Gut Health and Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Gut Health

Acupuncture and oriental medicine therapies In Glenelg can bring relief to people suffering from chronic constipation.  The term constipation can mean different things to different people, and there are widely ranging ideas on what ‘normal’ bowel function looks like. Certainly, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective we would consider a daily (or every second day), unforced and well-formed stool to be a comparable baseline.

Whilst many people suffer from constipation from time to time due to diet changes, travel, stress, illness or pregnancy,  chronic constipation normally has no clear relationship to lifestyle or diet, and is usually suffered on a long-term basis, perhaps with periods where the condition worsens or improves.  At Healthful we can also treat constipation that is a side effect from pharmaceuticals,  including in oncology treatment.

Types of constipation

Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture views the body, its organs and our emotions as an interconnected whole, with disease or disfunction caused by a lack of balance in one, or various meridians or body systems.  As such chronic constipation is never really seen as a singular condition caused by one issue- rather there are varying patterns which can cause constipation. Come and experience the difference with your gut health at our Glenelg Wellness Hub.

In understanding your cause of constipation, we would distinguish between a full type of constipation or a deficient pattern of constipation.  Some characteristics are outlined below:


  • Excess type: Heat – chronic constipation with hard, dry and pellet stools perhaps with a red complexion ( or cheeks), bad breath, concentrated urine, dry mouth and thirst, perhaps headaches, perhaps sore/red eyes.
  • Excess type- Phlegm/Damp/damp heat- sluggish bowel movements which can have mucous present, can have alternating loose stools, foul smelling, perhaps nausea or reflux, heaviness and bloating, lethargy, can have chronic mucous in sinus or chest, may be overweight
  • Excess type- Qi stagnation- feelings of incomplete evacuation, pebble like or thin like, worse with stress or when upset, irritability/moodiness, fullness in chest and rib regions, belching, flatulence and sighing
  • Excess type- Blood stagnation- Hard to pass, can be sticky/tarry or jam like, can be cyclical and alternative with loose stools, haemorrhoids, lower abdominal pain which is worse with pressure, dark complexion and dark rings under the eyes, spider nevi or vascular abnormalities on the medial knee/ankle/face or abdomen


  • Deficiency type:  Blood deficiency- Dry pellety or button like stools, urge to defecate with inability to do so, haemorrhoids, dry hair/skin/eye, pale complexion/face/lips, insomnia, anxiety, poor memory, menstrual cycle may be long or light.
  • Deficiency type- Qi deficiency- Stools hard to pass but may not be dry/hard, urge to defecate but with straining, abdominal bloating, haemorrhoids, pale complexion, tiredness and fatigue, frequently catch colds
  • Deficiency type: Yin deficiency- dry stools (rabbit-type droppings), urge to defecate with inability, haemorrhoids or anal lesions, thirst, dry hair/skin/nails, night sweats, red cheeks or sensations of heat, perhaps dizziness or tinnitus
  • Deficiency type: Yang deficiency- hard to expel stools that maybe not well formed, little urge to defecate, bloating, haemorrhoids which bleed, pale complexion, poor appetite, perhaps sore lower back and knees, lower body oedema, coldness of lower back or abdomen, feeling cold.

What is involved in a treatment? 

Treatment is individualised based on your pattern but may involve cupping, needles, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion, tuina massage and Chinese medicine.  We normally treat constipation over 8-12 regular sessions, perhaps incorporating some dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as suggestions for self-treatment.  Once we have established more consistent bowel movements, some clients prefer to come once a month for maintenance treatments, even though this may not always be required.

What does the research say about acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating chronic constipation?

There have been a range of studies showing that acupuncture is effective in treating chronic constipation, by increasing bowel movements, decreasing straining, pain and abdominal discomfort and bloating.

In 2020, a comprehensive meta-analysis showed that acupuncture was an efficient and safe treatment, increasing stool frequency, improving stool formation, alleviating constipation symptoms, and improving quality of life (Wang et al., 2020).  A 2017 study found that electro-acupuncture effectively treats the root causes of constipation and that acupuncture patients have lower relapse rates than patients having taken Mosapride, a medication used to facilitate bowel movements. Although the drug is effective, research indicates a relatively high relapse rate (54.2%) when you stop taking it. As a comparison, acupuncture has no significant adverse effects when compared to pharmaceuticals which may cause abdominal pain, loose stools, insomnia, dizziness, and headaches (Wu et al, 2017). Supporting the above findings, a 2016 multi-centre trial also found that using electro-acupuncture significantly increased ‘complete spontaneous bowel movements’ from a mean of 0.4 to 2.6 per week, which had also been sustained at the 12-week follow up (Liu et al., 2016).

Whilst the mechanisms of how acupuncture assists constipation are not truly understood, research suggests that acupuncture enhances gastrointestinal motility by evoking the somato-autonomic reflex and activating spinal-supraspinal pathways (Takahashi, 2013).

Treating constipation in babies and children?

Babies and children have weak Spleen and Stomach functions due to being in growth phases of development.   As such digestive complaints are common, especially constipation, diarrhoea, reflux, flatulence and tummy pains.

Some parents may have never considered acupuncture for paediatric complaints, however Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long tradition in treating children for a range of common health issues.  Oriental therapies for children are brief, gentle, safe and effective and can include no-needle alternatives such as Shonishin (Japanese paediatric therapy), paediatric Tuina (massage), acupressure, cutaneous stimulation, ear seeds and herbal medicine. Children often need fewer appointments than adults to treat constipation and our acupuncturist can also show you massage and other techniques to continue the treatment at home.  Parents often comment that their children are also calmer and sleep better after treatments.

Specialised paediatric appointments are available to book here: available for children aged 6 months to 16 years


Are you ready to try acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine for constipation?

Should you need more information, feel free to book a discovery call with our acupuncturist Sharon (link). Otherwise bookings can be made here:


Liu, Z., Yan, S., Wu, J., He, L., Li, N., Dong, G., Fang, J., Fu, W., Fu, L., Sun, J., Wang, L., Wang, S., Yang, J., Zhang, H., Zhang, J., Zhao, J., Zhou, W., Zhou, Z., Ai, Y., Zhou, K., … Liu, B. (2016). Acupuncture for Chronic Severe Functional Constipation: A Randomized Trial. Annals of internal medicine, 165(11), 761–769.

Takahashi T. (2013). Effect and mechanism of acupuncture on gastrointestinal diseases. International review of neurobiology, 111, 273–294.

Wang, L., Xu, M., Zheng, Q., Zhang, W., & Li, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Acupuncture in Management of Functional Constipation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 6137450.

Wu, X., Zheng, C., Xu, X., Ding, P., Xiong, F., Tian, M., Wang, Y., Dong, H., Zhang, M., Wang, W., Xu, S., Xie, M., & Huang, G. (2017). Electroacupuncture for functional constipation: A multicenter, randomized, Control Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017, 1–10.

Meet Your Acupuncturist. 

Sharon supports women with hormonal issues, digestive issues, gynecology, fertility, pregnancy and post-natal issues, menopause, mental health and pain conditions. She has experience working with female and male fertility and in assisting women and couples undergoing IVF.