Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Up to 45 million of people in the US live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a condition that comes with a number of uncomfortable symptoms including, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or mixed diarrhea and constipation.

When your digestion feels unwell it can affect your whole life. People with IBS are often anxious about what foods they may eat that will cause discomfort.

Throughout my 15 years in practice, I have helped many people overcome IBS. Research shows that Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are helpful in treating IBS.[2,3]

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The nature of Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment is based upon the underlying imbalance which is causing the IBS.  The therapy includes acupuncture, electroacupuncture, and in some people, herbal medicine.

Electroacupuncture has been shown to stimulate gut motility and is well known for stopping pain. The herbal formulas focus on aromatic herbs which waken the digestion and stop bloating. Chinese herbs also balance the microbiome.

What happens in an Acupuncture Visit?

During your initial visit, we will discuss your digestive symptoms as a part of the whole person. I consider your sleep, joint and muscle pain, stress, frequency of colds, and energy levels all help me to understand what is causing your particular digestive issues.

Acupuncture also is interested in how your body feels.  Does it feel hot or cold?  Is there too much sweating or none at all. This will help identify the root cause of the issue.

Imbalances leading to IBS Symptoms

The most common imbalances leading to IBS are a lack of digestive energy (Qi vacuity), lack of flow of the energy (Qi Stagnation), as well as accumulation of toxins in the digestive system. Different acupuncture points and herbs will be used for the different imbalances.

Acupuncture of course also works physically on the body to improve digestion and gut motility. One technique is electro-acupuncture on the point Stomach 36 which has been shown to improve gastric motility. Once the gut motility returns, the natural gut microflora will be more likely rebalance.

Trigger points which may be found throughout the abdomen can cause IBS symptoms. Trigger points are areas of hypercontraction of the muscles and fascia, the body’s connective tissue. The trigger points become extremely tight and pull on the abdomen and the digestive system. Relieving this abdominal tension helps to reduce pain and improve IBS symptoms.

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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