Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can benefit the quality of life of people who suffer IBS by providing relief of IBS symptoms and support for mental health. They can bring significant help to those who suffer from this chronic and difficult health condition, which can cause abdominal pain, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhoea; and can harm mental health (1).
This blog is made to provide a view into the current evidence and modern research for those who suffer from IBS and are interested in trying this ancient medical system.
Acupuncture can provide these effects while showing no serious adverse reactions (2), or no serious side effects (11), and it's significantly more effective than having no specific treatment (4,11).
Acupuncture for Constipation, Bloating and Pain.
There are different benefits from acupuncture for these symptoms and it can act through different biological pathways.
Acupuncture can improve the pain and distension of constipation by increasing the amount and times of defecation per day, as well as the quality of the poo (2)
Acupuncture can benefit those who suffer abdominal pain and distension and incomplete defecation. It can increase the times of defecation per day and improve the quality of the poo (2). It can also regulate lipid metabolism and attenuate oxidative stress, thus modulating inflammatory responses (7).
Acupuncture can also have effects on digestive acid secretion, gut motility, and gut pain; as well as averting the long-term side effects and resistance of drugs in patients with “bad digestion” (5). One study reported that acupuncture might modulate pain in IBS by two actions: By modulation of the serotonin pathway at the insula cortex in the brain; and modulation of mood and affection felt in the higher cortical brain centre (2).
Benefits to the Gut-brain Axis and Mood Support
Acupuncture can benefit the gut-brain axis and can have positive regulatory effects on gut motility, visceral hypersensitivity, neuroendocrine gut function, and immunity (3,6). It can help to relieve depression during IBS and can be used as adjuvant therapy for this (8). It has shown to modulate neurotransmitter activity in rat models (6).
Electro-acupuncture (EA) can help modulate the gut-brain axis. This could lower the severity and frequency of abdominal pain, diarrhoea, abdominal distension, and increase the quality of life in patients with Diarrhea Dominant IBS (D-IBS); as well as improving mental health issues associated with IBS, such as anxiety, conflict behaviour, dietary restriction and abnormal social response (6)
Chinese Herbal Medicine and Gut Health Recovery
A meta-analysis shows that combining acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine with moxibustion can bring the best effects and that they can be used as adjuvant therapy for depression during IBS (8).
The mixture of Chinese herbal medicine with acupuncture for D-IBS has displayed a synergistic effect on strengthening the healing response, as it shortens the time the treatment goes for while prolonging the duration of positive results; and reduces the side effects. It can also alleviate symptoms related to physical strength, sleep, and diet (9)
Moxibustion for Gut Pain
A meta-analysis revealed and that moxibustion on its own is the sole most effective method within the Chinese medicine repertoire to decrease gut pain(8). It can reduce the gut pain of D-IBS by decreasing rectal sensitivity, possibly dysregulating the pain control centre of the gut-brain axis as seen in brain MRI's (10).
I hope you like this blog and please pass it on to anyone that you think it might bring benefit. Book a session for support at: www.oscarmoreno.com.au/contact-oscar-moreno-chinese-medicine.html
1. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia. (2019). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Accessed November 15, 2019 from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs
2. Guan-Qun, C., Shuo, Z. (2014). Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology 2014 February 21; 20(7): 1871-1877 ISSN 1007-9327 (print) ISSN 2219-2840 (online)
3. Ma, XP., et. al. (2014). Acupuncture-moxibustion in treating irritable bowel syndrome: How does it work?. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014 May 28; 20(20): 6044-6054
4. Manheimer, E., et. al. (2013). Acupuncture for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. ; 5: CD005111. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005111.pub3.
5. Pang, Bo., et. al. (2016). Acupuncture for Functional Dyspepsia: What Strength Does It Have? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2016, Article ID 3862916, 17 pages http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/3862916
6. Sun, J., et. al. (2015). Electro-acupuncture decreases 5-HT, CGRP and increases NPY in the brain-gut axis in two rat models of Diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome(D-IBS). Sun et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2015) 15:340 DOI 10.1186/s12906-015-0863-5
7. Wang, et. al. (2019). Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy for Simple Obesity: An Evidence-Based Review of Clinical and Animal Studies on Simple Obesity. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2019, Article ID 5796381, 12 pages https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/5796381
8. Wu. I. X. Y., (2019). Acupuncture and related therapies for treating irritable bowel syndrome: overview of systematic reviews and network meta-analysis. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 2019, Vol. 12: 1–34
9. Yan, J., et. al. (2019). Acupuncture plus Chinese Herbal Medicine for Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2019, Article ID 7680963, 16 pages https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/7680963
10. Zhu, Y., et. al. (2014). Brain regions involved in moxibustion-induced analgesia in irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Zhu et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:500 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/14/500
11. Zhu, L., et. al. (2018). Acupuncture for Diarrhoea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Network Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2018, Article ID 2890465, 12 pages https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/2890465
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