Acupuncture to treat Crohn’s Disease


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The management of chronic diseases is a challenge both to people in the medical profession and patients themselves. In many cases, different disciplines and methods are brought together to provide a comprehensive treatment plan, and the growing popularity of acupuncture has brought this ancient Chinese practice into the management of many long-term illnesses. In this article we look at Crohn’s Disease and how acupuncture can be used to manage the disease.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

This illness involves a characteristic inflammation of the bowel which can potentially cause a range of symptoms because any part of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract can be affected by it. The GI tract is very long, extending from the mouth, through the intestines, and down to the anus. Symptoms vary on which parts of the tract are suffering the most as a consequence of the disease, but the most common signs of Crohn’s Disease are usually diarrhoea and pain in the abdomen (mid-section or belly), as well as vomiting and weight loss.

The disease is further compounded by the fact that it can affect other parts of the body to cause symptoms like eye inflammation, rashes on the skin, arthritis, and fatigue. The huge range of symptoms can make the condition difficult to disease, and these stem from the complex factors causing the disease.

The inflammation of the bowel that is essential to Crohn’s Disease is thought to be caused by complicate interactions between bacteria, the environment, genetics and the body’s own defences (the immune system). The inflammation itself is caused by the last of these, as the body’s defensive mechanisms target the GI tract.

The illness usually sets in at a young age, primarily between adolescence and the twenties, although people between 50 and 70 years of age are also thought to be susceptible to the condition. While there is no cure for the condition, there are a number of different treatment strategies designed to control symptoms, limit inflammation, and prevent the disease from worsening. Lifestyle changes are key to these strategies, and adjustments in a person’s diet and smoking habits can help manage the disease very effectively. It is though that smoking doubles the chances of developing Crohn’s disease, and sufferers are advised to stop smoking as soon as possible as it can exacerbate the condition. Small, frequent meals and regular hydration have been shown to be effective in managing symptoms, and many people are advised to keep a food diary to monitor ‘trigger’ foods that can worsen symptoms.

A number of different medications are used to treat Crohn’s Disease, and these are largely antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgery is sometimes necessary for complications of the disease like abscesses or obstructions, however there is no known surgical cure for Crohn’s Disease.

Because management rather than cure is the goal of Crohn’s treatment, many sufferers, particularly those who are struggling to cope with symptoms, seek alternative therapies. Interestingly, acupuncture is an alternative therapy that has been applied in the treatment of Crohn’s disease for many years in China, and in the following section we look at how acupuncture has been used to manage Crohn’s Disease in the past, and the evidence supporting the technique as an effective, modern, management technique.

Can acupuncture help manage Crohn’s Disease?

Acupuncture is an ancient tradition developed in early China an estimated 2,500 years ago. It has been used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory bowel diseases as well as other GI disorders like ulcerative colitis. Unfortunately despite a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, there is limited scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in the management of Crohn’s Disease. That being said, there are some positive results suggesting that the treatment does have promise in this area, and the general consensus would appear to be that more research and study into this particular application of acupuncture is needed.

It is not recommended that anyone pursue acupuncture as a replacement for medical treatment. There are a number of drugs which can very effectively manage symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and acupuncture should be employed as a means by which to support on-going and existing medical treatment.

Acupunctural treatment involving needles and moxibustion to stimulate specific acupoints are thought to be the main methods by which symptoms of Crohn’s Disease can be managed through acupuncture. Although the mechanisms by which acupuncture is thought to treatment such conditions remain the subject of contention and debate, many people still pursue this technique to manage their symptoms.

Acupuncturists are available across the UK, and it is often recommended that you pursue the services of practitioners registered with organisations like the British Acupuncture Society, as these institutions regulate their members and ensure that certain standards of practice are adhered to. Such regulation can offer you peace of mind and confidence in the training and expertise of an acupuncturist.


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