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