Acupuncture for Gastrointestinal Problems

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

Some of our patients at BCA have significant digestive upset that can snowball into several days or weeks of bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, gas, stomach cramps, or some combination of these unpleasant symptoms. If your one of the people who has these types of issues, acupuncture can help bring you relief.

Acute Digestive Problems: Digestive discomfort caused by overindulgence, stress, and/or travel can typically be alleviated quickly with acupuncture, particularly if the symptoms have just recently appeared. In this case, often a single treatment or two will be enough to get things back on track. If the onset if your symptoms were several weeks ago, and things “just haven’t been right since”, then 2-4 weeks of regular acupuncture should help alleviate the discomfort. In both cases, we may consider giving you herbs to take for a short period of time, if we believe they will help resolve your particular digestive symptoms faster. Also at this time of the year, we also see a fair amount of digestive problems related to acute viral and bacterial infections. As we are a community clinic, we ask that you not come see us until the infectious period has passed, but if you do end up with some lingering nausea or irregular bowel movements in the days that follow your illness, do come in for a treatment or two and the symptoms should subside.

Chronic Digestive and Bowel Disorders: Those that experience digestive problems on a regular basis from disorders such as GERD, IBS, IBD, and Crohn’s Disease can also find relief from symptoms with acupuncture. Frequency of treatments needed depends on how long you have had the problem and severity of symptoms. Dietary recommendations are herbs often needed to help manage symptoms on a long term basis. We typically recommend acupuncture treatments 2-3 times a week for several months (or until symptoms start to improve) in these cases.

How Does Acupuncture Help? Often people coming in for an unrelated issue will mention to us as a side note during a treatment that they have noticed a significant improvement in their digestive function. Symptom improvement for digestive issues begins immediately in most cases. Acupuncture helps the digestive process move in the correct direction and at the correct speed. As soon as the first needles are in place people will often notice they feel sleepy and that their stomachs or small intestines start to make some subtle noises. This is because acupuncture calms the sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” function of our nervous systems) and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” function). So basically, regardless of what issue brought you in, during your treatment you will get a nice nap and your last meal will start digesting properly.

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