On average, over 60% of Americans experience at least one gut-related symptom each week. Gut issues can be annoyingly complex.
There is not often a ‘magic pill’ and to truly reach the root cause of the issue, a holistic approach is necessary. This approach can resolve what is disrupted in the body while also removing the original irritant that might’ve set off the body in the first place.
Irritable bowel syndrome, often referred to as IBS, is a category of disorders that involve abdominal pain and a disrupted bowel pattern.
Oftentimes, the label is attached to a patient when the pathology behind their symptoms is not understood, usually called a “diagnosis of exclusion.”
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are two forms of medicine that can provide symptom management by approaching a patient’s IBS through a whole-body lens.
Acupuncture to Relieve IBS Related Symptoms
In 2020, a clinical trial randomly assigned 519 individuals experiencing irritable bowel syndrome to either receive acupuncture or medication (PEG 4000 or pinaverium bromide) for 6 weeks.
These medications are prescribed commonly for IBS-related symptoms, and the medication choice was based on if the patient experienced constipation dominant or diarrhea dominant IBS. PEG 4000 helps relieve constipation-related symptoms, and pinaverium bromide is an antispasmodic (IBID).
The study analyzed the outcome through an IBS-Symptom Severity Score questionnaire. The acupuncture group on average produced a decrease in IBS symptoms, significantly greater than the medication group (123.51 versus 94.73) (IBID).
An earlier meta-analysis showed the efficacy and safety of acupuncture on diarrhea-predominant IBS among 1,333 patients. The analysis measured the total effective rate of clinical symptoms with improvements in the acupuncture group, along with a 3-month recurrence rate.
The study found greater symptom relief in those that received acupuncture, or those that received acupuncture in combination with conventional medicine rather than those that solely received conventional medical treatment. The 3-month recurrence rate in the acupuncture group was also significantly lower than in the group that did not receive acupuncture (P<0.01) (IBID).
A randomized double-blind study with 60 IBS patients analyzed symptom outcomes in those that received acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or the prescription drug Colofac. The study lasted two weeks and assessed GI symptoms, pain, depression, and anxiety. The participants who received acupuncture had statistically significant improvements in pain and depression (p<0.005).
Chinese Herbs for IBS Management
In a 2017 study in China, 1,044 patients with IBS were randomly assigned to a group with a Chinese herbal formula, pinaverium, or placebo. The Chinese herbal formula was Tong-Xie, a mixture of A macrocephalae, P lactiflora, C reticulata, S divaricata, C pilosula, C wenyujin, C medica, and P cocos.
Each group received their formula 3 times daily for a total of 4 weeks. Pinaverium is a medication utilized to manage IBS and other intestinal conditions. The study measured abdominal pain along with the consistency and frequency of bowel movements (IBID).
The participants in the group that received Tong-Xie reported statistically significant reductions in symptoms compared to the placebo group. Additionally, participants on the Chinese herbal formula group produced bowel movements with increased stool consistency and reductions in stool frequency than those that received pinaverium (IBID).
It is important to note that since the IBS assessed here was diarrhea-predominant, an increase in stool consistency and reduction in stool frequency revealed a healthy change, which would be the opposite case if the IBS was constipation-predominant.
Xiang-Sha-Liu-Jun-Zi tang (XSLJZT) is a traditional Chinese formula that can be utilized to relieve gastrointestinal disruption. In a double-blind randomized controlled study, 80 patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS were split into either a control group or a therapeutic group for 28 days.
The study utilized the participants’ ratings of the symptoms on the Gastrointestinal System Rating Scale specific for IBS to evaluate any change over the course of the study. The participants who received the XSLJZT significantly lowered their symptom scores for diarrhea, indicating relief (IBID).
Another formula assessed is the decoction Chang’an I Recipe. Herbs included were Huang Qi (Astragali Radix), Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis), Ban Xia (Rhizoma Pinelliae) and more. These herbs were focused on the management of diarrhea-predominant IBS.
206 patients were randomly assigned to either receive the herbs or a placebo for 8 weeks. The effectiveness of the formula or placebo in reducing IBS symptoms were 67.6% and 40.2% respectively (IBID).
The study overall concluded that the Chang’an I Recipe was more effective than the placebo in the management of diarrhea-predominant IBS supporting the effectiveness of the Chinese herbs (IBID).
IBS can be a frustrating and embarrassing condition. Seeking advice from practitioners that have experience with personalized IBS management is highly recommended in your healing journey.