Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) describes a combination of symptoms including chronic abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of Americans suffer from the condition, with three times as many women being affected as men. April is IBS Awareness Month and so we turn our attention to ways that acupuncture can assist in symptom management.
The cause of IBS is not really known. Because the symptoms appear differently in each individual, misdiagnoses are common. For those who have tried everything from antibiotics to laxatives with little to no results, it may be time to give acupuncture a try.
At the core of IBS is a disruption between the liver and the spleen, which are responsible for the flow of outside substances through the body and transforming our food into energy. When this flow is upset, it creates disharmony that causes uncomfortable symptoms. Acupuncture, long used to stimulate and open these channels, may help alleviate the condition.
A study presented to the American College of Gastroenterology investigated the use of acupuncture versus relaxation therapy in patients with IBS. Participants in the study were treated with either acupuncture or relaxation therapy three times a week for two weeks. At the end of the trial, people in both groups reported significant reduction in abdominal pain. However, following a four-week post-trial period, only the acupuncture group experienced ongoing relief. The acupuncture group also reported a significant reduction in stress, which was not experienced by the relaxation group.
The zusanli acupuncture point may be especially effective in addressing IBS. It runs along the stomach meridian, and is located about four-finger widths below the bottom of the knee towards the outside of the shin. It’s considered to be one of the 12 most important acupoints on the body, and perhaps the most critical when dealing with issues of the stomach. Needling this point has been shown to decrease or even completely eliminate symptoms, in some cases with a single 10- to 20-minute treatment.
Healthy lifestyle choices such as getting adequate exercise, upping your intake of fiber, taking probiotics, and getting enough sleep are also ways to help alleviate the symptoms of IBS. If combined with an acupuncture plan designed specifically for your needs, you may be able to say goodbye to stomach issues for good. Schedule an appointment today.