Can Acupuncture help gut issues?.


Restoring Harmony: Can Acupuncture help Gut Issues?


Gut issues like bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and nausea can significantly impact one's quality of life. While conventional treatments are available, many individuals wonder if adjunct therapies like acupuncture, help gut issues. In this blog post, we'll explore the potential benefits of acupuncture in addressing these common digestive concerns, supported by scientific research and expert opinions.


Understanding Gut Issues

  • Bloating: Bloating is characterized by a feeling of fullness, tightness, or distention in the abdomen, often accompanied by excess gas.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and discomfort.
  • Constipation: Constipation involves infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool, often accompanied by straining.
  • Nausea: Nausea is a sensation of queasiness or the urge to vomit, which can be triggered by various factors.


How Acupuncture help Gut Issues

  1. Regulating the Nervous System: Acupuncture can help regulate the autonomic nervous system, which controls digestive functions. This can lead to improved gut motility and function.
  2. Alleviating Inflammation: Studies have shown that acupuncture can have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be beneficial for conditions like IBS. (Ref: Liu, H. R., & Wang, X. M. (2017). Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 23(3), 153-161.)
  3. Balancing Gut Microbiota: Emerging research suggests that acupuncture may influence the gut microbiota composition, which plays a crucial role in digestive health.
  4. Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. This can have a positive impact on gut function.

Research Studies

Acupuncture + Bloating

Multiple studies have shown that acupuncture can alleviate bloating symptoms. A trial with 53 patients found that acupuncture improved abdominal distention, bloating, and belching among IBS patients . Ref: Lu XF, et al. Electroacupuncture for patients with refractory functional dyspepsia: A randomized controlled trial. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Aug 28;21(32):9631-8.

Acupuncture + IBS

A recent meta-analysis of 28 randomised controlled trials involving 3,708 IBS patients concluded that acupuncture could effectively relieve IBS symptoms, improving quality of life and overall well-being. Ref: Shi, C., et al. (2020). Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. BMJ Open, 10(9), e037806.

Some theories suggest acupuncture stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanisms, including the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation, and aiding digestion. Ref: Chao, G., & Zhang, S. (2014). Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20(7), 1871-1877.

Acupuncture + Abdominal pain

Another systematic review of 19 randomised controlled trials demonstrated that electro-acupuncture and manual acupuncture significantly reduced abdominal pain intensity and improved quality of life compared to a control group. Ref: Lee, M. S., et al. (2010). Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Journal of Pain, 26(5), 389-396.

Overall, the current scientific research suggests that acupuncture may provide a beneficial treatment option for people experiencing digestive discomfort, such as bloating and IBS. However, further research is necessary to investigate the use of acupuncture for different types of digestive concerns.


Chinese Medicine approaches for Gut Health

The ways we use Acupuncture to manage digestive symptoms, include working with various organs and their associated channels or meridians, including:

  • The Stomach & Spleen: Seen in CM as the main seat of digestion, receiving and processing of food. The "Digestive fire" is part of the Stomach and relating to stomach acid, enzymes and breaking down of food. The Spleen function is more about transformation and transportation of nutrients from the Stomach processes.
  • The Small Intestine: Sorting the turbid from the clear - meaning the refining processes of the gut, including absorption, reactivity to certain foods relating to gut wall and lining.
  • The Large Intestine: Waste disposal - elimination processes, bowel movements and stool types.
  • The Liver: Toxin processing including drugs, medications, enzyme production, bile production and hormone metabolism. The Liver has over 500 "jobs" to do!

    After assessing a client's pulse, tongue, asking questions and making a Chinese Medicine pattern diagnosis, we often select acupoints on these channels or meridians. An example would be well known points such as Stomach 36 (Zu San Li), Pericardium 6 (Nei Guan) or Large Intestine 4 (He Gu) to activate change and homeostasis in digestion.

Clinical study on Acupressure on Pericardium 6 for Nausea

Personalised Treatment Plans

Acupuncture offers a holistic approach to addressing gut issues, providing natural relief from symptoms like bloating, IBS, constipation, and nausea. It's important to note that acupuncture is most effective when tailored to individual needs. Consulting an AHPRA registered acupuncturist, experienced in treating digestive issues is crucial for creating a personalised treatment plan.

If you're on Sydney's Northern Beaches such as Manly, Seaforth, Balgowlah or further up the peninsula like Mona Vale and Pittwater, I have two clinic locations for clients to make appointments. You can book online here.

Other posts about Digestion:

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Fatty Liver

Chinese herbs for bloating, reflux and constipation

Acupuncture help gut issues

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