• Dr. Sarah Dimunno, ND

A Twist on IBS

One of the beauties of Naturopathic Medicine is that we have the ability to look at you, the patient, through different lenses; like Western and Eastern Medicine. In saying this, almost any Western diagnosis can be explained in Traditional Chinese Medicine terms (TCM). Translating between the two is akin to learning a new language. So, think of me as your TCM translator and today’s lesson is on IBS.

A bit more on TCM

Before diving into IBS, I need to give you guys a crash course in TCM. TCM uses organ systems to diagnose and treat. The function of TCM organs sometimes have similarities to our physiological organs but should not be thought of in the same way. Instead, each organ represents a pattern of symptoms that commonly show up together. Each TCM organ even has its own unique emotion, sound, time of day, etc., associated with it that can play a part in your diagnosis.

IBS Lingo

There are many organ systems that we’d have to consider when assessing IBS. But I’m going to focus on the TCM Spleen since it’s the organ that’s in charge of digestion – specifically in charge of extracting nutrients from your food and sending them all over the body. One of the most common symptom patterns is called Spleen Qi Deficiency which looks like fatigue, poor appetite, loose stools, & bloating (worst after eating).

According to TCM, there are a few different causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency and 4 out of 5 of them can rebalance your spleen with diet and lifestyle.

  1. Large consumption of raw & cold foods – uncooked and cold foods make it hard for the spleen to do it’s job and extract nutrients. Help out your TCM spleen by cooking food. You could even try add warming spices such as cinnamon to food.

  2. Irregular eating habits – this can lead to poor nutrition. No intake of nutrients = no uptake of nutrients = sad spleen.

  3. Overthinking – the TCM spleen is in charge of pensiveness and worry. If this is done too much, the TCM spleen becomes “injured”. Has anyone had stress poops? This is it! Interestingly, stress is also seen in relation to IBS in western medicine.

  4. Prolonged exposure to “dampness” – the TCM spleen doesn’t like cold and wet environments, like basements, or cold and wet food, like dairy. This also injures function and causes accumulation of phlegm in the body.

  5. Chronic disease – The TCM spleen wouldn’t be the root cause here. For more effective treatment, focus on treating the primary disease.

For those of you curious about the diet changes needed for your spleen, I’m going to be experimenting with a TCM Spleen Friendly diet in a few weeks. Stay tuned for my experience and the do’s and don’ts.


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Disclaimer: Any information on this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice.

Always seek the advice of a qualified health care practitioner with any questions or health concerns you may have.


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