Acupuncture with moxibustion is used to treat the abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Learn more here.
- Acupuncture with moxibustion is an effective treatment for IBS, regulating your brain-gut nervous system, digestive motility, and hypersensitivity to reduce symptoms of IBS.
- IBS is a chronic disease affecting your colon with no known cure.
- Symptoms of IBS include bloating, gas, abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Medications can help reduce individual symptoms but do not treat IBS as a whole.
- Bright Belly can help you find an acupuncturist in your area who may also practice moxibustion.
Acupuncture with moxibustion can help regulate the digestive systems of people with IBS to reduce their symptoms and the severity of the disease. Bright Belly can connect you with acupuncture and moxibustion services to help improve your quality of life.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS, is an intestinal disease with recurring symptoms of abdominal pain and changing bowel habits. This chronic disease affects up to 20% of the U.S. population and occurs more often in women than men.
Common symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramping and pain, pressure from bloating and gas, constipation, and diarrhea. People suffering from IBS may experience stomach discomfort after eating, which improves with bowel movements. Some people experience constant symptoms, while others suffer only periodic bouts.
Men and women both experience the same symptoms, though women’s IBS symptoms may worsen around menstruation. Women may experience more bloating and constipation in the two weeks leading up to their period, followed by increased abdominal cramping and diarrhea during the first couple of days during their period.
Men in western countries like the U.S. are less likely to seek treatment for their IBS symptoms and aren’t diagnosed with IBS as often as women. Men are also less likely than women to have abdominal distention from IBS, a symptom used to diagnose IBS. This may contribute to lower cases of IBS in men.
How is IBS treated?
There is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome, so the goal of IBS treatment is to reduce overall symptoms. Usually, people start with lifestyle changes, including making adjustments to their diets and increasing physical activity.
Other conventional treatments for IBS include:
Dietary changes and supplements
Certain foods can trigger your IBS, creating gas and bloating. Many individuals with gastrointestinal disorders like IBS have found the low-FODMAP diet helps them manage their symptoms.
People with irritable bowel syndrome can take probiotics to improve their gut health and help reduce the symptoms of IBS. Eating smaller meals and avoiding spicy food can also help reduce excess bloating and abdominal discomfort.
You may also see improvement in your IBS symptoms by lowering the number of caffeinated drinks you consume, as caffeine stimulates your intestines.
There are medications that reduce your IBS symptoms, but they are not meant to be taken daily. Laxatives, fiber supplements, antidiarrheals, and antispasmodic medications work to relieve individual symptoms caused by IBS. Some are available over the counter, while others are available by prescription only.
Your diet and levels of stress and anxiety impact your IBS symptoms. Stress and anxiety stimulate your digestive system, causing it to overreact. Reducing your stress and anxiety and making changes to your diet help calm your digestive system and improve your IBS symptoms.
Several alternative medicine therapies also have research support for the treatment of IBS symptoms. One type of treatment that works to lower stress and anxiety is acupuncture with moxibustion.
What is acupuncture with moxibustion?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine treatment and one of the best-supported alternative medicine therapies in the West. The treatment consists of fine needles being placed in specific areas of the body, called acupoints, to treat different conditions. It’s a minimally invasive way to stimulate tissue throughout your body.
Acupuncture promotes blood circulation and may stimulate the nervous system to reduce pain in clients with various health conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome.
Moxibustion is another type of traditional Chinese medicine used to treat a range of health problems, including digestive issues. Your practitioner burns a stick or cone made of mugwort, or moxa, near your acupuncture points and meridians. The heat from the burning moxa works like acupuncture, stimulating your tissues and increasing your circulation to promote healing.
There are two types of moxibustion therapy: direct and indirect. For direct moxibustion, your practitioner places the moxa on your skin and burns it at your acupuncture points. The moxa is not placed on your skin for indirect moxibustion. Instead, your practitioner will hold the moxa in their hand while it burns, placing it near the acupoints of your skin without touching you.
Acupuncture with moxibustion
Acupuncture with moxibustion brings these two ancient practices together. During this treatment, your practitioner places the acupuncture needles into your skin at your acupoints. They then wrap the top of the needles in moxa and light the moxa so it burns. This helps create heat, which transfers down the needles to your acupoints, enhancing the effectiveness of acupuncture.
How does acupuncture with moxibustion help manage IBS symptoms?
Acupuncture and moxibustion treatments have been shown to help treat IBS, potentially by regulating multiple bodily functions, including the following:
People with IBS suffer from gastrointestinal dysmotility, meaning that the muscles that contract to propel food through the intestinal tract don’t work properly, which can lead to spastic colon and diarrhea. Acupuncture with moxibustion helps regulate your gut’s movement and helps calm a spastic colon and reduce diarrhea.
People with IBS have more sensitive guts, causing them to have more abdominal pain. Acupuncture with moxibustion is shown to reduce sensitivity to pain. This treatment also helps regulate your neuroendocrine system, the nervous system linking your brain with your gut.
Your gut and brain work together to regulate your digestion, and problems that interfere with that connection worsen IBS. Acupuncture with moxibustion may help regulate neurotransmitters and brain-gut peptides that aid digestion and gastrointestinal activity to reduce the severity of your IBS.
While there is not yet a lot of research on treatment of IBS with acupuncture and moxibustion, yet another study, a randomized controlled clinical trial, followed two groups of people with IBS. Half received acupuncture and moxibustion treatments while the other half did not. All study participants kept daily records to measure the frequency and severity of their IBS symptoms and note any improvements during the study.
The trial consisted of two treatments per week for four weeks. At the end of the study, those who received this treatment showed statistically significant therapeutic effects in their symptoms of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and stool consistency. Participants in the control group, who got a sham treatment, saw little to no improvement in their symptoms.
Treat your IBS with acupuncture and moxibustion
Having IBS doesn’t mean you have to suffer debilitating symptoms for the rest of your life. Changes to your diet, along with a reduction in levels of stress and anxiety, can help improve your IBS symptoms.
Acupuncture and moxibustion can help you relax and lower your stress levels. The research strongly suggests that the combination can reduce the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms.
Bright Belly can help you find complementary medicine services to treat IBS and improve your gut health. Visit our provider directory to find an acupuncturist near you.