Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
Do you have any recommendations for treating someone with irritable bowel syndrome?
A: Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS is a relatively new condition reflecting the current socioeconomic status of our population. It is categorized as an autoimmune condition in which the intestinal infrastructure is irritated due to an overactive immune system. In my practice we treat these types of conditions with good results; traditional Chinese medicine does not classify these conditions, but instead looks at the entire body, the person, and their mental, physical and emotional states. These all play a key role in these new conditions.
Lifestyle and dietary recommendations include the following:
1. Avoid stress, as it is a major contributor to IBS.
2. Do not ingest stimulating foods and drinks, including coffee and alcohol and do not smoke.
3. Do not eat gas-producing foods, such as onions, beans, cabbage, broccoli, and so on. Eat polished white rice—brown rice might cause irritation.
4. Since IBS is a motility problem, some Chinese herbs can help, including atractylodis, salvia, and licorice.
5. A daily ten-minute abdominal massage is also helpful: with open palm, massage the abdomen in a round motion beginning at the lower right quadrant, moving to the lower left quadrant.
A licensed acupuncturist can provide specific diagnosis and prescribe a suitable treatment plan to help with the symptoms of IBS.