Traditional Chinese Medicine and Gluten-Intolerance
have been trying to write my first article for the last few days, and I
am having quite a hard time getting my thoughts to this page. I am
trying to ignore what is preventing me from being able to explain
digestion from a TCM perspective. However, today I realized I am
ignoring what I really should be focusing on. I am having
“gluten-brain”, and what perfect timing! It is never a positive
experience, but why not turn this painful exposure to gluten into a
learning experience I can write about?
those who do not have an intolerance to gluten, or celiac disease, it
can be very hard to understand the harm that gluten can cause. It is a
very personal experience, with a wide range of symptoms, however, there
is a symptom in particular that stands out for me. It’s when I feel that
all of my energy has been sucked out of my body, in particular, my
mind. This foggy-head feeling, or “gluten-brain” as I like to call it,
is by far the worst symptom I can imagine.
unintentionally ingested gluten the other evening. I was at a friends
house for dinner, and they really went to a lot of trouble trying to
make sure everything was gluten-free. Although there is so much
awareness now, gluten is still a term that a lot of people do not full
understand, or know enough about. It was a great 99% gluten-free dinner,
but upon casually asking about the recipe, because it was so delicious,
she listed off an very glutenous ingredient. Alarm swept through my
body. I didn’t want to say anything as I knew she would be feel
horrible, but immediately, panic set in. I knew how the next few days
were going to unfold.
years of experience, I can recognize my gluten-related reactions, but
it makes me think about the people who walk around, systemically
fatigued, foggy-brained, and even depressed who have no idea that gluten
is potentially the cause. It can be difficult to recognize the effects
of gluten, without ever having a better state of health to compare it
with. Until reaching the other side of a gluten-free life, one may never
know their full potential of health.
little protein called gluten can be extremely damaging to intestinal
walls. Thus, preventing very important vitamins and nutrients from being
absorbed. A study from 2006 reported that one-third of individuals with
celiac disease also suffer from depression, and the rates for a certain
population for having depression were 31% among those with celiac and
only 7% for those without. With studies like this, the correlation of
gluten-intake (and therefore malabsorption) and mental health becomes
very evident, and suddenly I don’t feel alone in my misty state.
the past, I would just wait it out, walking around in a
intoxicated-like condition, not being able to focus on anything for a
few days. However, this time around I decided I would be proactive and
actually do something to help myself. I turned to Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM) to work my way through this “gluten-attack”.
it is important to know that TCM organs have different functions from
those in western medicine. When thinking of anything compromising
digestion and absorption, from a TCM perspective it relates to the
Spleen’s (Spleen-Stomach) ability to transport and transform food and
fluids. Qi, the body’s life-force energy, needs to be flowing smoothy,
efficiently and fully for the body to function properly, without
disease. For those who suffer from gluten sensitivities or intolerances,
the Spleen’s Qi is most likely to become deficient and depleted. This
can also lead to a TCM term: dampness, which will even further damage
the healthy flow of Qi. The Small and Large Intestine are also involved
in proper digestion and absorption, so these organs are also considered.
it is essential to note that one of the main TCM principles is holism.
When considering this concept, and looking at the whole body, leading a
strictly gluten-free diet for the rest of one’s life is the other way we
can say TCM will treat celiacs disease. Avoiding gluten will never cure
celiac disease, but educating someone with a compromised digestive
tract on how to eat properly, to digest the most nutrients, and what
types of food to eat is extremely beneficial. During digestion, the body
will warm the food to the body’s temperature. With the Spleen/Stomach
Qi already being damaged and thus its ability to warm foods, it is
recommended to avoid cold, raw food that would further injure the
Spleen, and eat warming or yang foods that are at least partially
aspects of TCM such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs work to strengthen
the Qi, removed stagnated Qi and resolve dampness. The treatment
protocol, and what I used on myself were points to tonify the spleen and
the stomach Qi, regulate the digestive functions, dissolve dampness,
heal digestive organs, relieve pain, and remove the “cloudy-mind”
relief I felt after stimulating these points was like night and day. I
did similar treatments for a few days, and each time feeling better.
Although not a cure for Celiac disease, acupuncture can certainly help with the symptoms
that result from ingesting gluten whether those be from an acute
situation or the long term damage from eating gluten in the past.
guess my opinion is bias, being a student of Acupuncture and Chinese
Medicine, however, I can honestly say there is nothing that has helped
my digestion better than TCM therapies.