Acupuncture Can Reduce the Severity of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a debilitating gastrointestinal condition marked by inflammation anywhere along the GI tract. This inflammation is chronic, though symptoms may remit for years in some cases. When present, though, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be challenging to treat.
While drug therapy can improve the likelihood of remission, many patients need additional help with their Crohn’s symptoms – and the adverse effects of their medication. These patients are looking for adjunct, or support therapies for their condition.
Acupuncture can be one of those adjunct therapies. Multiple studies demonstrate this, showing improvements in pain management and overall quality of life.
How Can Acupuncture Help Treat Crohn’s Disease?
During an acupuncture session, extremely fine needles are lightly inserted into the skin at specified points. In some cases, the acupuncturist may pass an electrical current through the needles to stimulate the points further. In both cases, the process is believed to stimulate the body into releasing chemicals that support healing and health.
In the case of Crohn’s disease, two studies back up the effectiveness of acupuncture as an adjunct therapy. They include:
Multiple animal studies also point to a beneficial link between acupuncture and better inflammatory bowel disease markers. These include studies published in 2003, 2014 and 2016, all of which looked at mice or rats with induced colitis. The researchers across these studies determined that acupuncture improved weight loss, diarrhea, bleeding, stool consistency, and many forms of inflammation.
A meta-analysis of these studies concluded that these benefits may be due to acupuncture’s ability to positively affect vagal nerve function. By improving overall vagal function, the analysis also concluded that acupuncture could be effective in a variety of inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s.
Both studies show what many patients already know – that acupuncture can help put Crohn’s in remission. But even if acupuncture doesn’t produce remission, it can still help with many of the symptoms of Crohn’s, including:
- Constipation and diarrhea
Acupuncture’s efficacy in treating these symptoms has been demonstrated through many studies and meta-analyses of Crohn’s studies.
Eastern Medicine Supports Whole Body Health and Other Crohn’s Treatments
Like many GI conditions, Crohn’s disease is systemic in nature and difficult to treat with targeted therapies like medication. While researchers are working on better drugs all the time, patients who need relief now may attain it through eastern medicine. There are a couple reasons why acupuncture, herb therapy and other traditional modalities can be particularly helpful for Crohn’s. For example:
- Eastern medicine focuses on the patient’s whole-body health – Eastern medicine starts from the idea that the body is an interconnected network of systems, each one affecting the other to some extent. Eastern medicine is therefore focused on restoring balance to this system, so the entire body functions better without targeting a particular organ for drug therapy. This whole-body approach can help patients deal with systemic conditions like Crohn’s more effectively by reducing the impact of contributing health factors.
- The adverse effects of eastern medicine are generally mild – Eastern medical treatments pose little risk to most people, including those suffering from chronic health conditions. Acupuncture, for example, may cause some slight redness and pain at acupuncture sites, but this is uncommon.
Because they are gentle on the body, eastern medical practices can be tried with little fear of causing a Crohn’s flare-up.
For Crohn’s patients, the goal is maintaining homeostasis in the body, as this minimizes the chances of a flare-up. Eastern medicine treats the patient with this philosophy in mind, which is ideal for patients who need to minimize secondary factors that can contribute to Crohn’s, like stress.
When Considering Acupuncture for Crohn’s Disease, Choose a Licensed Acupuncturist
Acupuncture and herbal therapies are safe and easy to add to an existing treatment regimen. This is what makes acupuncture such an effective adjunct therapy. However, it’s only effective if provided by a licensed practitioner. Licensed acupuncturists only use safe, sanitized equipment and know how to apply needles without causing discomfort.
Given the complementary nature of eastern and western medicine, many practices now provide allopathic (western) and osteopathic (eastern) medicine into a single practice. This means the practitioner is licensed to provide the best of both, giving their patients access to a greater range of Crohn’s treatments.