Acupuncture for Digestive Issues

Acupuncture for Digestive Issues

            Acupuncture for the treatment of digestive issues is a helpful modality since currently, there is not an overly effective way to deal with these issues in Western Medicine long-term. Digestive issues are becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States, around 70 million. Acupuncture delivers a treatment for gut health that isn’t a “one size fits all” approach, but an individualized treatment of symptoms and overall digestive health.

Digestive Disorders Basics

            In its most basic explanation, digestive disorders are a group of issues that happen when the digestive system doesn’t work as it should. In western medicine, digestive disorders are usually split into organic and functional GI disorders. Organic being structural abnormalities preventing the digestive system from working properly, and functional being structurally normal but still doesn’t function correctly.

Common digestive disorders:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – a more severe form of acid reflux with the most defining symptom being frequent heartburn occurring two or more times a week. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing.

  • Celiac Disease – a severe sensitivity to gluten, a protein that is found in rye, barley, and wheat. If gluten is consumed, the immune system in someone with celiac disease attacks damaging the villi in the small intestines which help to absorb nutrients from foods. Symptoms can include abdominal bloating and pain, constipation, diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, depression, seizures, bone loss, fatigue, and anemia. The only way currently to deal with this is by completely avoiding gluten (and acupuncture… obviously).

  • Crohn’s Disease – it can affect any part of the GI tract but most commonly affects the terminal ileum (the part that connects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon). Most common symptoms are diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, abdominal pain, and fever.

  • Gallstones – hard deposits which form in the gallbladder, and form when there is too much waste in the body’s bile or if the gallbladder doesn’t empty the waste correctly. These usually show themselves in the form of sharp pain in the upper-right abdomen.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome – one of the more well-known digestive disorders, making up about 45 million people in the United States who suffer with it. Symptoms of IBS can vary from having watery stools one day to having dry, hard stools the next in addition to bloating. The cause is largely unknown, but a focus on dietary changes as far as treatment goes is usually what helps most.

  • Ulcerative Colitis – another variation of inflammatory bowel disease with symptoms similar to Crohn’s disease, but affecting the large intestine or colon. Sores and ulcers can develop in the colon’s lining potentially causing blood in the stool, pain with diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

  • Diverticulitis – diverticula (small pouches) can form in the weak spots in the lining of the digestive system, however, they are frequently found in the colon. When the diverticula become infected or inflamed this is when it becomes diverticulitis. Symptoms can include nausea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills.

  • Hemorrhoids – a very common condition which is an inflammation of the blood vessels that are painful and itchy at the end of the digestive tract. Causes could be diarrhea, chronic constipation, lack of fiber in the diet, and straining during bowel movements.
The overall cause of digestive disorders will vary depending on the specific issues the patient is having. It can be caused by chronic stress as well as dietary issues such as eating too many high-fat foods or overeating. Acupuncture could be a treatment solution for many patients who find it hard to treat their condition with dietary changes and medication alone.

Acupuncture Treatment for Digestive Disorders

            The simple fact of the matter is that so many digestive conditions are difficult to treat, and acupuncture treatment can not only reduce common symptoms of digestive problems, but also reducing the causes that led our patients these issues in the first place. Acupuncture works as a helpful treatment option for patients by treating digestive imbalance in the body by reducing stress, and regulating the nervous and endocrine systems overactivity that often coincides with digestive disorder TCM patterns. Essentially, our medicine improves digestive function and balances the gut allowing for a reduction in pain and inflammation.

Acupuncture works for mitigating symptoms of digestive conditions such as:

  • Abdominal pain/cramping

  • Nausea/sour stomach

  • Acid reflux

  • IBS

  • Constipation

  • Fatigue

  • Bloating

  • Diarrhea

  • Colitis

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Weight fluctuation
When the proper acupuncture points are administered, they can aid in digestive function, and can help regulate small and large intestinal function.

Acupuncture Points for Digestive Disorders:

  • KD11 – Pubic Bone – Henggu – located 5 cun below CV8, and .5 cun lateral to CV2. This is a local point for abdominal and gynecological problems.

  • KD12 – Great Manifestation – Dahe – located 4 cun below CV8, and .5 cun lateral to CV3. Also, a local point for abdominal and gynecological problems.

  • KD24 – Spirit Ruins – Lingxu – located in the 3rd ICS 2 cun lateral to CV18. This point is for panic attacks arising from digestive issues and abdominal bloating.

  • KD25 – Spirit Storehouse – Shengcang – located in the 2nd ICS 2 cun lateral to CV19. This point is used to harmonize the stomach, and helpful with reflux, vomiting, and overall digestive issues.

  • KD26 – Lively Center – Yuzhong – located in the 1st ICS 2 cun lateral to CV20. This point is used to harmonize the stomach, and helpful with nausea, vomiting, and overall digestive issues.

  • SP3 – Supreme White – Taibai – located proximal and inferior to the head of the 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint in the depression at the junction of red and white skin. For digestive issues, abdominal and/or epigastric pain, and Qi and Yang deficiency.

  • ST30 – Surging Qi – Qichong – located 2 cun lateral to the AML level with CV2. An upper sea of water and grain point, for deficient or excess conditions of the stomach, bloating, abdominal pain, and hypogastric pain.

  • T9 Huatuo – Sides of the Spine at T9 – located .5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous processes of T9. For innervating the stomach, and is used for a wide variety of digestive problems such as bloating, gas, heartburn, ulcers, and even stomach cancer.
The goal in treatment is to calm the internal heat in the body, harmonize the Stomach, Liver, and Spleen meridians, and offer options for nutritional guidance to be used both in and out of the office. If you are an acupuncture provider with experience in herbal medicine, advise patient on formulas that would be helpful dependent on their condition. If not, you can still advise them on ruling out food intolerances, increasing fiber intake, ingesting more prebiotics and probiotics, and eating more slowly to help and maintain gut health.

Digestive Issues & Acupuncture

            Digestive issues have only increased in recent years amongst Americans with our on the go lifestyle, high stress, and poorer eating habits. Bacteria in the gut can not only affect proper digestion, but also can affect mental health producing an array of neurochemicals which the brain utilizes to regulate mental and physiological processes such as learning, mood, and memory according to the American Psychological Association. Fortunately, it seems that western medicine is catching on to the benefits of acupuncture for digestion, as there are a multitude of studies that are being worked on as of right now in support of acupuncture for digestion as well as many studies in recent years with positive outcomes. Acupuncture for digestive disorders is a real and proven modality, and the positive benefits, it seems, are not going unnoticed any longer.
To take a look at the recent and upcoming studies being worked on in relation to acupuncture for digestive issues, click the links below:
-Efficiency of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Chronic Abdominal Pain – 2021: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8314076/
-Standardizing and Optimizing Acupuncture Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome – 2021: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8296086/
-Acupuncture at Back-Shu and Front-Mu Acupoints Prevents Gastric Ulcer – 2021: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7886517/
-Clinical Trial of Acupuncture Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Cough by Needling Dorsal Segment of the Governor Vessel – 2019: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30945492/
-Effectiveness of Acupuncture to Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis – 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930986/
-Comparison of Acupuncture and Pinaverium Bromide in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome – started in 2021, read the details of what is being worked on in this upcoming study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8078459/
-Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Anxiety and Depression in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Protocol for Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis – started in 2021, read the details of what is being worked on in this upcoming study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33663136/

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