Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)


IBS is a condition that affects approximately 22% of the British population and consists of symptoms including bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain. 

IBS symptoms are often triggered by certain foods, stress and other emotional factors, however, the cause of the condition is unknown.  It is characterised by the large and small intestines not functioning as they should and the complete absence of structural damage and anatomic defects when tested.  Women are also three times more likely to suffer from this condition than men.

Why choose acupuncture to treat IBS?

This condition is usually treated with anti-spasmodic or anti-diarrhea medication as prescribed by Western Medicine.  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), IBS is seen as a disharmony between the liver and the spleen, which causes a stagnation in the gut. Acupuncture relieves the symptoms of stress on the liver and improves motility in the abdomen.  It can also relieve the pain accompanying IBS it boosts your body’s production of natural painkillers. Your TCM acupuncturist will assess your constitution as a whole and look at each symptom based on its relationship with the other presenting symptoms, bearing in mind the various psychological and physiological aspects at play.

Stress is a major contributing factor of IBS, as it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn causes spasms in the large intestine – an organ that is highly sensitive to conflict and stress.  Traditional Chinese acupuncture can increase parasympathetic tone, thus initiating the relaxation response that increases digestion. Reducing stress and anxiety is key when treating IBS.

This condition is also associated with higher levels of depression, and acupuncture can increase the production of serotonin, 95% of which is produced in your gut, and helps adjust your brain’s mood chemistry in order to combat negative affective states.

You should also eat a diet that is rich in fibre and lower in fat, eat light and smaller meals regularly and drink plenty of water in conjunction with your acupuncture treatments to treat and manage your IBS effectively.  Also aim to exercise regularly to lower your stress levels.

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