'I've become so used to being like this that I just think it's normal' was what Anita said to me during her first consultation, referring to the IBS symptoms she'd been suffering from for nine years. A recent increase in the severity and frequency of her symptoms had forced her to seek help outside conventional medicine. Interested in alternative therapies and having read a magazine article about acupuncture, she had decided to give it a go.
Anita (34) had been a great backpacker, and her digestive issues started when she was travelling from time zone to time zone and eating different types of food every few weeks. Five years after her return, her symptoms had gradually become less and less bearable, until she became afraid of leaving the house and was omitting more and more foods from her diet. The stress of having a very ill family member in the previous few months had made things even worse.
Every day involved discomfort and pain for Anita. Her abdomen was almost permanently swollen and subject to painful spasms, which accompanied the attacks of urgent diarrhoea that occurred every two or three days. Previously a keen runner, she had been forced to stop two months earlier. She found sleep difficult as she could get no relief from her constant abdominal pain.
Anita came for acupuncture treatment every week and, after some discussion, made some small changes to her eating habits too. Rather than eating at random times and sometimes skipping breakfast, she made sure she ate three meals a day at specific times, with the smallest meal in the evening. We also agreed that she should try meditation, to help with her stress levels. She took a one-day course after her second treatment and managed to find time to meditate daily from then on.
After six acupuncture treatments, Anita felt confident enough to stop coming weekly, and elected to return every month for an 'MOT'. She now comes for treatment as and when she feels she needs to, eg when she is going to be travelling abroad or knows a period of stress is coming up.
Anita's thoughts on acupuncture
Anita had hoped that acupuncture would help with her pain and diarrhoea, and was delighted with how she felt after a course of treatment and some small changes in her daily life. Her initial expectation was that 'I would just have needles stuck in me', but she went on to say, 'In fact, I felt like we worked together on making me feel not only physically better but less stressed. I feel much calmer and more balanced generally.'