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Treating Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Using Traditional Chinese Medicine

Updated: May 1, 2023

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are difficult to treat and even more difficult to live with. Frequent flare-ups can be hard to manage, even with medication and various therapies. The best advice I can give to patients who suffer from these illnesses is to have a team of doctors, specialists, therapists and natural medicine practitioners such as acupuncturists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine can offer a lot to help minimize flare-ups and improve the quality of life for people who suffer from Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

According to the Five Phases (Elements) theory 五行 in traditional Chinese medicine, the Wood phase is associated with the nervous system, stress and emotions, especially anger and frustration. The Earth phase is associated with digestion, Spleen and Stomach. The Metal phase is associated with the Large Intestine and elimination. According to the generating and controlling cycle 生克 of the Five Phases, the Wood phase, when in excess (too much stress or negative emotions), can overact or attack the Earth phase (digestion.) When the Earth phase is under attack, it gets weak and deficient. As a result, it fails to generate the Metal phase (elimination through the Large Intestines and the colon.)

Acupuncture is excellent at managing stress, anxiety and emotional disturbances by calming the Wood phase (the nervous system) and therefore restoring the body to homeostasis. When the body is in homeostasis, the Wood phase will stop attacking the Earth phase (digestion). We have a better chance to restore the body to the parasympathetic nervous system, where resting, digesting and healing become possible.

Herbal medicine is great at directly treating the Earth and Metal phases to strengthen the deficiency. During acute flare-ups, we prioritize controlling the flares with herbal formulas such as Coix, Aconite and Patrinia Powder modified 薏苡附子败酱散 to quickly and effectively manage the attack, stop bleeding and expel pus. Between flare-ups, we use herbal formulas to build and restore the body's Yang Qi 阳气 and vital resources with Yellow Earth Decoction modified 黄土汤.

At Autumn Dream Clinic, we customize herbal formulas according to each patient's constitution and presentation at the time of visit. Herbal formulas change over time as people's symptoms improve.

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis can take long-term treatments, so we are in it for the long game. I usually work with patients intensely for the first three months with weekly herbs and acupuncture treatment. Once we get the condition to stabilize, we space out acupuncture treatments to every 2-4 weeks and continue herbs. People often see positive changes within 3-6 months and report having fewer flare-ups and much better quality of life.

Let us be a part of your wellness team!

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