Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Is your gut giving you trouble?

Does the dreaded diarrhea prevent you from living the life you desire? Has constipation got you cranky? Is bloating make you want to bust your belt?

Fear not—acupuncture can help with IBS!

 What is IBS exactly?

  • IBS is considered a functional disorder. This means that the intestines aren’t functioning properly, although there is no evidence of a structural abnormality.
  • It’s not just in your head! Even though tests may indicate nothing is “wrong,” IBS is a very real physiological disorder—not merely a psychosomatic ailment, as once believed. 
  • Some think IBS is a disorder of the enteric nervous system. The gut has its own nerve supply, sometimes referred to as the brain in the gut. With IBS, pain perception is altered, and the bowel becomes over sensitive to otherwise benign stimuli, such as caffeine, various foods, or a simple change in routine.

What are the symptoms associated with IBS?

Symptoms are varied and may include:

  • Frequent and loose stools that may occur with or without abdominal pain
  • Relief of pain after a bowel movement
  • Sense of incomplete evacuation
  • Mucus in the stools
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Constant pressure or abdominal pain
  • Irregular bowel habits
  • Constipation with or without pain
  • Pain with bowel movements
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea

Additional symptoms that may accompany IBS include:

  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor nutrient absorption

How do I know if I have IBS?

The diagnosis is one of elimination. This means that other diseases with similar symptoms must be ruled out one by one to establish a diagnosis of IBS.

Your doctor will likely order stool samples, blood tests, and X-rays. A gastrointestinal specialist will usually perform a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to check the colon for any suspicious growths or abnormalities. You may also be tested for lactose-intolerance and celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder in which the body cannot break down gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.

If test results are negative, your doctor may diagnose irritable bowel syndrome based on a list of criteria indicative of IBS.

Possible causes of IBS:

The exact cause of IBS remains unknown, but the following are potential contributing factors:

  • Irregularities in intestinal hormones and nerves responsible for bowel motility (muscle contraction)
  • Bacteria, fungi, or parasites
  • Stress 
  • Dietary inadequacies
  • Food intolerances (allergies and sensitivities)
  • Inadequate enzyme production
  • Dysbiosis, an imbalance in the intestinal flora, i.e. too many harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial ones
  • Reaction to medications, such as destruction of intestinal flora by antibiotics
  • Undiagnosed lactose intolerance

How can TCM/Acupuncture help?

As always, we look at the root imbalance in each individual. For example, out of four patients with a Western medical diagnosis of IBS, we may come to four completely different Chinese medical diagnoses.

TCM patterns frequently observed with IBS and their key symptoms:

  • Stagnant liver qi invading the spleen – irritability, alternating constipation and diarrhea, abdominal distention and pain
  • Spleen and kidney yang deficiency – chronic diarrhea, feeling cold, especially in the back
  • Damp-heat in the lower burner – abdominal pain, diarrhea with mucus and blood in the stools
  • Dryness of the intestines – dry stools that are difficult to pass

In Western medicine, each of these patients may be prescribed the same medication. In TCM, we approach each pattern differently, selecting acupuncture points and herbs accordingly. 

How do women’s hormones affect IBS? 

Women often find that symptoms fluctuate with their cycle. Many female IBS sufferers are more likely to experience flare-ups premenstrually or during their menses, when inflammation kicks up in the body. In that case, we’ll simultaneously work on balancing hormones. 

I often feel anxious or depressed—how does that affect my IBS?

Anxiety and depression can both result from and exacerbate IBS symptoms. Dealing with any kind of chronic health issue is challenging and can take a toll on our mental-emotional wellbeing. Diarrhea can be exacerbated by anxiety, and, conversely, the worry about a bout of diarrhea when no bathroom is near can very well trigger anxiety! Feeling poorly day after day may lead to a sense of defeat—and preexisting depression can slow the motility of the gut. It’s all connected!

Contact us to set up a free online consultation with one of our practitioners to learn about how Lokahi can help you with your Irritable Bowel Syndrome or any gut- related conditions.

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Angel has been great to work with on releasing tension in my back. This is the first acupuncture experience and she has helped me ease into it. The combination of cupping, scrapping, and acupuncture has worked well for me.

S. H.

The acupuncture has given me such relief from the pain. I was able to sleep again and not feel the excruciating nerve pain. Anne Marie Deas has been so awesome treating my back pain, helping with stress, and overall making me feel better. Lokahi is a great clinic so peaceful and calming inside. I highly recommend Lokahi Acupuncture!!!

A. M.

I’ve had many opportunities to have acupuncture here and in China.  It’s been my experience that to have good results, you need to find someone really good, who knows what they’re doing! In the south bay area, I have not found anyone better than Lokahi acupuncturists!!

K. D.

My experience at Lokahi has helped build a sense of confidence in myself that I can manage my condition and continue to live a very rewarding and pain free life.  If you’re contemplating acupuncture services, I highly recommend Ann Marie, and Lokahi in general, as I’m certain everyone who works there is just as wonderful given the reviews I read.

K. S.

I’ve been going to lokahi and to Angel a number of times for athletic muscular soreness, some joint pain, deep painful knots etc. I used to visit a chiro and sometimes that worked but was always painful during and many days after. Acupuncture doesn’t hurt and Angel has excellent touch. I don’t know how acupuncture works but it works so I keep going. Highly recommended.

Y. U.

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