Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) describes a collection of symptoms. These commonly include chronic abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and altered bowel habits. It is a functional disorder of the intestines, occurring in the absence of visible structural abnormality.
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Predisposing factors may include a low-fibre diet, emotional stress, use of laxatives or a bout of infectious diarrhoea. It is typically a chronic, recurrent disorder, associated with substantial health, social and economic costs.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may benefit IBS symptoms by:
- Providing pain relief .
- Regulating the motility of the digestive tract .
- Raising the sensory threshold of the gut. Various possible mechanisms have been identified, involving spinal nerves and NMDA receptors and a range of neurotransmitters. A lowered threshold to bowel pain and distention are hallmarks of IBS.
- Increasing parasympathetic tone . Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which can stimulate colon spasms.
There is consistent evidence that a course of acupuncture improves IBS symptoms and general well being.
Acupuncture can be safely and effectively combined with Western medicine. Other treatments such as relaxation exercises, herbal medicine and psychotherapy can also be used. In addition to offering acupuncture and related therapies, acupuncturists will often make suggestions as to dietary and other lifestyle changes. This may be helpful in combating IBS symptoms.
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