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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? Alleviate Symptom with Acupuncture and Chi Nei Tsang

Written by Dr. Jacintha "Jaz" Roemer L.Ac., DACM

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive disorder characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements.

While conventional treatments often focus on symptom management, holistic approaches such as Acupuncture and Chi Nei Tsang offer a more comprehensive solution by addressing the underlying imbalances that contribute to the condition.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. From a Western medical perspective, IBS is considered a functional disorder, meaning there is no structural abnormality or specific underlying cause that can be identified through standard diagnostic tests such as imaging or blood work.

Several factors are believed to contribute to the development of IBS, including:

  1. Abnormal GI Motility: People with IBS may experience abnormal contractions of the muscles in the digestive tract, leading to changes in bowel habits and symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation.

  2. Visceral Hypersensitivity: Individuals with IBS may have heightened sensitivity to pain signals originating from the gastrointestinal tract, leading to increased perception of discomfort or pain.

  3. Altered Gut Microbiota: Research suggests that changes in the composition and balance of gut bacteria (microbiota) may play a role in the development of IBS symptoms. Imbalances in the gut microbiome can disrupt normal digestive function and contribute to symptoms such as bloating and gas.

  4. Psychological Factors: Stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors can exacerbate symptoms of IBS and may contribute to its onset or severity. The gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain, plays a significant role in regulating digestive function and may be disrupted in individuals with IBS.

  5. Dietary Triggers: Certain foods and dietary patterns may trigger or exacerbate symptoms of IBS in susceptible individuals. Common triggers include high-fat foods, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners.

Diagnosis of IBS is typically based on the presence of characteristic symptoms and the absence of alarm features that may indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer. Treatment strategies for IBS aim to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life and may include dietary modifications, stress management techniques, medications to relieve symptoms such as antispasmodics or laxatives, and lifestyle changes.

Overall, while the exact cause of IBS remains unclear, a multifactorial approach that addresses both physiological and psychological factors is often necessary to effectively manage symptoms and improve overall well-being in individuals with IBS.

Understanding IBS and Emotions

In understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it's essential to recognize the intricate relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) health and emotions. Research indicates a significant connection between emotional well-being and the manifestation of IBS symptoms, highlighting the role of psychological factors in the onset, exacerbation, and management of the condition.

  1. Stress and Anxiety: Stress and anxiety are known triggers for IBS symptoms, often leading to increased abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. The gut-brain axis, a complex communication network between the gut and the brain, plays a crucial role in regulating digestive function and responding to emotional stimuli. Heightened stress levels can disrupt this axis, leading to alterations in GI motility, visceral sensitivity, and immune function, all of which can contribute to the development or exacerbation of IBS symptoms.

  2. Emotional Distress: Individuals with IBS may experience a range of emotional distress, including depression, frustration, and embarrassment, as a result of their symptoms. The unpredictable nature of IBS symptoms and their impact on daily life can lead to feelings of isolation, social withdrawal, and impaired quality of life. Addressing the emotional aspects of IBS is essential for comprehensive management and may involve counseling, support groups, and stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation or relaxation exercises.

  3. Brain-Gut Interactions: Emerging research suggests that bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut plays a critical role in the pathophysiology of IBS. Emotions such as anxiety, fear, or sadness can influence gut function and vice versa, creating a feedback loop that contributes to symptom generation and exacerbation. Dysregulation of this brain-gut axis may underlie the heightened visceral sensitivity, altered gut motility, and aberrant pain processing observed in individuals with IBS.

  4. Psychosocial Factors: Psychosocial factors such as childhood trauma, adverse life events, and dysfunctional coping mechanisms may increase the risk of developing IBS or exacerbate existing symptoms. Traumatic experiences, particularly during sensitive developmental periods, can have long-lasting effects on neurobiological pathways involved in stress response and emotional regulation, predisposing individuals to GI dysfunction and visceral hypersensitivity later in life.

  5. Mind-Body Interventions: Recognizing the intertwined nature of emotions and GI health, mind-body interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) have shown promise in managing IBS symptoms by addressing both physiological and psychological aspects of the condition. These approaches focus on changing maladaptive thought patterns, reducing stress levels, and promoting self-awareness and relaxation, leading to improvements in symptom severity and overall well-being.

Emotions play a crucial role in the experience of IBS, influencing symptom expression, disease course, and treatment outcomes. Integrating psychological interventions into the management of IBS is essential for addressing the multifaceted nature of the condition and promoting holistic healing and well-being.

Addressing IBS and Emotional Imbalances Naturally

Acupuncture, a pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), works by stimulating specific points along the body's meridian pathways to regulate the flow of qi, or vital energy. By targeting points related to the digestive system, acupuncture can help alleviate abdominal pain, reduce bloating, and regulate bowel function, providing relief from IBS symptoms.

Chi Nei Tsang, an ancient abdominal massage technique, complements acupuncture by addressing tension and stagnation in the abdomen, where many digestive disturbances originate. Through gentle manipulation of the abdominal organs, Chi Nei Tsang promotes relaxation, improves circulation, and enhances digestive function, helping to alleviate symptoms of IBS and restore balance to the body.

Together, acupuncture and Chi Nei Tsang offer a holistic approach to managing IBS, addressing both the physical and energetic aspects of the condition. By restoring harmony to the digestive system and reducing stress levels, individuals with IBS can experience significant relief and enjoy a better quality of life.

Schedule a session with Dr. Jaz here or read below to take an upcoming course on Chi Nei Tsang!


Medical Abdominal Massage; A Course in Chi Nei Tsang | LIVE In-Person Class

This course offers an introduction to self-massage techniques designed to promote digestive and emotional well-being. Participants will gain practical insights and learn basic techniques through instructional videos, empowering them to apply these methods either for personal self-care or in aiding others. Don't miss this opportunity to explore the profound benefits of this traditional practice.

Join us for a LIVE In-Person workshop on the ancient Chinese Medical Abdominal Massage, "Chi Nei Tsang," as taught by Master Mantak Chia of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

📅 DATE: May 11th, 2024

⏰ TIME: 9am-6pm


🎓 CEU's: 8 Category 1, Approved by CA Acupuncture Board, 8 CEU's NCBTMB


You’ll Learn:

  • Core techniques of Chi Nei Tsang

  • Breathing and Qigong for healing

  • 5 Element Theory applications

  • Diagnostic skills through navel examination

  • Hands-on massage to improve digestive health

  • Clinical applications applying manual therapy techniques to the abdomen

Course Highlights:

  • Introduction to the history of this ancient Chinese medical abdominal massage

  • Breathing, visualization, and Qigong techniques to balance practitioner Qi, self-care prioritization and creating a healing space for patients

  • Exploring the 5 Element Theory and the association of organs with related emotions

  • Navel examination: Anatomy of the organs and reading the navel for organ dysfunction

  • Tools to teach your patients to process emotions that arise with applying bodywork to the abdomen

  • Abdominal fascia release techniques

  • Manual massage techniques to aid in the peristaltic actions of the digestive process

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