From simple problems of nausea, to heartburn, to complex issues like ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome – people are always surprised when I tell them that acupuncture can help with gastrointestinal (GI) issues. But it’s true, and acupuncture should be considered for any GI issue that lasts longer than a week or two.
Typically nausea, heartburn, bloating, and constipation respond the best of all. Acupuncture works on these things by stimulating the portion of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS. This is the part of your brain that lowers blood pressure, brings blood into the center of the body and the organs, and stimulates peristalsis (the movement of the intestines and absorption of nutrients). As opposed to the “fight or flight” response, the parasympathetic nervous system controls “rest and digest”.
For gastrointestinal issues this action is very helpful. People with sluggish metabolisms or who get bloated easily improve quickly from acupuncture because of this effect. Those with heartburn or nausea also improve, since many cases of these conditions involve stomach acid and contents moving to places they shouldn’t – the esophagus, rather than down into the intestines. So the simple action of activating the PNS helps to alleviate all these issues.
Acupuncture can also help with these problems because needles can be put in places in the body that stimulate parts of the brain to promote nutrient absorption or proper handling and elimination of food waste. The brain can also be stimulated to regulate the immune system response to foods, helping to minimize food allergy symptoms or promote detoxifying the body when we eat improperly.
Of course, all of these conditions also improve with dietary changes, and your acupuncturist should be talking diet with you whenever you bring up a GI problem. Even still, acupuncture can be used as an intervention for short-term problems or when dietary changes seem to be ineffective or too mild. Depending on how long you’ve had your problem, treatment with acupuncture will last from a couple weeks to a few months to help retrain the brain and gut to function correctly.
Do you struggle with GI issues? Do you want to deal with the underlying problem rather than just suppress symptoms with medication? Schedule your consultation today!