An image of the digestive tract.

East Asian Medicine and IBS-D

The gastrointestinal tract.
Let’s face it, diarrhea is a messy subject.

Okay, that was bad – I’m sorry. But diarrhea is very distressing for people, and it is a common component of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). We’ve covered treating constipation in IBS before, but people who have IBS also deal with diarrhea. Can acupuncture also help with diarrhea? Yes, absolutely! Here are some ways how it can help:

  1. Regulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Acupuncture regulates the portion of the nervous system that controls the movement of the intestines and the digestion of food. Depending on the points used, acupuncturists can increase or decrease intestinal movement, so we can help to stop diarrhea and increase the solidity of stool.
  2. Calms the mind. Acupuncture helps to relieve anxiety and relax the mind. As anxiety is one of the most common factors involved in IBS, this can help to normalize the stool too.
  3. Quick turnaround. The gut is full of neurons, and by working on the body’s own nervous system diarrhea can be turned around in a very short time, typically one or two treatments to bring stool back to normal. Of course, to manage the entire presentation of IBS, treatment will have to continue for a few months to help eliminate other aggravating factors (eg stress or anxiety).

In fact, acupuncture is shown to be more effective than drugs at handling IBS.

So what about herbal medicine or nutritional consultations? While herbal medicine is also very helpful for irritable bowel syndrome, if you are going to get any benefit from your herbs you have to be able to absorb them through the GI tract. If you are not absorbing foods or liquids very well (typical with diarrhea) then herbs may not be the best approach for you. Patients who need herbal medicine for diarrhea conditions should make sure to get herbal preparations that absorb quickly – such as in tincture form.

Regarding nutritional counseling, this is almost a must for IBS. If you have IBS, your acupuncturist should be talking with you about the foods that you can eat, the foods that are difficult or challenging to eat, and the foods to avoid. No matter whether your IBS is triggered by stress, anxiety, or anything else, make sure that you are tracking your diet and working to make changes.

Need help with you digestive issues, or not certain what kinds of foods are okay for you to eat? Schedule your consultation today!