Healing Your Gut with Acupuncture
Chiropractor & Acupuncturist, Allison Heffron, DC, L.Ac. examines the causes of gut dysfunction and how acupuncture, along with dietary changes and nutritional guidance can help restore and repair healthy gut function. The Integrative Medicine team at Physio Logic combines modalities from Western medicine with traditional Chinese Medicine in order to provide patients the best therapies. Acupuncture is instrumental in assisting the body’s natural ability to heal itself, especially in matters related to gut health.
DISCLAIMER: I would like to start this article by saying acupuncture ALONE will not be the cure-all, end-all to your chronic gut issues. Healing the gut takes a lot of work on your own, but acupuncture is a great adjunctive therapy to help along the way.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, your digestive system, isn’t comprised of just your mouth, intestines, and stomach. The issues of the gut are not rooted in those organs exclusively. Everything can be involved in gut-related issues. It is not uncommon to find that the more chronic issues your gut has, the more factors contributing to your gut’s dysfunction will be present.
It is important to note all of the organs that reside in the abdomen: liver, spleen, gallbladder, stomach, intestines, and the pancreas. (Side note: Nobody cares about the appendix until it explodes. The appendix’s role in your digestive system is seen similarly in traditional Chinese Medicine.)
All of these organs and fluids in the body can become problematic.
Why would any of it become problematic? There are many possible reasons. For instance, the way your body processes your food under certain kinds of emotions you may be feeling at the time. Your body may process food poorly or incorrectly because of stress. Or you may have had a virus. Maybe you had trauma with extensive blood loss, even a woman’s menstrual cycle can cause that.
The point is: anything can cause a dysfunctional gut. If any part of your body is weakened due to emotional upset, trauma, illness, etc., then it will throw off the rhythm of your body and create an imbalance.
Your gut, along with everything in life, relies on balance. Scientists call this homeostasis. Different word, same concept.
Think about home and work life balance. If you work all the time then your body and relationships will suffer. If you’re home all the time (and you can’t work from home) then you can’t support your life and you start to bother everyone in your relationships.
There’s a purpose to our balance internally as well. Here’s an example from a food perspective: if you eat too much raw roughage, then your body’s energy will be completely consumed with digesting it and not enough energy can be spared to maintain balance, heal, repair, and so on.
From an emotional perspective: if your mind is consumed with stress, grief, anxiety, etc., then your energy will be consumed with producing stress hormones attempting to balance you out and keep you functioning. But again, not enough energy can be spared for another job like digesting and dispersing nutrients appropriately.
Our bodies are in a constant battle of fight or flight versus rest and digest.
There was a time when our lives revolved around the "fight or flight" of hunting and then the "rest and digest" period of eating and relaxing and then healing from the toll of the day’s work. We don’t live that life anymore.
Everyone is overstimulated, overworked, and perhaps overfed.
Acupuncture is a very useful way to tie up that battle of fight/flight, rest/digest and make you more balanced. It can stimulate organs to react more appropriately to the things we put them through with food and activity.
However, nutritional changes are extremely important. Having said that, not everyone requires the same nutritional support. I know it may seem crazy, but kombucha can actually cause someone irritable bowel symptoms, but their best friend feels great when he/she drinks it.
Eating a kale salad may make you blow up, but your mom can eat it just fine with no issue. Every single thing you put into your body that makes you feel good may not be good for the person next to you.
So how are you supposed to know what to do? That’s where we come in as your help. In acupuncture, it is very important to do a systems review because it will paint a very detailed picture of what is going on internally.
Once that review is finished, the acupuncturist can diagnose you with a “pattern”. The beauty of this process is that someone who has been told they have irritable bowel syndrome can actually be diagnosed with something more specific and therefore have a more specific treatment protocol designed to fit your specific needs.
It isn’t treating irritable bowel syndrome as much as it is treating what you have going on with you. In addition to having a more specific treatment from acupuncture, there can be a more specific dietary approach that may require some elimination and some addition.
At Physio Logic, the clinical nutrition, integrative medicine, and acupuncture departments work closely together. We take traditional medicine to a whole new modern day medicine where we incorporate the lens of an acupuncturist and blood work analyzed by the nutritionist and medical doctor to create a treatment plan specific to every patient’s needs.
Acupuncture is a great way to get more specific answers to your gut problems and have the internal and emotional support needed along the way. Unfortunately, acupuncture is not a miracle that can heal you without any effort on your part. If it was that way it would be magic, but as stated in previous articles, this is not magic it is science.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort…”