A recent study performed by the Shanghai Institute of Acupuncture & Meridian and the Endoscopy Center of Zhongshan Hospital at Fudan University showed that the combined use of acupuncture and moxibustion (the burning of herbs over specific acupoints) had a significantly positive effect in those suffering from active Crohn’s Disease. The patients in the treatment group showed a statistically significant increase in hemoglobin levels (related to the presence and severity of anemia), a decrease in C-reactive proteins (an inflammation marker) at the end of the treatment cycle as well as an increased quality of life and symptomatic relief.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
According to Western medicine, Crohn’s disease is a chronic gastrointestinal inflammatory disease. It is similar to ulcerative colitis, another inflammatory bowel disease which affects the large intestine & rectum. Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere in the intestine, and often presents in patches surrounded by healthy tissue. It can also spread to the deeper tissues and can cause intestinal obstructions, ulcers (most often in the lower part of the small intestine, the large intestine, or the rectum), fistulas (hollow passages from one part of the intestine to another), and anal fissures (a crack in the anus or the skin around the anus that can lead to infection).
Symptoms may include:
- Diarrhea (with or without blood), often urgent
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Floating stools (caused by poor digestion of fats)
- Anemia (low iron levels due to malabsorption of nutrients)
- Crohn’s disease can also be associated with complications involving the eyes, mouth, skin, and joints
What causes Crohn’s Disease?
The exact cause is still unclear, but a faulty immune system response is one theory. Other risk factors seem to be genetic, a poor diet high in saturated fats and processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables, smoking and obesity.
How can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help?
Chinese medicine generally classifies Crohn’s disease into one of four basic categories, words in italics indicate Chinese medical terminology:
- Invasion of Damp-Heat in the large intestine – acute and sudden onset of gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, mucus and/or blood in the stool, foul-smelling stools, yellow urine, abdominal fullness/pain, urgency to have a bowel movement or bearing down sensation, burning pains after bowel movement, irritability, thirst, preference for cold drinks.
- Spleen Weakness – may be due to a constitutional weakness or from the overeating of cold and raw foods. Symptoms may include frequent and severe diarrhea, watery stool with undigested food; dull abdominal pain, poor appetite, poor digestion, gastric discomfort after eating, pale complexion, fatigue/lethargy.
- Spleen & Kidney Weakness – early morning diarrhea around 5:00am, abdominal pain increases with cold but decreases after bowel movement, intolerance to cold, cold hands & feet.
- Qi & Blood Stagnation – resembles an acute phase of Crohn’s disease with severe abdominal pain and fullness with palpable mass in right lower abdomen. Other symptoms can include diarrhea, lack of appetite, muscle wasting and lethargy.
Both Western and Chinese medicines recognize the importance of diet and its role in prevention and treatment of Crohn’s disease. Diet plays an important role in both the prevention and effective treatment of the illness. Excessive dietary intake of cold and raw foods – think salads, juices, ice cream, iced drinks – may injure the spleen/stomach’s ability to transform and process foods adequately. Lots of roughage like raw fruits and vegetables can sometimes worsen the intestinal obstruction and colic and should be avoided. It is also advised to avoid food triggers such as certain chemicals and dyes found in foods. Milk, cheese and other dairy products should also be avoided, especially if lactose intolerant.
The combination of herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion and dietary therapies can be very effective in controlling and even correcting the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease. If you or someone you know is suffering from Crohn’s disease or other gastrointestinal symptoms, consider Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine as a path to wellness.
Jennifer Etheridge L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist at Integrative Acupuncture in Montpelier and Williston, Vermont. Jennifer received her Master of Science degree from Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, NM. She is certified as a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M.) by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Stay up to date with acupuncture news by liking us on facebook: www.facebook.com/integrativeaom and follow our blog at www.integrativeaom.com