Acupuncture for functional gastrointestinal disorders

Abstract

Functional gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are common in the general population. Especially, motor dysfunction of the GI tract and visceral hypersensitivity are important. Acupuncture has been used to treat GI symptoms in China for thousands of years. It is conceivable that acupuncture may be effective in patients with functional GI disorders because it has been shown to alter acid secretion, GI motility, and visceral pain. Acupuncture at the lower limbs (ST-36) causes muscle contractions via the somatoparasympathetic pathway, while at the upper abdomen (CV-12) it causes muscle relaxation via the somatosympathetic pathway. In some patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and functional dyspepsia (FD), peristalsis and gastric motility are impaired. The stimulatory effects of acupuncture at ST-36 on GI motility may be beneficial to patients with GERD or FD, as well as to those with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), who show delayed colonic transit. In contrast, the inhibitory effects of acupuncture at CV-12 on GI motility may be beneficial to patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS, because enhanced colonic motility and accelerated colonic transit are reported in such patients. Acupuncture at CV-12 may inhibit gastric acid secretion via the somatosympathetic pathway. Thus, acupuncture may be beneficial to GERD patients. The antiemetic effects of acupuncture at PC-6 (wrist) may be beneficial to patients with FD, whereas the antinociceptive effects of acupuncture at PC-6 and ST-36 may be beneficial to patients with visceral hypersensitivity. In the future, it is expected that acupuncture will be used in the treatment of patients with functional GI disorders.

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Correspondence to Toku Takahashi.

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Takahashi, T. Acupuncture for functional gastrointestinal disorders. J Gastroenterol 41, 408–417 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00535-006-1773-6

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Key words

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • functional dyspepsia
  • irritable bowel syndrome