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The occasional bout of mild cramping, coupled with an urgency to use the bathroom is usually not a reason to worry, especially the morning after an overly-indulgent, or extra spicy dinner. However, severe abdominal cramping coupled with frequent diarrhea may be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBD is the name of a group of chronic diseases which can damage any part of the digestive tract, causing distressing systems and inconveniences. Diseases include Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, collagenous colitis and lymphocyte colitis.

The following symptoms are common with most types of IBD:

  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • abdominal pain
  • cramping
  • bloody stool
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Ulcerative colitis is a continuous inflammation of the innermost layer of the large intestine and rectum, which results in sores and ulcerations. Crohn's disease also occurs in the large intestine, but in a different pattern. The inflammation can touch all layers and yet, some areas remain perfectly healthy. The appearance is likened to that of a cobble-stoned street. Collagenous colitis and lymphocyte colitis are relatively rare conditions. They produce watery diarrhea but without the presence of blood. The pain associated with these conditions is generally less than the other IBDs.

The complications of most IBDs includes colon cancer, inflammation of the eyes, skin and joints, liver damage and blood clots. Crohn's disease may contribute to fistulas and malnutrition. Fistulas are abnormal connections between two organs, or any kind of vessel-like structures in the body.  Dehydration and toxic megacolon are complications specific to ulcerative colitis. Toxic megacolon means the colon is enlarged to such a great size as to be an immediate danger.

Battling the symptoms of IBD can be a lifelong challenge. Fortunately, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can help thanks to the hard work of Hua Tuo, an influential physician born in ancient China, in the year 110AD. He made a groundbreaking discovery for the field of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He learned that many powerful acupuncture points exist on the back, all found very close to the spine.

So close in fact, that the names of these acupuncture points reads as 'sides of the spine.' For example, the huatuo jiaji point located at the level of lumbar vertebrae four (L4), translates as 'sides of the spine at L4.' Likewise L5 translates as 'sidesA of the spine at L5.' (Not very poetic, but straight to the point.) Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spinal column.

There are traditionally 34 huatuojiaji points, a pair located on both sides of the thoracic spine down to the lumbar portion. The power of the huatuo jiaji points which can address matters related to IBD, specifically Sides of the Spine at L4 and L5, lie in their ability to directly communicate with and heal the large intestine.

Anatomically, the large intestine resides relatively close to the L4 and L5 huatuojiji points. When needled they can reduce inflammation to address diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and distention, and other signs of IBS. However, the use known as gua sha at these points may also result in significant improvement of symptoms. The technique of gua sha involves 'scraping' the skin with a soft but tough-edged object to produce bruising. This action removes toxins from the bloodstream to allow the immune system to flourish without interference.

It is also important to make wise dietary choices in order to fully manage symptoms of IBD. Avoid any foods which may induce loose stool such as caffeine, alcohol, and fried, greasy and spicy foods. Eating smaller meals will lessen the energy requirements needed by the digestive system. Try opting for 5-6 little bites every couple of hours instead of 2 or 3 large meals per day.

To learn more about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can address symptoms of IBD, contact a practitioner near you for an appointment today.


About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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