Learn more about IBS!No ordinary bellyache, the stomach gurgles that accompany Irritable Bowel Syndrome-otherwise known as IBS-can be both painful and frustrating to endure. Zeel Expert Jennifer Aubert, a licensed acupuncturist with a San Francisco-based practice, offers an in-depth look at the widespread condition, from its symptoms to how Eastern therapies may help kept IBS at bay.
What does IBS feel like? How can you tell if you have it?
IBS varies wildly among those suffering from it. Some people experience loose stools while others experience constipation. Additionally people may experience gas, cramping, bloating, stomach pains and nausea. There is not a clear cause in Western medicine as to why people suffer from IBS, and in my opinion IBS as a diagnosis ends up being a catch-all when one cannot clearly determine through tests why a person is suffering from this list of symptoms.
When I was diagnosed back in 1994, I fortunately had a forward-thinking general practitioner ask me about my stress level. He only inquired, however never made any recommendations as to how I could manage it. As a result, I ended up pursuing advanced studies in the field of stress and coping and did independent research while in my undergraduate program.
How does acupuncture help IBS? Where are the needling points?
The "how" of acupuncture is never an easy question to answer without going into a lot of detail. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), which includes acupuncture, herbal medicine and other modalities, is based on balancing particular imbalances in the body and allowing the individual to heal themselves. When the body is healthy, there is a free flow of energy. When there is a blockage of energy, this leads to diseases.
TCM does not look at the physical, mental and emotional aspects of an individual separately nor does one Western diagnosis mean the same thing for everyone suffering from it. The points an acupuncturist would use are specific to the individual and how they are presenting, their history and constitution and several other factors. There isn't one magic point that fits everyone.
How long does it take for acupuncture to reduce or remove symptoms of IBS?
Again, because Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture treat the individual, there is no one-size-fits-all course of care. Some people may feel relief the minute the session is over; for others, it may take several months and involve herbal formulas. Generally speaking, the best course of care involves acupuncture, herbal remedies, lifestyle modification, exercise, dietary evaluation and changes and perhaps other psycho-emotional modalities.
Any other pieces of advice for people with IBS?
Keeping a diary of when the symptoms occur is helpful. Note how you were feeling before it occurred, any circumstances or situations leading up to the symptoms, foods or beverages you may have consumed, any emotional feelings and how stressed or anxious you might be feeling generally. Often after keeping a diary for a few weeks, you can discover patterns that might enable you to make helpful lifestyle modifications on your own.