If you were a fly on the wall in my clinic while I interviewed patients, you might think there is a bloating epidemic in America! During the intake process I ask patients if they experience discomfort after eating, and more times than not I receive the answer, “Yes, I get bloated.” I hear this so often that I started to wonder if it was just my patients, or if bloating was a hot new trend sweeping the country!
Bloating, it turns out, is something East Asian medicine practitioners are very interested in. We look for common groups of symptoms that point to deeper patterns to be addressed, and bloating is a major indicator of a digestive imbalance pattern we call Spleen Qi Deficiency. Say what?? Yes, Spleen Qi Deficiency.
According to East Asian medicine, the Spleen organ is in charge of healthy digestion and can be impaired by activities such as excessive worrying, eating too much raw food or sweets, grazing throughout the day or skipping meals instead of having set meal times, and eating too late at night, among others. How do you know if you have this pattern? Well some of the symptoms are low energy, cold fingers and toes, foggy-headedness and, of course, bloating!
The average American lifestyle—abnormal eating times, constant worrying about ‘achieving’ and fitting in, on-the-go eating of unhealthy food, etc.—is a recipe for Spleen Qi Stagnation and its accompanying symptom bloating, which often comes with other unwanted symptoms from the above list.
So what can be done about this unwelcome waist expansion?
East Asian medicine recommends regular meal times with little food in between, a focus on cooked vegetables, limited sugar intake and a relaxed mind free from over-worrying. And almost like magic, when these habits are implemented bloating goes down!
Convincing most people to make these changes can be a tall order. But even taking small steps towards a happier spleen (less grazing maybe??) can effect major improvements in energy level, alertness and of course, bloating.