Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex disorder that affects the large intestine. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea, or both. Less commonly some may experience fatigue, headaches, anxiety, or depression. Triggers often include stress, diet, and hormones. It occurs more frequently in women under the age of 50, and may have a familial component.
Treatment with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal therapies, and nutritional therapies, is often sough for treatment of IBS. It is a safe, effect, and drug-free option for addressing the uncomfortable, sometimes distressing, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
What to Expect
Your licensed acupuncturist will look at many things – your history, previous diagnoses, medications, lifestyle, and diet, and will make a TCM diagnosis based on this as well as other methods such as pulse or tongue diagnosis. Treatment will consist of placing hair-thin needles into appropriate acupuncture points (acupuncture), and may include other treatments such as moxibustion. Typically a series of treatment is necessary to gain lasting relief. Frequency and duration of treatment will be discussed at your appointment.
An herbal prescription may be considered, depending on your individual needs. Herbal prescriptions are complex formulas, not just a single herb, used to treat various conditions. It will be tailored to your specific needs, including taking into consideration other medications that you may be on, so be sure to have a list of both prescription and over the counter medications and supplements ready for your acupuncturist.
Lifestyle and diet recommendations may be discussed as part of your individual plan. Oftentimes, stress reduction and diet changes are employed alongside acupuncture and herbs in the treatment and management of IBS.
Along with regular acupuncture treatments, nutritional advice may be part of your plan. One of the first things in considering any possible diet changes is evaluating the foods you currently eat. For some, eating a high fiber diet will decrease symptoms. Fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are nutritious and will help prevent constipation. If you experience gas or bloating, you may want to get your fiber primarily from vegetables and fruits, and leave out the grains. For others, a low fiber diet is necessary. In this case, concentrating on foods rich in soluble fiber is best – apples, berries, carrots, and oatmeal. This type of fiber dissolves in water rather than adding bulk to the stool.
Identifying the foods that both aggravate and alleviate your symptoms is key. You may need to keep a food journal for several weeks if you are unsure what foods cause what symptoms. It is common for greasy, fatty foods to cause issues, so cutting out fried foods will likely be necessary. Dairy is also another common culprit. Substituting with non-diary or lactose-free milk can be beneficial.
Probiotics may also be considered in the treatment of IBS. Probiotics are the beneficial organisms that live in our digestive tracts and help us digest our foods and absorb nutrients. It is suspected that the flora in the guts of IBS sufferers may be out of balance, and correcting that balance with a dietary probiotic can decrease symptoms.
Stress reduction is a vital part in prolonging any beneficial effects from treatment. Breathing techniques, meditation, and qigong are just a few things your acupuncturist can advise you on for relaxation.
IBS is a complex condition that requires multiple facets of treatment for best results. Acupuncture, herbs, dietary therapy, and relaxation all contribute to establishing and maintaining your overall health and wellness.