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Can Acupuncture Ease Severe Constipation?


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'Electroacupuncture' led to symptom relief even 12 weeks after treatment, study finds

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- People with severe chronic constipation may get relief from a more modern type of acupuncture, new research suggests.

After eight weeks of treatment with electroacupuncture -- acupuncture involving electrical stimulation -- study participants experienced significant symptom and quality-of-life improvements, the study found.

Electroacupuncture uses thin needles inserted beneath the skin that are attached to a device that sends electric pulses into the body.

The study findings suggest a safe and effective option for difficult-to-treat patients, several gastroenterologists said.

"It is heartening to see such rigorously tested alternative therapies, since so many of them are administered without any evidence to support them," said Dr. Christopher Andrews. He's a clinical associate professor in the gastroenterology division at University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine in Canada.

Dr. Henry Parkman, a professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said: "This seems to be a good treatment for the refractory patients -- those not responding to conventional medical treatments."

The study involved people with chronic, severe "functional" constipation. These people have difficult, infrequent bowel movements -- no more than two per week -- not due to other medical conditions or medicines they may be taking, such as opioid painkillers.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 1,075 patients to one of two groups. Half received electroacupuncture with needles that pierced the muscle layer of the abdominal wall. The other half received "sham" treatments, with shallow needles at points not considered therapeutic in acupuncture (the "control" group).

Acupuncturists at 15 Chinese hospitals administered the real and sham treatments, consisting of 28 half-hour sessions.

Over the eight-week treatment period, 31 percent of patients in the electroacupuncture group had three or more bowel movements in a week, on average. Only 12 percent of patients in the control group achieved that level of relief.

Bowel movements of three per day to three per week are considered within the range of "normal," according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

The effects persisted well after treatment. Almost 38 percent of electroacupuncture patients reported three or more bowel movements a week, on average, during the study's 12-week follow-up period, compared to 14 percent of sham therapy patients.

"We were indeed surprised when we first saw these results," said Dr. Jia (Marie) Liu of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing. She is one of the study authors and the research team's coordinator.

Liu cited two possible explanations for the post-treatment effects. For one, electroacupuncture has a "good sustained effect, which is one of its advantages," she said.

What's more, the research team evaluated weekly average bowel movements during the treatment and follow-up periods, not just end points, as in many prior studies.

"[Electroacupuncture] needs time to take effect and got its peak at week eight," she said.

Dr. Daniel Hsu, who practices acupuncture in New York City, said acupuncture -- whether through traditional needling or with electrical stimulation -- works in two ways.

"It makes the body release its own naturally occurring painkillers" and "it helps the body calm the nervous system," he said.

Stress can certainly affect digestion and cause constipation, Hsu explained. Acupuncture "flips the switch" on the body's fight-or-flight response, restoring normal body functions such as defecation, he said.

One potential drawback is the frequency of treatment. Patients in the study received electroacupuncture three to five times per week over eight weeks, which might be a burden for some people, the study authors acknowledged.

On the other hand, because the treatment effects lasted for many weeks, it may be that patients don't need continuous treatment, Andrews said.

Additional studies are needed to evaluate longer-term outcomes, the study authors noted.

In the United States, acupuncturists are licensed in almost every state but are most prevalent in big cities, particularly on the East and West coasts, Hsu said. He added that most acupuncture colleges teach electroacupuncture.

Neither Medicare nor Medicaid covers acupuncture but some private insurers cover a fixed number of sessions under their policies, Hsu said.

"A lot of practitioners do take insurance if it's covered," he said. If not, patients must pay out of pocket.

Treatment costs may vary widely from one practitioner to the next. Fees generally range from $60 to $120 per session.

The study was published online Sept. 12 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about acupuncture.

SOURCES: Jia (Marie) Liu, M.D., Ph.D., research team coordinator, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing; Christopher Andrews, M.D., clinical associate professor, gastroenterology, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, Canada; Henry Parkman, M.D., professor of medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia; Daniel Hsu, D.A.O.M., founder, New York AcuHealth Acupuncture, New York City; Sept. 12, 2016, Annals of Internal Medicine

Last Updated: Sep 12, 2016

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      What's Normal?
      Constipation can happen to anyone, but what’s defined as constipation can vary from person to person. Having a bowel movement anywhere from three times a day to three times a week is considered normal. If you go three times a day, not going for two days might qualify as constipation. On the other hand, if you go every few days, constipation might be more like a week.

      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Diet
      What you eat makes a big difference to how well your bowels move. Fiber is the big gun when it comes to keeping you regular. Try increasing the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet if constipation seems to be an issue that keeps coming up.

      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Hydration
      Even if you’re eating a high-fiber diet, you may be dehydrated. While your body absorbs most of the water that you take in, it uses some to keep things running smoothly in your digestive tract. Having too little water means less is available to soften your stool. If you’re constipated, try adding an extra glass or two of water per day.

      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Exercise
      Exercise helps get your bowels going by physically moving things around, as sometimes your intestines just need a kick-start to get them pushing. The exercise doesn’t have to be extended or intense. Even just going for a daily 20- to 30-minute walk can help.

      Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Caffeine
      Caffeine is well known to stimulate bowel activity. While the mechanism is still unclear, the effect is similar to eating a meal (which can help stimulate bowel movements) and the effect comes within a few minutes of consuming. Coffee and tea are both great options, but anything with caffeine will work.

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      Sometimes, the natural fixes just aren’t enough. It’s fine to try lifestyle changes for a few days, but you shouldn’t go too long before trying something stronger. If you’ve been trying lifestyle changes for a few days and nothing seems to be happening, it’s probably a good idea to try an over-the-counter medication.

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    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Acupuncture can relieve wrist pain, and researchers have tracked the brain and nervous system changes that may help explain why.
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    • misette  »  Gilles h

      Bonsoir Gilles
      S'il te plait, aurais-tu le samedi après-midi de l'assemblée régionale 2021
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    • Eric Ouellet

      Dieu aime les prières et la sincérité de ses serviteurs humbles
       
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    • Eric Ouellet

      Dieu aime les prières et la sincérité de ses serviteurs humbles
       
      Dieu aime la bonté de coeur envers autrui et non aux sacrifices et holocaustes d'animaux sauvages et domistiques.
      Dans ton amour fidèle, accorde-moi ta faveur, ô Dieu.
      Dans ta grande miséricorde, efface mes transgressions.
      Lave-moi complètement de ma faute
      et purifie-moi de mon péché.
      Car je suis bien conscient de mes transgressions,
      et mon péché est constamment devant moi.
      C’est contre toi que j'ai failli, oui j'ai fait le mal
      devant tes yeux.
      Ainsi, tu es juste quand tu parles,
      tu es droit quand tu juges.
      Vois ! Je suis né coupable
      et, depuis l’instant où ma mère m’a conçu, je suis pécheur.
      Vois ! Tu prends plaisir à la vérité dans le fond du cœur;
      enseigne-moi la vraie sagesse, au plus profond de moi.
      Purifie-moi de mon péché avec l’hysope, pour que je sois pur;
      lave-moi, pour que je sois plus blanc que la neige.
      Fais-moi entendre le son de l’allégresse et de la joie,
      pour que les os que tu as broyés se réjouiss.
      Détourne ton visage de mes péchés
      et efface toutes mes fautes.
      Crée en moi un cœur pur, ô Dieu,
      et mets en moi un esprit nouveau, ferme.
      Ne me chasse pas de ta présence ;
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      Redonne-moi la joie d’être sauvé par toi;
      éveille en moi la volonté de t’obéir.
      Je veux enseigner tes chemins aux transgresseurs,
      pour que les pécheurs reviennent à toi.
      Libère-moi de la culpabilité de meurtre, ô Dieu, mon Dieu sauveur,
      pour que ma langue puisse proclamer joyeusement ta justice.
      Ô Jéhovah, ouvre mes lèvres
      pour que ma bouche proclame ta louange.
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      tu ne prends pas plaisir aux holocaustes.
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      Dans ta bienveillance, agis pour le bien de Sion ;
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