Investigators find acupuncture effective for the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). In a controlled study, Yiwu Central Hospital researchers conclude that acupuncture has a 90.7% total effective rate for IBS-D patients. Perhaps more importantly, acupuncture produces a 34.9% complete recovery rate. The total recovery rate accounts for all patients showing significant improvements and the complete recovery rate is a quantitative measure of all patients cured of IBS-D by acupuncture therapy.
Results were determined from both subjective and objective data. Subjectives were based on improvements in bowel movement frequency, shape, texture, and consistency. Subjectives also included measures of abdominal discomfort, anxiety, and sleep improvements. Objective data was based on changes of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), neuropeptide Y (NPY) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) serum expression using automated ELISA analysers. The 90.7% total effective rate and the 34.9% complete recovery rate were calculated based on the the subjective and objective data.
About IBS In this article, we are going to take a close look at the acupuncture points that achieved the results. First, let’s review a little about IBS before getting into the details. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder affecting the digestive system. It is characterized by recurring abdominal pain and discomfort associated with alterations in the frequency of bowel movements or consistency of stool. At present, the occurrence of IBS is related to the patient’s history of gastroenterological viral infections, psychological factors, age, gender, occupation, history of medications, intestinal microflora balance, metabolic disorders of brain-intestinal axis, and other factors.
Based on the main pathological manifestations, IBS can be classified into four subtypes: IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant), IBS-C (constipation-predominant), IBS-M (mixed), and unspecified IBS (IBS-U). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) belongs to the "diarrhea" (xie xie) and "abdominal pain" (fu tong) categories. The main causes of IBS are stagnation of liver qi, deficiency of the spleen and kidneys, and the invasion of cold and heat pernicious influences.  These result in gastrointestinal imbalances. TCM principles note that IBS is easily exacerbated by changes in the diet.
Design Yiwu Central Hospital researchers conducted a two-arm study of 86 IBS-D patients between January 2016 and December 2016.  Patients were randomly divided into control group and an observation group, with 43 cases in each group. Patients were identified using the Rome III Diagnostic Criteria for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as well as the TCM standards related to liver qi-stagnation and spleen-deficiency (gān yù pí xū) in the “Consensus on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” [3–4]
Patients in the control group were given the following herbal medicines over a 30-day period. The first medication was Spleen and Bowel-Reinforcing Pills (bǔ pí yì cháng wán), manufactured by China Resources Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. It was administered in 6-gram doses that were orally administered 3 times per day, after meals. In addition, patients were given herbal medicine in the form of Xiao Yao Wan (Hubei Wushi Pharmaceuticals) in 6-gram doses. The herbal pills were orally administered twice per day, after breakfast and after dinner.
Acupuncture Treatment Patients in the observation group received acupuncture therapy in addition to the same herbal medicines administered to the control group. With patients in the supine position, needles were inserted swiftly to a depth of 20 mm. Twisting and reinforcing-reducing techniques were applied to achieve a deqi sensation of soreness, distention, numbness, or a radiating sensation towards the abdomen. Needles were then left in place for 30 minutes. The following are the acupoints used for all observation group patients:
Yintang MHN3 (Hall of Impression)
Baihui GV20 (Hundred Meetings)
Shangjuxu ST37 (Upper Great Void)
Tianshu ST25 (Heaven’s Pivot)
Sanyinjiao SP6 (Three Yin Intersection)
Zusanli ST36 (Leg Three Miles)
Taichong LV3 (Great Rushing)
Twenty minutes of moxibustion therapy was also applied to the following acupoints:
Shenque CV8 (Spirit Gateway)
Tianshu ST25 (Heaven’s Pivot)
Patients experiencing severe diarrhea and cold syndromes received ginger moxibustion (ge jiang jiu) at Shenque CV8. Treatment was administered 5 times per week, over the course of 30 days.
Chinese Medicine The above acupoints are key for benefitting the liver and spleen. The combined use of these acupoints is able to sooth the liver and strengthen the spleen (shu gan jian pi), firm the intestines and stop diarrhea (gu chang zhi xie), and promote the harmonious r