Using Acupuncture for Digestive Issues
Digestive disorders are actually one of the easier things to treat with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine—because they respond so QUICKLY!
Quite often internal medicine problems will respond much faster, unlike some musculoskeletal issues that are chronic—which can take time, time to bring down inflammation and time to unwind (so to speak) the muscle tension.
A simple acute stomachache is typically resolved as soon as needles are inserted if not later that same day. We’ve also seen mysterious Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms disappear in just one treatment, even more severe issues like Ulcerative Colitis or any ‘itis (which just means inflammation) can become managed with Chinese medicine in a series of treatments and the proper maintenance.
How Does Chinese Medicine Work to Regulate Inflammation?
First of all, acupuncture is a self-regulating mechanism; whatever the body, or digestive system in this case,needs acupuncture will act as a catalyst to make that happen. If the digestion needs strengthening or harmonizing, or inflammation needs to come down, acupuncture will help facilitate it. Herbal medicine acts as a partner in crime to acupuncture, it helps the body in a different way, making deeper and more subtle changes and helping to continue the work from the big shift of acupuncture.
Both acupuncture and herbal medicine work together synergistically, it’s a beautiful combination of Yin and Yang healing.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Let’s look a little closer at Irritable Bowel Syndrome for an example. The first thing to note is IBS is a coined phrase that actually is less of a diagnosis then it is a description. It’s not exactly an issue of inflammation; otherwise the diagnosis would be gastritis, diverticulitis or colitis. It’s simply an unknown irritation. And since it’s an irritation that tells us it’s not quite an issue that the body has taken ‘ownership’ of, which makes it a perfect ailment where acupuncture and Chinese herbs can really shine and fast!
Acupuncture, like I said earlier, can harmonize and strengthen the system. In this case, it does this by bringing down inflammation and repairing the gut which will result in less irritation. As the patient’s symptoms improve and healing is occurring, foods that were once triggers become tolerated well again. It’s important to note that healing the area from any imbalance instead of masking it with medications is really key in finding the total cure for a patient.
Also, keep in mind IBS can run the gamut. You can have IBS with diarrhea or constipation, so since acupuncture is self-regulating, it doesn’t matter what it is, the body will know what it needs to do. We’ve had hundreds of patients walk through our doors with IBS issues and those same hundreds have walked out feeling better. Also something to note is whenever the body ‘gives’ us a symptom, it’s a warning signal to the brain saying, “Hey, something’s wrong down here!” If that signal doesn’t get the care required or is masked with medications, the signal will eventually get louder. Patients report that when they didn’t take care of an issue soon after it began, they started to see the severity become more intense and more symptoms were added to the picture as time went on.
And finally, with IBS can also come emotional stress. Patients end up depressed or have anxiety over the IBS that they are experiencing. We can also see a lot of fatigue at times associated with IBS. The good news is we can address all these things with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine simultaneously.
Let’s discuss another common digestive issue that may be a little embarrassing, excessive flatulence. Also known as “passing gas”, intestinal gas or farting. Sure, farting is completely common and can be a sign of healthy gut bacteria, but when it’s excessive, we would say it is a problem and a sign of a deeper imbalance. For fun, here’s what makes up a fart– 59 percent nitrogen, 21 percent hydrogen, 9 percent carbon dioxide, 7 percent methane and 4 percent oxygen. Only about one percent of a fart contains hydrogen sulfide gas and mercaptans, which contain sulfur, and the sulfur is what makes farts smelly.
In Chinese medicine if you are farting excessively, it’s possible you suffer from small intestine qi stagnation.
Etiology of Small Intestine Patterns
The Small Intestine relies on Spleen Yang for transformation of food, and uses Kidney Yang in its transformation of fluids. Because of this, several patterns of the Small Intestine are linked to Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency.
Diet and Nutrition
Excess Cold and raw food can cause Cold to accumulate in the Small Intestine. Excess hot and spicy foods can cause heat to accumulate.
The Small Intestine is indirectly affected by emotions such as anger that cause Liver Qi to stagnate.
There may or may not be other symptoms accompanied with small intestine qi stagnation, some we’ve seen in the past is inconsistent abdominal pain, digestive inconsistency and/or fatigue. Fatigue, in this case, is possibly caused by the digestive system not being able to break down its food properly. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine and some supplementation in this case can certainly play a role in supporting your digestion to work smoother and more efficiently.
Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
Lastly, let’s a take a quick look at some more severe issues called Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. These are chronic issues in the body and long-term inflammation is certainly the cause for both of them. In both, ulcers are created in the deeper pockets of the intestines. In UC these ulcers are typically in the colon, where Crohn’s can appear anywhere in the intestinal tract.
Where there is inflammation, there is heat and with these two issues—lots of it! With acupuncture and some special Chinese herbs, we can bring down the heat in the intestines and that brings down the inflammation and that provides a space for healing to occur. Since UC or Crohn’s are both chronic, it takes time. Think of it this way, these diseases or state of dis-ease as we like to say didn’t happen overnight, it took time for the intestines to have that excessive amount of inflammation, heat or imbalance. And it takes time to rewind that issue. That being said, our patients see lots of improvement, albeit sometimes a little slower. But then Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Here’s an interesting research study done in China that showed the efficacy of acupuncture and Chinese herbs on Ulcerative Colitis.
From the occasional stomachache to the more serious issues of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine works! If you are still not sure and wanting to talk to one of us about your individual needs we do offer complimentary consultations, please contact us by email Christina@berkeley-acupuncture.com and we can set you up with one of our wonderful acupuncturists!