Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Constipation
Historically acupuncture has been used for digestive complaints for more than 2000 years. In the classic book Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen digestive complaints are referenced many times including approaches to treatment. In more recent times a body of evidence is developing about the efficacy of acupuncture in treating certain bowel conditions and symptoms. Acupuncture was reported as effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and also constipation.
IBS, constipation and Digestive symptoms
Around one in five Australians experiences the unpleasant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some time. IBS is characterised by abdominal pain, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhoea. It seems that people with IBS have sensitive bowels that are easily ‘upset’. More women than men are prone to IBS, and symptoms tend to first occur in early adulthood. The cause is unknown, but environmental factors such as changes of routine, emotional stress, infection and diet can trigger an attack (1). Other digestive symptoms people may experince are Crohns disease, colitis, bloating and allergies.
Constipation is the passing of hard, dry bowel motions (stools) that may be infrequent or difficult to pass. Constipation can be both chronic and acute. The most common causes of constipation include a change in routine, not enough fibre in the daily diet, not enough fluids and lack of exercise. Constipation is also common in those who are pregnant and those who are advancing in age (2).
IBS and Constipation Acupuncture Research
The effect of acupuncture, or otherwise upon digestive health was investigated as part of the Acupuncture Evidence Project . Irritable bowel syndrome and constipation were identified in this project as showing the potentially positive effect of acupuncture with moderate to good evidence to support it (3).
- IBS - The acupuncture evidence project upgraded acupuncture as having a potentially postive effect upon IBS due to a release of a high quality study in 2016 (4) showing Acupuncture was superior to usual care on IBS symptom severity score at 6, 9 and 12 months but not at 24 months. Previously the 2014 USVA review the evidence was unclear (5).
- Constipation - In the USVA evidence of acupuncture map, constipation reported potential positive effect of acupuncture. The RCTs comparing acupuncture treatment with patients taking lactulose or Folium Sennae reported statistically significant benefits in favour of acupuncture but no pooled effect was reported to estimate the size of the acupuncture treatment effect (6).
Our Melbourne Acupuncture Clinic
When working with you, we begin by looking at everything going on with you and your body. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine look at the mind and body as a whole. We will ask about your digestion and diet, how certain foods, emotions time of day etc affect your symptoms. We will also ask what you do that may help or hinder these symptoms. We then review other aspects of your health like your activities, sleep quality, muscle pain and energy levels. After feeling your pulse and looking at your tongue we will then decide upon a course of treatment that will be discussed with you. At Coburg Chinese medicine we support an integrative and inclusive approach to treatment.
Based in Melbourne, the Coburg Clinic services people from Coburg and surrounding Northern suburbs such as Brunswick, Pascoe Vale, Preston, Fawkner, Thornbury, Northcote. If you wish to discuss how acupuncture can assist you call us on 03 9041 656.
Call us on ☎ (03) 9041 6569 to arrange an appointment or book online below
1. Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. (2014). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].
2. Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. (2014). Constipation. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/constipation [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].
3. McDonald, John & Janz, Stephen. (2016). The Acupuncture Evidence Project : A Comparative Literature Review (Revised). Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association Ltd, Coorparoo
4. MacPherson H, Tilbrook H, Agbedjro D, Buckley H, Hewitt C, Frost C. Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: 2-year follow-up of a randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2016 Mar 15.
5. Hempel S, Taylor SL, Solloway MR, et al. Evidence Map of Acupuncture [Internet]. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2014 Jan. EVIDENCE MAP OF ACUPUNCTURE FOR WELLNESS. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK185070/