Digestive Disorders & Gastrointestinal Diseases

Around 2-4 in 1,000 people in Northern Europe have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease (Rubin 2000). Both are chronic, relapsing, inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract with several shared clinical features, but with largely distinct risk factors, genetic, immunological, anatomical and histological features, and response to therapy (DTB 2003). Their treatment, which includes medical and surgical approaches, is usually considered in two phases: the induction of remission in an acute attack, and the long-term maintenance of remission (DTB 2003).

Gastritis is an inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach, which can be acute or chronic. Causes include irritation due to excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, stress, or the use of certain drugs (e.g. NSAIDs), Helicobacter pylori infection and pernicious anaemia. Symptoms of gastritis vary among individuals, and many have no symptoms. However, the most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting (possibly with blood), abdominal pain and bloating, indigestion, loss of appetite, and blood in the stools. Treatment usually involves drug therapy.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux is a common (affecting up to 25% of adults) relapsing condition caused by repeated exposure of the lower oesophagus to refluxed gastric contents (Moayyedi 2007). It presents in various ways: some patients just have symptoms, some have endoscopic evidence of mucosal damage (oesophagitis), with or without symptoms, and an important minority have complications such as bleeding, stricture or columnar epithelial (Barrett's) transformation of the lower oesophageal mucosa which predisposes to adenocarcinoma. Conventional treatment options include drugs and surgery.

About 20% of people in the UK have functional gastrointestinal disorders such as functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome (Jones 1990; Jones 1992). The latter condition is the subject of another professional information backgrounder, and will not be discussed further here. Functional gastrointestinal disorders are characterised by persisting gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. pain, bloating) in the absence of any identifiable underlying structural or biochemical explanation (Drossman 2000). They are conventionally treated with drugs or with psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, brief psychotherapy and gut-directed hypnotherapy (DTB 2005).

How acupuncture can help

Acupuncture, and Chinese dietary therapy can all see good improvement in a wide range of digestive problems. As traditional Chinese medicine, does not have the same level of separation between mind and body and spirit this can often lead to good understanding and results where there is an emotional content to the situation.

Acupuncture has been found superior to sham acupuncture for disease activity scores in Chrohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (Joos 2006; Joos 2006; Schneider 2007). Other 'placebo' comparisons have tended to show no statistical effect; however, there is as yet no satisfactory placebo intervention for acupuncture so the interpretation of such data is difficult and controversial. In comparisons with Western drug treatments acupuncture has been found beneficial for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases: dyspepsia (Chen 2005), gastritis (Ren 2009; Gu 2009), ulcerative colitis (Mu 2007; Lee 2009), reflux (Journal of the National Medical Association 2008; Zhang 2010) and pancreatitis (Wang 2007). Nevertheless most systematic reviews have been reluctant to endorse acupuncture because of the generally poor quality, and hence unreliability, of the studies to date (Schneider 2007; Lee 2009).

Acupuncture may help in the treatment of GI tract disorders, by:

•  inhibiting gastric and duodenal motility by activating sympathetic nerves via spinal reflexes, and increasing motility via the vagus nerve and supraspinal reflexes (Chang 2001; Takahashi 2006; Sehn 2006; Yao 2006; Noguchi 2008);
• altering acid secretion, and visceral pain (Takahashi 2006)
• improving delayed gastric emptying (Xu 2006)
• reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors    (Zijlstra 2003)
• stimulating areas in the brain that are involved in gastric perception (Zeng 2009)
• inhibiting stress-induced pro-opiomelanocortin expression in the hypothalamus (Sun 2008)
• increasing vasoactive intestinal peptide and nitric oxide in plasma, gastric mucosal and bulb tissues, and elevating expression of vasoactive intestinal peptide in antral smooth   muscle (Shen 2006);
• decreasing permeability of intestinal mucosa in patients with acute pancreatitis, and reducing accumulation of endogenous inflammatory mediators and vascular active substance in intestinal mucosa (Wang 2007).


Drossman DA (Ed). Diagnostic Criteria for the Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Second edition. Kansas: Degnon Associates, 2000: 659-69.
Hypnotherapy for functional gastrointestinal disorders. DTB 2005; 43: 45-8.
Inducing remission in inflammatory bowel disease. DTB 2003; 41: 30-2.
Jones RH et al. Dyspepsia in England and Scotland. Gut 1990; 31: 401-5.
Jones R, Lydeard S. Irritable bowel syndrome in the general population. BMJ 1992; 304: 87-90.
Moayyedi P, Delaney B. GORD in adults. Clinical Evidence. Search date July 2007.
Rubin GP et al. Inflammatory bowel disease: epidemiology and management in an English general practice population. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2000; 14: 1553-9.

Irritable Bowl Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) describes a collection of symptoms, commonly including 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.

IBS affects up to 22% of people in the UK (Maxwell 1997) and is the most common functional digestive disorder seen by GPs. Women are 2-3 times more likely to develop IBS, and often suffer more symptoms during their periods. The condition often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. 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. Pain and impairment from IBS can lead to frequent doctor visits, hospitalizations and workplace absenteeism, and can cause depression.

What causes IBS?

The cause of IBS is unclear, but it appears that sensory nerves in the bowel are hypersensitive in people with IBS and may overreact when the bowel wall stretches. Intestinal muscles can be hypo- or hyperactive, causing pain, cramping, flatulence, sudden bouts of diarrhea, and/or constipation. The symptoms are usually triggered by stress or eating. Systematic reviews of the research literature suggest that conventional medications are of limited benefit in IBS (Akehurst 2001).

How acupuncture can help

There is consistent evidence that a course of acupuncture improves IBS symptoms and general wellbeing (Anastasi 2009, Trujillo 2008, Reynolds 2008, Schneider 2007b, Xing 2004, Lu 2000).

Research has shown that acupuncture treatment benefits IBS symptoms by:
• Providing pain relief (Pomeranz 1987).
• Regulating the motility of the digestive tract (Yin 2010, Chen 2008).
• Raising the sensory threshold of the gut. Various possible mechanisms have been identified, involving spinal nerves and NMDA receptors and a range of neurotransmitters (Xu 2009, Ma 2009, Tian 2008, Tian 2006, Xing 2004). A lowered threshold to bowel pain and distention are hallmarks of IBS.
• Increasing parasympathetic tone (Schneider 2007b). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which can stimulate colon spasms, resulting in abdominal discomfort. In people with IBS, the colon can be oversensitive to the smallest amount of conflict or stress. Acupuncture activates the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation or 'rest and digest' response.
• Reducing anxiety and depression (Samuels 2008). The distress provoked by IBS symptoms can lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety-pain-anxiety, while the embarrassing nature of the condition can lead to feelings of depression. Acupuncture can alter the brain's mood chemistry, increases production of serotonin and endorphins (Han 2004), helping to combat these negative affective states.

Acupuncture can be safely and effectively combined with Western biomedicine, and other treatments such as relaxation exercises, herbal medicine and psychotherapy. In addition to offering acupuncture and related therapies, acupuncturists will often make suggestions as to dietary and other lifestyle changes that may be helpful in combating IBS symptoms. Working with a supportive therapist can also help people suffering from IBS to change their negative health beliefs and improve their coping mechanisms, which can have a positive influence on both mood and symptoms.

Akehurst R, Kaltenthaler E. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a review of randomised controlled trials. Gut. 2001 Feb;48(2):272-82.
Maxwell PR et al. Irritable bowel syndrome. Lancet. 1997 Dec 6;350(9092):1691-5.


Bowel habits differ considerably from one individual to another. Some people would consider themselves constipated if they opened their bowels once every other day, others would only consider themselves constipated if they didn’t open their bowels for a week. Constipation can also come in the form of stools with normal frequency but which are dry and hard, or even painful, to pass. Whatever the nature of your constipation, a sluggish bowel can cause not only local discomfort, but also a feeling of fullness and overall sluggishness.

How acupuncture can help

In order to form an appropriate treatment for you, we will ask you about your bowel habits as well as try to get a more general understanding of your digestion and your diet. Acupuncture can encourage easier passage of stools as well as return a sense of regularity to your bowels. Acupuncture is useful in strengthening your overall digestive process from the metabolism of your food to the absorption of nutrients and the voiding of the bowel.

Acupuncture has been proven to not only significantly help relieve constipation…
…but it actually helps relieve chronic, severe constipation not responding to other treatments!
On top of that, acupuncture was shown to have long term, persistent effects in helping to solve constipation.

Details of the study:
(recently published on Sept 12th, 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine)
• over 1,000 patients with chronic, severe functional constipation participated in a 8 week trial
• half (539 patients) received acupuncture and half (another 539 patients) received sham acupuncture (acupuncture at non-acupoints) for 28 sessions over the course of two months
• researchers analzyed data in bowel habits, tracking the number of complete spontaneous bowel movements during the two month treatment period and a three month follow up period
The results: 
• patients who received acupuncture had almost double the amount complete spontaneous bowel movements than those who received acupuncture at non-acupuncture sites.
• twice as many participants had spontaneous bowel movements at least 3 or more times a week in the treatment group than in the sham treatment group
• the statistically significant boost in bowel movements persisted for the entire 3 month follow up period even after the acupuncture treatments ended
•  patients receiving acupuncture also reported improved quality of life and general well being.


Whatever the cause or nature of the diarrhoea, the result is poor absorption of nutrients and water loss. Diarrhoea can be acute as with food poisoning. It can also be an indication of a food intolerance causing difficulty digesting certain foods. Alternatively it could be a chronic weakness in the digestive system. It can just be a case of loose stools or it can be watery diarrhoea. It can also alternate with constipation.

How acupuncture can help

In order to form an appropriate treatment for you, we will ask you about the frequency and timing of your diarrhoea as well as try to get a more general understanding of your digestive system and your diet. Acupuncture is useful in strengthening your digestion overall. Acupuncture helps to strengthen those weakened organs and resolve imbalances in order to improve the transformation and transportation of food. Acupuncture can be used to lessen the frequency and severity of bouts of diarrhoea in order to prevent further water and nutrient loss. A real positive of acupuncture is the ability to differentiate the cause of a person’s diarrhea, and so to treat it effectively and fully resolve the problem. Acupuncture is an effective treatment for all sorts of diarrhoea. With the digestive system functioning properly, diarrhea and other digestive problems are relieved. Also, a strengthened digestive system and healthy functioning means that future digestive upsets are less likely to occur.


Bloat is any abnormal gas swelling, or increase in diameter of the abdominal area. As a symptom, the patient feels a full and tight abdomen, which may cause abdominal pain and is sometimes accompanied by increased stomach growling, or more seriously, the total lack of it. It is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and premenstrual symptoms, amongst others.

How acupuncture can help

From a Chinese medicine perspective, bloating can come from different internal causes. Sometimes it can indicate an imbalance of the Liver, which is said to facilitate the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body, ensuring bodily functions work freely and efficiently. The Liver easily becomes imbalanced through consumption of toxins (such as alcohol) and the stress and strain of modern living. This causes energy and blood to stagnate in the digestive tract, resulting in bloating, pain and digestive disturbance.

Another type of bloating originates in the digestive system itself (the Spleen-pancreas in Chinese medical terminology). Symptoms of bloating after eating and feeling swollen, puffy and sluggish during the menstrual cycle indicate poor function of the digestive system. This is usually caused by irregular eating patterns and eating too much cold, raw food, too much sugar and dairy, as well as excessive worrying.
Acupuncture works effectively by clearing stagnation and strengthening the digestive process to resolve bloating. To help create lasting change, eating an appropriate diet and learning ways to prevent and manage stress is often recommended alongside acupuncture treatment.

Bexley Acupuncture Clinic’s Tips on Stop Bloating

Chew your food.

We recommend slowing down. “Eating quickly can cause air swallowing that leads to bloating,” says Barker. “You can decrease bloating simply by chewing your food more. This puts less pressure on your spleen, the system responsible for digestion in Chinese medicine. Also, thoroughly chewing and tasting your food makes it more satisfying, which means you may eat less.”

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to sends hormonal signals to your brain telling it that you are full,” she says. “Slowing down and chewing well while enjoying the flavors of your holiday food may prevent bloating caused by overeating.”

We recommend at least 20 chews per bite. A person can do more if they’d like — even up to 100 chews! When food is chewed properly, the digestive enzyme amylase is released in the saliva to chemically break down starches and carbohydrates. Undigested carbohydrates are a big reason for distended bellies, so making sure your food is broken down properly before it hits the rest of your digestive tract is a great remedy for bloating.

Drink warm liquids.

We recommend ditching the iced water. Avoid drinking cold liquids, especially with meals. The digestive organs are made of smooth muscle, and muscles like warmth. Ingesting cold will weaken the digestive system. Warm liquids will help it relax and gain strength over time, reducing bloating.”

Remember to drink most fluids between meals and to only have small sips at meal time.”

Get to know ginger.

A favorite at-home cure for bloating is a cup of ginger tea, ideally before a meal. Using freshly sliced ginger root is best. Pour boiled water over the sliced root, cover and steep for about five minutes.

Ginger helps stimulate saliva, bile and gastric juice production, helping to prevent food fermentation in the digestive tract. This is why ginger is best used before a meal. Ginger also helps relax the muscles within the digestive tract, helping to release trapped gas. For this reason, it may help after a meal as well.

For indigestion and bloating, we recommend a cup of peppermint tea with thin slices of ginger and honey. Let the tea steep for a good amount of time so that the ginger gets soft and absorbs some of the sweet taste of the honey. After you drink the tea, you eat the ginger. It never fails to soothe the stomach and banish bloating.

Notice your reaction to certain foods.

Bloating can be a sign of a mild intolerance to certain foods. Notice when you bloat most. Is it after eating a bagel or other high-wheat-content food? After eating a lot of soy, in a latte or in the form of tofu? Or maybe dairy gets you feeling bad. Some guts have a hard time with one more more of these foods.

We recommend switching things up to lighten the wheat-dairy-soy load for a week or two and then reintroducing the culprits one at a time. Make sure to give yourself enough time to notice if you react with bloating, twenty-four hours should do it.

Eat with the seasons.

If you discover that you can’t eat certain foods, a good rule of thumb: “Eat with the season.”
Stop eating salads after spring and summer. Cook your foods in the fall and winter. Eat foods that grow naturally at the time of year you’re in. If you don’t know what grows, eat what the farmer’s market sells!

Enjoy a morning cocktail

We recommend drinking the following concoction first thing in the morning: squeezed juice from half a lemon and one teaspoon virgin olive oil, mixed into one glass of water.

Rub your belly.

Rubbing your belly in a clockwise direction to reduce bloating.
This is as a way to warm up your center, which stimulates spleen and stomach qi to guide digestion. We have many patients who complain of bloating, especially women, and it always seems to help move things along. We recommend 10 circles per day.

In Chinese medicine, bloating and indigestion indicate that the qi in the abdomen is obstructed, so self-massage can help improve flow and regulate the functions of the digestive organs.

Take a walk.

The best way to treat bloating is to take a walk after the big meal. It doesn’t have to be a long walk, just enough physical movement to help stimulate digestion. Sitting down on the couch will slow down your system, and that stagnation causes the discomfort of bloating.


Many patients undergoing chemotherapy experience nausea and vomiting (Gralla 1999; Hesketh 1998). The symptoms can be severe, impairing a patient's quality of life (Osoba 1997), causing emotional distress (Love 1989), and aggravating cancer-related symptoms such as cachexia, lethargy and weakness (Griffin 1996; Roscoe 2000).

Postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) are common complaints after general, regional, or local anaesthesia (Watcha 1992). These symptoms can occur in up to 80% of people given an anaesthetic (Sadhasivam 1999).

Nausea and vomiting are commonly experienced by women in early pregnancy; the prevalence rates are 50-80% for nausea, and 50% for vomiting and retching (Miller 2002; Woolhouse 2006). The symptoms are most common in the first trimester, between 6 and 12 weeks, but can continue to 20 weeks and last longer than this in up to 20% of women (Jewell 2003; Miller 2002). If vomiting is intractable, it can be associated with weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and may lead to hospitalisation (Miller 2002). The symptoms are thought to be associated with rising levels of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) or oestrogens (Goodwin 2002). Women experiencing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can suffer considerable physical and psychological effects (Attard 2002; Chou 2003; Chou 2008). The symptoms can affect daily activities and relationships, and result in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs (Attard 2002; Piwko 2007).


Drug treatment for nausea and vomiting includes 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, antimuscarinics, antihistamines, dopamine antagonists, corticosteroids and vitamins (i.e. B6 and B12).  The teratogenic effects of drugs (such as thalidomide) used in the past to control these symptoms have led to caution about prescribing medications in the first trimester of pregnancy.

How acupuncture can help

The best evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness is with postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) (Ezzo 2006a). The latest systematic review, based on 40 trials and nearly 5,000 patients, found acupuncture to be significantly better than sham treatment and at least as good as anti-emetic drugs, with minimal side-effects (Lee 2009). Trials published since this review gathered its data have also been consistently positive: acupressure at P6 (Soltani 2010), acupoint injection of droperidol at P6 (Zhu 2010), 24-hour acupoint stimulation (Frey 2009), acupuncture at several points (Ayoglu 2009), acupuncture at P6 (Puyang 2009, Frey 2009) and ear acupuncture (Sahmaddini 2008).

For chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, there is also substantial evidence supporting acupuncture and associated procedures. The latest systematic review (Ezzo 2006b) is now several years old. It found that acupuncture reduced the incidence of acute vomiting and self-administered acupressure appears to have a protective effect for acute nausea and can readily be taught to patients. Subsequent individual trials of acupuncture (Yang 2009; You 2009; Sima 2009; Gottschling 2008) have all reported significant benefits.

Acupuncture, electroacupuncture or acupressure have been used successfully as treatments for nausea and vomiting arising in various other circumstances, for example opioid-induced (Zheng 2008), radiotherapy-induced (Roscoe 2009; Bridge 2003), and post-myocardial infarction.(Dent 2003).

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules (Han 2004; Zhou 2008; Lee 2009). The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being (Pomeranz, 1987; Zhao 2008; Samuels 2008; Cheng 2009).. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation (Hui 2010).

Acupuncture may help to alleviate nausea and vomiting by:
• regulating gastric myo-electrical activity (Streitberger 2006)
• modulating the actions of the vagal nerve and autonomic nervous system (Huang2005)
• reducing vasopressin-induced nausea and vomiting and suppressing retrograde   peristaltic contractions (Tatewaki 2005)
• regulating vestibular activities in the cerebellum (Streitberger 2006)

For information on the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy see Pregnancy.


Attard CL et al. The burden of illness of severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in the United States. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2002; 186: S220-S227.
 Chou FH et al. Psychosocial factors related to nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in early pregnancy. Journal of Nursing Scholarship 2003; 35: 119-25.
 Chou FH et al. Relationships between nausea and vomiting, perceived stress, social support, pregnancy planning, and psychosocial adaptation in a sample of mothers: a questionnaire survey. International Journal of Nursing Studies 2008; 45: 1185-91.
 Goodwin TM. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: an obstetric syndrome. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2002; 186: S184-S189.
 Gralla R et al. Recommendations for the use of antiemetics: Evidence-based, clinical practice guidelines. Journal of Clinical Oncology 1999; 17: 2971-94.
Griffin A et al. On the receiving end: V Patient perceptions of the side effects of chemotherapy in 1993. Annals of Oncology 1996; 7: 189-95.
 Hesketh P et al. Methodology of antiemetic trials: response assessment, evaluation of new agents and definition of chemotherapy emotogenecity. Supportive Care Cancer 1998; 6: 221-7.
Jewell D. Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. American Family Physician 2003; 68: 143-4.
 Love R et al. Side effects and emotional distress during cancer chemotherapy. Cancer 1989; 63: 604-12.
 Miller F. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: the problem of perception--is it really a disease? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2002; 186: S182-S183.
 Osoba D et al. Effect of postchemotherapy nausea and vomiting on health-related quality of life. The Quality of Life and Symptom Control Committees of the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group. Supportive Care Cancer 1997; 5: 307-13
Piwko C et al. The weekly cost of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy for women calling the Toronto Motherisk Program. Current Medical Research and Opinion 2007; 23: 833-40.
Roscoe J et al. Nausea and vomiting remain a significant clinical problem: trends over time in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in 1413 patients treated in community clinical practices. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2000; 20: 113-21.
Sadhasivam S et al. The safety and efficacy of prophylactic ondansetron in patients undergoing modified radical mastectomy. Anesthesia and Analgesia 1999; 89: 1340-5.
Watcha MF, White PF. Postoperative nausea and vomiting: its etiology, treatment and prevention. Anesthesiology 1992; 77: 162-84.
Woolhouse M. Complementary medicine for pregnancy complications. Australian Family Physician 2007; 35: 695.
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Heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, aka ‘acid reflux’. The associated burning sensation which travels from the mid to upper chest, is caused by the oesophagus not functioning correctly. In healthy people, the lower end of the oesophagus stays closed, preventing acidic fluid in the stomach from flowing into the oesophagus when the stomach contracts. If the oesophagus fails to function properly, the stomach acid backs up causing the discomfort of heartburn.

Cause of Heartburn

There are various causative factors of heartburn, including over-eating, drinking coffee, consumption of tomatoes, acidic fruit juices, fatty and spicy foods and chocolate. Smoking, being over-weight, eating late at night and a stressful lifestyle are also common causes of acid reflux. Hiatus hernia and pregnancy can also contribute to GERD.


Conventional medical treatments include over-the-counter or prescribed antacids or acid reducers in order to neutralise or suppress the stomach’s production of acid. These medications can be really helpful but often give side effects such as diarrhoea, constipation, cramps and changes in bowel movements.

How acupuncture can help

Unlike conventional medicine, which views GERD as a single pathological process that is similar in all cases, the acupuncture perspective is that different people present with different types of acid reflux. During acupuncture the stimulation of selected acupuncture points can prevent the oesophageal sphincter from relaxing, which reduces acid reflux and heartburn. Based on your accompanying signs and symptoms, we will make a diagnosis and suggest a suitable treatment plan which might include acupuncture and/or dietary advice. This not only helps to reduce the symptoms of heartburn, but more importantly, address the root of the problem. Alongside treatment, balancing the digestive system might also require lifestyle changes, such as better sleeping habits, quitting smoking, losing weight and regular exercise.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Inflammation can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the back passage, but most commonly occurs in the last section of the small intestine (ileum) or the large intestine (colon).

Common symptoms can include:
• diarrhoea
• abdominal pain
• fatigue (extreme tiredness)
• unintended weight loss
• blood and mucus in your faeces (stools)

People with Crohn's disease sometimes go for long periods without symptoms or with very mild symptoms. This is known as remission. Remission can be followed by periods where symptoms flare up and become particularly troublesome.

What causes Crohn’s Disease?

The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. However, it is likely due to an abnormal response of the immune system. Food or bacteria in the intestines, or even the lining of the bowel may cause the uncontrolled inflammation associated with Crohn's disease.


Despite several causes having been suggested, there is no definitive answer and therefore conventional treatment focuses on symptom relief only. Whilst there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, it can be managed successfully and remain in remission for long periods of time. Conventional medicine uses immune suppressors, oral steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs, nutritional supplements and, if necessary, surgery to manage the condition.

How acupuncture can help

According to Chinese medicine, Crohn’s disease may be caused by constitutional weaknesses, invasion of pathogens from the exterior or an unbalanced diet. Depending on the cause, the diagnosis and treatment will be different. Acupuncture treatments are thus tailored to your individual circumstances.

Both conventional and Chinese medicine agree that diet plays a fundamental role in prevention and management of Crohn’s disease. In particular, according to Chinese medicine, excessive cold or raw food may injure the digestive system. Milk, cheese and other dairy products in many cases should be avoided. Food high in fiber, raw fruits or vegetables may also worsen any intestinal obstruction and may need to be avoided especially during active stages of the disease. Adequate calorific and fluid intake is very important as malnutrition and dehydration are common problems associated with Crohn’s disease. Dietary advice is therefore part of the treatment that we offer. Adjusting the lifestyle and working in a preventative way are also vital.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammation in the lining of the rectum and intestines, which often manifests with pain, bloody diarrhoea. 
What causes Ulcerative Colitis?

What causes Colitis?

The causes behind ulcerative colitis are not clear but may include chronic infection, autoimmune disease, allergic reactions as well as hereditary factors. Stress and a poor diet can also make the signs and symptoms worse.


Conventional treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the condition. The majority are treated with medication such as corticosteroids and immune-modulators to control the inflammation. People whose symptoms are triggered by certain foods can sometimes manage their condition by making appropriate dietary changes.

How acupuncture can help

Acupuncture constitutes an effective way of managing this condition. In fact, in research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, patients treated with acupuncture 10 sessions over a period of five weeks and followed up for 16 weeks. Not only did their colitis symptoms significantly improve, but they experienced significant improvements in general well-being.[1] In another large German meta-analysis, acupuncture was found to produce significant improvements in UC patients’ quality of life.[2]

According to Chinese medicine theory, UC is often caused by excessive heat and dampness within the body. Although these pathogenic factors can stem from various causes, the condition improves when they are cleared from the body acupuncture.

[1] Acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of ulcerative colitis: a randomized controlled study. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Sep;41(9):1056-63
[2] Acupuncture treatment in gastrointestinal diseases: a systematic review. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul 7;13(25):3417-24