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Research: Digestive Disorders



There has not been a great deal of good clinical research work published about the effects of acupuncture on the digestive system, so it is difficult to be sure exactly how useful it is in such diseases. This section is therefore deliberately rather vague as it is far more sensible not to quote exact facts and figures when there is little evidence to substantiate them. Animal experiments, both in China and the West, show quite clearly that acupuncture does have an effect on the digestive system, and in spite of the lack of clinical research there are good grounds for believing that acupuncture can influence a variety of disorders within this system.

There has not been a great deal of good clinical research work published about the effects of acupuncture on the digestive system, so it is difficult to be sure exactly how useful it is in such diseases. This section is therefore deliberately rather vague as it is far more sensible not to quote exact facts and figures when there is little evidence to substantiate them. Animal experiments, both in China and the West, show quite clearly that acupuncture does have an effect on the digestive system, and in spite of the lack of clinical research there are good grounds for believing that acupuncture can influence a variety of disorders within this system.




Indigestion (Acupuncture)

Indigestion is a symptom rather than a disease, and can be caused by a variety of factors such as over-indulgence, stress and acid regurgitation. It is important to investigate long standing indigestion so that the exact reasons for this symptom can be clearly defined.

Acid regurgitation is one of the commoner causes of indigestion and often presents with symptoms such as heartburn. The sensation of heartburn is caused by irritation due to the acid reflux from the stomach into the tube connecting the stomach to the mouth (the oesophagus). This syndrome may be called a 'hiatus hernia' although a variety of other names can also be used to describe exactly the same symptoms.

Acupuncture is not the treatment of choice for all types of indigestion. For instance, the best treatment for over-indulgence is to eat less, but some other causes of indigestion such as hiatus hernia and stress are definitely amenable to acupuncture therapy. Exact figures for success rates are not available, but the 'clinical impression' that arises from a number of acupuncturists indicates that about 60 per cent of patients gain some long-term relief of their symptoms with acupuncture. Symptoms do recur and usually require re-treatment after about six to twelve months

Indigestion (Herbs)

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Stomach Ulcers (Acupuncture)

An ulcer is an area of raw tissue, rather like the tissue found under the scab of a healing cut. Ulcers can occur in the stomach and are usually found either in the stomach proper (gastric ulcers), or in the part of the intestine that drains food from the stomach (duodenal ulcers). Stomach ulcers are a common problem but their exact cause is unknown.

In China acupuncture is the treatment of choice for stomach ulcers, and ulcers certainly do heal after acupuncture. Fortunately both types of stomach ulcer heal spontaneously and this creates a great deal of difficulty in assessing the curative effects of acupuncture as compared to natural remission; furthermore, there are now available some highly effective and relatively non-toxic drugs to cure ulcers.

Duodenal ulcers are associated with a high acid level in the stomach. It is unclear exactly how much this factor affects the development of duodenal ulcers, but it is fair to say that high acid levels are a factor in ulcer development. Research work by Chinese physiologists has shown, quite clearly, that acupuncture can reduce the acidity of the stomach and this may be one of the mechanisms by which acupuncture heals stomach ulcers and other digestive diseases.

Autonomic disorders in the clinical picture of gastric and duodenal peptic ulcer and their acupuncture reflexotherapy

Abstract: Patients with peptic ulcer demonstrate diverse psychovegetative disorders that complicate the course of the somatic disease. Depending on the intensity of psychovegetative disorders the following syndromes were distinguished: astheno-neurotic, astheno-hypochondriac, astheno-depressive and psycho-vegetative with organic microsymptomatology. The use of laser puncture in multimodality therapy of peptic ulcer patients favours correction of vegetative disorders and normalization of regenerative processes occurring in the gastroduodenal system.

Kokurin GV. Zhurnal Nevropatologii i Psikhiatrii Imeni S. S. Korsakova, 1992, 92(5-12):9-10. Language: Russian. (UI: 93190668) AT: UCLA Biomed W1 ZH765 SRLF W1 ZH765 (PE title: Zhurnal nevropatologii i psikhiatrii imeni S.S. Korsakova / Ministerstvo zdravookhraneniia Soiuza SSR.)

The effect of acupuncture on the psychomatic status of peptic ulcer patient

Abstract: A study of the psychosomatic effects of acupuncture treatment of ulcer diseases indicates that a course of acupuncture procedures provides psychological rehabilitation of these patients and results in significant improvement of the functional indices of the gastroduodenal system.

It is supposed that acupuncture influences the general mechanisms of ulcer disease pathogenesis, normalizes the cortico-hypothalamo-visceral relations.

Emel'ianenko IV. Vrachebnoe Delo, 1991 May(5):98-100. Language: Russian.
(UI: 91327633) (Requested library location(s) not linked. Try F PE .)

Stomach Ulcers (Herbs)

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Gall Stones (Acupuncture)

A large volume of work has been published by the Chinese about the effects of acupuncture on the gall bladder. It would seem that acupuncture can cause the discharge of quite large gall stones in the faeces, obviating the necessity for most operations to remove the gall bladder. The Chinese studies are of great interest but it is too soon to draw valid long-term conclusions about this work.

Gall Stones (Herbs)

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Diarrhea (Acupuncture)

Diarrhea is a symptom that can be indicative of a variety of diseases; it may be caused by an infection (dysentry), an inflammatory process (colitis), stress or dietary indiscretion. Sometimes no clear cause can be found for irregular bowel habits and these ill-defined problems are usually called 'irritable bowel syndrome'. Studies on bowel infections, completed in China, show that acupuncture affects the natural history of this disease. The Chinese report that recovery is quicker, and complications less frequent, if acupuncture is given in this condition. Clear evidence is also provided to show that acupuncture 'improves' the natural defenses of the body in these types of infection. A large body of evidence is now available, showing that acupuncture stimulates the body's natural defenses in many infectious diseases; this again suggests another possible mechanism for the effects of acupuncture. Acupuncture can be shown to alter the activity of the immuno system, stimulating the production of immunoglobulins (chemicals that help to kill invading bacteria), and various other important substances. This measurable effect lends support to the philosophical idea that acupuncture helps the body to cure disease naturally.

Diarrhea (Herbs)

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Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Colitis (Acupuncture)

Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and colitis are collectively described as inflammatory bowel diseases. The exact cause of these problems is unknown. When inflammatory bowel disease is present the intestines become raw and inflamed and the patient usually complains of symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood loss and diarrhoea. These diseases are often difficult to treat with the available Western therapeutics, but they are sometimes amenable to acupuncture. Exact figures describing success rates are not available at present.

Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Colitis (Herbs)

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IBS (Acupuncture)

Irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea caused by stress can also be improved by acupuncture, but clear facts and figures are not available and further research is required in this field.

IBS (Herbs)

Chinese herbs and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

A team of researchers led by Alan Bensoussan of the University of Western Sydney Macarthur in Australia has confirmed that Chinese herbal medicine can ease the symptoms of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. It is estimated that about 10% to 20% of adults suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. The Australian research placed 116 patients with irritable bowel syndrome on one of three treatment regimens: i. individually tailored Chinese herbal therapy; ii. a standard Chinese herbal formulation; or iii. a placebo.

Patients were not informed as to which of the three formulations they were receiving. The authors report that after four months of treatment, standard or individualised herbal therapies were associated with "significant improvement in bowel symptom scores". 76% of patients on standard herbal therapy and 64% of those on individualised therapy reported symptom improvement, compared with just 33% of patients in the placebo group. The researchers found little difference in initial improvement rates between those patients receiving either individualised or standard Chinese herbal therapies. But Bensoussan and colleagues suggest that individual therapies may work better over the long-term. At 14 weeks after the end of treatment "patients in the individualised treatment group ... maintained more substantial improvement" than patients in the other two groups, they report.

(The Journal of the American Medical Association 1998;280:1585-1589. 2)

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Piles (Acupuncture)

Piles are a common cause of human misery; they are really varicose veins occurring around the anus and rectum. Once again no clear figures are available about cure rates, but piles are said to be helped by acupuncture.

Piles (Herbs)

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Food Allergies (Herbs)

Food allergies and Chinese herbal medicine

Twenty patients participated in this study. There were twelve men and eight women ranging in ages between 6-67 years old. They have all complained of food allergy gastritis after eating certain foods. The main symptoms were abdominal pain and distention, indigestion and diarrhea. A few had nausea and vomiting and some had complained of hives after eating the allergenic food. There were reports of asthma and joint pain. Some of the offending foods were shellfish, cow’s milk, walnuts, lamb and pork.
A daily formula was decocted and administered to each patient that consisted of Huang Qi, Bai Jiang Cao, Ma Chi Xian, Di Ku Dan, stir-fried Shan Zha, Bai Zhu, Fu Ling, Huang Qin, Hou Po, Huang Lian and Huo Xiang with some modifications for particular presenting symptoms.

According to the study, a cure was defined as a complete disappearance of symptoms, a negative skin patch test, a lowering of IgE levels to normal, and the ability to eat the offending foods without presenting symptoms for up to one year. Fourteen out of twenty were considered cured. Five patients improved and one patient did not improve. Improvement was defined as the disappearance of symptoms, lowering of IgE levels to normal, a positive skin patch test and some allergic symptoms after eating allergenic foods. Overall, there was a 95% effective rate.

Zhang Xin-Cheng, et al. Xin Zhong Yi (New Chinese Medicine). #9 pp.59-60. 2002

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