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.