Acupuncture and IBS

Acupuncture and IBS

April is IBS Awareness month. Guts UK describe IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) as a disorder in gut-brain interaction, where they over-communicate with one another and cause abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. This can become debilitating for some people and it is thought to affect up to 1 in 5 people in the UK at some time in their lives.


In Chinese Medicine (CM), there are multiple ways of understanding IBS and the job of the acupuncturist is to investigate which specific mechanisms are out of balance. CM treats each person as unique, and although patients might have the same western diagnosis, they are each likely to be treated quite differently. Here are some things that acupuncturists would consider when working with people who have IBS.


IBS is a form of Qi Rebellion. The Organ systems in the body have different directions of Qi flow, for example, in health, the Stomach Qi descends, the Spleen/pancreas Qi ascends, whilst the Liver is responsible for governing the smooth flow of Qi all around the body. The acupuncturist would assess the Liver, Spleen/pancreas and Stomach function to establish where the disharmony is. Sometimes the Liver can “invade” the Spleen/ pancreas leading to the pain and diarrhoea characteristic of IBS or the Stomach may struggle to descend, leading to constipation.


What causes Qi Rebellion? Qi Rebellion is a response of the body to inflammation. Inflammation is a game of “push hands” between the Wei Qi (Protective Qi) of the body and a pathogenic factor. (Pathogens are Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp and Dryness). The body is always trying to do the best it can to protect the Organs and creates inflammation and subsequent Qi Rebellion to push pathology away from the Organ itself.


Causative Factors. It is well-documented that stress can trigger IBS. Stress and pent-up emotions can lead to Stagnation and subsequent excess of Liver Qi, which can then invade an often weak or deficient Spleen/pancreas. The term “Spleen pancreas” is synonymous with the digestive system.

Treatment. Strengthening digestion and reducing stress are the foundations of IBS treatment. These will have a beneficial effect on regulating an overactive Liver and strengthening a weak digestive system. Excess Heat in the Stomach and poor metabolism of fluids (called “Damp” in CM) can also be a consideration in IBS, so dietary exploration is key to establishing food triggers.


Acupuncturists are trained in Chinese Dietary therapy and can support people in identifying problematic foods and incorporating more neutral, less challenging types of food into their daily lives. Acupuncturists commonly report anecdotal observations in clinics, of how acupuncture helps people to unwind, balance their emotions and de-stress over time.


NB. A note on the use of Organ names; in Chinese Medicine, the use of western organ names can be confusing and do not have the same meaning as in Western Medicine (WM). For example, when we talk about the Organ of the Liver, we are referring to a set of functions (that may be different to liver functions in WM) not only of the Organ but of the actual channel (or meridian) too.


If you would like to learn more or explore how Acupuncture can support you in having healthy and posiitve digestion, then please contact our acupunturist Anna Wells via her page

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About the Centre

The Centre for Integral Health was started in 2013 by director Ben Calder after studying Integral theory since 2011 and over 10 years of professional practice of kinesiology and Bowen fascia Release Technique, coupled with the desire to explore the application of the Integral Model in relation to health.

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