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October 2021

Acupuncture for Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Disorders

Abstract: Acupuncture has been used for various gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. Voluminous data support the effect of acupuncture on the physiology of the GI tract, including acid secretion, motility, neurohormonal changes, and changes in sensory thresholds. Much of the neuroanatomic pathway of these effects has been identified in animal models. A large body of clinical evidence supports the effectiveness of acupuncture for suppressing nausea associated with chemotherapy, postoperative state, and pregnancy. Prospective randomized controlled trials have also shown the efficacy of acupuncture for analgesia for endoscopic procedures, including colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. Acupuncture has also been used for a variety of other conditions including postoperative ileus, achalasia, peptic ulcer disease, functional bowel diseases (including irritable bowel syndrome and nonulcer dyspepsia), diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, expulsion of gallstones and biliary ascariasis, and pain associated with pancreatitis. Although there are few prospective randomized clinical studies, the well-documented physiological basis of acupuncture effects on the GI tract, and the extensive history of successful clinical use of acupuncture, makes this a promising modality that warrants further investigation.

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