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Can acupuncture treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Can acupuncture treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Yes it can.  A number of studies have been conducted on treating IBS with Chinese medicine, especially in China. These studies have documented that Chinese medicine successfully treated IBS in an effective, safe, and drug-free way.

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is also known as Spastic Colon or Mucus Colitis.  It is a motility disorder (involving abnormal movement) of the small and large intestines.  Symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, often in alternating episodes. IBS may also be accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems, such as flatulence, bloating, and nausea.  Symptoms tend to be aggravated by eating, and are frequently relieved after a bowel movement.  An estimated 10-20% of all Americans are affected by symptoms of IBS, and three times as many women are affected than are men.

Currently, the cause of IBS is unknown, however, it is known what does not cause IBS. IBS is not a structural problem, meaning there is no anatomical change, nor is it biochemical or infectious in nature.  Researchers are exploring the theory that there are direct links between the brain and the gut, which would explain why many flare-ups of IBS are affected by emotional upsets or stress.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, IBS is considered a disharmony between the Liver and the Spleen.  The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of substances throughout the body.  This flow can be upset by emotions or stress, causing stagnation of Qi (energy) or blood.  The Spleen in Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with the function of digestion and transforming food into energy (Qi and Blood).  The Spleen can be weakened by a number of factors, including overeating unhealthy foods, overwork, too much worry, fatigue, and lack of exercise.  When the Spleen is weak and Liver Qi is not moving smoothly, a number of other conditions can arise that manifest as symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  

Practitioners of Acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine may use a variety of modalities to correct a Liver/Spleen disharmony.  They may use acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary therapy and lifestyle changes to facilitate healing of this condition.

About the Acupuncturist:
Lynn Jaffee, LAc, Dipl. OM, MaOM is a licensed acupuncturist.  Her practice is located in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Website:

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