This year’s theme is “Acupuncture Treatment for Digestive Disorders” and this is an excellent opportunity for AFPA members to highlight the benefits of traditional acupuncture.
ACUPUNCTURE FOR THE TREATMENT OF DIGESTIVE DISORDERS
According to the HSE health status report, diseases of the digestive system ranked among the most common acute illnesses for in patients in Irish hospitals. (HSE, 2008). According to the Central statistics office, of all acute hospital discharges, digestive diseases accounted for 10% of all male discharges and 8.6% of all female discharges in 2012. (CSO, 2013). A research study by Alonge and Codd (2013) has indicated that the burden of care on acute public hospitals is projected to increase greatly in relation to gastrointestinal diseases. (Alonge & Codd, 2013).
How can acupuncture help?
Traditional acupuncture treatments are based on an individual diagnosis and work by treating the underlying root cause of any condition as well as the symptoms. Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules and the resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. A 2010 study, using fMRI to monitor the effects of several classical acupoints on the human brain, indicated that acupuncture modulates the limbic network, an important intrinsic regulatory system of the human brain (Hui, Napadow, et al., 2010).
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
IBS is a disorder in which the bowel overreacts by going into spasm. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and irregular bowel habits such as alternating diarrhoea and constipation. It affects as many as one in five of the population and can be extremely debilitating. Research has shown that acupuncture may work by modulating the serotonin pathway and a recent meta-analysis has confirmed the effectiveness of acupuncture, with clinically and statistically significant results, in controlling the symptoms of IBS (Chu et al., 2012; Chao & Zhang, 2014).
INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD)
The term IBD is used mainly to describe two diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The main symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are similar and include: abdominal pain (more common in Crohn’s disease than ulcerative colitis); a change in bowel habits; urgent and/or bloody diarrhoea or constipation; weight loss; and extreme tiredness (HSE, 2017a).
It is thought that at least 20,000 people are living with IBD in Ireland (ISCC, 2017). A meta-analysis of 43 controlled clinical studies looked at the efficacy of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment on inflammatory bowel diseases(Ji et al., 2013). The results showed that acupuncture and moxibustion treatment was more effective than using sulfasalazine drugs. One of these studies, on 220 patients, showed that acupuncture was significantly more effective (84.5%) than the control group (68.2%) (Zhou & Jin, 2008).
GASTRO-OESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GORD)
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a common digestive condition where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the oesophagus. It is estimated that around 1 in 5 people will have at least one episode of GORD a week. Symptoms include: heartburn – burning chest pain or discomfort that occurs after eating; an unpleasant sour taste in the mouth caused by the stomach acid coming back up into the mouth (this is known as regurgitation); and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Research has shown that Adding acupuncture to treatment for GORD is more effective than the option of doubling the proton pump inhibitor dose in controlling gastro-oesophageal reflux disease-related symptoms in patients who failed standard-dose proton pump inhibitors (DICKMAN et al., 2007). The most important factor is a muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) not working properly. An Australian study by Zou et al. (2005) showed that electro-acupuncture had a significant effect in inhibiting lower oesophageal sphincter relaxation (LOS)(Zou et al., 2005).
Alonge, V. & Codd, M.B. (2013) Gastrointestinal diseases: projected burden of care on acute public hospitals. Irish medical journal, 106 (2), pp.47–50.
Chao, G.-Q. & Zhang, S. (2014) Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20 (7), p.1871.
Chu, W.C., Wu, J.C., Yew, D.T., Zhang, L., Shi, L., Yeung, D.K., Wang, D., Tong, R.K., Chan, Y., Lao, L., Leung, P.C., Berman, B.M. & Sung, J.J. (2012) Does Acupuncture Therapy Alter Activation of Neural Pathway for Pain Perception in Irritable Bowel Syndrome?: A Comparative Study of True and Sham Acupuncture Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 18 (3), pp.305–316.
CSO (2013) Health – CSO – Central Statistics Office. Available from: <http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-wamii/womenandmeninireland2013/healthlist/health/> [Accessed 22 February 2017].
DICKMAN, R., SCHIFF, E., HOLLAND, A., WRIGHT, C., SARELA, S.R., HAN, B. & FASS, R. (2007) Clinical trial: acupuncture vs. doubling the proton pump inhibitor dose in refractory heartburn. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 26 (10), pp.1333–1344.
HSE (2008) Causes of Illness in Ireland.
HSE (2017a) Inflammatory Bowel Disease [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/I/Inflammatory-bowel-disease/> [Accessed 22 February 2017].
HSE (2017b) Peptic Ulcers [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/P/Peptic-ulcer/> [Accessed 22 February 2017].
ISCC (2017) Colitis and Crohn’s Disease in ireland | Faq-1 Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.iscc.ie/faq-1> [Accessed 21 February 2017].
Ji, J., Lu, Y., Liu, H., Feng, H., Zhang, F., Wu, L., Cui, Y. & Wu, H. (2013) Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, pp.1–11.
Zhou, G. & Jin, J. (2008) Clinical Observation on Therapeutic Effect of Electroacupuncture Plus Moxibustion Combined with Medicine on Ulcerative Colitis–《Chinese Archives of Traditional Chinese Medicine》2008年09期. Chinese Archives of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 26 (9), pp.2069–2071.
Zou, D., Chen, W.H., Iwakiri, K., Rigda, R., Tippett, M. & Holloway, R.H. (2005) Inhibition of transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations by electrical acupoint stimulation. AJP: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 289 (2), pp.G197–G201.