Acupuncture for Digestion
Angie O’Sullivan, L.Ac. specializes in digestive health. She has developed a keen interest in treating digestive disorders over the years of working with patients and searching for solutions to her own health challenges. In working with various different health care practitioners, including Naturopathic Doctors and Energy Healers, Angie continues to learn more about the various approaches to restoring optimal digestive health and is committed to bringing this knowledge to her practice.
Below is a list of common gastrointestinal conditions we frequently treat in our practice. If you do not see your complaint listed here, please give us a call to discuss your health care concerns.
- ABDOMINAL BLOATING, CRAMPING, GENERAL DISCOMFORT & PAIN
- NAUSEA & VOMITING
- CONSTIPATION (acute & chronic)
- DIARRHEA (acute & chronic)
- IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
- GASTRO-ESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD)
- CROHN’S DISEASE
- ULCERATIVE COLITIS
- DIVERTICULOSIS & DIVERTICULITIS
- GALL STONES
ABDOMINAL BLOATING, CRAMPING, GENERAL DISCOMFORT & PAIN
Bloating, cramping, and abdominal pain are common complaints in our practice. These symptoms are frequently manifestations of one or more of the issues listed below, so read on if they apply to you. Women also commonly experience digestive irregularities and discomfort before or during their menstrual cycles, which can be eased significantly by regular Acupuncture care.
NAUSEA & VOMITING
Nausea and vomiting are possibly some of the most unpleasant symptoms to experience. They can render the sufferer quite miserable – in acute cases with their all-consuming severity, and, in chronic cases, with the unremitting sense of un-wellness they produce. Causes are varied, but treatments are quite similar. We primarily work with chronic cases in our practice, as patients dealing with acute bouts of nausea and vomiting are usually either too ill to come into our office and/or require Western medical care (e.g rehydration or medication).
The main causes of chronic nausea and vomiting include pregnancy, gastritis, peptic ulcers, systemic candida (yeast) infections, and medications, including chemotherapy and radiation. After having felt lousy day in and day out, our patients are extremely grateful for the relief that Acupuncture treatments provide them. In order to support them between treatments, we often send our patients home with tiny press-needles that are embedded into the skin and continue to stimulate the Acupressure points that will help them feel better. We also have lots of dietary tips that can help. Staying well-hydrated and keeping your blood sugar levels steady is key!
CONSTIPATION (acute & chronic)
Constipation is inconvenient at best and extremely uncomfortable, if not painful, at worst. It may be an acute symptom, e.g. as a result of traveling and interrupting your regular routine and diet, or it may be a chronic condition, which may give rise to other issues. For some, these issues are limited to bloating, discomfort, and gas, while, for others, the toxins that are being reabsorbed into the system with ongoing constipation may lead to symptoms such as chronic headaches or migraines, acne, or hemorrhoids that result from straining.
When we treat constipation, we look at the underlying root cause and aim to correct it. For some, there is an insufficiency of Qi with resulting inability to move the stool. For others, there is a stagnation of Qi. Their stools may look bitty, like “goat stools.” For others yet, there is a deficiency of fluids, making the stools dry and hard and difficult, if not painful, to pass. In the first case, we would tonify Qi. In the second, move stagnant Qi. In the last case, we would choose points and herbs to lubricate the intestines. The point is that what may sound like the same issue in three different people may require a completely different approach for resolution for each one of them. We will also want to look at the patient’s diet and eliminate any foods contributing to the imbalance. Lactose-intolerance or other food sensitivities may be a factor.
DIARRHEA (acute & chronic)
Just like constipation, diarrhea can be acute or chronic. And, as with nausea and vomiting, we tend to see the more chronic cases in our practice. The common presentation ranges from loose stools to persistent diarrhea with blood and mucus. In severe cases, we always recommend checking with your medical doctor. Once you have been cleared of anything that would require further medical attention or are already under the care of a medical doctor, we can help to alleviate the symptoms and discomfort of even the most severe cases.
Both constipation and diarrhea are common manifestations of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (see below).
Hemorrhoids are not a topic most people feel all that comfortable discussing, but letting your Acupuncturist know if you experience this problem will be well worth any awkwardness you feel about broaching this subject! The discomfort can be great and may significantly affect the sufferer’s quality of life. With Acupuncture and Moxibustion, we often find marked improvement of acute symptoms after only 1-3 treatments. More regular care can help to address the root imbalance and prevent future flare-ups.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
Most IBS patients have visited countless doctors and undergone endless procedures without receiving much tangible help or relief from their symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can offer a safe, effective, natural and drug-free way to address IBS symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.
Click here to read a more in-depth explanation of IBS and the Chinese Medicine approach to treating it.
GASTRO-ESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD)
What most people do not know is that reflux and heartburn are often caused by too little stomach acid, rather than too much of it, and that antacid drugs can be counter-productive. Of course, this is not the case for everyone. Whatever the source of your issue, we’re here to help you pinpoint and resolve it. We’ll look at patterns according to the Chinese Medical system and offer Acupuncture and herbal therapy. We’ll likely recommend some dietary and lifestyle modifications, as well.
Click here to read a more in-depth explanation of GERD and the Chinese Medicine approach to treating it: (add link to more detailed GERD write-up)
Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks and destroys its own healthy tissue. Many studies have validated Acupuncture’s efficacy in reducing inflammation in the body and modulating the immune system. In conjunction with herbal therapy and dietary modifications, our patients can experience significant improvement.
Visit this website for a helpful overview of Crohn’s Disease.
Similarly to Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory disease of the bowel that can lead to great discomfort, and, in some cases, embarrassing accidents. While Ulcerative Colitis seems to be related to issues with the immune system, it remains unclear whether immune problems are the actual cause of this illness. Symptoms may be triggered by stress or certain foods, though none of these have been shown to be causative factors. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we commonly diagnose a condition called “Damp-Heat in the Intestines,” and our treatments are aimed at clearing the Dampness and Heat from the system, thus bringing down inflammation and alleviating symptoms.
DIVERTICULOSIS & DIVERTICULITIS
Diverticulosis refers to small pouches bulging outward in areas of the colon wall that are weak. This condition is fairly common – 10% of Americans over 40 and about half of all Americans over 60 purportedly have diverticulosis. It is also fairly innocuous, with doctors’ primary recommendation being an increase of fiber intake to keep the stools loose and moving smoothly through the colon.
Diverticulitis occurs when these little outpocketings become inflamed. 10-25% of people with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis. The most common symptom is abdominal pain, and complications include bleeding, infections, small tears (called perforations), or blockages in the colon. It is very important to treat these complications to prevent them from progressing and causing serious illness.
Acupuncture can help to improve bowel motility, thus minimizing the risk of food particles becoming stuck along the way, and, along with a high-fiber diet and avoidance of aggravating foods – such as nuts, popcorn, and many types of seeds – can help to keep the illness from progressing and minimize inflammation and pain.
Doctors nowadays are often quick to remove the gallbladder surgically if there is any indication that it may pose a problem – even down the line. While there are certainly cases in which surgery is required and in the patient’s best interest, many patients with mild gallbladder disease could prevent an invasive surgical procedure by seeking alternative treatment and implementing dietary changes. If stones are small enough (less than 1 cm in diameter – verified by ultrasound), Acupuncture and herbal therapy can help to break them up and flush them out of the system.