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October 20, 2009

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Stopping the runs

AS we enter fall and temperatures drop, Shanghai hospitals are seeing more and more patients not only for respiratory problems, but also for digestive ailments that cause diarrhea, the runs.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that the digestive system is especially vulnerable in early autumn due to change in the weather from summer while we still follow summer eating habits.

TCM advises keeping your digestive system warm in terms of yang (hot) energy and avoiding spicy, stimulating foods. Wear enough clothes and keep your tummy warm.

During summer people expend a lot of energy, through sweating and in other ways. They often take foods and liquid that are cold, both in yin (cool) energy and in temperature to dispel summer heat and yang energy.

So some of that cold, yin effect, is left over. Combined with cooler temperatures, this means the circulatory system is less efficient, nutrition is less efficiently absorbed and immunity may be lowered.

And many delicious autumn foods - crabs, shrimp, pears, persimmons, for example - have cool yin energy. If eaten to excess or without balancing foods, the weak digestive system can have problems.

There's a high rate of diarrhea from mid August to December, especially for kids, according to Dr Liu Yan, associate chief physician of TCM Internal Medicine Department of Shanghai TCM Hospital. Most of the acute cases are viral digestive system infections accompanied by vomiting, stomachache and/or fever.

TCM considers this a seasonal ailment caused by the invasion of pathogenic yang energy, dampness in the digestive system and poor functioning of the spleen (TCM uses the term "spleen" to refer to the stomach and intestines).

"A poorly functioning spleen can be undermined by pathogenic heat, resulting in diarrhea," says Dr Zhu Shengliang, chief physician of Digestion Specialized Treatment Center of Yueyang Hospital.

Generally, diarrhea in other seasons is caused by either pathogenic cold and damp; the stool is usually thin and plain.

But this seasonal diarrhea caused by heat and damp causes stools that are thicker and bad-smelling. Patients often have the sniffles, fever or pain in the lower abdomen.

Diarrhea in other seasons caused by too much yin energy is often treated by patent drugs like "Huoxiang Zhengqi Wan" with ageratum (floss flower).

But in this season, caused by too much yang energy, it is often treated by patent medicine like "Gegen Qinlian Wan" containing kudzu root and skullcap root.

Foods that strengthen the spleen (digestive system) include pearl barley, white hyacinth bean (lablab), hawthorn and qian shi (prickly lily seed, gorgon lily seed).

In addition to taking medicine and the right foods, Dr Liu recommends eating a bland diet and keeping the body warm.

Eating a set and equal quantity of food at regular hours is crucial.

Warm, soft and bland foods are better than cold, tough, spicy and greasy ones. People with digestive problems should avoid seafood, which is very "cold" in energy.

As always with TCM, mind affects body. So maintain a good mood, avoid stress, anger, anxiety and sorrow - if you can. The right state of mind improves the flow of energy. Congee with yam and white hyacinth bean


Yam (30g), white hyacinth bean (15g), rice (30g)


Mash yams, cook congee with rice and hyacinth seeds, add yam when congee is almost done. Sweeten as desired.


Treats diarrhea, strengthens digestive system, especially for those with energy deficiency.

Congee with hawthorn and shen qu (massa fermentata, mixture of herbs and grains)


Hawthorn (50g), shen qu (15g), rice (30g)


Cook hawthorn and shen qu in an earthen pot with water, filter soup, add rice to make congee. Sweeten as desired.


Relieves diarrhea, strengthens spleen, reinforces energy, removes pathogenic damp.

Ebony spleenwort fern juice

Ingredients:10 ebonies


Cook ebonies with 500-millilitter water, add brown sugar to sweeten. Drink often as tea.

Benefits:Relieves diarrhea caused by heat and damp. Ginger and green tea


Green tea (3g), ginger slices (3g)


Add a cup of boiling water, cover for 10 minutes. Drink often.


Relieves diarrhea.


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