Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. It is labeled a syndrome because it involves a group of symptoms that vary for each individual affected. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. One characteristic that is frustrating for many is that this syndrome is not associated with any abnormalities seen on routine clinical testing.
IBS is to some extent an umbrella diagnosis, as the experience of IBS can differ widely from person to person. Acupuncturists take time to learn about the unique signs and symptoms that each person is experiencing, and use this information to create an individualized treatment plan. In addition to yielding better results faster, patients also report feeling heard and understood, some for the first time. This is an important aspect of the Five Element tradition, and one that is at the core of why it is so powerful and effective.
How acupuncture works
Physiologically, acupuncture works by utilizing your body's natural resources, and focusing them on healing the main issue at hand. Oftentimes when there are many sources of stress showing up in life, the body almost constantly has stress hormones circulating through the system. These stress hormones are involved with the sympathetic nervous system, commonly known as "fight or flight" mode. In this mode, the body's resources are focused on the muscles and not on digesting or healing. This makes evolutionary sense, as in ancient times stress would be related to some imminent danger. In modern society, though, stress more often comes from sources that are not actually physically dangerous in this way, such as traffic or work deadlines. Nonetheless, the body doesn't know the difference. Because of this constant influx of stress hormones, our bodies are not often enough able to focus resources fully on digesting and healing. One proven effect of acupuncture is that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to take over, which redirects body resources to digesting and healing, allowing the body to do the work it had been putting off when it sensed there was "danger". This is one of the ways acupuncture redirects the body's natural resources to help heal IBS. The effects of this last for some time after treatment, and after a few weeks of treatment a substantial difference can be seen in symptoms.
In addition to this generalized effect, acupuncturists develop individualized treatment plans with specific points that address the underlying imbalance each person's symptoms are presenting. In Five Element Acupuncture, these treatment plans are based on the theory of the Five Elements. IBS can involve different elements in different people, but the most commonly involved are Earth and Wood. To learn more about these elements, take a look at our section on Five Element Theory. By treating the unique imbalances showing up in each person, symptoms are relieved and well-being is restored.
In addition to acupuncture supporting relief of symptoms, acupuncturists will also recommend simple lifestyle shifts that can help ease symptoms in both the short and long term. Some of these shifts include:
For more information and research about how acupuncture helps IBS, take a look at the additional resources listed below. You can also read more about Acupuncture, Eastern Medicine, Five Element Theory, or our Philosophy. If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us. Or Schedule an Appointment online.