Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic conditions of the digestive system found in around 1 in 5 people. Women are 2-3 times more likely to develop IBS. It is characterised by bouts of abdominal cramps, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and/or constipation. The severity varies from one person to another. They can last from a few days to months. Symptoms may ease after going to the toilet, often the condition is life-long. Unfortunately the cause of IBS is unknown, but most people find it is related to an increased sensitivity of the gut and problems with digesting certain foods. Stress is also a known contributor. IBS can be painful and debilitating affecting personal, social and professional life. Treatments for IBS are mainly limited to symptom control, stress reduction, altering the amount of fibre in the diet, regular exercise and identifying trigger foods in the diet.
IBS is described as a functional problem, which means that anatomically or physiological investigations are completely normal. Instead there is impairment of the body’s normal function. This makes it difficult to treat. An increasing number of studies have found that IBS can be safely and effectively managed using acupuncture.
In Chinese medicine, IBS is considered to be an imbalance between the liver and spleen. The liver is associated with emotions and stress, while the spleen is linked to digestive function in the body. A weak spleen Qi (energy) allows the liver to dominate. When this occurs over a long period of time the continued disharmony causes IBS symptoms to manifest.
Research evidence has consistently demonstrated that a course of acupuncture improves IBS symptoms and general wellbeing. These include;
• Pain relief
• Regulating the motility and movement of the digestive tract
• Reducing gut sensitivity
• Reduce stress related sympathetic nerve impulses e.g. abdominal spasm, by increasing the parasympathetic tone of ‘rest and digest’.
• Reducing anxiety and depression by increasing production of mood altering chemicals serotonin and endorphins.
IBS related changes in diet are individualised. It should focus on identifying trigger foods and eliminating them from the diet. These can vary from wheat, dairy, alcohol, coffee, fatty foods and some fruits and vegetables In the case of constipation adding adequate fibre to the diet is helpful. Some people may find that soluble fibre like, oatmeal, berries, legumes, beans and lentils are easier than insoluble fibre from raw vegetables and bran. Probiotics, multivitamins and minerals can be helpful to normalise the digestive environment.
Life style changes
Some of the following lifestyle changes can benefit IBS symptoms, but are also good for general health and well-being.
• Regular exercise to relive stress, regulate the bowel and alleviate constipation
• Practicing meditation, mindfulness, yoga, breathing exercises will help to manage stress levels
• Good and adequate sleep is important for everyone, but particularly for those with IBS. It helps the body to rest and heal. Tiredness increases stress and irritability which in turn triggers IBS.
Book an appointment or Call 07810024687 to discuss your needs with Dr Rhonda Lee. Dr Lee is a Holistic Physician trained in medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, aromatherapy, massage and other techniques. She specialises in digestive disorder, chronic fatigue, pain management and stress and depression.