Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). IBD's inflame the lining of your digestive tract (and with colitis can cause sores, aka ulcers) and cause severe bouts of diarrhea and/or abdominal pain. Crohn's can affect any part of your digestive system (although usually it is the small intestine), whereas colitis usually only affects the inner lining of your large intestine (your colon) and your rectum. Another difference that tends to be apparent is that if you have ulcerative colitis you will usually have pain in your lower left abdomen, whereas with Crohn's you're more likely to experience pain in your lower right abdomen. And because colitis occurs in your large intestine and Crohn's your small (which is higher up in your digestive tract), bleeding during bowel movements tends to occur more with colitis.
Conventional drugs recommended for both forms of IBD are usually similar, and surgery is sometimes suggested for either one. Luckily, while you're undergoing all the care that your doctor can provide, you may find some relief with acupuncture, a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have had success with resolving digestive issues of all kinds for thousands of years.
One of the benefits of TCM is that you don't have to spend time doing a wide variety of expensive tests to determine the cause of your illness. A Registered TCM Practitioner is properly trained to diagnose you according to TCM patterns that enable them to choose appropriate means of treatment, i.e. acupuncture, and possibly also herbs. Other TCM modalities that can help with Crohn's and ulcerative colitis include ear acupuncture, cupping, and even Tui Na (Chinese massage). All TCM modalities, when properly used, diagnose and treat you according to the ancient, tried-and-true TCM diagnostic fundamentals.
When you are suffering from an IBD and you visit a TCM practitioner, you may be surprised to learn that the diagnosis you've been given by your doctor will not be especially relevant. This is because TCM is not based on scientific reasoning, but rather on patterns and theories that have been in development for thousands of years, long before science was around. As such, your TCM practitioner will ask you many questions about your symptoms, i.e. where you're feeling pain, what kind of pain it is, when it is worse, and so on. These symptoms, along with a proper pulse diagnosis (a complicated and sensitive method of unearthing your organ energy patterns) can help a TCM practitioner find the right course of treatment for you. With that said, generally speaking people with IBD present with a pattern known as Damp-Heat in the intestines (note: TCM terms that are capitalized are done so here so that they can be differentiated from their scientific definitions).
The properties of Dampness are that it is sticky, stubborn, and is heavy and so impedes the flow of energy in your body. Heat usually tends to speed up the flow, but when coupled with Dampness, Heat tends to just stagnate and cause pain. When Damp-Heat accumulates in your intestines, you are likely to feel abdominal pain, and experience diarrhea with mucus and blood in your stools. The mucus is indicative of Dampness, and blood, as well as any burning sensation indicates Heat.
If you suffer from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, there are specific acupuncture points and herbal formulas that can help relieve you of your pain and discomfort and help your digestive system function more effectively. Acupuncture can work with any drug treatment you may already be on, so you won't have to stop any other therapy you're already receiving. The same also goes for TCM modalities other than herbs, which your TCM practitioner is trained to know about in terms of contraindications.
IBD does not have to be a life sentence. Get treatment today!
By Richard Lobbenberg, Registered Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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