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Battling to Beat your Belly Bloat? Abdominal bloating from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Abdominal bloating and distension is a common condition that can cause discomfort and pain. It occurs when the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed and/or filled with air, gas, food, fluids or even a subjective feeling of "fullness"occurring with or without physical bloating.

Some common causes of abdominal bloating include:

Bloating and distension and how traditional chinese medicine can treat in Liverpool
Bloating and distension

- Overeating, eating too quickly, eating disorders, swallowing air

- Depression and anxiety

- Constipation

- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

- Lactose or other intolerances

- Coeliac disease

- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

- Gastroparesis

Modern treatments for bloating include diet, exercise and posture, over-the-counter medications, probiotics, antibiotics, smooth muscle antispasmodics, osmotic laxatives, prokinetic agents.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, abdominal bloating is viewed as a sign of disharmony in the body. The Spleen and Stomach are the primary organs responsible for digestion in the body. When these organs are weak or not functioning properly, it can lead to bloating and other digestive issues.

Spleen deficiency or weakness means that food processing becomes compromised affecting the close relationship the Spleen has with the Stomach which may further impact the processing of food and qi. Movement is important for proper digestion.

The Spleen also plays an important role in regulating fluid metabolism, and transforming and transporting fluids throughout the body. Dampness and phlegm can accumulate causing the distension/bloating. This lack of movement can further affect the intestines, causing sluggish bowel movements.

Spleen deficiency other signs and symptoms include, poor appetite, puffiness around the eyes/fingers, weak, low voice, frequent colds, fatigue, clammy hands and shortness of breath, sudden weight fluctuations. In many cases the bloating is worsened with cold, raw foods and drinks and a dull achey pain is present. This pattern can be caused by excessive worry, a weak constitution, or a history of long-term illness.

Traditional Chinese Medicine also views bloating as related to emotional factors. The liver is closely linked to the smooth flow of Qi in the body. When the liver's Qi becomes stagnant, it can result in abdominal bloating, belching, and emotional symptoms such as irritability and mood swings. Emotional stress and irregular lifestyle habits are often associated with this pattern.

Whilst there are other patterns, including "dampness" and "qi stagnation" the 2 outlined above are extremely common.

Strategies you can adopt to help with bloating may include, intermittent fasting, eating smaller meals more frequently, avoiding foods that are known to cause bloating, drinking

plenty of water and exercising regularly. Chinese medicine also promotes walking after meals and/or rubbing stomach in clockwise direction for 10 minutes post-meals.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine may be very beneficial in not only addressing the bloating/distension, poor digestion or bowel movements, but also in addressing the underlying caues by strengthening the spleen, stomach and the overall qi dynamic within the body.

The prognosis for abdominal bloating in TCM depends on several factors, including the severity of the condition, individual constitution, and adherence to treatment. With proper TCM diagnosis and consistent treatment, abdominal bloating can be effectively managed and alleviated. TCM treatments not only address the symptoms but also aim to restore overall balance and promote long-term wellness.

Do YOU suffer from bloating and distension?

Make an appointment now if you are suffering from these symptoms and you're seeking relief!


Maciocia, Giovanni. (1989). The foundations of Chinese medicine : a comprehensive text for acupuncturists and herbalists. Edinburgh ; New York : Churchill Livingstone

Li, X., & Li, Y. (2019). Traditional Chinese Medicine for Abdominal Bloating. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 39(2), 243-248.

Yang, S., et al. (2020). Efficacy and Safety of Traditional Chinese Medicine for Functional Constipation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2020.

Chen, P., & Chen, H. (2017). Traditional Chinese Medicine Syndromes and Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Medical Acupuncture, 29(4), 208-214.


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