Mind – Gut Connection — Trauma and IBS

At the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, D.C., researchers reported a connection linking psychological trauma to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in adults. The study had 2623 participants, and found that participants with more psychological traumas – “such as the death of a loved one, divorce, natural disaster, house fire or car accident, physical or mental abuse” – were more likely to have IBS than those in the control groups with fewer traumas experienced both in and prior to adulthood.

Chinese medicine offers a unique opportunity to treat IBS. We can work on the level of the organs themselves. Both acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown to relax smooth muscle and cramping in the digestive systems. There are a number of herbs that have been shown to have a positive effect on tenesmus, or the urgent need to have a bowel movement.

Chines medicine can also treat on the level of the spirit. Each organ system has an emotion associated with it. When one emotion is dominant we can incorporate acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments to treat the affected systems. For instance, unresolved grief affects the Lungs, and may come with shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating or skin problems. By seeing the whole patient, both the body and the emotions, or spirit as we call it, we can formulate treatment plans that work on multiple levels.

Chinese medicine should never be used as a substitute to working with a mental health practitioner when indicated. The combination of the two modalities, in fact, can be very beneficial.

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