There’s good news for the more than 95 million Americans who suffer from digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as more serious disorders, such as acid reflux (GERD), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Treatment with acupuncture and herbal medicine, described as early as 3 AD in medical literature, can be an effective, healthy, and reasonable alternative or adjunct to conventional treatment.
According to Oriental medicine, most digestive problems occur when the spleen and stomach are not in balance, and the spleen cannot effectively convert digested food from the stomach into nutrients and energy (Qi). The goal of Oriental medicine is to restore the harmony and strengthen the functioning of the digestive system. After examining a person’s constitution and symptoms, a customized treatment plan is developed that may include acupuncture, lifestyle/dietary recommendations, herbal medicine, and exercise.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine have proven effective in treating a wide range of digestive disorders, from troublesome and temporary to serious and chronic.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affecting the lining of the large intestine. It occurs when the body mistakes food or other substances as a danger. While medical researchers don’t know the exact cause of the disease, they do know that flare-ups can be caused by stress, infections and even some anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. The symptoms and their duration vary: many patients’ symptoms are minimal or moderate but others’ can be life-threatening, such as severe dehydration and extreme bleeding from the colon.
A research team at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine published a study comparing the use of acupuncture versus a pharmaceutical for treating IBD in the 2013 issue of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a peer-reviewed medical journal covering alternative medicine). After analyzing various trials, researchers concluded that acupuncture and moxibustion (an herbal treatment) were more effective than the pharmaceutical in treating IBD. Many of these trials were specific for ulcerative colitis.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Affecting 10 to 20 percent of adults at some point in their lives, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) used to be referred to as “spastic colon.” Its symptoms, which vary and change over time, may include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, fatigue, and headaches. Triggers include some foods, stress, and other irritants.
Crohn’s Disease can cause chronic inflammation anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the rectum tissue is found in the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon.
Because it’s so difficult to cure Crohn’s, treatment focuses on managing its symptoms, usually with medication, special diet, and some times surgery. Like ulcerative colitis and IBS, symptoms are not constant – there are flare-ups. Its many symptoms can include persistent diarrhea, anal bleeding, constipation, abdominal cramping or pain, loss of appetite and/or weight, fatigue, mental and physical developmental delays, fever, night sweats, or irregular menstrual cycle. Crohn’s disease can be life-threatening, especially when there are ruptures in the lining of the rectum and fistulas.
A study called Acupuncture Helps Crohn’s Disease Patients, published in the journal World of Gastroenterology, concluded that “acupuncture provided significant therapeutic benefits in patients with active Crohn’s Disease beyond the placebo effect and is therefore an effective and safe treatment.” Researchers also reported an improvement in both lab and quality of life scores indicating that acupuncture and herbal medicine help manage the disease’s symptoms, both physical and emotional.
According to some estimates, more than 20% of the general population suffers from acid reflux, once called heartburn. Asthmatic children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Symptoms range from a burning pain in the chest to a sour taste in the mouth and even difficulty swallowing. Severe symptoms can feel like a heart attack, and the disease can cause bleeding in the stomach.
If you or a loved one is experiencing digestive difficulties, my associates and I can provide a safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive treatment of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle/nutritional counseling tailored to your needs.
Please call Coral Gables Acupuncture at 305.446.3009, or Schedule an appointment for an initial consultation with me or one of my associates. Our office is easily accessible from anywhere in Miami-Dade County, with patients coming from Wynwood, Downtown, Brickell, Coral Gables, South Miami, Cocoplum, Pinecrest and Key Biscayne.
This article was edited by Dr. Steve Chasens, Acupuncture Physician at Coral Gables Acupuncture. Dr. Chasens studied Acupuncture in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. He was nationally Board Certified in Acupuncture from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 1996. Dr. Chasens received his Diplomat of Chinese Herbal Medicine from the National Board Certification in Chinese Herbology in 1997. Dr. Chasens has presented numerous community lectures throughout Miami-Dade County, and widely recognized as the best and brightest mind in Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine in Miami and surrounding areas.