Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years to treat digestive diseases and has shown to be effective in modern clinical practice. Research evidence also suggests that acupuncture is more effective than pharmacological treatment in improving symptoms and quality of life in IBS patientsAcupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years to treat digestive diseases and has shown to be effective in modern clinical practice. Research evidence also suggests that acupuncture is more effective than pharmacological treatment in improving symptoms and quality of life in IBS patients
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) consists of a number of symptoms: the most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and erratic bowel habits. Many patients with IBS get abdominal cramp, discomfort or pain, which comes and goes, and fluctuates with bowel function (typically easing after the bowel action). IBS is just about the most common disorder of the digestive system with up to one-third of the population experiencing symptoms from time to time. It is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the GP. Women are slightly more affected than men and the usual age for patients to seek advice is between 20 and 40 years. As many as one in eight people have symptoms of IBS at any one time.
Approximately one third of IBS patients suffer from bouts of constipation, one third suffer from bouts of diarrhoea and most other patients don’t fall into a single pattern. The form of IBS that seems to follow gastroenteritis often leads to the diarrhoea type. Identifying these different types of IBS is important because treatments often work quite differently depending upon whether diarrhoea or constipation is the main problem. However we do know that the pattern of bowel movements can alter over time and this means that your treatment might need to change should your symptoms vary.
Abnormalities in the brain-gut interaction and gastrointestinal mobility, and visceral hypersensitivity are the main pathophysiological basis of IBS, but their underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. IBS is also associated with various psychosocial and environmental factors, including early life stress, food intolerance, antibiotic abuse, and intestinal infections.
Acupuncture improved symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome that were statistically superior to standard of care through 1 year, but ceased to be significantly superior at 2 years, according to the results of a randomized controlled trial.
"This trial evidence shows that acupuncture reduces the symptoms of IBS, and not just the colonic symptoms of abdominal pain — constipation and diarrhea — but also the non-colonic symptoms such as tiredness," Hugh MacPherson, PhD, professor of acupuncture research in the department of health sciences at University of York, U.K., told Healio Gastroenterology. "These benefits were also shown to continue over time such that they were still statistically significant at 12 months follow-up."
However, "we did not observe a statistically significant difference in IBS symptom scores between the two groups at 24 months," he and colleagues wrote.
“The lack of a statistically significant difference at 24 months may be associated, at least in part, with the progressive improvement observed within the usual care group, combined with the increased loss to follow-up over time,” MacPherson and colleagues concluded.
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Pj Cousin is a full member of the British Acupuncture Council and of the Unified Register of herbal Practitioners