Digestion and Detoxification

As practitioners of Chinese medicine, we consistently recognize the relationship between digestion and the liver, with diagnoses like spleen qi deficiency and liver stagnation. Naturopathic medicine is another healing system that holds central the concept that gastrointestinal health is essential to the health of the whole being. Unfortunately, most practitioners and patients accept that poor digestion is just a fact of life, with potentially dangerous consequences.

As an N.D. and L.Ac., I constantly see the parallels between these two disciplines, particularly when it comes to gastrointestinal health, and have developed a style of practice that incorporates the principles of naturopathic medicine within my acupuncture practice. I invite you to join me at the next CAAOM Expo in Berkeley on June 21, and we'll explore the different factors that influence digestion and identify specific ways to modify them to create health instead of disease.

We'll begin by reviewing many common Western gastrointestinal conditions and correlating them to the proper TCM diagnosis. Next, we'll examine the role that food allergies, digestive enzyme insufficiency, stress, poor diet and food combining play in upsetting digestion.

Parasites and dysbiosis (an imbalance of the normal intestinal flora) play a significant role in the genesis of "Leaky Gut Syndrome." This is a slang term for a condition of increased intestinal permeability. If we view the intestinal mucosal lining as our "inner skin," we see that it provides an important barrier to the external world. In addition to the above conditions, excessive exposure to common drugs, including antibiotics, alcohol and other irritants, may lead to a breakdown of the integrity of this barrier, resulting in the inappropriate flow of substances from the gut into the systemic circulation.

The resulting influx of microorganisms, partially undigested food particles, and xenobiotics (chemicals from our environment) into our circulation places a heavy burden on our liver to detoxify. Phase one and phase two enzyme systems are at work in the liver to transform these fat soluble exo-toxins and endo-toxins into water soluble and safe byproducts which can be eliminated. When overburdened, the liver may release free radicals and un-detoxified substances back into our circulation to do systemic damage. The immune system is also challenged to defend us from the excessive exposure to the influx of microorganisms that may occur. This scenario has been implicated in the creation of many chronic degenerative conditions, especially auto-immune disease. Seemingly unrelated conditions, from rheumatoid arthritis to Crohn's disease and CFIDS may share a common birthing place in an unhealthy gastrointestinal system.

Recent research in this field has led to the development of several new, non-invasive forms of testing which will shed light on many areas of GI/liver function. As licensed acupuncturists, it is within the scope of your practice to order these forms of laboratory assessment. By the time you leave this class, you should be comfortable with knowing which tests to order and how to do some basic interpretation, or in knowing when to refer to another practitioner who does this kind of work.

Once a diagnosis has been made, there are numerous effective natural treatments to kill parasites and re-establish normal flora, promote complete digestion, heal an inflamed and irritated GI tract, and support the liver in effectively detoxifying the substances with which it is challenged. We'll discuss everything from TCM and western herb formulas, to nutrients, detoxification protocols and appropriate acupuncture support. Come join me for this exciting and useful seminar.

Article copyright CAAOM.


By Sally LaMont

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