Person with Stomach Ache

In Part I we learned about the many signs and symptoms of Food Stagnation. In this segment we’ll cover how to treat and prevent it.

Therapies for Food Stagnation

Diet Therapy

Foods to Eat: Adequate amounts of protein (but not too much!), lots of cooked vegetables and dark leafy greens, and small amounts of grains and fruits (room temperature or cooked and with spices).

Foods to Avoid: Fatty, greasy, fried foods, excessive protein, cold drinks with fatty foods, excessive intake of dampening foods (see Part I for specific foods to avoid!)

Emotional Therapy

Appropriate expression and release of emotional issues that cause emotional eating

Lifestyle Therapies

One of my Chinese teachers always taught this healthy digestive sequence: eat calmly, rest 15 minutes, walk 15 minutes and then rest (nap) 15 or more minutes. This ensures good digestion and prevents Food Stagnation.

Other Therapies

Stretching or yogic postures that compress and release the abdomen such as forward bends; swimming, brisk walking, running/jogging, bicycling and other similar active forms of exercise/fun; stomach wash or fire wash, one of the Four Purifications. Here’s how to do it:

Fire Wash (Agnisara Dhauti)

Perform this exercise with all air held out of the body. Begin by taking a normal inhalation and exhalation, expelling all air. While holding the breath out, pull the diaphragm up and toward the backbone, and then release it suddenly. Repeat this in-and-out movement rapidly, as long as the breath can be held out without strain, about 30 pulls. Then inhale gently. This makes one round. Start with three rounds, gradually increasing to ten, beginning with 30 pulls per breath and working up to 60.

This technique strengthens the `navel lock’ (frequently used in breathing exercises), creating heat at the navel center (manipura chakra) that purifies nerve channels, stimulates digestion, increases gastric fire, strengthens lungs, and alleviates indigestion, abdominal diseases and menstrual disorders.

Kitchen medicine

For quick use around the home, I find fermented foods, acidophilus, spouted grains (rice and barley), and spices such as fennel, caraway, anise, dill and clove to be useful for Food Stagnation.

Herbal Therapy

Food Stagnation-relieving herbs tend to be warm and sweet in energy. They assist the passage of food through the digestive tract and aid assimilation. I imagine that some herbs, such as the sprouted grains, act as little “brushes” to cleanse old food matter from the intestinal walls, while fermented foods help break it down through their enzymatic actions.

Generally, Food Stagnation-relieving herbs are combined with digestive-aiding herbs such as carminatives, and possibly laxatives. As well, there is often concurrent Damp Stagnation and Deficient Spleen Qi, so herbs to address these issues are often combined with food stagnation relieving herbs.

Food Stagnation Herbs

  • Hawthorn berries (Crataegus spp.; shan za) – used specifically for overeating of meat and greasy foods
  • Radish seeds (Semen Raphanus sativus; lai fu zi)
  • Barley sprouts (Hordeum vulgaris; mai ya)
  • Rice sprouts (Oryzae sativa; gu ya)
  • Asafoetida (Rerula asafetida)
  • Bitters drinks
  • Masa Fermentata (shen qu) – This is a fermented mixture of wheat flour, bran and various herbs including wormwood, apricot seed and cocklebur (Xanthium).

Food Stagnation Formulas

Chinese Formulas

Bao He Wan (Preserve Harmony Pill; Citrus and Crataegus Formula)

This formula is a specific for food stagnation in the upper abdomen with stomach discomfort, distention and fullness, abdominal bloating, foul belching, sour regurgitation, and possible nausea or diarrhea.

Hawthorn berries (shan zha) 9-15 g Crataegus pinnatifida

Medicated leaven (shen qu) 9-12 g Massa fermentata medicinalis

Radish seed (lai fu zi) 6-9 g Raphanus sativus

Citrus peel (chen pi) 6-9 g Citri reticulatae

Pinellia (ban xia) 9-12 g Pinelliae ternatae

Poria (fu ling) 9-12 g Poria cocos

Forsythia (lian qiao) 3-6 g Forsythia suspensa

Properties and Actions:

a) Digestive

b) Reduces Food Stagnation

c) Harmonizes the Stomach

Indications: It is used for food poisoning and overindulgence in rich foods, alcohol, meat or greasy foods. There may be symptoms of abdominal distention with fullness of the stomach, epigastrium and chest, occasional pain, belching, acid regurgitation, nausea and vomiting, aversion to food, diarrhea, or constipation.

Tongue: Yellow, greasy coated tongue

Pulse: Slippery pulse

Variations: For more severe abdominal distention, add green citrus (zhi shi) and magnolia bark (hou po).

For constipation add rhubarb (da huang) and betel nut (bing lang).

Curing Pills (Pill Curing; Healthy Quiet Pills; Kang Ning Wan)

Chinese Curing Pills are one of the most famous Chinese herbal remedies. It alleviates most any kind of stomach upset, treating a variety of stomach disorders such as food poisoning, overeating, hangover, gas, nausea, acid indigestion, abdominal fullness, abdominal bloating with pain, motion sickness, acid regurgitation, and even the stomach flu. This is an excellent remedy to keep on hand and take on travels.

Contains: Gastrodia, red atractylodes, chrysanthemum, pueraria, trichosanthis, saussurea, coix, poria, magnolia bark, red tangerine peel, agastache (Korean mint or patchouli), angelica root, mint, shen qu, fermented rice sprout

Po Chai Pills (Bao Ji Pian)

A similar remedy to Curing Pills, Po Chai is another Chinese household remedy for stomach discomfort, food poisoning, motion sickness, hangover, acute stomach disorders, and overeating.

There may be up to 14 herbs in each formulation but in general it contains: citrus peel, magnolia bark, chrysanthemum, mint, barley sprouts, poria, saussurea, red atractylodes, agastache, angelica, pueraria, tricosanthis

Other formulas may include laxatives or purgatives to move matter out of the lower warmer. These may include such herbs as rhubarb, Cannabis seeds, senna leaf, or aloe.

Ayurvedic Formulas

Triphala: In Ayurveda, Triphala is used to clear stagnation of the Middle and Lower warmers.

Hingashtak: This Ayurvedic formula includes asafoetida as a major component and clears stagnation in the Middle and Lower warmers.

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