Do you suffer from abdominal pain or cramps, gas, bloating, and bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation? If this unpleasant combination sounds familiar to you, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
IBS is a very common disorder. It is estimated in the US that 10-15% of the population suffers from it, with 2/3 of that being women. The good news is that while IBS is uncomfortable and inconvenient, intestinal and other exams show no intestinal pathologies or abnormalities in people with IBS as well as no significant changes in nutrient absorption. The other good news is acupuncture and herbs can often provide great relief!
What Makes IBS so Uncomfortable?
The pain and urgency from IBS is caused by muscle spasms in the colon. IBS sufferers can also go through periods of constipation, which can be caused by several factors, including a tonic colon (which is in constant contraction, and thus does not perform the normal peristalsis or muscular contractions that allow a bowel movement to happen).
While the cause of IBS is unknown, emotional stress often seems to play a role. Other possible triggers include certain foods – chocolate, milk, alcohol, fatty foods, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, and beans are common food triggers. FODMAPS, which are a type of carbohydrate found in certain vegetables, fruits and dairy products, can also cause IBS symptoms. Hormones and intestinal bacteria may also be triggers.
Chinese Medicine View of IBS
According to Chinese medicine IBS is often a symptom of Liver qi constraint overacting on deficient, damp Spleen qi. But what does that mean? Well, in Chinese medicine, the Liver system is responsible for the smooth flow of qi or energy in our bodies, while the Spleen system is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients. The Chinese Liver and Spleen systems work very closely together to maintain digestive function. When the Liver qi is compromised, as it is by stress, it stagnates and typically “overacts” on the Spleen. This action weakens the Spleen system, which may already be compromised by other factors, such as diet and worry (the emotion of the Spleen system, in Chinese medicine), and digestion pays the price. Gas, bloating, abdominal pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation are all symptoms of Stagnant Liver qi overacting on the Spleen.
How Does Chinese Medicine Treat IBS
Acupuncture and herbs are great for treating IBS. Together they help soothe the Liver qi and strengthen the Spleen. Soothing the Liver qi calms stress and allows your body and mind to relax. Strengthening the Spleen boosts your digestive function so that your body can both assimilate and eliminate properly. Avoiding trigger foods and incorporating relaxation also aid in healing.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.