The gastro-intestinal system can be involved in a number of non-malignant disease processes, including peptic ulceration, constipation, diarrhea, malabsorption, esophageal disorders, nausea, vomiting, appendicitis, regional ileitis, and gall bladder pathology. In many cases, the origin of the abnormal function cannot be elucidated even by extensive medical investigation and is probably psychogenic. The severity of these processes may vary from inconsequential "heartburn" to life-threatening gastric hemorrhage. Even though the cause of digestive disturbances might be emotional, there usually is demonstrable somatic pathology and abnormality of enzyme and acid contents of digestive secretions. Acupuncture may relieve the symptoms of digestive disorders which are not caused by malignancy, parasites, bacteria, perforation of a visceral organ or mechanical obstruction.
Peptic ulcer disease involves abnormal digestion of the gastro-intestinal mucosa by the normally present hydrochloric acid and proteolytic enzymes. This can be considered a "Yang" condition. Over-production of acid, or defective mucosal defense mechanisms, are involved in peptic ulceration. Traditional medical treatment is directed toward neutralization of acid with controlled diet and antacids along with anti-cholinergic therapy. Vitamin C 2 gms. daily will decrease the danger of hemorrhage. Acupuncture can reduce the pain and improve physiological function.
The diarrhea disorders include ulcerative colitis, regional enteritis (Chrone's Disease), bacterial infections, parasitic intestations, hepatobiliary disease and pancreatic malfunction. Severe nervous stress may also be involved in the etiology of diarrhea, as well as in nausea and vomiting. Stool examination should reveal parasites, pathogenic bacteria, blood and excessive mucus when present. Sigmoidoscopy, cholecystogram and barium fluroscopy studies of the digestive tract should reveal tumors, strictures and gallstones.
Acupuncture should not be used to treat bacterial infections, parasitic infestations, tumors, strictures or gall stones, but may be effective in treating diarrheal disorders after these conditions have been ruled out. Stomach cramps, nausea, "heartburn" and flatulence also respond well to acupuncture. If food allergy is suspected, the food should be eliminated if possible and acupuncture points for treating allergies can be added.
Constipation can be relieved by acupuncture but should also be treated by increasing fluid intake, especially fruit juices, such as orange, prune and grape. Adding bran and more green vegetable to the diet may be helpful, especially if diverticulitis is a complication.