A huge meta-analysis was recently published in the peer reviewed journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It compared 29 studies with 9369 patients for the effectiveness of acupuncture, sham acupuncture, pinaverium bromide, alosetron/eluxadoline, ramosetron, and rifaximin.

acupuncture for IBSThe researchers discovered that acupuncture was the most effective treatment for diarrohea predominante IBS. The next best treatment, interestingly, was sham acupuncture. Pinaverium bromide did have statistically significant benefits, though less that acupuncture. The remaining medicines did not show statistically significant results.

Acupuncture was the least likely to cause side effects.

The authors concluded that, ‘acupuncture may improve diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome better than drugs and has the fewest side effects. Sham acupuncture may have curative effect except for placebo effect’. It is interesting to note that sham acupuncture may have an effect over and above placebo. As I have noted in previous blogs, it brings into question the efficacy and fairness of comparing true acupuncture to sham acupuncture.

It is great to see scientific research showing the benefits of acupuncture across a wider spectrum than just pain and hopefully it will further calls towards greater acceptance and integration of the field.


Zhu et al. Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome