27 Dec 2012


How Oriental Medicine Can Help Relieve Holiday Overeating

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By John Fang, DAOM, LAc

During the frequent get-togethers in the holiday season many people tend to overeat and drink more alcohol than usual. As a result from holiday overeating, patients in my practice are concerned with gastrointestinal disorders and overweight when it comes to their New Year resolutions. You may be curious how acupuncture and Oriental medicine takes care of the ailments caused by excessive eating and drinking.

Acupuncture is my first choice when it comes to treatments of an array of digestion problems such as constipation, diarrhea, stomachache, bloating, heartburn, and nausea to name a few. Needling certain points on the body or ear can modulate physiological changes and easily relieve these symptoms. In most cases, patients recover in a day or two.

Chinese herbs to relieve holiday overeating

Portrait of acupuncturist John Fang

John Fang, DAOM, LAc

Chinese herbs are also commonly used for digestion disorders. In addition to manage digestive problems, herbal formulas can also make you awakened and swiftly get rid of “alcohol toxin”. One of my favorite formulas is a Pueraria Flower Combination, in which Gehua (pueraria flower) is the major ingredient and has a proven function conducive to alcoholic metabolism. This eight hundred year old formula not only ameliorates the hangover condition quickly; it also balances your digestive system.

Why drinking tea is recommended

Another option to counteract the effects of alcohol overconsumption is to drink a sizable amount of green tea or black tea right after. Why? Because free radicals generated in ethanol metabolism can damage cell components during intoxication, while natural antioxidants such as the major ingredient in teas enhances cellular antioxidant abilities and neutralize free radicals in the process. On the other hand, another type of tea – Oolong tea – has an anti-obesity effect and can protect you from fatty liver induced by a high fat diet.

An easy qi gong exercise that helps

If needles or herbs are in a dearth, but an immediate relief from gastrointestinal ailments is needed, I engage patients in a special form of breathing exercise. Breathing exercise, or qi gong, plays an important role in Oriental Medical regimen. “Eight Pieces of Brocade” is probably one of the most commonly practiced forms of qi gong, which was originally designed for health improvement almost one thousand years ago.

Among the eight movements, “Separating Heaven and Earth” is said to stimulate stomach functions. In this movement, your hands are pressing “the air” in opposite directions with one up and one down. This gesture opens up your chest and invigorates your torso with “energy from the Heavens and the Earth”. See the qi gong exercise explained on this website. Scroll down to Third Piece: Separating Heaven and Earth. Alternatively, watch the video below.

Abdominal massage supports intestinal functions

Bodywork techniques can also apply to the consequences of extravagant eating. Abdominal massage has been proven effective in reducing abdominal pain and intestinal dysfunctions. In my practice, I always encourage my patients to perform self-administered massage at home to ease mild discomforts from eating wrong. The massage procedure entails your rubbing the abdomen area around the belly button with one palm or two palms overlapped.

Make a clockwise motion in the same direction of the large intestine if you want to speed up bowel movements, but counterclockwise in case of diarrhea. Start by applying light pressure in a small circle and gradually increase the intensity and coverage. Draw 36 circles before placing the center of your palms below the belly button. While holding it for a couple of minutes, breathe deeply and slowly. Repeat the procedure a few times a day.

The natural and safe remedies of Oriental medicine can make your holiday parties more enjoyable and peaceful. Bon appetit!

John Fang, DAOM, LAc, is the academic dean of the doctoral program (DAOM) at Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine. He has also maintained a private practice in the Inland Empire, California, for over 10 years. He treats patients on the basis of traditional Chinese medicine with a particular focus on managing pain and organ disorders.

photo credit: tawest64 via photopin cc

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