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Acupuncture and IBS – IBS is a manageable gastrointestinal disease that affects a wide spectrum of people. The disease, which affects the large intestines, causes abdominal pains, gas bloating, cramping and constipation or diarrhea (and in some cases both). It is a chronic condition that can be managed to allow patients to carry on with their normal daily activities. It has been 150 years since the disease was discovered. Recent scientific developments have revealed a lot about the disorder, which was once enigmatic to the medical community.

An American College of Gastroentology review conducted by Brandt LJ et al. (2009) defines IBS as a disorder characterized by abdominal pain as well as discomfort that cannot be described as pain. IBS symptoms rarely turn severe. In most cases, the symptoms appear mild and calm down even without treatment. Severe cases of IBS can be treated through counseling and medication. When they do flare up, the symptoms can put the patient through hours of pain and discomfort. IBS also affects bowel movements, which can greatly disrupt your daily routine.

Fortunately acupuncture and Chinese herbs have a proven track record of success dealing with irritable bowel syndrome. Before we delve into some of the research and case studies let’s take a closer look at this disease.

Prevalence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS

IBS affects many people at some point in their life. Findings by Saito YA et al. (2002) show that 10% to 15% of adults in America are affected by the disease. Maxion-Bergemann S et al. (2006) found that the disease is a leading reason for absenteeism in schools and workplaces. The disease is known to affect more women than men.

Symptoms of IBS

Everybody experiences some trouble going to the bathroom at some point. In the case of IBS, the symptoms can be debilitating and very uncomfortable. Symptoms of the condition vary for different people, and the most common include;

· Bloating
· Gas
· Bloating, abdominal pain and cramps often subside after passing bowel movements
· Diarrhea
· White or clear mucus present in stool
· Constipation
· Urgent bowel movements that feel incomplete and are difficult to pass

Causes of IBS

The medical community does not fully understand what causes IBS. While studying the treatment methods available for the condition, Lembo AJ et al. (2009) uncovered the following symptoms;

· Visceral paresthesia
· Disturbance of the smooth muscles of the intestine
· Intestinal motility
· Changes in the brain-gut axis
· Gastrointestinal hormones
· Psychological factors
· Intestinal infections

The condition is known to affect people of all ages. Rey E and Talley NJ (2009) point out certain factors identified as being triggers of the disease;

· Certain early life events
· Hereditary factors
· Psychosocial conditions
· Diet

Variants of IBS

IBS presents itself in different ways. Moreover, the disease is often accompanied by other conditions that in many cases occur by chance, causing a misdiagnosis. Some conditions that may affect the patient during such times include genito-urinary symptoms, headache, gastro-esophageal reflux, fibromyalgia, psychological symptoms and backache.

IBS patients can be classified into those who experience diarrhea (IBS-D) or constipation (IBS-C) predominantly. Another class of patients experiences alternating stool patterns. This type of IBS is known as IBS-A. Unstable defecation and abdominal pain are present for all types of IBS. Drossman DA et al. (2000).

Western treatments for IBS

The condition has no outright cure, even though science has made many headways in helping patients live with it. Most patients just need a change of diet to get them back to their normal way of life. In other cases, serotonin dysregulation medication can be used together with counseling to help the patient get better. Immune activation has also proven effective in treating the condition.

One of the most common alternative treatments for IBS is acupuncture, a mainstay in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Acupuncture and IBS – the research

A clinical trial carried out by Rahmatollah Rafiei et al. (2014) tested how well acupuncture could treat the symptoms of IBS. The study involved a small group of 60 IBS patients who were split into 3 groups. The three groups received acupuncture sessions for a span of 2 weeks. Though it used a few participants, the study showed significantly positive results for symptoms associated with IBS.

In another study comparing sham acupuncture to real therapy, Lembo AJ et al. (2009) carried out tests on a group of 230 adults affected by IBS. The treatment went for 3 weeks, in which subjects underwent 6 sessions. The two groups of patients showed progress in healing, but the acupuncture groups had a slightly higher rate of improvement. The study led the researchers to conclude that acupuncture produced better results when used to treat IBS.

Guan-Qun Chao and Shuo Zhang (2014) reviewed studies conducted on the control of IBS using acupuncture with the aim of establishing whether the practice was viable. The review included 6 studies that passed a stringent criterion. In the review, it was established that acupuncture has significant statistical and clinical evidence supporting its effectiveness in the management of the problem.

A study carried out by Eric Manheimer et al. (2012) showed that Chinese trials reported more patients benefiting from acupuncture than two medical drugs known to offer relief for IBS, namely trimebutine maleate and pinaverium bromide. The study needs to be backed by more of its kind to cement the findings.

Though it can be hard to deal with, this disease is not life-threatening. Most people who experience it don’t know that they do until they have a really bad flare up of symptoms. Those suffering from the disease are normally urged to change certain aspects of their life or consider alternative methods of treatment. Though acupuncture has not gone mainstream as a treatment for IBS, all indicators show that, due to its effectiveness, it’s only a matter of time before its application explodes.

We have had tremendous success at Boca Raton Acupuncture treating IBS – Irritable Bowel Disorder. With a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and sound nutritional guidance, we have helped many rid themselves of the symptoms of this condition. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.




  • A new acupuncture method for management of irritable bowel syndrome: A randomized double blind clinical trial. Rahmatollah Rafiei, Mehdi Ataie, Mohammad Arash Ramezani, Ali Etemadi, Behrooz Ataei, Hamidreza Nikyar, and Saman Abdoli 2014
  • A TREATMENT TRIAL OF ACUPUNCTURE IN IBS PATIENTS. Anthony J. Lembo, MD, Lisa Conboy, ScD, John M. Kelley, PhD, Rosa S Schnyer, Claire McManus, Mary T. Quilty, Catherine E. Kerr, PhD, Eric E. Jacobson, PhD, Roger B Davis, ScD, and Ted J. Kaptchuk. 2009
  • Acupuncture for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Eric Manheimer, Ke Cheng, L. Susan Wieland, Li Shih Min, Xueyong Shen, Brian M Berman, and Lixing Lao. 2012
  • Drossman DA, Corazziari E, Talley NJ, Thompson WG, Whitehead WE. Rome II: The Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: Diagnosis, Pathophysiology, and Treatment: A Multinational Consensus. 2nd ed. McLean, VA: Degnon Associates; 2000.
  • Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis. Guan-Qun Chao and Shuo Zhang. 2014
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: novel views on the epidemiology and potential risk factors.
  • Rey E, Talley NJ, Dig Liver Dis. 2009 Nov; 41(11):772-80.