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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a motility disorder involving the intestines. Patients may experience variable degrees of abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea which worsens as a reaction to stress. It is estimated that 10-20% of all American adults experience symptoms of IBS, and patients with IBS account for half of all doctor visits for gastrointestinal complaints. IBS affects three times as many women as men and, after the common cold, is the next most common cause of missed school and work.


No one knows why some people develop heightened sensitivity of the GI tract, at least in terms of Western medicine, but researchers are working on the theory that there are direct links between the GI tract and the central nervous system. Such as brain-gut connection would explain why emotional upsets affect the intestines and why intestinal symptoms affect the mood.


Unfortunately, many people experience side effects from any or all types of Western drugs to treat this condition. The good news is that Chinese medicine has been proven to treat IBS safely and effectively. Unlike some conditions, the Chinese medical literature is virtually unanimous in its description of the Chinese medical mechanisms of this disorder. All Chinese sources say that this condition is worsened by stress, overeating sugars and sweets, obsessive thinking, too much fatigue, and too little physical exercise. Together, these factors lead to what is called in Chinese medicine a liver-spleen disharmony.

If the liver is stagnated and the spleen is vacuous and weak, a number of other complaints can arise. The main ones in IBS patients are the creation of damp turbidity, damp heat, and/or blood stasis. In addition Chinese medicine finds that patients in their 40s or older may also develop kidney weakness due to spleen disease reaching the kidneys. Because there are a number of possible complicated patterns IBS sufferers may present. The first step in being treated with Chinese medicine is to get a personal pattern discrimination from a qualified professional practitioner. While every IBS patient suffers from a liver-spleen disharmony, most also have one or more other patterns complicating this core mechanism.

After doing an individualized pattern discrimination, a Chinese medical practitioner may chose to treat this condition with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, or a combination of both. In addition, they will certainly also adjust the diet and lifestyle. Foods which damage the spleen need to be avoided, and the person usually needs to learn better relaxation skills. If acupuncture is the main method of choice, the patient may be suggested to receive two treatments for several weeks and then one treatment per week for several weeks more. If Chinese herbs are prescribed, these may consist of modern desiccated powdered extracts or bulk herbs brewed and drunk as tea several times per day. Exactly what method of administration and what combination of Chinese therapies is chosen will depend on the training and preferences of each individual practitioner, as well as each patientís needs.

Source: Acupuncture Arlington Heights