Tag Archives: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A Carefully Designed Acupuncture Program Can A Great Way To Treat or Manage IBS Symptoms

The symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, for short, include diarrhea, constipation, and recurrent stomach cramping and pain. IBS is a chronic, gastrointestinal functional disorder affecting on in five Americans or about 20 percent of the adult population in the United States. It is one of the conditions most commonly diagnosed by doctors. Women are more prone to it than men and in about 50 percent of cases, the condition began before the age of 35.

IBS – Its Causes

Scientists still do not know what exactly causes IBS. It is believed to develop from triggers such as hormonal issues, diet, and stress. In all cases of IBS, emotional stress always plays a role in this condition’s development.


Both primary healthcare providers and patients associate IBS with intolerance to certain foods; however, there is no scientific proof that there is a connection between findings from common diagnostic examinations for food intolerance and perceived food intolerance by patients.

Emotion and Stress

New epidemiological studies have shown that there is a clear connection between IBS and mood disorder and psychological stress. There is a close and well-known relationship, known as the “brain-gut interaction,” between gastrointestinal function and emotion. The intestines and brain are both connected via the autonomic nervous system. When a person becomes upset or anxious, the digestive tract is stimulated, which causes spasms and other symptoms. Also, due to unpleasant digestive symptoms, some people can develop anxiety resulting in a vicious cycle that a lot of people with chronic pain experience: pain generates stress and stress generates pain. It has been observed that there is a greater occurrence of IBS among people suffering from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. These two conditions are both deemed to be very much connected to emotional disorders and stress.

As it is now known that certain diets can trigger or alleviate IBS symptoms, there are people with IBS who may also experience a total healing of their symptoms while they are relaxed (i.e., while they are on vacation), even if they are eating unusual or forbidden foods or if their diets are poor in nutrition. Some IBS sufferers, on the other hand, tend to experience stomach bloating and other IBS symptoms every time they eat (any kind of food) and drink (any type of fluids, even water) all because of stress. The main thing to remember is that diet is important, and the emotional state of a person at that time plays a key role in whether or not a specific type of diet triggers or relieves the symptoms of IBS. But in order to manage the symptoms in the long-term, addressing alone the issue of diet is not enough.


A lot of women suffering from IBS may feel their symptoms intensifying around the time of their menstrual cycle. Based on this observation, it is therefore believed that hormones responsible for reproduction play a major role in the rise of IBS. Since the HPG Axis (hormonal system of females) and HPA Axis (stress hormones) interact closely with each other, this theory seems plausible. However, it has been observed that there are IBS symptoms that are actually set off by the amplified emotional symptoms related to female disorders such as dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) , and PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Addressing these female menstrual conditions is important when treating the symptoms of IBS. To manage or treat those aforementioned gynecological conditions moxibustion and acupuncture can be utilized with extreme efficacy.

Management of IBS Symptoms Using Acupuncture and Standard Drug Treatment – Recent Evidence

Drug therapy presently used for IBS symptoms has proven to have limited benefits and may bring about potential risks. Moreover, a low level of satisfaction has been found among some IBS patients in the type of treatment provided to them by their primary care doctors. Because of this, around half of the total number of IBS patients has relied on alternative and complementary therapies such as acupuncture for symptomatic relief or management of symptoms.

Acupuncture Needles on the Stomach

Acupuncture has been used for hundreds of years for the treatment of several types of digestive conditions. Studies have indicated that acupuncture works well in a variety of digestive conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain and bloating, functional dyspepsia, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms related to digestion tend to improve after a round of acupuncture treatment partly due to the fact that the treatment has an effect on the perception and motility of the digestive organs. Lab animal studies (involving dogs and rats) have shown that acupuncture treatment has a significant effect on visceral perception and gastrointestinal motility, both of which are very much related to the rise of IBS symptoms. Lab studies on rats have also shown that acupuncture treatment of the lower limbs (specifically on the St 36 acupoint just below the knee) produces gastric motility through vagal efferent, while acupuncture treatment on the stomach (specifically, on the St 25 acupoint) reduces gastric motility through sympathetic efferent.

However, in clinical studies on human patients with IBS, there were mixed results. Based on clinical evidence, the 2006 Cochrane Collaboration Systematic Review concluded that acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment of IBS has not been conclusively established and it has recommended that further comprehensive studies be conducted in the future using sufficient experimental design. It is uncertain that traditional acupuncture protocols entailing the simple insertion of needles into pre-designated acupoints (often used in past acupuncture clinical trials) will be accepted by the Western medical community as sufficient treatment for many IBS patients.

Gastroenterologists consider IBS to be a “difficult” condition to deal with. But with a comprehensive, customized, and carefully designed acupuncture program, IBS sufferers may be able to enjoy real and profound clinical benefits.

The NIH and WHO Endorse Acupuncture as Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Using different criteria, both the World Health Organization and National Institutes of Health have identified several various conditions deemed appropriate for treatment with acupuncture, including many that directly relate to IBS:

• Muscle cramping

• Stomach pain

• Diarrhea

• Constipation

Besides that, it has also been seen that acupuncture is effective for the reduction of stress, as well as in the treatment of associated problems that usually set off IBS symptoms, such as:

• Insomnia

• Anxiety

• Premenstrual syndrome

• Menstrual cramps

• Nervousness

One study has at least directly compared the effectiveness of acupuncture to relaxation therapy in patients with IBS. The study discovered that the gastrointestinal symptom scores and quality-of-life of the patients improved, along with significant decrease in stomach pain. But, then after a four week post trial period, only the patients in the group treated with acupuncture were still enjoying relief from pain. Moreover, this group also experienced a substantial decrease in stress perception but not in the relaxation group. The results caused the researchers to conclude that the benefits of acupuncture exceed those of conventional relaxation treatment and can effectively address IBS, especially the symptoms of stress and pain.

While there is no question that acupuncture provides notable pain relief and helps treat other IBS symptoms as well, Western conventional medicine has no explanation as to how and why the treatment works. They hypothesize that acupuncture has the ability to influence the nervous system by activating the release of endorphins, which is the body’s own “feel-good” chemicals that prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. Studies have revealed that acupuncture leads to a change in the flow of blood within the brain that boosts circulation to the thalamus (the area related with relaying pain and other sensory impulses), improves the conduction of electromagnetic signals in the brain, and causes observable differences in the neurotransmitter output of the brain including prostaglandin and other inflammation-causing substances, such as norepinephrine and serotonin.

Scientists and doctors who do not believe the Chinese concept of chi are still at a loss why these changes happen. But you can experience the healing power of acupuncture yourself if you happen to suffer from constipation or diarrhea and chronic pain related to disease and decide to try out acupuncture for your problems. You may not care how and why the treatment works, the only thing that matters is that it works for you.

You might have noticed that several of the treatments for IBS, from Qi gong to meditation to acupuncture, have measurable success and well-established rates, but no one can explain the reason behind their remarkable results. The Western modes of treatment for IBS have so far been disappointing and some doctors even claim that the condition is a psychosomatic problem. Western medicine has not yet even come close to thoroughly understanding the underlying problem of IBS or has developed a method worthy to be called a treatment for it – let alone find a cure. Results are what matters most to those suffering from the condition. So if something helps relieve or prevent an episode of IBS, then by definition it is a valid form of health care for it.

If you’re still debating whether acupuncture is right for you, the following are some precautions you first need to know if you decide to proceed with this treatment:

• If you are pregnant, the stimulation of certain acupoints, especially points near or on the stomach, can set off uterine contractions and bring on premature labor and a possible miscarriage. If you are pregnant or think you are, tell your acupuncturist about it.

• Acupuncture needles can have the potential to draw blood so if you’re taking anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) or suffering from uncontrolled bleeding disorder, you need to tell your acupuncturist about it.

• If you have body implants such as breast implants, it’s important to inform your acupuncturist so he/she may avoid sticking needles in the area of the implant

• Acupuncture should only be used on your limbs with extreme care if you’re suffering from diabetes because even a tiny puncture on the skin of a person with diabetic neuropathy can lead to severe infections. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns in this area

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment for IBS

There are now a growing number of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers seeking symptomatic relief via acupuncture treatment. While allopathic doctors use IBS diagnosis as a “one size fits all” system, Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM practitioners approach the condition on a symptom-by-symptom or case-to-case, individual basis. Veering away from the use of a conventional IBS diagnosis helps to avoid a blanket type of treatment. Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, what is often known as IBS is primarily the result of an infection in the gastrointestinal (GI) system. And infection, from the viewpoint of TCM, is often deemed to be due to pathogenic factors such as heat and dampness, either generated internally (i.e., internal injury from certain foods) or derived externally (i.e., from the weather).

Irritable Bowel Syndrome According to Western Medicine

Irritable Bowel Syndrome also referred to as “spastic colon,” is a functional bowel disorder. In this condition, both the large and small intestines do not function normally, even though diagnostic testing will confirm no occurrence of any structural damage. IBS is marked by changes in bowel habits and pain in the abdomen not related to any abnormalities shown on routine clinical testing. IBS is a fairly common condition and is responsible for 20% to 50% of consultations to gastroenterologists. It usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 and women are three times more likely to develop it than men.

IBS has two types: Non-Ulcer Dyspepsia and Lower Abdominal Pain IBS. The latter is often depicted as either IBS-C (constipation-predominant) or IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant). IBS-C or spastic colon presents with periodic constipation and pain over one or more region of the colon. This pain may be intermittent or continuous and is usually eased by bowel movement. The main symptom of IBS-D is diarrhea immediately after eating or right after waking combined with urinary incontinence, urgency, bloating and pain. IBS-A is a subtype of IBS that presents with alternating stool pattern (either constipation alternating with diarrhea or constipation alternating with normal stools). Mucus often accompanies the stools. Related symptoms include dyspepsia, nausea, gas, and bloating. These symptoms are often triggered by eating.

A new IBS subtype known as IBS-PI or post-infectious IBS is drawing much clinical research. Symptoms are usually set off by various factors including certain mental disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain, certain foods, emotional factors, and stress. Having no valid reason why this phenomenon occurs, it does fortify the belief that a psychological and neurological basis to IBS exists.

In an IBS condition, the role of hormones is not yet completely understood. The symptoms are usually triggered or exacerbated by menstruation, while pregnancy and menopause can either improve or aggravate symptoms. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) has been connected to a significant likelihood of developing IBS. The modalities used by Western medicine for IBS include stress reduction techniques, dietary changes, and anti-diarrhea or anti-spasmodic drugs.

Tips to Control or Avoid IBS

IBS sufferers should develop a regular toilet schedule, stick to a regular eating habit composed of high fiber, avoid smoking, drink copious amounts of water every day, and avoid large and heavy meals that are high in fat. To relieve stress regular exercise is recommended. Stress is a factor that appears to worsen the disorder.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment of IBS

For IBS, Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM uses acupuncture to eliminate heat and dampness from within the system. Specific acupuncture points are selected along the energy channels of the large intestine and stomach. A majority of these points are found along the lateral side of the arms and legs and help clear the symptoms. Simultaneously, reinforcement methods to strengthen the immune system can be used, while stress-reducing procedures can alleviate stress that stops any future aggravation of the condition.

One other indispensable part of treatment is the use of Chinese herbs. In TCM, selected herbs are used alongside acupuncture to specifically address the unique constitution and symptoms of the patient. TCM therapy is individualized and addresses the specific needs of the patient. A licensed master herbalist will not prescribe the same exact herbal remedies to two or more patients. A “classical formula” is always used a as a foundation. Some of these formulas were written up more than 2,500 years ago and are still being used today.