Acupuncture for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) PDF Print E-mail

By Dr.Taya Stanley

There are quite a few people in the United States suffering silently from a painful and oft awkward disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, as it is more popularity known, affects different people in different ways, but most often... ... involves stomach cramps and the urgent need to find a toilet. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe but they usually include abdominal distension , fullness, gas, bloating and pain with episodes of constipation and/or diarrhea. Those who are familiar with this affliction, know it can strike at any time, but stress, in general, tends to make it worse. Studies have confirmed the considerable impact this disorder can have on the lives of those who suffer under it. It can affect work, travel and play, limiting one’s ability to enjoy long meals, plan extended vacations, or even long road trips, not to mention maintaining full days of work. For example, a review conducted by Hungin et al through UCLA and the Mayo clinic found that those diagnosed with IBS, on average, missed twice as much work as those who were not. It has been estimated that quite a large portion of the general population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, Hungin et all, in their survey, estimated that approximately 14 percent of the population suffer from IBS. Unfortunately, as they note, IBS is often chronic in nature, with many of those afflicted by the condition, suffering for ten years of more.

Those working in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine know that IBS is a common complaint treated in our clinics. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be quite successful in treating this disorder. Although Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, western understanding and western style research into this field of medicine is still in its early stages. Recently, more studies on acupuncture have been conducted with promising results. Two recent pilot studies stand as case in point. Noting the popularity of acupuncture in patients seeking relief from IBS, Reynolds and Macpherson did a pilot study in 2008 to explore the effects of acupuncture on IBS. Not surprisingly, a significant portion of the patients reported positive effects from a ten session trial (Reynolds, 2008). A year later, another pilot study conducted by Anastasi, McMahon and Kim (2009) found that patients who were treated with acupuncture and moxibustion for four weeks, with bi-weekly treatments, had significant reduction in abdominal discomfort when compared to a control group. These pilot studies only hint at the promising effect acupuncture is known to have on this disorder. We hope we will be able to report on more research on the topic soon.


Anastasi JK, McMahon DJ, Kim GH (2009) Symptom management for irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot randomized controlled trial of acupuncture/moxibustion. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2009 Jul-Aug;32(4):243-55. Retrieved at

Hungin, A.P.S (n.d.) Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, NY; UCLA, Los Angeles, CA retrieved at

Reynolds JA, Bland JM, MacPherson H. (2008) Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome an exploratory randomized controlled trial. Acupunct Med. Mar;26(1):8-16.: Department of Health Sciences, University of York, UK.


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