepsia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017, 1-22.

The primary objective of Chinese Medicine is to treat the whole person rather than a specific disease or its given name.  It is an adjunct to Western medicine, with a distinct focus on identifying the underlying cause within Chinese medical  theory and using it's principles in a safe and modern clinical setting.

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