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Case Study on Acute Diseases: Acute Gastroenteritis

Most people are not familiar with the extents of TCM treatments, and perhaps may not know of its quick and effective abilities to relieve and cure illnesses of an acute onset. This series of case studies will provide an idea of the unfathomable results Chinese medicine can yield when treating acute diseases. Hopefully by sharing my clinical experience, readers will further understand the benefits of TCM and be able to appreciate its boundless medical values.

A 27 year-old male patient came into clinic complaining of severe diarrhea and abdominal pain. The diarrhea occurred over 4 times a day for the past two days, passing out watery stools with no foul smell, accompanied by a constant dull colicky pain in the gastric area. The patient's other symptoms included borborygmus, slight abdominal bloating, thirst with no desire to drink and prefers warm water, minimal urine output, fatigue, slight fever, and hypochondriac distention. He also mentioned of a heart throbbing sensation when he sits up on his bed. He had no particular aversion to cold but was sensitive to the wind, no sweating, his limbs were warm, and appetite was regular. The tongue was pink and moist with a thin watery coating, and the pulse was slippery and slightly irregular.

Acupuncture treatment was not administered for this patient. Instead, moxibustion on RN12, RN6, and KD1 was performed, and a prescription of Li Yin Tang modified was given for three days. The patient was also advised to drink hot water in sips, avoid raw, cold foods, and milk products, and to eat mainly congee and oatmeal for the time being. Upon checking up three days later, the patient describes no continuation of diarrhea and pain after treatment and bowel movements have returned to normal after the second day of the herbal medicine. All other symptoms have also diminished in the process. A second prescription of Hou Po Sheng Jiang Ban Xia Gan Cao Ren Shen Tang modified was given as a reinforcement and repair for the spleen & stomach.

Acute gastroenteritis is known to be mainly caused by viral or bacterial infections due to contamination in foods or water. In many cases, no western medication is prescribed, and the patient passively waits for recovery. However, in the perspective of Chinese medicine, if the patient has persistent diarrhea & abdominal pain and is not treated, this greatly damages the spleen and stomach, which will lead to numerous problems directly or indirectly related to the digestive system. Moreover, this will impact the overall health of the patient, in regards to his/her energy level, sleep quality, and appetite, all of which are crucial to one's well-being.

Moreover, many may rationalize that, if the causes or mainly viral or bacterial, the prescription should contain antibacterial, antiviral, and/or anti-inflammatory herbs. The strict answer is no, as TCM does not view acute externally contracted illnesses as bacterial or viral. Instead, we categorize the above causes as heat toxins, which stand alongside other differentiations including wind, dampness, and cold pathogens. In this case, cold and dampness pathogens are most prevalent, and the appropriate method of treatment is to administer cold-dispelling and dampness-removing herbs. Contrastingly, antibacterial/viral and anti-inflammatory herbs are mostly cold in nature, which are contraindicated in this case.

By strictly adhering to the classical principles of TCM, the patient's acute condition was quickly relieved, and the digestive system had gained complete recovery shortly after. As seen in this case, TCM treatments --when administered correctly-- can take effect almost immediately without any side effects, and hence are effective and efficient for conditions similar to the one presented.


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