Ulcerative colitis is considered a complicated condition in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with many possible patterns of imbalance presenting during different stages of the disease process. The most common pattern of imbalance with colitis is called Damp-Heat. While the causes of colitis are not well understood, TCM theory dictates that there must be underlying constitutional imbalances for this inflammatory process to occur; these can be due to hereditary influences or poor lifestyle habits.
Constitutional organ-level imbalances leading to colitis:
Spleen Qi Imbalances Contributing to Colitis
The Spleen energetic organ system of Chinese medicine is quite different from the spleen of western medicine. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is all about the ability to convert food and fluid into viable substances that benefit the body; it is central to all digestive processes. Loss of appetite and fatigue are classic symptoms of Spleen Qi Deficiency. Additionally, if the Spleen is not functioning properly, Internal Dampness will develop.
The Liver energetic organ system of Chinese medicine is sensitive to emotional stresses. Chronic emotional stress leads to a constriction of the flow of Qi of the Liver leading to Liver Heat: inflammation relates to Heat. As the Liver becomes more agitated it tends to strike out at other organs such as the Spleen and Large Intestine; but more importantly in this condition the resulting pathogenic Heat combines with pathogenic Dampness leading to Damp Heat. Abdominal pain and cramping would be common with Liver Qi Stagnation.
Damp-Heat and Colitis
As Damp-Heat becomes more severe, diarrhea with blood or pus may develop. True Heat would often present with a fever.
Wei Qi and Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is often viewed as an auto-immune disease; this would be related to Wei Qi Deficiency.
Stagnation of Blood
The Liver influences the Qi circulation of the entire body. Where Qi goes, Blood goes, therefore Qi Stagnation leads to Blood Stagnation. Chronic Liver Qi Stagnation can result in Blood Stagnation. Symptoms of developing Blood Stagnation in colitis would include sharp stabbing pain.
Cold in the Lower Jiao
Those suffering with colitis can go through periods when the inflammation and Heat are replaced by Cold; this is because of the Yin-Yang theory that dictates that a fire cannot burn indefinitely and will eventually burn out. This pattern of hot-cold/Yin-Yang cycles will repeat itself throughout the disease process.
Bacterial and viral pathogens can complicate and contribute to colitis; however, according to Chinese medicine, the organ systems must already by compromised or weakened in order for pathogens to attack the body.
Kidney Yin Deficiency
Heat in the body consumes Yin. As Yin Deficiency develops, indications of Deficient Heat will appear. True Heat is indicated with a real fever; Deficient Heat presents with a feeling of fever, but no real temperature rise; afternoon sweats, hot flashes, and night sweats.
Kidney Yang Deficiency
Yin is substance, tissue, and Blood in the body; Yang relates to energetic qualities such as Qi, movement, and warmth in the body. Yang is dependent on Yin as the two are inter-related and inter-dependent. Chronic Yin Deficiency will eventually lead to Kidney Yang Deficiency and Coldness.