The gastrointestinal system makes the process of eating and digestion possible. In oriental medicine, two parts of this system, the stomach and intestines, are very important to the body’s general functioning because it is believed that they are responsible for producing daily qi (energy). Therefore, when the gastrointestinal system stops functioning properly, the effect is felt throughout the body, causing cold, fatigue, and even skin problems. It takes massaging the pressure points for digestion to nourish the affected organs, reduce inflammation of the stomach and pancreas, and improve digestive functions.
According to TCM, the Gastrointestinal System Is Very Important
The gastrointestinal system, also known as the digestive system, is made up of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, anus, salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. It involves all the organs that take in food and break them down for the body to derive energy and function properly.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the stomach and the intestines are responsible for creating Qi, the source of health. As the basic principle of health is to regulate Qi, you can’t overlook the importance of the gastrointestinal system. Qi in Oriental medicine is similar to the immune system in Western medicine. Therefore, you want to ensure that your Qi is never weakened because a weak qi implies that your body is susceptible to diseases.
Meanwhile, for healthy body function, you need to balance Qi, Blood, and Water, which is where the five organs of the body come into play. The five organs of the body in TCM include the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. These organs work together to ensure that Qi, blood, and water is properly circulated throughout the body.
The spleen is the organ responsible for digestion, hence the gastrointestinal system. While some people naturally have a weak spleen (stomach and intestines), some others have issues with their spleen from disturbances of the liver (autonomic nervous system) or weakness of the kidney (aging). This is why a poorly functioning gastrointestinal system will not only affect the stomach and intestines but also cause indigestion, lethargy, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, cold, and still shoulders.
In this article, the pressure points to aid digestion that I’ll be sharing are those that tackle digestive problems due to menopause and autonomic nervous system disorders.
Are The Intestines And The Autonomic Nervous System Related?
Yes, the intestines and the autonomic nervous system are closely related. The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic nerve and the parasympathetic nerve. The sympathetic nerve is dormant during activity, while the parasympathetic nerve is dominant during rest. During the parasympathetic nerve’s dominance, the intestines work actively. As a result, the digestive function works better at this time, and there is no anxiety in the brain.
On the other hand, the dominance of the sympathetic nerves causes the function of the intestines to deteriorate. The brain also feels uneasy, leading to stress. It is a new belief that the gut is the second brain. Therefore, when the state of the intestinal flora is not balanced, the brain is affected. For this reason, you need the acupressure points for digestion to help balance the intestines and the autonomic nerves.
Why Does Menopause Cause Stomach And Intestinal Problems?
Menopause causes stomach and intestinal problems because, during menopause, there is a decrease in gastric mucosa due to age and hormonal imbalance. These two issues affect gastrointestinal function.
During menopause, women begin to experience a decline in female hormone production. Hormones are essential because nerves and hormones control digestion and absorption. Low female hormones also affect the salivary glands, such that there is a decrease in saliva production. And as saliva is necessary for food to be digested, a reduction in the quality and quantity of saliva will lead to the inability to digest food.
A reduction in saliva production affects the stomach as it will be unable to turn the food into paste completely. This leads to indigestion. You then have a situation whereby the stomach gets full too quickly, and food flows back to the esophagus. Hormonal imbalance also affects the functioning of the large intestine, and a decline in the function of the large intestine leads to medical conditions such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach distention.
Lastly, aging causes intestinal bacteria to change. After menopause, the female body experiences a decrease in the number of good bacteria and an increase in the number of harmful bacteria, which is why you need acupressure points for good digestion during menopause.
Does Acupressure Help With Digestion?
Yes, acupuncture helps with digestion. The way acupuncture treatment for digestion works is by nourishing the organs necessary for digestion, reducing stomach and pancreas inflammation, and improving digestive functions. During acupuncture for digestion treatment, the acupuncture practitioner will identify pressure points on the body that will speed up metabolism, boost gastrointestinal muscle contraction and relaxation, reduce gastric acid secretion, regulate small and large intestine function, and bring back stomach acidity to normal levels.
Scientific evidence exists to support acupuncture and digestion. A 2002 research analyzing whether acupuncture for gastrointestinal disorders is a myth or magic cited pilot studies that proved the effectiveness of acupuncture for digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diarrhea.
Pressure Points For Digestion
Now that you have seen the acupuncture benefits for digestion, it’s time to explore the pressure points for digestion that you should stimulate to aid digestion, especially if you’re approaching menopause or have an autonomic nervous system disorder.
Acupoint: ST-36 (Other Names: Stomach-36/Zu San Li/Leg Three Miles)
The first of the pressure points for digestion on the list is the stomach meridian acupoint, ST-36. Zusanli, as it is called in Chinese, is located on the leg, making it one of the pressure points on the feet for digestion. To locate this acupoint, bend your knee slightly, then place four fingers beneath your kneecap. The point outside the shin bone where the little finger rests is ST-36.
In TCM, ST-36 is regarded as one of the most important pressure points to tonify Qi and Blood and promote general health and wellness. In addition, it eases indigestion and gastrointestinal fatigue as well as strengthens the spleen and stomach.
Based on these functions, Zusanli is effectively used as acupressure for stomach pain in the child. It is the right acupoint for treating gastric pain, abdominal distention, constipation, and diarrhea. For the best result, it is recommended that you massage not just the acupoint but also the area around ST-36.
Acupoint: HT-7 (Other Names: Heart-7/Shen Men/Spirit Gate)
The next acupressure for digestion is the heart meridian acupoint, HT-7. Called Shenmen in Chinese, which translates to Spirit Gate, HT-7 is located on the hands. You’ll find it in the depression on the wrist crease at the side of the little finger.
As the Spirit Gate, this acupoint functions to calm the Shen and tonify and regulate the heart, blood, and qi. It also helps to improve the autonomic nerves and boost intestinal movement.
HT-7 is popularly used as acupressure for children as well as acupressure for insomnia, cardiac pain, chest pain, and amnesia. TCM practitioners see it as the best pressure point for emotional issues.
Acupoint: LI-11 (Other Names: Large Intestine-11/Qu Chi/Pool at the Crook)
ST-11 or Quchi as it is referred to in Chinese, is another acupoint that serves effectively as acupressure for digestive problems. Quchi is located on the hands. To find it, flex your elbow. The point at the edge of the crease that forms when you flex your elbow is ST-11.
In TCM, this acupressure point for digestion on the hand is responsible for clearing heat, cooling the blood, resolving dampness, expelling exterior wind, and regulating the Qi and Blood. Quchi is classified as a He-Sea point, which makes it effective for treating rebellious qi issues and diarrhea.
Clinically, ST-11 is the acupoint to press for abdominal pain, irregular menstruation, diarrhea, vomiting, blurry vision, and malaria. It also serves effectively as one of the acupressure points for cold hands and feet.
Acupoint: SP-6 (Other Names: Spleen-6/San Yin Jiao/Three Yin Intersection)
The next acupressure for digestive problems that you should know is the spleen acupoint, SP-6. Known as Sanyinjiao in Chinese, which interprets as Three Yin Intersection, this acupoint is located on the leg and is the point where the liver, spleen, and kidney meridians meet, hence the name. You’ll find SP-6 four finger-width above the inner ankle bone.
In Oriental medicine, SP-6 is responsible for strengthening the spleen, stomach, and kidney; resolving dampness; harmonizing the liver; nourishing the blood, and regulating menstruation. It is an effective acupoint to boost digestive function and treat gynecological symptoms.
Based on these functions, SP-6 is used clinically to treat irregular menstruation, infertility, nocturnal emission, muscular pain, abdominal distention, and diseases of the skin. It also serves as acupuncture for swollen ankles.
Acupoint: PC-8 (Other Names: Pericardium-8/Lao Gong/Palace of Toil)
The next pressure point for digestion that you should know is the Pericardium meridian acupoint, PC-8. This acupoint is called Laogong in Chinese, which means Labor Place. You’ll find PC-8 in the middle of the palm, between the second and third metacarpal bones, at the point where the tip of the middle finger rests when you make a fist.
Laogong is an acupoint that promotes the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. It promotes muscle recovery and activates the brain. Hence it is regarded in TCM as the pressure point to effectively regulate the autonomic nervous system and relieve mental fatigue such as stress and frustration.
PC-8 is the right pressure point to stimulate when you have hot flashes in your hands, tightness of the chest, and gastrointestinal issues. It serves as one of the acupressure points for speech development as well as one of the points for depression.
Acupoint: Liv-3 (Other Names: Liver-3/Tai Chong/Supreme Rush)
The second to the last pressure point for digestive issues on my list is the liver meridian acupoint, LIv-3. Referred to as Taichong in Chinese, this popular pressure point is located on the feet. You’ll find it in the depression between the bones of the big toe and the next toe.
The liver is very vital to health in Oriental medicine as it is responsible for maintaining internal balance. The liver meridian regulates the liver and creates a flow of blood and qi that moves from the big toe, through the inside of the leg, past the reproductive organs, liver, mammary glands, and thyroid, to the top of the head.
This pressure point on the feet for digestion, when coupled with LI-4 easily moves Qi and Blood throughout the body. Liv-3 serves as an effective acupressure treatment for headaches, vertigo, numbness of the lower extremities, and epilepsy. Based on its functions, it also works as one of the acupressure points for the brain.
Acupoint: KI-1 (Other Names: Kidney-1/Yong Quan/Gushing Spring)
Finally, the last of the pressure points for digestion on our list that is worthy of note is KI-1. This Kidney meridian acupoint is called Yongquan in Chinese, which means Gushing Spring. It is located at the sole of the feet. To locate it, bend your toes backward. The point where a dent forms on the sole of your feet between the web of the second and third toes is KI-1.
In Oriental medicine, KI-1 is responsible for regulating the autonomic nervous system and relieving stomach upset caused by stress and cold. When you press this acupoint that effectively serves as acupressure for bloating, it eases intestinal tension. This is why KI-1 is also used to treat constipation, nausea, vomiting, as well as loss of consciousness, and dizziness. You can also use it for acupuncture for hair thinning.
To get the best result, apply firm pressure with your thumb on this pressure point. Push it slowly for 3 seconds, stop, and repeat 3 to 5 times on both feet. Try not to push too hard because it would activate the sympathetic nerves, making you lose the calming effect of the massage.
Digestive health is very important as the gastrointestinal system does not only affect the stomach and intestines but the whole body. The stomach and intestine is the place where Qi, the essential life energy, is created. Therefore, to keep it functional and boost digestion, you need the following acupoints:
- ST-36 to ease indigestion and gastrointestinal fatigue and strengthen the spleen and stomach.
- HT-7 to improve the autonomic nerves and boost intestinal movement.
- LI-11 to resolve dampness, expel exterior wind, and regulate Qi and Blood.
- SP-6 to boost digestive function and treat gynecological symptoms.
- PC-8 regulates the autonomic nervous system and relieves mental fatigue.
- Liv-3 regulates the liver and creates a flow of blood and qi throughout the body.
- KI-1 regulates the autonomic nervous system and relieves stomach upset caused by stress and cold.