How acupuncture can help to improve digestive health
Today is World Digestive Health Day (WDHD) – a day when we’re encouraged to consider how our lifestyle impacts on our gut health and take steps to improve our digestive health through positive changes in how we live.
WDHD was created in 1945 to recognise the work of the World Gastroenterology Organisation.
Over the 78 years that have passed since, medicine and insights into health have obviously taken huge strides forward, and we have known for a long time now how important gut health is to our general wellbeing.
Digestive health affects the absorption of nutrients, elimination of waste, and the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and many factors associated with an increasingly hectic and stressful lifestyle can have a negative impact on it.
These include stress, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and certain medical conditions, and we’ll take a look at some of those in a bit more detail shortly.
I’ll also be looking at how acupuncture can address some of those issues and restore balance and harmony within the body, creating a positive impact on digestive function.
Good digestive health is achieved through a delicate balance in gut function, and when this balance is disrupted, it can lead to various common digestive problems. Here are some of the common reasons for poor digestive health
A diet low in fibre but high in processed foods, refined sugars and saturated fats can lead to constipation, bloating, and gastrointestinal discomfort. A lack of fibre in the diet can affect bowel movements, leading to an increased risk of conditions like diverticulosis and haemorrhoids.
Poor Lifestyle Choices
Regular exercise helps stimulate bowel movements, promoting healthy digestion. Inactivity can slow down the digestive process and lead to complications in gut health.
Stress and Anxiety
The brain and the gut are intricately connected through the gut-brain axis, and emotional disturbances can manifest as digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, or ulcers.
Certain medications can have adverse effects on the digestive system. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, and some painkillers can cause stomach irritation, ulcers, and disrupt the natural balance of gut bacteria.
Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking increases the risk of acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and gastrointestinal cancers. Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines, leading to inflammation, gastritis, and liver problems.
Food Intolerances and Allergies
Lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and food allergies can cause bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
Certain medical conditions affect the digestive system. Examples include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, gallstones, and pancreatitis. These disorders disrupt normal digestion and cause chronic digestive symptoms.
Hormonal imbalances can affect digestion, especially in women. Hormones like progesterone and oestrogen can impact bowel movements and lead to symptoms such as constipation or diarrhoea during menstrual cycles or pregnancy.
Exposure to environmental pollutants, contaminated water, or foodborne pathogens can cause digestive issues, including food poisoning and gastroenteritis.
Additionally, individual factors and genetics also play a role in digestive health. If you experience persistent or severe digestive problems, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How can acupuncture help to improve digestive health?
Acupuncture is an holistic treatment that can address multiple health issues, including those you may not be aware of, and which may be contributing to symptoms of poor digestive health that you may be experiencing.
Acupuncture can help to:
Regulate gastrointestinal motility: Acupuncture has been found to influence the autonomic nervous system, which controls the movement of the digestive tract. By stimulating specific acupuncture points, it can help regulate the contraction and relaxation of the muscles in the stomach and intestines. This can be beneficial for individuals with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation.
Reduce inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the digestive system can lead to conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or gastritis. Acupuncture has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by modulating the release of certain substances in the body, such as cytokines. By reducing inflammation, acupuncture can help alleviate symptoms and improve the overall health of the digestive system.
Reduce stress: Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood enhancers. By promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels, acupuncture can indirectly improve digestion and alleviate related symptoms.
Regulate acid secretion: Acid reflux or peptic ulcers are a symptom of excessive acid secretion, which acupuncture can help to regulate, promoting a balanced environment in the stomach.
Enhance nutrient absorption: By improving blood flow to the digestive organs, acupuncture can enhance the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat. By ensuring optimal nutrient uptake, acupuncture supports overall digestive health and nourishes the body.
If you are experiencing digestive issues, we strongly recommend you consult your GP to rule out any serious underlying causes.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to restore balance to your gut health, please get in touch. We’d love to tell you more!