Essential Takeaways:

  • By using the wisdom of TCM we can learn how to prevent and overcome bloating from hormonal imbalances or overindulging, so we can feel the best in our skin. 
  • Bloating is largely related to our TCM Liver and Spleen organ systems. A few of the major contributing patterns of imbalance include Liver Qi Stagnation, Spleen Qi Deficiency, and Phlegm-Dampness. 
  • Our periods are a part of life, but bloating doesn't have to be! Elix's Cycle Balance is clinically proven to improve 15 common menstrual symptoms, including bloating. 

Summertime—a time filled with BBQs, vacation, and spending time with loved ones. With this joy oftentimes comes overindulgence followed by the dreaded bloating that can make us feel uncomfortable in our skin. Add that to PMS and period bloating and the last thing we want to even think about is wearing a bathing suit or short shorts when we feel like a whale. Bloating can be hormonal, like the bloating before periods, and it also can be lifestyle related, largely due to diet. Oftentimes these two things collide for the ultimate yuck feeling where nothing in our closet seems to feel right. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to the rescue! By using the wisdom of TCM we can learn how to prevent and overcome bloating from hormonal imbalance and overindulgence, so we can feel our best in our summer skin.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Bloating

When we think about TCM it’s like learning a whole new language about supporting our body. TCM sees the body as a dynamic energy system, based on a theory that all of the body’s organ systems mutually support each other, so a dysfunction in one organ system has an impact on the functioning of other organ systems.

Bloating is largely related to our TCM Liver and Spleen organ systems. Our TCM Liver organ system is the general in charge of the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, it keeps things moving in our body. While the Spleen organ system is in charge of transporting and transforming what we consume, it correlates to the western idea of digestion. We need both of these organ systems functioning optimally in order to prevent bloating. 

One of the unique traits of TCM is pattern diagnosis, the patterns of imbalance that affect the fundamental functioning of our body, the root causes of symptoms like bloating. Below we’ll learn about a few of the most common patterns of imbalance that contribute to bloating, the why behind the bloat.   

Liver Qi Stagnation: When our Liver organ system is imbalanced it is unable to efficiently keep things moving, resulting in stagnation. Since everything is connected in TCM, if Qi (energy) is not flowing properly our digestion might also stagnate leading to “stuck” food and the dreaded bloating. Common causes of Liver Qi Stagnation include stress, holding in emotions, inactivity, and diet and lifestyle.    

Spleen Qi Deficiency: Representing our digestive power, when the Qi of our Spleen organ system is lacking we are not able to transform or transport what we consume well. This results in food accumulating in our stomachs and intestines, resulting in bloating. Our Spleen Qi can be chronically deficient if we have poor digestion overall, but overindulgence can certainly cause more short term Spleen Qi deficiency. Common causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency include worry and overthinking, diet, over exposure to a damp or humid environment, chronic conditions, and prolonged use of medicines like steroids, antibiotics, or pain medicine.  

Phlegm-Dampness: If our Spleen Qi is chronically deficient or if we overindulge in certain foods like dairy, added sugar, alcohol, or heavy greasy foods this can create Phlegm-Dampness. Think of this like a cold type of inflammation or an internal build-up of mucus that can manifest as acne, masses, cysts, excess weight, an overall feeling of heaviness, or bloating. Food is not broken down into nutrients because the Spleen organ system is overwhelmed, instead Phlegm-Dampness is produced, resulting in bloating.

Chinese Herbs for Bloating

The herbs used in Elix’s Cycle Balance can help us overcome the root patterns of imbalance above and get us some PMS bloating relief. Below are just a few of the herbs commonly used to help regulate our Liver organ system, support our Spleen organ system, and get rid of phlegm-dampness.

Herbs for Liver Qi Stagnation

Cyperus (Xiang Fu): Cyperus has antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, and anti-inflammatory properties, and supports healthy function of the heart, liver, and brain. In Chinese Medicine, Cyperus spreads and regulates Liver Qi.

Herbs for Spleen Qi Deficiency

Atractylodes (Bai Zhu) - Atractylodes has antibacterial, anti-ulcer, diuretic, and metabolic properties. In TCM Atractylodes supplements the Spleen organ system and tonifies Qi, dries dampness, and promotes water metabolism throughout the body.

Herbs for Phlegm-Dampness

Poria (Fu Ling) - Poria is an antibacterial, antidiarrheal, and antioxidant. In Chinese Medicine, Poria dries damp, promotes urination, and strengthens the Spleen organ system.


How to Get Rid of Hormonal Bloating

Since lifestyle plays a large role in our hormone and overall health we can make a few lifestyle adjustments to help prevent and get rid of period bloating. Here are a few tips to think about to help us feel our best all month long:

  • Focus on cooked, simple, easy to digest foods, while decreasing raw, heavy, and hard to digest foods (especially if you have weak digestion) 
  • Some of the foods that help clear out phlegm-dampness include - mung beans, pearl barley (Job’s tears), lettuce, celery, turnip, kohlrabi, rye, amaranth, aduki bean, asparagus, pumpkin, papaya, ginger (try Elix’s Ginger Aide to get more ginger in your life) 
  • Reduce the consumption of dairy, cold or iced beverages, added sugar, industrial seed oils, refined grains, eggs, tofu, fried foods, nut butters, alcohol, red meats, and overly heavy or greasy foods (these things promote the production of phlegm-dampness in our body)
  • Rub clockwise around the belly button daily to give a boost to the Spleen organ system
  • Keep Active - daily movement helps keep the Liver Qi flowing 
  • Wear loose clothing 
  • Express your emotions, when we hold onto emotions our Liver Qi stagnates    
  • Start your day with a room temperature or warmer glass of lemon water, this wakes up our Spleen organ system (digestion) and gets the Liver Qi moving

Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to have the willpower of a Buddhist monk and never indulge! For those times you want to enjoy a drink (or two) with friends, cool off with an ice cream, or dig into that juicy hamburger at the next BBQ, consider using Zoey's Digestif before and after. This formulation gives our Spleen organ system the extra power it needs to transport and transform food, so we don’t end up feeling the bloat.

How to Get Hormonal & PMS Bloating Relief

Our periods are a part of life, but bloating doesn’t have to be! Elix’s Cycle Balance is clinically proven to improve 15 common menstrual symptoms, including bloating. Say goodbye to bloating by taking the online health assessment and start your journey to feeling your best from the inside out!

Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition
This article was reviewed by Dr. Liem Le.
Dr. Liem Le is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Functional Medicine Practitioner, and Nutritionist Integrative Medicine Department at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. He is a part of the teaching staff for the Masters program for the Functional Medicine and Human Nutrition program at University of Western States. Dr. Le is currently working on his fellowship in Integrative Medicine with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine via a scholarship from the White House to complete the initiative.

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