Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders has been a long time interest of mine for around 23 years. I myself suffered severe symptoms in my early 20’s where almost everything I ate produced symptoms of brain fog, bloating, pain, fatigue, IBS-like symptoms etc. Now I can enjoy any foods, except gluten by choice, without problems.

Consequently, I have spent lots of energy understanding the intricacies of digestion and associated conditions such as SIBO, leaky gut (intestinal permeability), food sensitivities, parasites, malabsorption, hypochloridia, IBS, Chronh’s, candida, ulcerative colitis, GERD, etc. and have had the pleasure of working with 100s of clients over the last 15 years in my Boulder clinic.

Although these diagnoses are helpful there are inherent problems. We hope that if we correctly know the disease, there is a cure, albeit herbal or pharmaceutical, but it is much more complex. For example testing / diagnosis is quite murky still.

  • The main SIBO test (Lactulose breath test) is only about 50% accurate and much more complex then it is being presented on the internet.
  • Parasites are hard to detect (even with modern DNA testing) and often smaller parasites that are detected with DNA testing do not directly cause the patient’s condition.
  • Most of the Food sensitivities testing is inaccurate.
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is just that, a syndrome (a conglomeration of symptoms). Thus, there is not a single cause. It is currently thought that around 50% of IBS is from SIBO. And SIBO has many causes, one of which is hypochloridia. In Chinese medicine it is also well understood that IBS is directly related to the Liver and emotions and stress.

Once we have a “working” diagnosis treatment is also not as straightforward as many suggest.

  • SIBO (which has a wide-range of treatments based on the pattern).
  • A pathogen is one person will respond to a medicinal where in another it does not.
  • Hypochloridia (low stomach acid) as at least 8 different causes. Actually all of these conditions above, except for some straight forward parsites, have underlying causes that must be investigated, which leads to an indivudial presentation and treatment.


For the correct treatment we must understand your (1) specific presentation  and (2) individual constitution. These help us understand the underlying cause and the complex relationships that often present in the clinic. For example hypochloridia can cause SIBO. Adrenal fatigue can cause the hypochloridia. Adrenal fatigue can be caused by chronic gut inflammation.

Thus, it is very important to NOT just treat the “test results”, they are always secondary.

(1) The presentation gives us clues to the specific pattern as well as the underlying cause. Presentation are the symptoms, such as:

  • Bloating
  • Distention
  • Location of bloating and distention (upper or lower abdomen)
  • Constipation (which type)
  • Diarrhea (which type)
  • Pain, cramps, spasms
  • Bad breath
  • Appetite
  • Nausea / vomiting

For example, a case of SIBO would be treated differently depending if there was was bloating or distention and where that was located.

(2) I also consider the constitution of the patient. Such as, their body type, are they more warm or cold, how they hold their stress, etc.. I feel their pulse, look at their tongue, notice their facial color to get further diagnostic information. This aspect comes from the deep roots of Chinese medicine and can be extremely important in rounding out underlying causes of GI issues.

Thus the constitution, individual presentation, and diagnostic test results are all combined to come up with an individualized treatment. Thus, each individual has their own web of connections are why so many people, even after some “diagnosis” still struggle after following the internet “expert” advice and programs.

Further thoughts on treatment. Modern or Ancient?

Simply, Chinese medicine has a 2000+ year history of treating ALL if these above issues. For example, the presentation of IBS or SIBO are nothing new and we have time tested acupuncture and herbal therapies that can effectively treat this. Although many MDs are recommending the antibiotic rifaximin, it has high potential of collateral damage. Quite simply, there are more balanced and individilzied approaches that work. Interestingly, modern research has validated clinical efficacy many of the oldest herbs used, such as coptis / berberine (huang lian), ginger (sheng jiang), and pomegranate husk (shi liu pi).

We can mix this ancient knowledge with modern research and interventions, such a specific probiotics and prebiotics. For example, there are specific probiotics that help symptoms SIBO or IBS. See articles.

In the end, I enjoy combining both Western (functional medicine) and Eastern knowledge (acupuncture and Chinese herbs) to heal the underlying cause of gastrointestinal disorders. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

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About Us

Open Gate Acupuncture, located in Boulder Colorado, serves patients throughout the Boulder county region including Denver, Longmont, Gunbarrel, Lafayette, & Louisville.

Jason Blalack has been treating patients in Boulder for over 16 years, is an international lecturer on Chinese medicine and has an extensive collection of Chinese medicine articles published in professional journals worldwide. Jason specializes in autoimmune, digestive disorders, fertility, and emotional disorders.

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