Acupuncture for Ulcerative Colitis
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The inflammation usually begins in the rectal area and lower part of the colon, and may spread to the entire large intestine over time. Its onset is usually gradual. Usually, an attack begins with an increased urgency to defecate, mild lower abdominal cramps, and the appearance of blood and pus in the stools. The severity of the condition varies between individuals.
Ulcerative colitis may occur in people of any age, but it usually starts between ages 15 and 30, or sometimes between ages 50 and 70. It generally affects men and women equally, and in some cases, there may be a family history of the condition.
People who have ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, especially if the condition is severe or extensive. Acupuncture for colitis conditions may prove very beneficial for this ailment.
What can cause ulcerative colitis?
The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but researchers believe that there are a number of factors involved. Ulcerative colitis is thought to be what is known as an autoimmune condition. Some researchers believe that the body’s immune system reacts to a virus or bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestinal wall. Others believe that no infection is involved and the immune system just malfunctions by itself. A major theory is that the immune system mistakes harmless bacteria inside the colon as a threat and attacks the tissues of the colon, causing it to become inflamed.
Exactly what causes the immune system to behave this way is unclear. Most experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors is involved.
It is believed that ulcerative colitis is not directly caused by emotional distress or sensitivity to certain foods or food products, though these factors may trigger symptoms in some individuals.
Symptoms and complications of ulcerative colitis
Inflammation can result in the colon being more empty more often, causing diarrhoea. Tiny open ulcers formed on the surface of the lining of the colon may cause blood in stool. The inflamed lining also produces a larger than normal amount of intestinal mucus which sometimes contain pus.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary depending on how much of the colon is affected and the level of inflammation.
Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhoea with mucus
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Appetite and weight loss
In severe cases where inflammation has penetrated deeper into the walls of the colon, serious complications such as profuse bleeding from deep ulcers and perforation of the colon may arise. Other complications such as primary sclerosis cholangitis, cirrhosis, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, or osteoporosis may occur when the immune system triggers inflammation in other parts of the body.
Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis
Endoscopic image of ulcerative
Ulcerative colitis can be difficult to diagnose, because symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders, most notably Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Ulcerative colitis has similarities to Crohn’s disease, another form of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ulcerative colitis differs from Crohn’s disease in that the inflammation is confined to the upper layers of the intestinal lining, whereas Crohn’s disease causes inflammation throughout the whole thickness of the intestinal wall. In addition, ulcerative colitis affects only the large bowel (colon and rectum) while Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus.
The difference between ulcerative colitis and IBS is that in the latter, bowel function is affected, but its appearance remains normal and there is no inflammation.
A thorough physical exam and a series of tests may be required to diagnose ulcerative colitis. Most people will need a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or barium enema to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests can show whether you have anaemia or any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Stool tests can show if you have infection and bleeding.
How TCM may help
From the perspective of TCM, ulcerative colitis may be caused by constitutional deficiencies, invasion of the exterior pathogenic factors or an unbalanced diet. Constitutional deficiencies usually refer to spleen, stomach and kidney deficiencies. Invasion of exterior pathogenic factors refers to damp-heat or damp-cold. An unbalanced diet such as one high in raw or cold foods can injure the spleen and stomach by obstructing their functions in transforming and transporting food and nutrients. A change of diet can be augmented by treatments including acupuncture for colitis.
An organ In TCM is not only viewed as an anatomical structure, but also as a set of systematic units that function together through the meridian complex. So when talking about a spleen or kidney deficiency, it does not mean that there is damage to the physical organ, in most cases. In TCM, the belief is that each patient is to be viewed as an individual, with a strong connection between mind and body, and to their environment.
Depending on the severity and characteristics, ulcerative colitis can be divided into seven major categories:
- Damp-heat in the large intestine
- Damp-cold affecting the spleen
- Alternation of heat and cold attacks
- Liver overacting on the spleen
- Qi and blood stagnation
- Damp accumulation with spleen deficiency
- Spleen and kidney Yang deficiency.
In TCM theory, most chronic ulcerative intestinal diseases are classified as spleen deficiency. It is believed that the spleen is the key organ necessary in maintaining the health of the intestines. It has primary responsibility for “transforming” and “transporting” food essence in the body, including the excretion of waste material. When it becomes deficient in Qi or Yang, a pathogenic condition of Dampness can settle into the body, causing diarrhoea, fatigue and other colitis symptoms. Other organs, especially the Liver and Kidney, can also contribute to intestinal distress. To treat these imbalances, TCM treatment usually uses acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, as well as providing diet and lifestyle advice. When applied properly, these modalities balance Yin and Yang, harmonize Qi and blood, nourish the organs, and eliminate Dampness.
TCM is a multifaceted healing modality that includes bodywork therapy, like acupuncture, as well as the extensive use of herbal combinations and dietary recommendations. TCM developed over many centuries in ancient China and is based on a philosophy that includes the idea that disease is caused by blockages and malfunctions of energy channels in the body.
Acupuncture for colitis and Chinese herbal medicine have long been used in an attempt to assist patients suffering grom ulcerative colitis within the TCM diagnostic framework (i.e. prioritising the underlying cause over the symptoms). Traditional prescriptions usually contain ingredients that fortify the spleen, replenish Qi, clear heat and expel dampness. They are effective in resolving inflammation, regulating the immune system and conditioning the bowel. Clinical improvement is not the only merit of such therapy. Investigatory examinations, such as stool tests and colonoscopies, show healing of the ulcers in the colon, normalization of the mucosa and a decrease in swelling.
How we can help – acupuncture for colitis
Dr. Jim Xing of our clinic has gained rich clinical experience in assitsing patients with ulcerative colitis throughout his thirty years of practice. He has a keen interest in the area, reads many ancient, classic and present TCM books, and collects related articles to find as many theories regarding the treatment of this condition as possible.
He strives to achieve success in helping patients who suffer from the condition through the use of acupuncture for colitis. According to TCM, most of the symptoms result from blocked energy along energy pathways of the body, which are unblocked when acupuncture needles are inserted along these invisible pathways during acupuncture for colitis. Acupuncture for colitis may also help to regulate the body’s immune system and improve the general constitution. In addition, Chinese herbal medicine may be able to target the root cause of the disease and improve one’s general wellbeing, further allowing the body to effectively undergo its recovery from ulcerative colitis.
Dr. Xing’s approach generally consists of two phases: in the active phase, the main task is to eliminate the pathogen and relive symptoms. In the convalescence phase, the top priority is to strengthen constitutional weaknesses and repair internal damage.
In addition to acupuncture for colitis and herbal treatment, Dr. Xing emphasises that a healthy diet also plays an important role for the recovery of ulcerative colitis.He recognises that dietary intake with excessive cold or raw food may injure the spleen and the stomach. Therefore, diet plays an important role in both prevention and effective treatment of the illness, when coupled with treatments such as acupuncture for colitis.
Patients are usually encouraged to avoid any food which may trigger recurrences, such as certain chemicals, and raw or cold food. Milk, cheese and other dairy products should generally be avoided especially if the patients have lactose intolerance. Alcohol should be avoided as it may be irritating to the stomach and the intestines. In addition to avoiding the “wrong foods,” it is equally important to make sure the patients have adequate calorie and fluid intake, as malnutrition and dehydration are common problems associated with ulcerative colitis.
Book your appointment today
We are dedicated to helping you achieve the health and wellness that you desire. If you are interested, feel free to call us at our Frankston clinic on 9785 6688, or our Murrumbeena clinic on 9041 8879 to book an appointment today.