Acupuncture and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Beginning in adolescence or early adulthood, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, an intestinal disorder, affects 22% of the UK population (Maxwell 1997).
While stress or eating have been identified as triggers, underlying reasons for IBS are unclear. What is certain is sensory nerves in an IBS bowel are hypersensitive, overreacting when the bowel wall stretches, leading to intestinal muscles being hypo- or hyperactive. Women are 2-3 times more likely to suffer, with menstruation increasing symptoms, while triggers for both sexes range from diets low in fibre, emotional stress, excessive laxative intake or heavy bouts of contagious diarrhea. Symptoms for IBS span flatulence, cramps, pain, diarrhea and constipation.
It’s no surprise that IBS-related visits to the GP, hospitalizations, absenteeism at work and depression is on the rise. In addition, IBS medicines making it to market are laden with side-effects while research literature commonly suggests conventional medicine has limited scope to help (Akehurst 2001).
Only about half those with diagnosable IBS symptoms seek support, and diagnosis may not be so helpful. Occurring in an absence of visible structural abnormality, IBS is commonly framed as a diagnosis of exclusion and is often not a positive diagnosis.
But with Acupuncture a viable IBS treatment, it’s time to break the cycle and make a difference (Anastasi 2009, Trujillo 2008, Reynolds 2008, Schneider 2007b, Xing 2004, Lu 2000).

Acupuncture positively affects IBS symptoms by:

• Offering pain relief (Pomeranz 1987).
• Ensuring regulation of digestive system (Yin 2010, Chen 2008).
• Raising sensory threshold of the gut, while decreasing bowel pain. (Xu 2009, Ma 2009, Tian 2008, Tian 2006, Xing 2004).
• Activating the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, stimulating the relaxation or ‘rest and digest’ response (Schneider 2007b).
• Targeting anxiety and depression (Samuels 2008) by altering the brain’s mood chemistry, increasing serotonin and endorphin production (Han 2004).

Just as we are unique, so we may also require different solutions. Relaxation exercises, herbal medicine, psychotherapy and Western medicine may be combined with Acupuncture to form safe, effective, cross-targeting treatment. No treatment need ever work in isolation.

An awareness that Acupuncture can help is the first step to recovery. There is no longer a reason to let IBS control your life.

Byline: By Rebecca Swirsky

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