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February 13, 2013

Chinese medicine offers effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome IBS

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Irritable Bowel is one of those diagnoses that comes with no comfort, much like fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue.  If you’ve ever been diagnosed with irritable bowel, you know that treatment is limited and unsatisfactory.  Oftentimes, it feels like a “garbage pail” diagnosis, when all other tests come up negative.  A diagnosis of Irritable Bowel essentially says that nobody really knows what the problem is.  However, if you have IBS, or know someone who does, don’t give up hope!  While Conventional Medicine may not have the solution, Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture and herbs) may offer successful treatment for anyone suffering from this debilitating disorder.

Irritable Bowel is hard to treat with conventional medicine, because it falls within the category of “functional disorder”.  Western Medicine excels at treating “organic disorders”.  Organic disorders have a clear cause, and clearly change the physical body.  Functional disorders, on the other hand, have an unclear cause and do not change the physical body - they do, however, change the way the body works.  Luckily, where Western Medicine excels at treating Organic Disorders, Chinese Medicine excels at treating Functional Disorders.

IBS is not a new disease in Chinese Medicine.  In fact Chinese Medicine (including both acupuncture and herbs) has been treating conditions like this for a very long time.  Therefore, you can expect both acupuncture and herbs to have a high rate of success.  You can also expect that your acupuncturist and herbalist will know how to treat you, specifically, provided you find a qualified and competent practitioner.

While Western Medicine cannot describe the cause of IBS, Chinese Medicine attributes it to a complex, interrelated pathology involving the liver, the intestines, and the pancreas.  In Irritable Bowel Syndrome the liver is over-stressed (due to emotional stress, such as frustration or anger), while the digestive system as a whole is weak and spastic (spastic colon), due to, poor eating habits, chronic poor diet and worry.

Western treatment typically uses Alosetron (Lotronex) and Lubiprostone (Amitiza), both of which have undesirable side effects and are used only in severe cases.  Other suggestions include lifestyle modifications, such as more dietary fiber, avoidance of aggravating foods, and moderation of stress levels.  These treatments can have limited success, and can themselves aggravate the situation.  Typically, this happens when a person stresses about what they eat, and ironically, stresses about not de-stressing enough.

In Chinese Medicine, treatment primarily focuses on the liver, with harmonizing, rectifying, and moving herbs.  Many commonly used herbs for stress related conditions such as this are Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Bai shao (Peony), Xiang Fu (Cyperus), and Fang Feng (Siler).  These herbs are quite different from the liver herbs we commonly think of in the west, such as burdock root, or dandelion root.  Burdock and dandelion root, as well as harsh stimulant laxatives, like rhubarb root, senna, or cascara sagrada, will make the situation much, much worse.  (Stimulant laxatives should, in general, be avoided, due to risk of dependency).  This condition is a delicate balance, and you should never self-treat with herbs, it’s simply too easy to make a bad situation worse.

IBS can be a very complicated condition to treat, and can be frustrating, because it seems like there are so few answers and there is no place to get help.  However, a good acupuncturist/herbalist may be your best option to getting the effective treatment you need.  Invest in yourself by finding a good practitioner, who really knows what they’re doing.  The improvement in your quality of life will be well worth it.  For IBS sufferers in Madison Wisconsin, schedule an appointment today.

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