Scientific research into the effects and mechanisms of acupuncture for gastrointestinal diseases including inflammatory bowel disease has been rapidly growing in the past several decades. In this review, we discuss the history, theory, and methodology of acupuncture and review potentially beneficial mechanisms of action of acupuncture for managing inflammatory bowel disease. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease disease activity and inflammation via increase of vagal activity in inflammatory bowel disease. Acupuncture has demonstrated beneficial roles in the regulation of gut dysbiosis, intestinal barrier function, visceral hypersensitivity, gut motor dysfunction, depression/anxiety, and pain, all of which are factors that can significantly impact quality of life in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. A number of clinical trials have been performed to investigate the therapeutic effects of acupuncture in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Although the data from these trials are promising, more studies are needed given the heterogeneous and multifactorial aspects of inflammatory bowel disease. There is also an important need to standardize acupuncture methodology, study designs, and outcome measurements.
Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Inflammatory bowel disease; acupuncture; electroacupuncture; ulcerative colitis.
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