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Complex case - digestion, mood


Hi all, I’m a 27 year old female with a history of asthma and eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia). Ive had asthma since I was a kid, I developed anorexia in college for about 3 years and was bulimic for about another 3 years and am now fully recovered from the disordered eating aspect of it.

However, I still have a lot of very frustrating digestive problems, fatigue, and anxiety and sometimes prevents me from going to work. I’ve been to several acupuncturists and herbalists and nothing has seemed to stick. I’m hoping to get some additional perspectives that I can ask my acupuncturists about and any insights you can provide are really helpful. Here’s some more info:

My most common state of being is cramping in my intestines, loose stool, but difficult to pass, and difficulty urinating. The difficulty urinating is the worst symptom, because it happens whenever I’m stressed out and my entire middle section gets bloated and I start feeling really tired, I hear a rushing in my ears, and I have to go lie down. I get cramping and clotting during my periods, and after my periods, my legs feel really weak and restless and I have difficulty sleeping. Recently I’ve started having the same feeling in my chest as well. I’ve also started having really really bad headaches that feel like a tight band around my entire head and stuffiness. I also wake up feeling very very sad, which manifests as a heaviness around my diaphragm.

One of my first acupuncturists, quite a talented one but very scatterbrained and had way too many patients, said that I had a liver blood deficiency issue. I moved away before she could do much about it.

More recent acupuncturists have given GUI pi tang and at first it felt too sweet in my stomach. Also, sometimes when I get acupuncture, my intestines start hurting and cramping up immediately after I eat something.

I met an herbalist who prescribed ban Xia xie Xiang tang and xiao yao San it seemed to help a lot. And then my period started getting darker and shorter (it’s only about 1-2 days long now, which scares me a bit). To treat that, he added in wen Jing tang, but it didn’t seem to help. When I told him I was a bit worried it wasn’t working, he gave me wu Ling San, and by that point, I started feeling very terrible. Really stuffy head, extreme depression and fatigue but unable to sleep, no appetite whatsoever, nausea, etc. could barely keep any food down and not urinating. Anxiety to the max. Stool pebbly and dry. Not sleeping.

I took some GUI pi tang and tian wang Bu Xin wan that I had already from previous doctors and it calmed things down so that I felt sleepy again and could regain a bit of normalcy. But I think I’m more or less back to where I started, cramping, sadness, weakness in legs, etc.

My tongue changes depending…but most commonly it’s a bit swollen on the sides, with a red tip , horizontal cracks mid way through the tongue and little bumps mostly clustered at the back of the tongue. Sometimes the body will be a bit purple. When I was feeling really bad a few days ago, the tongue was almost completely red with a thick coating in the back, my tongue was very thin and shaky when I stuck it out.

Thanks for reading this very long post. I’m hoping to get to the bottom of this, since it’s preventing me from living my life (in my 20s!). Any insights that I can take to my doctor are much much appreciated. Any questions you might have, I am happy to answer as well.


Before I get into too much detail. Can you describe the time frame you saw each of the doctors, and the dosages of the herbs and how long you took them. Part of this is to better understand how they functioned with you and part of it is to better understand your expectations of treatment duration, frequency and overall length.

And are you currently seeing a practitioner? If so, what are you on currently?


Sure! I saw my first acupuncturist for about a year or two maybe once a week. She didn’t give me any herbs. The naturopath (who is also trained in acupuncture) I’ve been seeing since I moved for about 2 years. But then it was impossible to get an appointment with her because she had so many patients so I started seeing another acupuncturist…maybe for almost a year? Both of these people recommended gui pi tang, but I took it for a couple of weeks it felt too “sweet,” if that makes sense. The herbalist I’ve been working with since January and those herbs I would take a rounded tablespoon twice a day. At some point, whenever I took the ban xia, it no longer felt like it was reducing the heat from my head and instead felt like it was making my intestines really really dry.

Yes, I’m currently still with my naturopath (have an appointment next week) and the acupuncturist. I’ve just gone back to taking gui pi tang mostly, but only for the last day or so. Before that, I was on that mix of herbs the herbalist gave me.

Hope that helps!


Oh and I appreciate your website so much. :slight_smile: I’ve learned a lot and it’s really grown my appreciation for Chinese medicine.


I’m just a student, But Mayke I could help. We just had a course about digestive issues and the relation to Immune diseases. You also said you have astma, Thats why It triggered me to react. We learned that in this kind of cases It is often helpful to support the digestive systeem by taking glutamine, and pro- and pre biotics (of a good brand). Because the digestive system has the Same kind of membranes, and doesn’t function well. Did you have soms kind of antibiotics in the past? Or did you eat meat containing a lot of antibiotics? Because that is making not only the badguys go way, But also the good bacteria, wich you need to have a good digestive- and immune system. Maybe you can let you’re practitioner look at that.


Ok, so I have a bit more clarity on what’s going on now. Previous practitioners have said (and I’m starting to agree) that the issue is liver blood stagnation combined with cold being stuck in the middle to lower parts of the body. This past weekend I had to worst attack of “liver fire invading lungs” that I’ve had in a while and I tried all my inhalers etc. and they didn’t work until I used a acu-tack on liver 14 and everything instantly changed for the better. That scared me so much because I probably would have ended up in the emergency room.

My acupuncturists have given me Chai Hu Shu Gan Pian and Xiao Yao Wan. Are these safe to take? I’ve also started to see a therapist to treat the severe PTSD I have from my eating disorder recovery and it seems to have helped.

On the plus side, my digestion has improved a lot and so has my urinary retention. I only have trouble urinating now if my stomach or bladder feels very cold, so then I was told to eat ginger but I’m worried that might be contributing to the fire. What are your thoughts?

Any other tips for relieving liver stagnation on a day to day basis and in the longterm? I really, really want to get better soon. :slight_smile: Thank you!


Some ginger tea would be fine, not sure I would eat it. As for the formulas if someone thought they are appropriate for you, then yes, they would be fine - that’s a somewhat common combination for a lot of what you are describing.

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