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TCM and Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long tradition of healing, and is one of the most well known of the natural therapies or treatments on offer.  These are increasingly sought out as an alternative to traditional Western medicine and drug treatments, which often have a range of side effects.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the stomach, or digestive system.  Typical symptoms include stomach pains, bloating, wind, diarrhoea, heartburn, constipation, nausea and vomiting.  Though there is no known cause of IBS certain types of foods, anxiety, stress and infections are thought to be triggers for the condition. It is most commonly observed in young adults and tends to affect more women than males.  Besides a course of antibiotics, other treatments include modifications to diet as well as stress management.

What is TCM?

TCM is an ancient holistic healing tradition that incorporates elements of herbal medicine, acupuncture, breathing therapy, massage and meditative practises.  Central to the practise of TCM is the concept of health relating to the flow of energy in the body.  For optimum health the energy flow must be uninterrupted and reach all the major organs. Any blockages need to be redressed by rebalancing the energy levels that run along the major meridians throughout the body.  In TCM there are 12 main acupuncture meridians, each responsible for the health of a particular area of the body.

How Can TCM Help IBS?

TCM) be useful in the management of IBS.  In TCM, the spleen is the primary organ for the regulation of digestive functions.  If you have a deficiency in your spleen qi (energy), you may suffer from fatigue and diarrhea, which worsens during periods of overexertion.  Abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and haemmorhoids are other signs of spleen qi deficiency.  To treat this deficiency, specific acupuncture points are chosen in order to nourish the spleen qi. An individualised herbal remedy may also be prescribed.

The liver qi is also important in the management of IBS.  People that have stagnant liver qi may find that they suffer from pellet shaped stools, nausea, belching, or acid reflux, which can be brought on or worsened by stress.  To free the liver qi and get it flowing freely again, acupuncture, tai chi, or qi gong may be used.  Herbal medicines are also used.  If the liver and the spleen are not in harmony, irritability, pain, and alternating constipation and diarrhea may occur.  Negative emotions such as stress, anger and frustration will worsen the condition.  Herbal remedies and acupuncture are used to correct the disharmony.

Ensure that your TCM practitioner is trained and appropriately qualified.  Membership of an association will also give you some level of assurance as to the competence and level of training of a practitioner.       

Find out about other effective natural treatments for IBS.


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