Day 7 - Learning & Living

Alternative Therapies and How They Can Help Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Day 7 Task List

1. Choose an alternative therapy and make an appointment for your first treatment.

Given that IBS is a dysfunction, not a disease, and a severely under-researched one at that,[1] it's easy to see why there is a shortage of highly effective and safe medical options for treatment. Just as the disorder must be managed through lifestyle modifications such as diet and stress reduction, both non-traditional approaches to treating illness, so there is another avenue of addressing IBS that is currently outside, but gaining widespread acceptance in, medical practice.

This is the use of alternative therapies, particularly acupuncture and hypnotherapy. Both forms of treatment can (and should) be tailored to specifically address IBS patients, with a focus on reducing the frequency, severity, and duration of attacks. Impressively high success rates are achievable, and side effects should be non-existent. Interested?


Acupuncture, like Tai Chi, is one of the ancient forms of traditional Chinese healing arts. Unlike Tai Chi, however, acupuncture is not a self-directed therapy, whereby a person balances his or her own body's chi (energy or life force). Acupuncture is instead a treatment administered to a patient by a trained practitioner, who balances the body's chi by stimulating areas (acupuncture points) along the primary meridians, or channels, through which chi flows. These meridians run deep within the body and regulate all physical and mental processes, surfacing at the various acupoints. Acupuncture is the stimulation or sedation of these acupoints in order to balance the body's flow of chi.

The traditional Chinese perspective on acupuncture reflects the belief that the body is a complex and holistic physical/mental/emotional/spiritual system, balanced between health and sickness in a constantly changing flow of energy. According to this viewpoint, imbalances in this natural energy flow are thought to cause disease. Acupuncture, frequently in conjunction with the use of Chinese herbal and/or food medicine, restores health by balancing and improving the flow of chi, restoring proper function of muscles, nerves, vessels, glands, and organs.

An acupuncture treatment will strengthen the flow of chi or remove blockages in the meridians via the insertion of very thin, flexible acupuncture needles, from a depth of just beneath the skin to about an inch, at various acupoints along the meridians. (Please note that it's important to ask and verify that your acupuncturist works solely with single-use, sterile, disposable needles, as one of the only real (though rare) risks of acupuncture is infection or transmission of contagious diseases, such as Hepatitis B, at the puncture site.)

Thousands of these points exist in the body, and each one is associated with a specific internal organ or organ system. As the acupuncture needles are inserted into the acupoints the patient may feel nothing, or a sensation of tingling, aching, warmth, or heaviness. Most people report no pain from the needles, just an odd or unusual physical sensation that is different but not unpleasant. From one to twenty needles may be used in a single treatment session, and often the needles are stimulated after insertion by being twisted or heated with a moxibustion stick of smoldering herbs. This will heighten the sensation of chi. Most individual sessions lasts anywhere from about 5 to 60 minutes, depending on the condition being treated as well as the patient's response to the acupuncture. Typically the needles remain in place for twenty to forty minutes.

The number and frequency of treatments will vary with both the practitioner and the illness being addressed, but may range from a single session to several appointments a week, possibly over a period of several months. In general, for pain relief, six sessions should result in measurable results, [2] and if relief is not obtained after ten sessions the treatment should be deemed ineffective. A credible acupuncturist will recognize treatment failure and will not recommend a continuation of therapy. Treatments often become less frequent over time as the condition subsides, though maintenance sessions may be indicated at various intervals. If your condition is chronic and has been for a long period of time (not exactly unheard of for IBS), you may require regularly scheduled treatments over several months.

Click here to continue reading First Year: IBS.

[1] IBS receives less than 1% of digestive disease research funding through the National Institutes for Health, despite the fact that it is the single most common digestive disorder diagnosis in America (International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders).

[2] NIH Panel.

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