Do you suffer from unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms? Frequent and urgent diarrhea? Chronic constipation? Bloating? Stomach Pain? Have you been diagnosed with IBS, or suspect that you may have it? Today’s post is all about this unique ailment, and exactly how Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine can help you find relief.

So, What is IBS?

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is a digestive condition that primarily affects the Large Intestine and can lead to symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation, mucus or pain with bowel movements etc. It is a broad diagnosis that encompasses a variety of digestive pathologies, therefore it presents differently in many cases. For this reason it can be difficult to diagnose (and is also sometimes over diagnosed).

Unfortunately, the exact cause of IBS still remains a mystery, but there are some good theories as to what the problem may be caused by:

  • Changes in your natural gut flora
  • Muscle spasms or contractions of the intestines
  • Nervous system abnormalities
  • Sequela of severe infection

IBS is also known to have multiple comorbidities, including a high incidence of occurrence alongside depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and sexual dysfunction. Given that it can affect so many bodily systems, it makes sense to incorporate a holistic form of treatment into your arsenal.

Chinese Medicine’s Unique Approach to IBS

While there is no true “cure” for IBS, the symptoms can be managed to a point where the effects they have on your life are minimal.

Being an umbrella diagnosis, IBS can have a myriad of presentations. Luckily, Chinese Medicine treats every patient as a unique case. Variety is our bread and butter. When it comes to Chinese Medical treatment of ailments like IBS, there is a saying that describes our approach quite well: yì bìng tóng zhì, tóng bìng yì zhì (异病同治,同病异治; ‘different diseases, same treatment; same disease, different treatments’). Essentially, this means that different diseases can be treated in the same ways (with the same herbs or acupuncture points), and the same disease may need to be approached with a multitude of different treatments, depending on the presentation. In other words, we may see 10 different patients for IBS, and treat each of them in different ways.

As with all Chinese Medicine diagnosis, we take into account your entire health picture. Digestion, Sleep, Energy Levels, Emotional Health, Sexual Health, etc. Once we have a general idea of the state of your internal organs (and any imbalances that may be occurring) we tailor an Acupuncture protocol, or Herbal Formula to suit your needs. Acupuncture points are generally located on the limbs, abdomen, and back. Points are used to help calm the nervous system, promote digestion and regular bowel movements, reduce pain, and support the stomach and intestines. Herbal Medicine has many of the same functions as Acupuncture, but is able to incorporate the use of herbs like Rhubarb Root (Purgatives) to help promote bowel movements, and Moistening herbs like Hemp Seed to help with Dryness in the intestines.

Both modalities can be used separately, but for best results we recommend using Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture alongside one another. In addition to treatment, Lifestyle recommendations will be given by your practitioner and often include diet adjustments, relaxation or meditation techniques etc.

Scientific Research on Acupuncture & Herbal Approaches to IBS

Research of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine has become more prominent in recent years. The results around treatment of IBS is relatively promising.

  • In a 2018 meta analysis by Zhu et al. they found that “the effect of acupuncture treatment on diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome was better than that of the assessed drugs, with close to no side effects.”
  • Another meta analysis from 2014 by Chao et al. concluded that “Acupuncture exhibits clinically and statistically significant control of IBS symptoms.”
  • In terms of herbal medical evidence, one study by Pan et al. “demonstrated the beneficial effects of herbal [formula] Tongxie Yaofang (TXYF) Granules in alleviating abdominal pain and distention, restoring normal stool consistency, reducing the frequency of defecation, and improving mental tension and depression in IBS-D patients.”


IBS can have far reaching affects on not just digestion, but energy levels and mental health. However, these negative symptoms can be effectively managed through Chinese Medicine. There is no reason to continue suffering. Book in with a practitioner today and find the relief you’ve been seeking.

If you have any questions feel free to contact us, or if you’re ready to dive in: Book Online at


Chao, G. Q., & Zhang, S. (2014). Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, 20(7), 1871.

Irritable bowel syndrome. (2018, March 17). Retrieved January 13, 2020, from

Pan, F., Zhang, T., Zhang, Y. H., Xu, J. J., & Chen, F. M. (2009). Effect of Tongxie Yaofang (痛泻要方) granule in treating diarrhea-predominate irritable bowel syndrome. Chinese journal of integrative medicine, 15(3), 216-219.

Zhu, L., Ma, Y., Ye, S., & Shu, Z. (2018). Acupuncture for diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: a network meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018.

by Jon McDonell, R.Ac

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