Acupuncture for Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Despite several causes having been suggested, there is no definitive answer and therefore conventional treatment focuses on symptom relief only. Whilst there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, it can be managed successfully and remain in remission for long periods of time. Conventional medicine uses immune suppressors, oral steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs, nutritional supplements and, if necessary, surgery to manage the condition.

According to Chinese medicine, Crohn’s disease may be caused by constitutional weaknesses, invasion of pathogens from the exterior or an unbalanced diet. Depending on the cause, the diagnosis and treatment will be different. Acupuncture treatments and/or Chinese herbal prescriptions are thus tailored to your individual circumstances.

Both conventional and Chinese medicine agree that diet plays a fundamental role in prevention and management of Crohn’s disease. In particular, according to Chinese medicine, excessive cold or raw food may injure the digestive system. Milk, cheese and other dairy products in many cases should be avoided. Food high in fiber, raw fruits or vegetables may also worsen any intestinal obstruction and may need to be avoided especially during active stages of the disease. Adequate calorific and fluid intake is very important as malnutrition and dehydration are common problems associated with Crohn’s disease. Dietary advice is therefore part of the treatment that we offer. Adjusting the lifestyle and working in a preventative way are also vital, as the illustrative case study below shows:

Beatrice was 32 years old and came for Chinese medicine treatment one year ago with a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, PCOS and hay-fever. She initially came for weekly acupuncture sessions for three months. Having being on steroids for a few years, she was keen on decreasing the dosage under her consultant’s supervision and wanted help with the transition. Whilst during the first few weeks she could feel her Crohn’s ‘playing up’ (bowel cramps, loose stools and loss of appetite), after a month this hardly bothered her at all despite gradually lowering the steroids. She made changes to her diet, and found that symptoms appeared only when drinking and eating heavy or processed food and not sticking to a routine of regular treatment, healthy diet and exercise. When her weight was under control she also had regular periods (31 days). As a result of coming for treatment, her hayfever is hardly ever a problem these days and she still comes every 2-3 weeks for maintenance treatment. She is currently on half the dosage of steroids she used to be and her consultant is confident she will be off the medication by the end of the year if progress continues as it has so far.

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