Ate too much at Thanksgiving? Already digging into the Halloween candy? Not to suggest that you continue to overeat or eat junk, but don’t you wish there was something you could do to help improve your digestion? There is. Acupressure for better digestion is easy to learn and simple to do.
This is the first of a series of blogs I’m going to do on acupressure for simple health issues.
What is Acupressure?
First of all, let’s cover the basics about acupressure. It’s pressing on specific points on the body, stimulating the tissue underneath to treat health conditions or symptoms. You can use your fingertips, thumbs, or even something like a capped pen or Qtip. Choose something that is not going to pierce your skin. If you want that, then you’re looking for acupuncture and you’ll need to see a qualified professional like me!
Pressing on the points will elicit a sensation of a bit of tenderness or maybe even mild tingling or aching. If it’s painful or sharp, you’re pressing too hard–go easy on yourself! If you feel nothing, either you don’t quite have the correct point, you’re not pressing hard enough, or that point is not currently useful for you.
Press each point for 10-30 seconds, usually on both sides of the body, but one at a time.
Acupressure for Better Digestion
Stomach 36 (ST36)
If you’ve seen me in clinic, you’ve probably experienced this point, as it’s good for a wide range of health conditions. As you can see from the English name above, it’s the 36th point along the acupuncture Stomach channel. That’s a decent indicator that it’s a great acupressure point for improving digestion. Research has also found a connection between this point and digestive health. 1,2,3,4
ST36 is 4 fingerwidths below the bottom of your kneecap (patella), just to the outside (lateral side) of your shin bone (tibia).
Spleen 6 (SP6)
Another multi-use point, this one is also relatively easy to find, as it’s likely to feel tender when you press it. Actually, all the points should feel tender when you press them.
This point is 4 finger widths up from the tip of your medial ankle bone (malleolus), behind your shin bone (tibia).
Large Intestine 4 (LI4)
Often known for its ability to help relieve headaches, tooth pain, or other pain conditions of the head and face, it’s also helpful to treat pain in many places of the body. Additionally, as a point along the large intestine channel, you can use it for acupressure for better digestion, treating digestive pain and cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
There are several ways to locate this point. One way is to squeeze your thumb close to the rest of your hand, and then locate the highest point in the muscle between the thumb and index finger. Press firmly and feel around until you find the spot that is tender.
Pericardium 6 (PC6)
This is one of the most widely researched and accepted points for use with both acupuncture and acupressure for better digestion, particularly for treating and preventing nausea, whether from pregnancy morning sickness, chemotherapy or other medication side effects, motion sickness, or illness. 1,2,3,4
You can either buy motion sickness bands, like those pictured below, or use your thumb or finger to apply pressure on this point.
Find this point on the inside of your forearm, 3 finger widths up from the crease of your wrist, between the two tendons that pop up when you flex your wrist or make a fist.
Beyond Acupressure for Better Digestion
This is simple advice for simple, acute (short-term) digestive issues. If you have chronic or serious digestive health problems, you don’t need to keep suffering! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, supplements, and food cures can be your solution. Ask me your digestive health questions.
I asked, “What do you want me to write about?” And I received a request for acupressure points to massage for general body tune up/massage for the fall season. Great question! I thought I’d expand on that and offer my top health tips for fall this season.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we consider 5, not 4, seasons through the year–spring, summer, late summer, fall, and winter. Each season relates to a different set of organ systems and their associated health issues. Autumn relates to the TCM Lungs* and Large Intestines*. (*I capitalize these because TCM considers more than just the physical organs themselves.)
Problems with these systems can result in:
- Frequent colds and flu
- Infections and weakened immune system
- Allergies and other auto-immune disorders
- Skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, sensitivity
- Asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung health issues
- Constipation, diarrhea, irregularities with bowel movements
- Depression, sadness, and lingering grief
- Challenges with letting go or problems with commitment
Even if you don’t suffer from any of these particular wellness challenges, it’s a good idea to keep your body strong and optimally healthy by supporting the systems most active for each season. Start with these health tips for fall, and remember to let me know your favourite wellness habits as well.
Top 5 Health Tips for Fall Season
- Breathe. Yes, of course you’re already breathing. But take the time to stop, notice your breath, then take a few minutes to deepen and slow that breath down. Breathe in to the bottom of your lungs, expanding your whole ribcage–front, back, and sides. Pause for just a moment. Then release your whole breath out, emptying your lungs. Pause again and start over with another deep inhale. Make sure you don’t make yourself dizzy, but try this for 5-10 breaths. Each time you breathe in, visualize the oxygen nourishing your whole body, supplying your cells with vital energy. Each time you breathe out, feel the release of letting go of what you do not need or want.
- Wear a scarf. Or turn up your collar or wear a turtleneck shirt. I consider scarves as health accessories, not just fashion accessories. Keeping your neck and shoulders warm and covered helps avoid a lowering of your immune system’s ability to ward off attack. It also helps prevent your muscles from tightening up as you start to pull your shoulders up toward your ears to guard against the cold air.
- Get outside to connect with nature, even though the weather turns colder in the fall. Get close to some trees and practice the first health tip for fall. If you can’t get outside, use indoor plants to help. Peace lilies, rubber plants, spider plants, and snake plants, in particular, help clean and filtre your air by absorbing airborne bacteria, mould spores, and cancer-causing contaminants like formaldehyde.
- Consider your food choices. As the weather cools, soups, stews, slow cooked meals, roasted and steamed vegetables, and hot oatmeal are better options than salads, raw foods, and cold smoothies. Those latter foods are still healthy, but check in with your body and chances are you’ll find a balance tipping toward warmer foods may feel more suitable. Include fall harvest root veggies like sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, and beets. Support your immune system with garlic, onions, thyme, oregano, mushrooms, and hot tea. And boost up your network of good bacteria in your gut by eating fermented foods like yogurt, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut, and choose a high quality probiotic supplement.
- Try acupressure. Back to how this all started. Massaging or pressing on the following points can help support the immune system, one of the key aspects of the Lung system, and timely for the start of the cold and flu season. Press each point for 30 seconds. Some points can be done both sides at the same time.
Lung 7: Find this point by starting with giving a “thumbs up” sign with one hand. You’ll see a pocket form (called the “anatomical snuff box” because people used to put powdered tobacco–or snuff–in here to sniff it out) at the base of your thumb. Use your other hand to measure 2 finger-widths up your arm from the pocket.
Large Intestine 11: With your elbow bent at 90 degrees, find a tender point just lateral (thumb side) to the end of your elbow crease.
Stomach 36: This point has been called the vitamin C point of the body because of its many health benefits. In addition to supporting digestive health and improving energy, it can also support immune health. With your knee bent at 90 degrees, find a depression below and lateral (pinky toe side) to your kneecap. The point is found one hand-width below that, just lateral to the shin bone (tibia). It will likely be tender.
Lung 1: This point is found about 3 finger-widths below the collarbone, just in front of the arm bone and shoulder, where there is a depression.
- You might also find tapping on your breastbone (sternum) and over your upper chest helps improve your ability to breath deeply, while it also stimulates your thymus–part of your immune system.
Let me know if you have your own favourite health tips for fall, whether it’s acupressure points to support your immune system, your choice of healthy foods for fall, or other. You can also check out my 3 previous articles on health tips for fall via these links:
Health through Vancouver’s cold, damp
Fall: Letting Go with Breath
Chinese Medicine Health Tips for Fall Season
Of course I also think you should get regular tune-up treatments of acupuncture for optimal wellness, especially with seasonal transitions.
– If you are flying into a different time zone, check out how to limit the effect of jetlag by clicking here.
– To avoid catching someone else’s cold or flu when flying, make your own anti-viral aromatherapy spray. Mix 100% pure lavender and tea tree essential oils in purified water in a glass spray bottle. Spray the blend into your face and inhale deeply while on the plane. Not only will it keep your nasal passages moist and help stop you from getting sick, it’ll also smell pleasant and help you relax.
– Drink lots of water when on the plane and avoid alcohol.
– If you worried about getting “Montezuma’s Revenge”, bring some grapefruit seed extract and some oregano oil (both are anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral). You can use the grapefruit seed extract to wash your fruits and vegetables. Remember to use boiled or purified water. Oregano oil is a powerful remedy that you can take orally. It tastes horrible, but it really does help! NOTE: Pack both in plastic baggies because you don’t want either bottle leaking on any of your stuff in your bag or suitcase!
– Bring digestive enzymes if you are going to be eating different (or more) foods and your digestive system is challenged.
– Probiotics (choose the kind that don’t need to be refrigerated) can also help avoid digestive ills.