Irritable bowel syndrome or, as it’s more commonly known, IBS, is a disorder of the large intestine. Symptoms of the disease include diarrhea, constipation, pain in the lower abdomen, and bloating. IBS can even cause anxiety and depression, heart palpitations, and headaches. Though it is not life-threatening, IBS can severely diminish–as those with the disease can testify–quality of life. By no means an uncommon illness, IBS makes up about 25-35% of all scheduled visits to gastroenterologists. No cure is yet available, but most people with the disease can control their symptoms by making changes to their lifestyles and eating habits and managing their stress levels. Doctors often prescribe medication as a part of traditional IBS treatment regimens, as well. But for those who don’t want to add to the amount of medication they are taking, it is possible to find a safe and effective alternative in acupuncture.
IBS is not an inflammatory disease like Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, the symptoms of which can lead to colorectal cancer, but IBS is a chronic affliction, therefore those with the disease must take measures to manage their symptoms. Fortunately, only a small fraction of individuals suffering from IBS encounter the most severe signs and symptoms. Those with mild symptoms can easily regain a pain-free life.
One of the first things that you need to understand about IBS is that treatment and diagnosis are not “one size fits all,” so talk to a specialist to find out what path is best for you. There is, for instance, a distinct difference in treatments offered by Western and Eastern medical practitioners. In Western medicine, both lower abdominal pain IBS and non-ulcer dyspepsia IBS are treated in much the same way: a combination of anti-spasmodic and anti-diarrhea medication. Some women with the disease are even advised to undergo hormone replacement therapy. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine take a different approach and treat the ailment on a case-by-case basis. Acupuncture is one of the most efficacious forms of Eastern medicine used to treat IBS.
Studies have shown that using acupuncture to treat IBS is more than just a passing trend. A 2001 study examined how well acupuncture compares to, traditional medicine. The study’s organizers divided 25 patients into two groups, treating Group A with acupuncture and Group B with traditional medicine. Group A showed “clear and significant improvement” of all symptoms and abdominal pain. Another study, published in 2009 by Lembo, et al. in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, examined a three-week treatment plan of acupuncture, comparing it against “sham acupuncture” (a placebo type utilized in these studies) in 230 adult patients. Using the IBS Global Improvement Scale to measure the fall in patient symptoms, the study showed that nearly all members of the acupuncture group showed improvement in symptoms.
IBS is best treated using a combination of methods. Patients with IBS may also find that making changes to their diet can lead to better digestion and less pain. Eating smaller meals–ideally five to six times per day–may result in fewer symptoms. Avoiding meals that are high in fat can also improve digestion. Breakfast is the most likely meal to stimulate the colon, so eating a well-balanced breakfast every day is critical for those with IBS. Avoiding insoluble fiber, coffee, caffeine, chocolate, and nuts can also save you from experiencing symptoms. By keeping to your diet and getting acupuncture treatment for your IBS, you will begin to see improvement in your condition in no time.
If you or someone you know suffers from IBS, know that acupuncture can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Call the Longevity Acupuncture team to find out how scheduling an appointment can help you manage your IBS symptoms. Start living a better life. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Litman today.