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(Article) TCM and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

TCM and Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Wong Hui Mei Physician


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorders that affects up to 10-15% of adults, with symptoms including abdominal bloating, cramp, urge of defecation and change in bowel habits. The causes of IBS are not well understood, however some studies have suggested that dietary habits, chronic life stress and mood factors can aggravate IBS symptoms.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), IBS are mostly related to the disruption of Liver-Qi. (Important note: the concept of organs in TCM is different from modern medicine, so Liver dysfunction does not necessarily mean that your actual liver has problem. ) Emotional changes can alter the flow of Qi, leading to the weakening of digestive function as well as the bowel movement. Weakened function may cause the production of internal dampness and other pathogenic factors which further worsen the condition.


Chinese herbs, acupuncture and massage are effective in IBS management. TCM aims to restore the internal harmony of body by removing pathogenic factors, soothing the Liver-Qi, and strengthening the digestive function. In addition to these treatments, changes in dietary habits are required. Lifestyle adjustment may be needed in some cases. For IBS sufferers who are nervous or depressed, they are advised to take up some activities or exercises to relax themselves, in order to avoid the aggravation of symptoms by stress.


IBS is an annoying but manageable disease. If you are seriously affected by IBS, do discuss with your doctor or physician. Nevertheless, rectal bleeding, fever, weigh loss and persistent pain are not symptoms of IBS and may be associated with other severe problems, especially for those with family history of colon cancer, celiac diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases. You should consult a doctor as soon as possible if you are in the high-risk group and experiencing above symptoms.