How to treat IBS with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Written for Doctify by Dr Tiejun Tang
When you have IBS, going out for a simple meal can be a nightmare. Discomfort and pain, not to mention the social stigma, can lead to insecurity, depression and fatigue. And to top it all off, its a chronic condition, meaning there is no real cure.
In spite of this, the symptoms of IBS can often be managed. Dr Tiejun Tang, acupuncturist and expert in Chinese medicine, is here to offer some help in treating this condition.
So, what actually is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic disease. IBS occurs in 10-20% of the population in the UK, but this percentage is thought to be higher than this as many people with the disorder do not seek medical advice.
If you often have unexplained diarrhoea and /or constipation accompanied by abdominal pain and stressed mood, you may suffer from IBS, and should contact your GP. IBS diagnosis is often confirmed by exclusion using stools test, blood test and colonoscopy results.
What are the common ways of treating it?
Western medicine usually focuses on the symptoms for IBS patients. Antispasmodics can relieve abdominal pain and cramping and antimotility agents can relieve diarrhoea. Laxatives can relieve constipation and anti-depressants can relieve stressed moods.
All of these medicines only can release symptoms temporarily. It is difficult to cure the root causes of IBS. Many patients have to live with IBS for several years.
What does Chinese Medicine suggest?
According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, depression and stressed mood are caused by liver qi stagnation, while diarrhoea and constipation are due to spleen deficiency. For the unversed in Chinese medicine, “qi” is life-giving energy.
If emotional stimulation triggers the diarrhoea, the Chinese medicine diagnosis would be “the liver is restricting the spleen” or “there is disharmony between liver and spleen”. As a result, the treatment principle for this condition would be be dispersing the depressed liver and benefiting the spleen.
The basic, classic formula is Sini San, a prescription which has more than 1700 years of history as a diarrhoea treatment. Alternatively, you also can use modified Senling Baizhu San and Tongxie YaoFang in individual cases, according to patient’s symptoms.
How does it work?
Pharmacological research has been done to investigate the effects of Sini San and fluoxetine on the levels of central and peripheral 5-HT (also known as “seratonin receptors”) in a rat model of depression. The result showed that, after eight weeks, Sini San treatment appeared at least as effective as fluoxetine.
It suggested Sini San can replace fluoxetine in the later stages of depression treatment to minimise side effects of this anti-depressant. In another report, it showed Shenling Baizhu San suppresses colitis associated colorectal cancer through inhibition of epithelial-mesenchymal transition and myeloid-derived suppressor infiltration.
Baishaoyao (Paeonia lactiflora Pall) is a common ingredient of these three formulas. In-vitro and in-vivo studies showed it has a beneficial effect of Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulation. With regard to the pathophysiology of IBS, a recent report indicated that low-grade mucosal inflammation and immune activation were involved.
So, what is the upshot?
Based on thousand years clinical experience of Chinese medicine and modern scientific research, we have enough reasons to try Chinese medicine in IBS treatment.
IBS is often improved by acupuncture and moxibustion if a good protocol is selected. Although there is much evidence indicating that acupuncture works well on IBS, unfortunately NICE did not recommend acupuncture in their clinical guidance. Maybe their decision based on different treatment protocols.
The advantage of TCM is to combine herbs and needles. The treatment effect of herbs and acupuncture can enhance each other. Chinese medicines tend to cure the disease from the root and not just control the symptoms.
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If you have been affected by anything mentioned here and want to know more, contact Dr Tang below.