Acupuncture for Diverticulitis
Diverticular disease is pathology of the colon thought to be due to weakening of the colon wall that may be caused by increased intra-colonic pressure. Small hernias, protrusions or pouches occur in the colon wall and these can trigger inflammation. Diverticular disease can be asymptomatic until inflammation occurs at which point it is labelled Diverticulitis with typical signs and symptoms of tenderness (particularly on the left side), bloating, cramps, alternating diarrhoea and constipation and occasionally heavy rectal bleeding. Diverticulitis may cause an inflammatory accumulation blocking the intestines and this can be difficult to differentiate from cancer of the colon.
In Western society diverticular disease is more common in women. It may be present in 50% of 60-80 year olds and in 100% of those over 80. 10-20% of these sufferers may go on to develop diverticulitis. Prior to onset of Diverticulitis there may be a history of bowel problems such as constipation, particularly in patients with low fibre diets heavy in refined carbohydrates and fat. 1Gascoigne (2001: 245) suggested there is a clear correlation between incidences of diverticular disease in the Western world and our low intake of dietary fibre.
Western medical treatment is often in a supportive role only, treating the acute symptoms with painkillers, antibiotics and bed rest. If intestinal obstruction occurs then surgery may be suggested (1 Gascoigne, 2001: 245).
Diverticulitis and TCM
Diverticulitis falls within the category of lower abdominal pain, bloating and constipation; however, depending on the individual other signs and symptoms such as diarrhoea, anxiety and insomnia may also need to be considered. Diverticulitis is caused by chronic deficiencies of the body’s energies and vital fluids (Qi, Yin and Yang), usually as a result of getting old and an unsuitable diet over many years. If not checked these deficiencies inevitably lead to stagnation of Qi and Blood causing fullness, bloating, pain and discomfort. If the disease is allowed to progress then further disharmony may occur such as internal Dampness, Heat or Cold causing symptoms such as cramps, vomiting, chills and fevers (2 Flaws and Sionneau, 2005: 233-34).
After a detailed consultation the TCM practitioner will make a pattern diagnosis, such as ‘Qi & Yin deficiency with Qi stagnation & Blood stasis’ and a treatment plan is discussed. TCM offers many options for treatment and in the case of diverticulitis treatment will usually be by acupuncture and dietary advice, Chinese herbal medicine may also be advised. The treatment will be over a number of sessions and will concentrate on rebalancing and nourishing the body with the aim of lessening or negating the pathological signs & symptoms and calming any anxiety or mental disturbance. At each treatment session the case is reviewed and treatment modified as the condition responds.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Diverticulitis?
Clinical experience suggests that acupuncture often produces good results in cases of abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea and in managing the emotional aspects of disease.
3 Schneider et al., (2007) concluded in their systematic review of gastrointestinal diseases that the quality of life for sufferers improved significantly with the use of acupuncture.
4 Takahashi (2006) reviewed acupuncture for functional gastrointestinal disorders and concluded that acupuncture may be beneficial. Takahashi anticipated that acupuncture will be used in addition to Western therapies to better manage the disease and significantly reducing the cost of treatments.
1 Gascoigne, S. (2001) The Clinical Medicine Guide A Holistic Perspective. Chippenham: Antony Rowe.
2 Flaws B, Sionneau P. (2005) The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine. Second Edition. Boulder Colorado: Blue Poppy Press.
3 Schneider A, Streitberger K, Joos S. (2007) Acupuncture treatment in gastrointestinal diseases: A systematic review. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 13(25), pp. 3417-3424.
4 Takahashi T. (2006) Acupuncture for functional gastrointestinal disorders. Journal of Gastroenterology, 41, pp. 408–17