Can Acupuncture Relieve IBS?
From following this blog you will know already that it is possible to improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms by following a low FODMAP diet, but there are also non-diet related ways that can help to reduce the pain caused by IBS.
I have previously wrote about how having some hypnotherapy sessions, performing regular exercise and try to minimise daily stress are other natural way to reduce symptoms, but recently I have also found out that the ancient Chinese healing art of acupuncture can also assist, by balancing the body’s chi (qi), also explained as life force or energy flow.
IBS According to Chinese Medicine
The Traditional Chinese Medicine, believe that the body is a complex holistic system that is balanced between health and sickness in a constantly changing flow of natural energy or chi. If there are imbalances or disruptions in the flow of natural energy, the body will get sick. Through the insertion of very thin and flexible acupuncture needles at various acupuncture points along the meridians, balance can be restored, thus, even helping alleviate symptoms of IBS.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, IBS can be considered a disharmony between the liver and the spleen. The liver ensures the smooth flow of substances throughout the body, while the spleen is associated with digestion and transforming food into energy. There are many factors that can disrupt the harmony between the liver and the spleen. These include stress, overworking, and overeating of unhealthy food. Overtime, these factors can cause the spleen to weaken and the liver to move differently. As a result, the liver overacts on the spleen, which can manifest as symptoms of IBS.
Effects of Acupuncture on Patients with IBS
Acupuncture helps resolve the disharmony between the liver and spleen. Through the insertion of very thin and flexible acupuncture needles at various acupuncture points along the meridians of the stomach and large intestine, balance can be restored and symptoms of IBS can be eliminated. Practitioners of acupuncture may also apply reinforcement techniques to strengthen the patient’s immune system, as well as reducing techniques to help relieve stress, which helps prevent reoccurrence and stop the condition from getting worse in the future.
According to the National Institutes of Health or NIH in the United Kingdom, acupuncture has been proven somehow effective for treating chronic pain caused by IBS.
According to the study, as compared to relaxation therapy, acupuncture yields better results when it comes to treating IBS. The researchers have found that after a four-week period, the gastrointestinal symptoms of the patients participating to the study have shown improvement, thanks to acupuncture. After the testing period, there was also a significant reduction in stress perception among patients who have undergone acupuncture for IBS.
Other studies conducted over the last two decades have also showed how acupuncture can help patients suffering from symptoms of IBS. According to them, acupuncture can relieve IBS by providing pain relief, regulating the motility of the digestive tract, improving the sensory threshold of the gut, increasing parasympathetic tone, and reducing anxiety and depression among the patients.
While they cannot exactly explain why this is so, practitioners of Western medicine believe that the reason why acupuncture seems to help relieve pain caused by IBS is that perhaps acupuncture affects the nervous system. This causes the nervous system to release endorphins. Endorphins are naturally produced chemicals in the body that block pain signals in the brain and spinal cord.
As such, aside from adapting a low FODMAP Diet, you may also want to consider trying acupuncture to help improve your IBS condition.
Have you already tried acupuncture? Did it work for your IBS symptoms? I would love to hear from you.
Until next time, keep well.
References and further reading:
Web MD: Alternative Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Help for IBS.com
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Traditional Chinese Medicine
British Acupuncture Council
University of Maryland Medical Center