Acupuncture can treat diarrhea and other digestive issues.
Diarrhea is a result of something not quite right in the lower intestinal tract.
The most common symptoms are: frequent and loose to watery stools; abdominal pain; cramping; sometimes fever, chills, and a general sick feeling; and associated thirst and weight loss. The immediate cause is that food and fluids pass through the colon so quickly that the body doesn’t have enough time to absorb the fluid.
It is important to look for general signs of dehydration:
- less frequent urination
- dry skin
- dark colored urine
Although most bouts of diarrhea are not serious and resolve in a few days, more lengthy periods of diarrhea, or if the stool contains blood or pus, or if severe thirst is not controlled by higher intake of fluids a doctor should be seen. Because children and the elderly are more easily dehydrated they should see their doctor earlier.
Children react differently to dehydration than do adults:
- dry mouth and tongue
- no tears when crying
- no wet diapers for 3 hours or more
- sunken abdomen, eyes, or cheeks
- high fever
- listlessness or irritability
- skin that does not flatten when pinched and released
Causes of Diarrhea
Common causes of diarrhea include:
- foods or drinks contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or viruses
- reactions to medications (including some vitamins, minerals, and herbs)
- reactions to artificial sweeteners (such as sorbitol and mannitol).
- Lactose or other food intolerance
More serious are intestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, which should be followed by a competent health care practitioner.
Conventional Treatment Options
Over the counter antidiarrheal remedies include loperamide (Imodium), bismuth sub-salicylate (Pepto-Bismol), and attapulgite (Kaopectate). These are not intended for longer-term use or for use when there is an underlying infection or serious gastrointestinal condition. Certain foods, herbs and supplements have a long history of use in treating cases of non-serious diarrhea. The condition should respond within 24 hours. If it does not a health care provider should be consulted.
Severe cases of diarrhea often are prescribed diphenoxylate or atropine (Lomotil), which slow movement through the colon. This addresses the dehydration issue but does nothing to treat the actual cause. These drugs are known to have very serious side effects in some patients.
When diarrhea’s cause is found to be an infection, antibiotics or other medications would be prescribed.
Acupuncture Treatment for Diarrhea
Acupuncture works well alongside conventional treatments because it addresses several problems associated with diarrhea that the medication approach of treating symptoms does not focus on:
- Accumulation of toxins
- General weakening of the gastrointestinal system
- Impaired or overtaxed immune system
- Abdominal pain
- Anxiety and stress (which cause the body to divert blood flow away from the digestive system)
University of Maryland Medical Center