Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Treat IBS More Effectively Than Drug Therapy

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a general gastrointestinal disorder that affects around 10-15% of the worldwide population. Its symptoms range from distention and bloating, to cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea. With so many varying symptoms there isn’t a simple remedy to alleviate those uncomfortable problems. Western medicine doesn’t have a definitive solution, but Traditional Chinese Medicine approaches this problem by tackling it from the root.

A new study conducted by researchers at the Chongqing Nanchuan Hospital aimed to investigate the different responses to treatment for those who suffer from IBS.  Two groups were monitored, one using Western drug therapies with chinese herbal medicine and the other using strictly Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities.

Over the course of the 28-day trial 126 participants were involved, and all received an IBS diagnosis from the hospital prior to taking part. The volunteers were divided into two groups, one that received doses of Loperamide hydrochlorida – (trade name IMODIUM) that works by slowing down the bowel and effectively stopping cramps and diarrhea – and a dose of the herb Si Shen Wan. The second group were given acupuncture and an herbal formula.

The drug group were given Imodium once a day before meals, and the latter group were given a 30-minute acupuncture session and an herbal formula consisting of a specific blend designed to alleviate gastrointestinal disorders.

Those who were administered acupuncture and herbs were shown to have “greater improvements in stool consistency and significantly greater reductions of abdominal pain, mucus in the stool, bloating, and bowel urgency,” over the drug therapy group. Those who took Loperamide still experienced relief from their symptoms – just to a lesser extent.

This isn’t the first time the use of TCM in treating IBS has been the focus of academic studies.  The Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, conducted research that involved both herbalists and gastroenterologists. Patients reported that their IBS symptoms interfered significantly less with their life when taking herbal medicine. Findings also show that participants responded much better to treatment in the 14 weeks following the trial when their herbal formulas were tailored specifically to their needs.

One of the strongest components of TCM is that it is a personalized medicine. Unlike western medicine where pharmaceutical drugs are widely prescribed the strength of TCM lies in its flexibility. Formulas and specific singular herbs can work to assuage some general symptoms. However, when a patient is given a customized herbal blend, they witness a faster return to optimal health.

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