Diarrhea and Chinese Medicine  


Diarrhea originated from a greek word meaning "flowing through".  This condition is defined as loose, frequent, liquid type bowel movements which can be of an acute or chronic nature.  The most common complication of diarrhea is severe fluid and electrolyte loss which in extreme cases can cause death.  

Acute diarrhea is most commonly caused by viral, bacterial or parasitic invasion of the body but with a clean and unpoluted water and food supply will recover quickly.  In non sanitary conditions like a 3rd world country these simple cases may cause death.  

Chronic diarrhea may be a symptom of a more severe underlaying condition such as IBS, Diarrhea, Botulism, Crohns Disease, ....     In specific cases close monitoring of the patient is needed to make sure they do not become dehydrated or their electrolyte/salt balance is not compromised.   The conditions of diarrhea which need to be monitored are:  Diarrhea in infants or small children, bloody diarrhea, diarrhea lasting more than 2 days or fever. 

In cases where there is blood mixed in with loose stool this changes from a diagnosis of Diarrhea to Dysentry.  This is a more severe case than that of diarrhea and is generally associated with a more serious diagnosis such as crohns disease or a severe infection.  


Diarrhea has many types of causes and generally is a non serious condition which with some simple changes you can recover from quickly and without problems.  Diet changes and lifestyle changes will prevent many types of diarrhea.  


Cold and Damp

Watery, thin diarrhea which has no strong or foul odour. Generally this is an acute type and has abdominal pain and digestive sounds from the intestines which are relieved by heat.  There is a cold type of abdominal cramping.  The patient will generally feel cold and prefer warm drinks.
Herbal Formula:

wind cold - Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

cold damp - Ping Wei San


Damp and Heat

Foul smelling diarrhea which leaves a burning feeling on the anus.  There is commonly yellow mucus and possible blood found in the stool.   There will be a unfinished feeling after passing stool and a general sense of feverishness.  The patient will have a red complexion and possibly sweat easily. 

Herbal Medicine Formula: Ge Gen Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang


Food Stagnation

Acute diarrhea due to over eating or inadquate digestion.  Diarrhea which is irregular and has very strong odour and a general sense of bloating and possible abdominal pain.  Patient will have frequent belching and burping up of old sour food. 

Herbal Medicine Formula: Bao He Wan


Spleen Qi Insufficiency

Diarrhea which is chronic. There is undigested food found within the stools.  The diarrhea is very soft and may or may not be accompanied with pain.  The pain with this type of diarrhea may be due to the anus dropping (prolapsed anus) or pain associated with abdominal spasming.  In either case the patient will express a general sense of fatigue, easily bloat with specific foods or after large meals, have a low appetite and in severe cases have a slight yellow complexion. 

Herbal Formula:

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (prolapse of anus)

Tong Xie Yao Fang (abdominal pain)


Kidney Insufficiency

Chronic Diarrhea occuring consistently early in the morning (around 5am).  This type of diarrhea is commonly accompained with mild abdominal pains which is relieved after a bowel movement.  There will also be signs of low back ache, weak knees, waking at night to urinate, low sex drive and mild fatigue.  

Herbal Formula: Si Shen Wan  Or  Zhen Ren Yang Zang Tang


Excess Water In Intestines 

Chronic case of diarrhea which is watery, frothy and almost "bubbly".  This is commonly known as a dysfunction of intestiness where there is excess water retained within the intestines giving rise to borborygmi, loss of weight, poor appetite, bloated abdomen, low amounts of urine but a good thirst.

Herbal Medicine Formula: Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang


Liver Qi Stagnation

diarrhea which is aggravated by emotional stimuls. Sadness,grief, frustration, anger, anxiety will all aggravate this type of diarrhea.  There may be abdominal cramping and pressure or pain under the rib cage.  This can be easily associated with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  

Herbal Formula
Tong Xie Yao Fang


Causes for Concern with Diarrhea

Dehydration Signs and Symptoms:

extreme thirst, small amount of concentrated urine, light headedness or dizziness, dry lips and skin, fatigue. slight feverishness

Try and stay hydrated !!  drinking water is great but drinking fluids which contain the electrolytes and other essential nutrients is also extremely important during bouts of diarrhea.   Soups, broths, fruit juices and other sports drinks will all help to keep your body healthy during this time.  


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