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Gastrointestinal tract disorders

Around 2-4 in 1,000 people in Northern Europe have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Both are chronic, relapsing, inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract with several shared clinical features, but with largely distinct risk factors, genetic, immunological, anatomical, and histological features, and response to therapy.

Acupuncture has been found superior to sham acupuncture for disease activity scores in Chrohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. In comparison with Western drug treatments acupuncture has been found beneficial for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases: dyspepsia, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, reflux and pancreatitis. 


Acupuncture may help in the treatment of GI tract disorders, by:

  • inhibiting gastric and duodenal motility by activating sympathetic nerves via spinal reflexes, and increasing motility via the vagus nerve and supraspinal reflexes;

  • altering acid secretion, and visceral pain

  • improving delayed gastric emptying

  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors   

  • stimulating areas in the brain that are involved in gastric perception

  • inhibiting stress-induced pro-opiomelanocortin expression in the hypothalamus

  • increasing vasoactive intestinal peptide and nitric oxide in plasma, gastric mucosal and bulb tissues, and elevating expression of vasoactive intestinal peptide in antral smooth   muscle;

  • decreasing permeability of intestinal mucosa in patients with acute pancreatitis and reducing accumulation of endogenous inflammatory mediators and vascular active substance in intestinal mucosa.

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