Often used in conjunction with food medicine and Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture is an alternative healing modality that enhances chi flow and/or brings back the normal flow of chi. Chi is the life energy of a person that flows in the body and when it flows naturally and freely it brings back normalcy to the functions of the body organs, glands, nerves, and muscles.
Is acupuncture an effective treatment for IBS?
Both the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel utilizing different criteria have determined that acupuncture is a proper treatment for a wide range of various conditions including those that relate directly to IBS:
Furthermore, with regards to stress, acupuncture has also been acknowledged as a powerful treatment for this destructive condition and other related conditions that usually triggers IBS symptoms. These may include:
What is acupuncture?
With similar origins as Tai Chi, acupuncture is one of the very old forms of traditional Chinese healing arts. But unlike Tai Chi, acupuncture is not a treatment that can be done by just anyone whereby an individual balances his/her own vital energy (chi). It is a healing procedure only performed by a trained acupuncturist in Bellingham to balance to the patient’s chi through the stimulations of body areas known as acupuncture points or acupoints, for short. These acupoints are points in the body where meridians are located underneath them. Meridians are channels wherein chi itself flows and circulates throughout the body. The meridians convey chi to organs and body system to normalize all mental and physical processes. Acupuncture is administered to either sedate or stimulate the meridians in order to restore balance to chi flow.
Acupuncture is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine that views the body as a holistic and complex spiritual/physical/emotional/mental system, balanced between sickness and health in a constant flux of energy flow. Based on this perspective, imbalances in the normal flow of chi are believed to bring about disease. Often complemented by food and Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture brings back health by boosting and balancing the circulation of chi and restoring the normal function of organs, glands, vessels, nerves, and muscles.
Blockages are removed in the meridians and chi flow is improved with an acupuncture treatment. A typical treatment will involve the insertion of flexible and extremely thin acupuncture needles from a depth of just below the skin to about an inch, at specific acupoints along the meridians. It is very important that the practitioner uses disposable, sterile, single-use needles to minimize the risk of transmission of hepatitis B and other contagious diseases and limit probability of infection at the site of the needle insertion.
The body has literally over 2000 acupoints scattered all over. Each of these points is related to at least one organ system or internal organ. As the acupoints are inserted with needles, the patient may sense a feeling of heaviness, warmth, aching, tingling, or even nothing at all. Most of the time, patients experience no pain when the needles are inserted into their skin; they may feel an unusual or odd physical sensation that does not cause distress. Depending on the type and seriousness of the condition, as few as one needle to as many as twenty needles may be used in a single acupuncture procedure. More often than not, the needles are activated after insertion by being heated or twisted with a burning moxa leaf that helps to augment the potency of the treatment and better stimulate chi. A session of acupuncture can last for as little as 5 minutes to as long as a full hour. This will depend on the illness being treated as well as the response of the patient to the treatment. The needles may remain in the patient’s skin for 5 to 40 minutes.
The frequency and number of treatment sessions will depend on the acupuncturist and the condition being addressed, although it may be as few as a single session to several treatment sessions a week, lasting a period of several months. For the relief of pain, six sessions are usually sufficient enough to attain good results; if by the end of the sixth session the results are not as good as the patient wants them to be, the acupuncturist will consider the treatment ineffective and will discontinue the treatment. if the treatment works and as the patient gets better, the frequency and amount of treatments become less frequent. Maintenance treatment may be recommended at certain different intervals. For a chronic type of condition, the patient may have regular treatments for a period of several months.
IBS and acupuncture clinical studies
To certify the validity of acupuncture as a type of relaxation treatment for IBS patients, one specific study was analyzed. The study indicated that both groups with patients all suffering from IBS-related stomach pain experienced a significant lowering of their gastrointestinal symptoms. However, when the subjects underwent a 4-week period post-trial period, the group that was treated with acupuncture was the only one that still experienced a reduction of pain. Moreover, the acupuncture group was the only group that experienced a substantial lowering in stress perception. The conductors of the study concluded that acupuncture is a valid form of treatment for IBS, especially for the treatment of stress and pain symptoms, with benefits exceeding that of conventional relaxation therapy.
It may still be uncertain whether acupuncture can also treat some of the other symptoms of IBS but be that as it may, Western medicine still doesn’t know how acupuncture treats the stress and pain symptoms of IBS. Western scientists have theorized that acupuncture affects the nervous system and causes endorphins to be released in the body. Endorphins are produced by the body to prevent pain signals from reaching the spinal cord and the brain. Another study has revealed that acupuncture causes alterations in the conduction of electromagnetic signals in the brain, a change of the flow of blood within the brain that boosts the flow of blood to the part of the brain related to pain and other sensory impulses: the thalamus, causing marked differences in the brain’s production of neurotransmitters such as prostaglandins, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
All the reasons for these biophysical reactions and changes are still being sorted out by scientists and doctors who don’t believe in the existence of vital energy or chi. But if you’re being burdened by constipation, diarrhea, and chronic pain caused by IBS, you probably would not care why and how acupuncture works – the only point that matters is that it works for you.
Some people may have noticed by now that a lot of the most beneficial IBS treatments, from acupuncture, Tai Chi, to medication have measurable and well-established rates of success that have no substantial scientific explanation of how and why they work. There are people who accept the explanation of the existence of chi and are satisfied with it and accept it as the simple truth. However how one perceives chi, these practices are without a doubt, truly effective. A lot of people are unsatisfied with the way Western medicine approaches IBS; some doctors merely reason out that IBS is merely a psychosomatic condition. Western medicine is far from really comprehending the underlying dysfunction or concocting a form of treatment that really works. What is most important for both patients and doctors is that a treatment brings about really good results. So if a treatment that prevents or relieves an IBS attack, then by definition it is considered a valid form of health care for IBS. It helps to know how a treatment works and why it is effective, but in the case of acupuncture, understanding it isn’t a prerequisite for reaping the rewards of the treatment.
Listed below are some things that you should know if you decide to go for acupuncture treatment:
1. If you have implants in your body such as breast implants, make sure that you tell your acupuncturist about it. Needles should not be placed in the area of the implant.
2. If you have diabetes or suffering from a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, even small punctures in the skin can lead to severe infections. Therefore, extreme caution should be considered when placing needles on your limbs. Talk to your doctor about getting acupuncture if you suffer from these conditions.
3. Pregnant women could be at risk of premature labor or miscarriage if needles are placed on acupoints near or on the stomach. The acupuncturist should know that you are pregnant or if you think you are before treatment begins.
4. If you are taking Coumadin or any anticoagulant drug or have an uncontrolled bleeding disorder, the needles inserted into the skin may potentially draw blood from your body.