Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are classifications of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ulcerative colitis occurs in the colon and rectum, while Crohn’s disease can affect any segment of the alimentary canal from mouth to anus. Mild cases of both diseases can cause such symptoms as intestinal cramping and diarrhea. Severe cases can involve bloody diarrhea, bowel obstruction, fever and weight loss. Severe Crohn’s can also cause joint pain and inflammation in other areas of the body.
Western treatment usually consists of medications including antibiotics, immunosuppressive drugs, corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs. Surgery may be required for bowel obstruction or chronic abscesses; the rates of recurrence after surgery are high. Either form of IBD can be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. In western medicine, the actual cause of IBD is unknown. Theories involve a viral or bacterial infection, a breakdown of the body’s immune system, or possibly a combination of the two.
In some cases, western medicine is very necessary for relief, especially for life-threatening symptoms. In other cases, western medicine, specifically the use of pharmaceuticals, may not be necessary and is accompanied by unwelcome side effects. While we are not against western medicine, we believe acupuncture offers a very viable alternative to treatment.
Human bodies were made to heal themselves. When symptoms or illnesses occur, it is usually due to blocked qi, somewhere in the body. This blocked energy creates an imbalance, which is what causes the symptoms and/or illnesses to occur. When pharmaceuticals are introduced into the body to help with these symptoms or illnesses, they might fix the symptoms temporarily, but they do not cure the root cause of the problem and are certainly not good for the body (this is especially true in the treatment of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis).
In Oriental medicine, there are many causes for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Inflammation and bleeding are an excess of heat in the body. Spleen qi deficiency affects the body’s ability to separate the pure from the turbid resulting in diarrhea or loose stools. Liver qi stagnation is when the liver qi is blocked and unable to flow properly. This causes the energy to back up into the spleen and stomach and affects the spleen’s proper function. Acupuncture and herbal formulas (prescribed by a qualified practitioner) can be used to bring balance to the body, fix the root of the problem and provide people with IBD some much needed relief.
I had a 35-year-old male come into the clinic with a three-year history of ulcerative colitis. For the past two years, he had been on a fairly low dose of chemotherapy drugs, which gave him partial suppression of symptoms. He told me that even though he had been taking his medication regularly, he would have bouts of diarrhea, cramping and rectal bleeding that would not allow him to leave the house. He was tired of the drugs and the side effects and was looking for an alternative way to deal with this problem.
After doing a thorough examination and listening to him, we arrived at a differential diagnosis of damp heat in the lower burner and liver qi stagnation invading the spleen. He came in for regular acupuncture treatments and took prescribed Chinese herbs to correct the imbalances in his body. After a few months he was feeling well enough to get off of the chemotherapy drugs. He continued to improve more and more. Now he comes in for treatment only when he feels the need. He can live a normal life again.
There are some lifestyle changes that could be helpful in treating Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some foods to avoid are wheat, dairy products, cruciferous vegetables, corn, yeast, tomatoes, citrus fruits, eggs, excessive sweets, processed sugars and fake sugars. Stress or dealing with stressful situations can also be a trigger. Try meditation, qi gong, counseling or exercise to try to reduce stress and promote a better lifestyle.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are serious diseases that can be treated successfully with acupuncture. Acupuncture brings balance back to the body, allowing the body, mind and spirit to heal even the most difficult digestive diseases.