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Can acupuncture treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Yes, it can. There have been a number of studies conducted on treating IBS with Chinese medicine. These studies have documented that Chinese medicine can effectively treat IBS in a safe and drug-free way. Acupuncture is also very helpful even while patients are taking medications prescribed by an allopathic doctor. Sometimes on-going medications can be decreased.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can also help relieve symptoms and avert crises with IBD, Irritable Bowel Disease, which includes crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

IBS is labeled a syndrome because it involves a group of symptoms that varies for each individual who is affected. It is a motility disorder ( involving abnormal movement) of the small and large intestines. Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abnormal cramping and pain; constipation and or diarrhea (often in alternating episodes); and sometimes a frequent need to defecate. IBS may also be accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems, such as flatulence, bloating, and nausea. Symptoms are almost always aggravated by stress. Episodes may also be aggravated by eating, and are frequently relieved after a bowel movement.

Chinese medicine almost always considers IBS as a disharmony between the Liver and the Spleen.

Practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine may use a variety of modalities to correct a Liver/Spleen disharmony. They may use acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, dietary therapy, and lifestyle changes to address this condition.

Here are some things a person may be asked to do to by a Chinese medicine practitioner in order to alleviate the symptoms :

  • Get adequate exercise. Exercise helps relieve stress, moves energy (Qi), regulates the bowels, and helps to relieve constipation.

  • Practice stress relief measures. Practices such as meditation, participating in Tai Qi exercises, yoga, breathing exercises, quiet time, and of course, regular acupuncture treatments often help.

  • Consider dietary changes. Sometimes foods that trigger symptoms should be eliminated. Adding adequate fiber to the diet is useful. Soluble fiber is gentler on the GI tract (i.e. oatmeal, berries, legumes, quinoa). Crude fiber such as bran and raw vegetables may be irritating. It is always better to use cooked vegetables by sautéing or steaming or cooking them slowly in stews. Triggers that often cause problems are fatty foods, dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate , sodas (carbonated drinks). It is always better to cook your food from “scratch” rather than use boxed or prepared food where additives are added. My experience has s shown that people who suffer from IBS should avoid gluten and corn products.

  • Add probiotics. Generally, probiotics are useful. I recommend Dr. Whittaker’s Pearl Biotic Spheres as the best quality (call 1-800-722-8008 to order).

  • Get adequate sleep. Getting enough sleep is a must for people who suffer from IBS for a couple of reasons. Stress is often aggravated by inadequate sleep patterns and sleep helps the body heal.

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