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The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ has some truth, yet why is it if we change our dietary habits, take supplements and exercise it quite often is not enough to remedy a digestive disorder that has occurred. Over the counter products are easily available to aid us in some of the immediate acute problems such as vomiting and diarrhoea, but long term issues such as chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis or stomach ulcers are not so easily helped in this way. In fact, a recent study published in October 2014, referred to by the United European Gastroenterology (UEG), shows that digestive disorders affect over one quarter of Europe and our ability to go to work2,3. The question is, can we as acupuncturists help? Yes we can.

The pathophysiology of digestive disorders in Chinese medicine known as ‘yun bua’1 is long written about and more recently studied in several areas by means of clinical trials. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have specifically reviewed, analysed and reported upon the valuable and comparable support and relief acupuncture provides for common gastroenterological symptoms across many disorders4.

For example, epigastric pain – a common symptom experienced in stomach disorders such as peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis and gastric spasm. Acupuncture provides satisfactory relief, in fact ‘better ’relief than injections using morphine and atropine4. For gastric spasm, acupuncture is comparable to the drug Domperidone4.

Nausea and vomiting which may present in generalised conditions such as morning sickness, postoperative vomiting and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, is relieved by receiving acupuncture specifically at point PC6 by having an ‘antiemetic’ effect. Consistent results across several clinical trials involving over 2000 patients support this completely4. Irritable Colon syndrome / Irritable bowel syndrome and chronic ulcerative colitis shows’ that acupuncture is an alternative therapeutic measure for people to undertake4. The use of acupuncture for relief of pain and discomfort during a colonoscopy process is similar to the pain relieving drug pethidine with the benefit of far less side effects4. The extensive data available showing the positive effects of acupuncture upon the digestive system, including acid secretion, motility, pain, gastric spasm and much more is vast. It also includes and advocates the use of acupuncture in chronic cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) even if there is an acute exacerbation4.

With such a body of evidence available, tried and tested consistent results, we do have a role to play in the management and alleviation of gastroenterological disorders. Read some more of our articles, perhaps for your own specific disorder to see further how acupuncture can help you and your symptoms. To find your local acupuncturist type in the area you live in and a list of registered, qualified and insured acupuncturists will become available to you today.

References: 1. Clinical Handbook of Internal medicine; Volume 2 Spleen and Stomach pgsxxvi, 46, 104, 338 2. 3. 4. – Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials.


Watching and listening to Carina Claffey (currently practising in Co.Kerry), talk about digestive disorders is an education in itself. She takes this vast complex area and effortlessly explains some of the most common disorders of the digestive system within the framework of Chinese medical thinking. This is no easy task, yet she comfortably achieves a highly informative video for any sufferer of IBS, constipation, diarrhoea, pain and more. She also talks about how serotonin levels affect the gut and how it influences digestion, equally so, how the gut is involved with the production of serotonin. A big factor in mood disorders. This is a must see for those that want a short simple explanation of how acupuncture can work for digestive disorders. As a representative of our practising acupuncturists in Ireland, their knowledge and skill, she demonstrates the benchmark of our standards for all members of the ACI.

  • World Health Organization

    WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.

    It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

    In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.

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    Members of the ACI are approved by Aviva, VHI, Laya Healthcare and HSA for Out-Patient insurance purposes.