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Acupuncture for IBS

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The more recent studies involving Chinese medicine treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) showed consistent positive results. These studies validated the effectiveness of Chinese medicine in treating IBS in a drug-free and safe way.

What is IBS?

Also known as mucus colitis or spastic colon, IBS is considered a syndrome because it consists of a collection of symptoms that differs for each affected person. This condition causes an abnormal movement of the large and small intestines. IBS manifests symptoms such as alternating instances of diarrhea and constipation, pain and stomach cramping. It can also come with other gastrointestinal conditions like nausea, bloating and flatulence. Stress always exacerbates the aforementioned symptoms after the sufferer eats; the symptoms are oftentimes relieved after he/she does bowel function.  In the United States about 10% – 20% of the population suffers from IBS symptoms, with women thrice more likely to have it than men.

Western medicine does not know what exactly causes IBS although medical researchers are certain that IBS is not caused by structural issues and is neither infectious nor biochemical in nature. These scientists are considering that a neurological connection exists between the gastrointestinal system and the brain and this may be the reason why episodes of IBS oftentimes arise during times if stress or emotional pressures.

Chinese Medicine View of IBS

Despite other patterns of disorder are evident, IBS is primarily seen as a disharmony between the spleen and the liver in traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers the spleen as having an association with the digestive function and converting food into energy (blood and Qi). Through factors like lack of exercise, fatigue, over worrying, overwork and too much eating of unhealthy foods, the spleen can become considerably weak. The liver controls the normal flow of materials throughout the body. Stress or high or low emotions can upset this flow leading to stagnation of blood and energy known as qi. When the liver dysfunctions and the spleen is weak, the liver overacts on the spleen and this leads to IBS symptoms.

A spleen/ liver imbalance is the same to an episode of diarrhea or the short-term loss of appetite that happens when the person experiences an occasional emotional upset. During IBS, this condition occurs quite slowly with the stress or emotional condition taking place over an extended amount of time, and the symptoms of IBS potentially enduring for years.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists may utilize a number of modalities to rectify the spleen/liver imbalance.  They may use Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture and recommend lifestyle changes or dietary therapy to effectively heal the condition. Tong Xie Yao Fang which is an herbal mixture can treat the spleen and liver disharmony and can be a starting point with alterations on a case to case basis.

Certain modifications to lifestyle changes that can aid in relieving symptoms include:

Adequate sleep – this is a must for IBS sufferers to help lessen stress in the body. As mentioned before, stress can trigger IBS symptoms and stress can come about from lack of sleep.  Adequate sleep furthermore, assists the body to rejuvenate and heal.

Probiotics – Probiotics are supplements that help replenish the diminished good bacteria residing in your gut. Lactobacilli Shirota strain and Lactobacilli acidophilus are beneficial bacteria that are readily available in natural foods stores.

Diet modifications – an individualized type of dietary therapy that removes foods that cause the symptoms and that add sufficient amounts of fiber to the diet are good for the control and treatment of IBS. Fiber that is soluble and light on the GI pathway are recommended. These foods may include garbanzo beans, legumes like lentils, berries and oatmeal. Raw vegetables, bran and crude fiber foods can be very irritating and needs to be observed since they may potentially trigger symptoms. Some other typical food triggers include carbonated drinks, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, dairy products and fatty or greasy foods.

Performing stress relief activities – these can include quiet time, breathing exercises, yoga or meditation can help keep the symptoms under control.

Getting adequate exercise – they can aid in the relief of stress. Exercise can help relieve constipation, normalize the bowels, and move energy.


Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness Center in central Florida.

Written by Valerie

June 12th, 2014 at 7:41 am

Posted in Acupuncture

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