Look after your bowel with acupuncture

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by chronic or recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort, which is associated with disturbed bowel function and feelings of abdominal distention and bloating. The prevalence of IBS reaches up to 10% globally and affects all age groups. It is associated with a significant reduction in health-related quality of life. IBS is caused by multiple factors, including intestinal motility and intestinal smooth muscle functional disturbance, visceral paresthesia, alterations in the brain-gut axis, psychological factors, gastrointestinal hormones, and intestinal infection. This condition is not life-threatening, but leads to significant impairment of health-related quality of life, which causes physical role limitations as well as pain and a lower perception of general health. There is no universally accepted satisfactory treatment for this condition. No drug is effective in treating all the symptoms of IBS. Very recently, A study has analysed existing data and suggested that acupuncture improves the symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain and distension, sensation of incomplete defecation, times of defecation per day, and state of stool. No serious adverse events associated with acupuncture. Acupuncture might modulate pain in IBS by two actions: (1) modulation of serotonin pathway at insula; and (2) modulation of mood and affection in the higher cortical center via the ascending pathway at the pulvinar and medial nucleus of the thalamus (3) Improvement in pain in IBS was positively associated with increased parasympathetic tone in the acupuncture group. They suggested that acupuncture exhibits clinically and statistically significant control of IBS symptoms.

There was lack of standardization of acupuncture treatments for patients with IBS. A study on 113 patients with IBS has shown that 126 acupuncture points used, a distinct core and supporting group of points was associated with each primary pattern and each practitioner also utilized a distinct core and supporting group of points that reflected his/her preferences.

Recently a clinical trial was performed to study the effect of acupuncture on patients with IBS. In this study, 12 weeks of acupuncture was offered on weekly basis. The result has shown that there was a statistically significant difference between groups at three months favouring acupuncture with a reduction in IBS Symptom Severity Score. The number needed to treat for successful treatment was six, based on 49% success in the acupuncture group vs. 31% in the control group, a difference between groups of 18%. This benefit largely persisted at 6, 9 and 12 months.

Chao and Zhang World Gastroenterol (2014) 20:1871-7
Stuardi T and MacPherson H J Altern Complment Med (2012) 18:1021-7
MacPherson H et al BMC Gastroenterol (2012) 12:150

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