The term “functional disorder” refers to a disease or disorder in which a body part functions in an abnormal manner. The functional gastrointestinal disorders affect many people around the globe, of different age groups, and of all genders. Western physicians have determined that functional gastrointestinal disorders are the single most common illness found in most individuals in primary care or gastroenterology.
The most common functional gastrointestinal disorders include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Pelvic floor pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Biliary disorders
- Esophageal disorders and GERD
Causes of these disorders are not found through a blood test or x-ray, but identified based on the symptoms. As there is little to no understanding of these types of disorders, Western medicine uses pharmacologic and nutritional therapies to provide relief for the discomfort. However, as each set of symptoms is different, it may take several different drug combinations before a patient finds complete relief. An alternative therapy to help alleviate symptom? Acupuncture. Practitioners and patients around the world have successfully been using acupuncture to treat functional gastrointestinal disorders for years.
Acupuncture is a technique in which needles are inserted and manipulated in particular points on the body. This helps alleviate the gastrointestinal problems and prevent pain. Patients suffering from gastrointestinal disorders find acupuncture effective because it alters the acid secretion, GI motility, and visceral pain. When you apply acupuncture to the lower limbs, it causes muscle contractions through the somatoparasympathetic pathway. When you apply acupuncture to the upper abdomen, it causes muscle relaxation via the somatosympathetic pathway.
Acupuncture is based on the theory that there are patterns of energy flow through the body, called qi, that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for the functional gastrointestinal disorders. Acupuncture helps correct this disruption in flow at identifiable points close to the skin. Acupuncture also helps to focus on a holistic, energy-based approach to the patient rather than a disease-oriented diagnostic and treatment model. There have been various studies on human beings as well as animals to indicate the fact that acupuncture causes multiple biological responses. These multiple responses can occur at various places such as close to the site of application, at a distance, or mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This helps to activate the pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain. Additionally, acupuncture may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which results in a broad spectrum of systemic effects.