Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, for short, refers to a set of symptoms that includes altered bowel habits, flatulence, bloating, and long-term stomach pain. It is a dysfunction of the intestines, developing without any tangible manifestation of structural abnormality.

In the United States about 20% of the population show symptoms of IBS each year. In terms of digestive problem, IBS is the most commonly heard complaint by doctors with women twice or thrice more likely to experience IBS; women also, are likely to suffer symptoms or exacerbate them during their periods. IBS usually starts during adolescence or early adulthood.  Factors that can predispose this disorder can include an episode of infectious diarrhea, laxatives, emotional stress, and a low-fiber diet.  IBS is often a longstanding condition that recurs frequently and is connected with significant economic and social costs, and health. Impairment and pain generated by IBS can result in frequent absences from work, a lot of doctor visits, hospitalizations, and can lead to depression.

There is still no definite reason what really causes IBS although medical researchers suspect that nerves in the bowel become over sensitive in individuals with this condition. The bowels then overreact when the wall of the bowel stretches. Muscles of the intestines can be hyper or hypoactive. Either way, it leads to sudden episodes of constipation and/or diarrhea, flatulence, cramping and pain. The symptoms are often brought about by eating or excessive stress.

Medical studies have demonstrated that the therapy of acupuncture can help benefit IBS patients by:

Increasing sensory threshold of the gut – IBS patients have a lowered threshold to bowel distention and pain.
Normalizing the motility of the digestive tract
Providing pain relief

Other benefits that acupuncture can provide an IBS patient include:

A reduction of depression and anxiety – IBS symptoms cause distress that can result in a vicious cycle of anxiety-pain-anxiety. Acupuncture can address this problem by modifying the chemistry of the brain that can result in the increased production of beneficial chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that helps in neutralizing the negative emotional effects of IBS.

An enhancement of parasympathetic tone – Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to spasms in the colon and generate stomach discomfort. IBS sufferers possess a hypersensitive colon that tends to abnormally respond to the smallest amount of stress or conflict. Acupuncture neutralizes this by stimulating the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, enabling the patient to relaxation and helping prevent the triggering of their IBS symptoms.

Medical studies have demonstrated that the best results for IBS treatment usually entail the combination of western medicine and other forms of treatments such as psychotherapy, herbal medicine and relaxation exercises with acupuncture.  Furthermore, acupuncturist will recommend specific lifestyle and dietary changes in addition to performing acupuncture and other helpful therapies.