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How to Fix Irritable Bowel Syndrome

How to fix irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the digestive system, causing cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Its symptoms can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and embarrassing. It's also quite common, with some medical sources estimating that up to 15% of the American population suffer from IBS.

IBS is typically managed with medications, but these are often just band-aid solutions, without addressing the underlying causes.

At our Orange County clinic, we take a unique, drug-free approach to treating IBS that has a high success rate.

Using our methods, we've helped countless people like you achieve LASTING relief and freedom from the cramping, bloating, pain, and digestive problems of IBS!

So if you are looking for how to fix irritable bowel syndrome, you're in the right place.

To really resolve IBS for good, we have to understand what causes it.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you’ve probably noticed there’s a direct relationship between your stress level and flare ups.

When you are stressed out, anxious, or depressed, then you have bloating and abdominal pain.

Constipation or diarrhea – or maybe both! – soon follow.

When you are having a flare, it may be difficult for you to figure out exactly what is causing it.

Was it something I ate? Or am I just under a lot of stress?

And of course, having a flare up of IBS can be extremely stressful. Which makes the flare worse.

So what is the relationship between anxiety, stress, and IBS, and is there a way out of this vicious cycle?

We’re going to take a deep dive into these questions, look at how the nervous system and the digestive system are connected, and explore how East Asian Medicine can help you interrupt the pattern of IBS, anxiety and depression.

The Role of the Nervous System in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

To begin with, let’s start with the nervous system.

You’re probably familiar with the terms “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. These are also called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

You can think of these as two settings of the autonomic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that controls unconscious body functions like breathing, heart-rate, and digestion.

Fight or flight is like the gas pedal in a car. It activates in response to danger or stress. This floods your body with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It also slows down digestion, moving blood and resources away from the digestive organs and into the muscles so that you can fight or run away from a perceived threat.

"Rest & digest" is like the brakes. It downregulates the stress response induced by fight or flight. This means it lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and in general slows and calms down the functioning of the body. As the name “rest & digest” implies, it also increases digestion.

Just like a car needs both a gas pedal and brakes, you need both fight or flight and rest & digest.

Ideally, the body can transition from one setting to another as needed, in the same way that you smoothly transition from using the gas pedal to using the brakes.

But what would happen if the gas pedal is constantly being engaged?

In other words, what if the body becomes “stuck” in fight or flight mode?

The Gut Brain Axis in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

When the nervous system becomes too engaged in fight or flight, over time this can produce a negative effect on the digestive system.

Scientists refer to the connection between the nervous system and the digestive system as the gut brain axis. It involves relationships between centers in the brain, peripheral nerves, cells in the digestive tract, and gut bacteria living in the intestines.

Acute or chronic stress that leads to too much fight or flight will disrupt the gut brain axis, and over time this leads to digestive problems.

This can happen slowly, over time, with the accumulation of stress over months or years.

Or it may happen suddenly, through a traumatic event that overwhelms the nervous system’s ability.

So, to sum up, issues with the nervous system can affect the digestive system through the brain gut axis.

This can also happen from the other direction. Issues with the digestive system can also affect the nervous system, through the same brain gut axis.

Problems with gut bacteria can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation in the nervous system. This can cause anxiety, depression, and cognitive problems like brain fog.

There is now substantial evidence that depression and anxiety are closely associated with chronic inflammatory states, to the point that some researchers and clinicians regard depression as an inflammatory condition.

Healing IBS Requires a Mind Body Approach

We tend to think of IBS as being a physical disorder, and anxiety or depression as a psychological disorder.

But what research demonstrates they are two sides of the same coin, two expressions of the same process – one physical, one psychological.

This implies what we think of as the mind is not separate from the body.

And complex chronic conditions like IBS usually have both a physical and a mental component.

To really address this issue, we must tackle both.

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, you should seek counselling from a licensed mental health provider.

But you can also use East Asian Medicine to adjust the relationship between your nervous system and your digestive system.

How to Fix Irritable Bowel Syndrome with East Asian Medicine

For thousands of years, East Asian Medicine has understood the relationship between the nervous system and the digestive system. Botanical medicine and acupuncture are able to regulate both the nervous system and the digestive system to effectively resolve the bloating, cramping, and diarrhea or constipation of IBS.


For example, Xiao Yao San (逍遥散) is a combination of eight botanical ingredients that has been used for one thousand years in Asia to balance the nervous system and the digestive system.


Research shows that Xiao Yao San has anti-depressant effects, protects the brain from injury due to chronic stress, helps with PTSD, is more effective than medication in treatment indigestion, and reduces symptoms of IBS by regulating the gut brain axis.

Another botanical combination, Tong Xie Yao Fang (痛瀉要方) has been used for five hundred years to promote digestive health and can treat IBS-D by regulating gut bacteria. There are numerous other botanical formulas used in East Asian Herbal Medicine that can effectively relieve the symptoms of IBS.

Acupuncture has also been shown to be beneficial in IBS. Acupuncture works through neuroplasticity, essentially reprogramming the nervous system. It has been shown in research studies that acupuncture stimulates parasympathetic activity, helping the body to shift out of "fight or flight" and into "rest and digest" mode.

Acupuncture has been shown to be more effective than medication in relieving IBS-D abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. In another study, acupuncture has also been shown to be more effective than medications in relieving IBS-C. In both cases, the improvements from acupuncture were shown to be long lasting, maintained at 3 months after completing a course of treatment.

Effective Natural Treatments for IBS in Orange County

At Empowered You Acupuncture, we specialize in complex chronic conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

If IBS is stopping you from the doing the things you love, it doesn't have to be this way.

You can enjoy a better quality of life with acupuncture and botanical medicine!

Schedule a consultation today and start your journey to better health.


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