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When you have runs and tummy ache

LOTS of patients with diarrhea, some with acute gastroenteritis, are showing up for outpatient treatment in hospitals at this time of year, as summer turns to autumn.

The causes are varied: bacteria in foods, a poor digestive system, eating too much "cold"-energy (yin) fruits and the falling nighttime temperature.

It's important to make sure food is hygienic and well-washed (be careful about leftovers), avoid too much "cold" food and keep warm are important.

Traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes the issue of "cold" energy from foods.

In serious cases with abdominal pain, it's important to see a doctor; most bacterial infections will pass.

Dietary therapies with ingredients such as lotus seeds and yam may help.

Though autumn is approaching, temperatures remain high, which creates a growing environment for bacteria and can undermine immunity.

Quite a few cases of acute gastroenteritis are turning up, says Dr Tang Zhipeng, chief of the Digestion Medicine Department of Longhua Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.

Unhealthy eating habits are a major cause, he says.

There's a Chinese saying that "illness finds its way into the body through the mouth." This is especially true with digestive problems, according to Dr Tang. An unhealthy diet that causes inflammation in the digestive system always plays a big role in diarrhea cases this season, he says.

Some people are born with weak digestive system or the system was undermined by certain diseases; they are more likely to get diarrhea than others who eat the same food, he says. Thus, those with weak digestive systems should be careful to avoid "triggers," he says.

Incompletely cooked foods or improperly washed fruits and vegetables may contain bacteria or virus. Uncooked seafood, especially sashimi, must be very fresh and carefully prepared by a reputable restaurant.

Leftover foods can be dangerous in warm weather if not immediately refrigerated. The fridge itself needs to be regularly. Germs like colon bacillus can grow in a damp and cold environment and infect food.

Refrigerator temperature should be below 4 degrees Celsius and ideally foods should not be kept refrigerated for more than 24 hours. Foods should be heated again before eating; temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius kill most germs.

Cutting boards should be very clean and boards for meat and vegetables should be separated. Wash with soap and warm water after every use.

In hot weather people like ice-cold melon, ice cream, cold drinks and cold beer, but the cold temperatures stimulate the stomach and intestines in a bad way, says Dr Tang. Too much cold food can one time causes contraction in the organs, sometimes resulting in stomach ache and diarrhea.

People with poor digestive systems should avoid eating too many "cold" (yin) energy foods, such as watermelon, pears, bitter cucumber and green beans, among many others.

As temperatures drop at night, keep warm by adding a sweater or jacket.

It's especially important to keep the belly covered and warm, also in bed, to avoid "pathogenic cold invasion," says Dr Tang.

Foods to strengthen the digestive system include spleen-boosting foods such as lotus seeds, fu ling (tuckahoe), yam, jujubes and dang shen (radix codonopsitis). These can help prevent diarrhea.

Eating a cup of yogurt (around 100 grams) a day can maintain normal intestinal flora and help prevent disorders.

Diarrhea and stomach upset can be caused by eating and drinking too much chilled food and drink and getting cold at night. TCM doctors say it's important to keep the tummy warm. Zhang Qian reports.

Congee with jujube, pearl barley and yam

Ingredients: 6 jujubes, pearl barley (30g), yam (50g) and rice (50g)


1. Soak pearl barley in water for 2 hours; peel and chop yam into small pieces; slice jujubes.

2. Boil the barley in water; after it boils, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Add rice and jujubes.

4. Add yam when rice softens; simmer 10 minutes.

5. Add yam when rice gets soft, and continue simmering for about 10 minutes.


Strengthens spleen and stomach, helps dispel pathogenic damp, relieves edema.

Congee with lotus sees and jujube

Ingredients: rice (50g), 10 jujubes and lotus seeds (20g)


1. Soak the lotus seeds in warm water until they soften; split seeds and get ride of the green core.

2. Combine ingredients in saucepan and made congee.

3. Add sugar to sweeten.

Benefits: Strengthens spleen and stomach.


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