Acupuncture for Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammation in the lining of the rectum and intestines, which often manifests with pain, bloody diarrhoea. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine constitute an effective way of managing this condition. In fact, in research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, patients treated with acupuncture 10 sessions over a period of five weeks and followed up for 16 weeks. Not only did their colitis symptoms significantly improve, but they experienced significant improvements in general well-being.[1] In another trial, Chinese herbal medicine was shown to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug mesalamine for treating the condition.[2] In another large German meta-analysis, acupuncture was found to produce significant improvements in UC patients’ quality of life.[3]

The causes behind ulcerative colitis are not clear but may include chronic infection, autoimmune disease, allergic reactions as well as hereditary factors. Stress and a poor diet can also make the signs and symptoms worse. Conventional treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the condition. The majority are treated with medication such as corticosteroids and immune-modulators to control the inflammation. People whose symptoms are triggered by certain foods can sometimes manage their condition by making appropriate dietary changes.

According to Chinese medicine theory, UC is often caused by excessive heat and dampness within the body. Although these pathogenic factors can stem from various causes, the condition improves when they are cleared from the body using either acupuncture or herbal medicine, or a combination of both.

[1] Acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of ulcerative colitis: a randomized controlled study. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Sep;41(9):1056-63

[2] Efficacy and safety of Fufangkushen colon-coated capsule in the treatment of ulcerative colitis compared with mesalazine: A double-blinded and randomized study. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Sep 6.

[3] Acupuncture treatment in gastrointestinal diseases: a systematic review. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul 7;13(25):3417-24