It can often be an awkward moment during an acupuncture treatment session when the question about bowel movements is asked: “…and how are your bowels?”

And yet our digestive systems – which provide us with what we need and get rid of what we don’t – are crucial to our well being. In the UK it has been estimated that around 12 million people are affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome and bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer accounting for 13% of all new cases. We clearly need to become more comfortable talking about our bowels in order to understand them better!

A recent review of research on acupuncture and chronic constipation, which examined 15 randomized controlled trials of acupuncture containing 1256 participants, concluded that acupuncture for “chronic functional constipation” was as effective as conventional western medicine  in the change of bowel movements. There is also an increasing body of research on acupuncture and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which suggests that acupuncture can help both directly (by regulating the motility of the digestive tract) and indirectly (by reducing anxiety and depression which are linked to IBS). For more information about acupuncture and IBS see this British Acupuncture Council page:

To seek an acupuncture practitioner in the York area, see


Tao Zhang et al. 2013. Efficacy of Acupuncture for Chronic Constipation: A Systematic Review. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine., 41: 4