Irritable Bowel Syndrome - TCM Treatment Strategies

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - TCM Treatment Strategies


“TCM with its theory of pattern differentiation, offers powerful tools to treat the patient's symptoms effectively.”



A staggering three million Australians suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS accounts for 20 - 50% of visits to gastroenterologists.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) occurs when muscles in the intestines contract faster or slower than normal. This causes pain, cramping, colic, gas, as well as sudden bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation. There are two types of IBS:


1.           Spastic colon IBS: characterized by constipation, diarrhea, or both, this form of IBS is also often accompanied with pain in the digestive tract after eating.

2.           Painless diarrhea IBS: this form of IBS is characterized by the sudden onset of diarrhea during or after meals, or upon waking.


Sign and symptoms common to both types of IBS include: 

  •  Cramping pain in the lower abdomen;
  • Bloating and gas;
  •  Changes in bowel habits (ie: diarrhea or constipation, or both alternately);
  • Relief of pain after bowel movements;
  • Feeling of incomplete emptying after bowel movements;
  • Mucus in the stool



Causes of IBS


There is no single cause attributable to IBS; there are, however, a cluster of possible underlying causes. For instance, there may be a disturbance in the muscle movement of the intestine or a lower tolerance for stretching and movement of the intestine. Diet is also a major cause of IBS, with food allergens often causing IBS symptoms. Stress is also a major causative factor – up to 60% of individuals with the syndrome have psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.



Treatment Options for IBS


The nature of the disorder makes Western medical treatment difficult. However, TCM with its theory of pattern differentiation, offers powerful tools to treat the patient's symptoms effectively. For example, remarkable results were demonstrated by an Australian randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) as a treatment for IBS, run by the Complementary Medicine Unit at the University of Western Sydney in 1996/1997.3 The study compared individualised therapy against a standard Chinese herbal formulation for IBS (see table 1) and a placebo.



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*Reproduced with kind permission from Health World Limited – Australia and New Zealand


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