People often spend 2-3 hours a day eating food. Many of the body’s internal organs participate in this job, such as the spleen, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, and gall bladder. In my clinic I see more people than expected suffering both directly and indirectly from problems relating to this digestive system.
In the case of food accumulation (direct translation of a Korean term), according to Eastern medicine, when food is ingested, instead of being properly transformed into good energy, wastes and gas are generated which harm digestive system function.
Eating irregularly or too quickly or too much at once, eating after satiation or without hunger, eating too much raw, cold or processed food, or doing something stressful right after meals…Over time such habits can cause an internal accumulation of food waste.
Food accumulation cannot easily be diagnosed with a gastroscopy or colonoscopy because there are no polyps or inflammation to be seen. It is mainly recognized by a bloated feeling, bad breath, and/or a feeling of poor digestion and much gas. It can also be diagnosed through abdominal palpation by a healthcare practitioner. The belly may feel hard or have balloon-like lumps, and palpation may feel very uncomfortable or even painful.
Food accumulation is classified into three categories according to where it occurs. The symptoms of each are different. If it occurs in the stomach, there may be belching, a sour taste in the mouth, halitosis, heartburn, stomachache, and a sense of food remaining undigested; if in the small intestine, abdominal distention, a bloating sensation and/or drowsiness after meals; and if in the colon, constipation, diarrhea, copious flatulence, etc.
If someone has an internal accumulation of food, we might assume that they would eat less. However, that isn’t what usually happens. Since peristaltic action in the intestinal tract is slowed down by the accumulated waste, and energy is diminished due to compromised digestion, the body asks for more food in order to increase energy, which then increases stagnation and creates a vicious cycle.
The reason we call food accumulation the source of all diseases is because it creates many complications. If food is less than fully digested it may easily transform into toxic waste and harm the digestive system directly. It also creates fluid phlegm easily which then circulates with the blood and causes other diseases: frequent sensations of heat, skin problems, rhinitis, allergies, coughs, asthma, headaches, low back pain, etc. It can also lead to obesity and edema due to poor digestion, causing a person to gain weight easily in spite of reduced intake. In these cases, we have to treat the food accumulation first. Otherwise, the other symptoms won’t improve.
Preventing food accumulation is simple, like the basic knowledge needed for all of life which we learned back in kindergarten. Eat healthy food (such as seasonal, organic food) regularly. Eat a little less and chew well.
For long-term problems, treatment takes 2-3 months with acupuncture and herb medicine.