Can Acupuncture Help People with Crohn’s Disease?

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Natural Awakenings Upstate South Carolina Edition

Acupuncture Effective Treating Crohn’s Disease

A report from Greenville Natural Health Center.

According to a study in Digestion: Journal of International Gastroenterology, acupuncture is effective at treating Crohn’s disease, which the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America estimates that more than 700,000 Americans suffer from.

Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, meaning the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract. Affected patients typically experience periods of flare ups and remission. During flare ups, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss are common. The disease can affect other organ systems, as well, resulting in symptoms such as skin rashes, fever, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Even worse, Crohn’s is associated with more serious complications such as colon cancer, malnutrition and obstructed bowels.

At this time, there is no cure for Crohn’s. Traditionally, patients have managed the disease with lifestyle changes, along with medication and, sometimes, surgery. Lifestyle changes such as eating a clean diet, exercising, getting enough sleep, proper hydration and not smoking can help reduce symptoms. But the medications and surgeries can cause debilitating symptoms of their own and have been shown to be potentially damaging in the long term.

Luckily, other treatment options exist and are widely available. And patients are taking notice. In fact, more than half of all patients afflicted with Crohn’s have tried homeopathic treatments or alternative therapies, including acupuncture.

The study in Digestion involved 51 patients with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease. Half the patients received traditional acupuncture, while the other half, a control group, were treated at non-acupuncture points. The test group experienced superior results in comparison to the control group. After 10 weeks of traditional acupuncture treatments, patients reported a decrease in disease symptoms, as well as increased general well being and quality of life.

There is additional support for these findings. The University of Berne in Switzerland reported that nearly half of all local patients with inflammatory bowel disease have used alternative treatments and that more than 60% of them reported decreased symptoms. The National Institutes for Health and the World Health Organization both endorse acupuncture as effective for the treatment of digestive problems, including Crohn’s.

While patients managing their Crohn’s with medications often experience harsh side effects, acupuncture patients tend to experience few to no side effects. Plus, acupuncture treatments give them an overall feeling of well being and energy.

There are many options for incorporating acupuncture into a treatment plan. Some patients may choose a combination of alternative and traditional treatments, while others may choose to only use acupuncture. There’s good news for those opting for alternative treatments: Many insurance providers are now covering acupuncture.

Combined with lifestyle changes, acupuncture is an excellent option for Crohn’s disease patients looking to manage their condition naturally. To find a licensed acupuncturist near you, visit


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