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Effective means of Controlling Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: How TCM May Help

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS affects 10-15% of North Americans, affects twice as many females as males, and is considered one of the most common reasons for people to miss school or work.  In fact, the estimated direct and indirect cost of this literal pain in the bump is 41 billion per year!

So what is it?

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder involving changes in intestinal mobility.  It is also known as spastic colon and symptoms include abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation or diarrhea or both.  No structural change is seen in the digestive tract, however, and theories as to the cause of IBS include  gut–brain axis problems, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, genetic factors, food sensitivity, and gut motility problems.1

The TCM take

Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM takes the allopathic diagnosis into account, but always treats based on a patient’s presenting TCM pattern.  One very common root cause of IBS in TCM theory is Liver overacting on the Spleen.  This can be translated as stress (Liver Qi stagnation) affecting our digestive system (or Spleen-Pancreas function).  It is not surprising then, that commonly those with IBS are experiencing anxiety, depression or chronic fatigue syndrome alongside their digestive issues.

In my experience, a great improvement in digestive functioning often happens after just one acupuncture treatment!  The digestive function has always been of special interest to me as the old saying goes ‘we are what we eat’ and what comes out afterwards is highly indicative of our health and is a key tool we use to diagnose TCM patterns.  Acupuncture is believed to regulate the gastrointestinal tract by stimulating the somatic nervous system and vagus nerve and thus changing visceral sensation and motility.   

What to do

If you or someone you know is living with IBS then a trip to your local holistic health clinic may be your best bet in finding relief from your symptoms and unearthing the root cause.  Looking at food sensitivities (to be distinguished from true allergies), specific diet protocols for SIBO and incorporating acupuncture into your treatment plan are all things you can do to take back your health and improve your day-to-day living. 

Also, do what you can to encourage relaxation of your body and mind.  Yoga or a mindfulness practice is a great way to help your body’s fight-or-flight nervous system settle and promote the rest-and-digest system which too often takes a back seat in society today and is critical in all aspects of healing.


This article in not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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