Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Basics

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder characterized by a dysfunctional large bowel. Symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, irregular bowel movements, mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, cramping and bloating. Several factors and conditions can affect the functionality of the bowel, such as celiac disease (a condition that prevents the proper digestion of gluten), sensitive large intestine, or infection.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Diagnostic Patterns

The Chinese Medicine treatment of irritable bowel syndrome  generally involves arriving at the appropriate TCM diagnosis or pattern. This pattern within the individual is what treatment is based on not the general condition.

The following patterns may represent the underlying contributing factors for the development of irritable bowel syndrome: Kidney Yang Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Spleen Qi Deficiency

Common used points: L4 Hegu, LV3 Taichong, ST25 Tianshu, ST36 Zusanli

Common used formula: Si Jun Zi Tang Wan, Wu Mei Wan, and Huang Lian Jie Du Wan


Insufficient evidence; low to moderate quality evidence (Manheimer 2012 – Cochrane SR of 17 RCTs)(1)

Acupuncture superior to usual care on IBS symptom severity score at 6, 9 and 12 months but not at 24 months (MacPherson 2016 – high quality RCT)(2)


1. Manheimer E, Wieland LS, Cheng K, Li SM, Shen X, Berman BM, et al. Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jun;107(6):835-47; quiz 48.

2. MacPherson H, Tilbrook H, Agbedjro D, Buckley H, Hewitt C, Frost C. Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: 2-year follow-up of a randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2016 Mar 15.