Patient Profile: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Swimsuit season is upon us, and there’s nothing worse than feeling bloated from irritable bowel syndrome when you’re at the beach. As a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who specializes in digestive health, I am very excited to write to you about all the things that Chinese medicine can help with when it comes to digestive issues. Western medicine has largely failed on this front, but Chinese medicine has the diagnostic ability and the customizable treatment protocol to help people overcome problematic digestion. This should be welcome news to those of you who have struggled silently—or felt ignored by your doctor. And if you feel like nothing will help, since nothing has before, I encourage you to give Chinese medicine a try—you might be very surprised!

Today, we’re handing over the reins to my patient Caroline, who has suffered with a pretty textbook case of IBS, swinging between constipation and loose-stool episodes, bloating, aches and pains. But just because it was textbook doesn’t mean it was easy to live with! For more than a decade, she struggled with the uncertainty of what would set her off and send her into an episode—and that’s no way to experience life! Today we’re getting a look inside what her experience was like. Then Wednesday, we’ll discuss how I diagnosed her specifically and what we did to treat her, and some parting thoughts from Caroline.

What was the problem you came into Healing InSight with? What symptoms were you experiencing?
I was dealing with constant stomach aches/bloating after eating and trouble having consistent bowel movements. I had these symptoms since my teenage years (almost 15 years!) and had tried going to a traditional doctor, tried different prescriptions and remedies, but nothing had worked.

How were these symptoms affecting your life?
I never knew when I would have stomach pain and I never knew if something I ate would upset my stomach for the rest of the day or ruin pre-existing plans.

Was there anything that seemed to have caused it? Anything that made it worse or better?
I had a hard time pinpointing what was causing the issues. I kept a food diary and thought it was related to wheat or gluten, so I tried self-diagnosing myself—that really didn’t help. But once I started treatment with Senia, I learned how to identify the food groups that were causing more issues.

What did you try before you tried acupuncture, if anything?
I went to a traditional doctor and had X-rays and scans, but nothing was conclusive. I had my stool analyzed, but still nothing. The Western medicine response was to take Metamucil, which only made my bowel movements inconsistent and didn’t help the stomachaches.

How did you feel by the time you came to Healing InSight? How did you decide to try Traditional Chinese Medicine?
I literally felt like I had nothing to lose. I had tried everything I felt I could on my own, and was willing to try acupuncture, even though I had never done it before. My mom actually saw an article about Senia in Minnesota Monthly and saw that she specialized in digestive issues. Since I had been struggling with this for years, my mom suggested I give it a try. I wasn’t sure what to expect, which was good since I went in with an open mind. Like I said, I had tried everything and this was kind of a last resort. The whole experience exceeded my expectations and I have been extremely happy with the results.

How long have you been treated and what has happened as a result? Were there any breakthrough or important moments during that time? What did your treatment look and feel like?
I started working with Senia in September 2013, so it has been about six months. I had mini breakthroughs almost instantly, but really saw a 100 percent turnaround within three to four months. I was visiting the clinic once a week in the beginning and now I’m at once every 3 weeks. I was a bit nervous about the needles in the beginning, but it doesn’t hurt at all and is so relaxing. Your body almost feels heavy and I fall asleep almost every time. I look forward to my treatments and having time to calm my body. During the treatments, I could instantly feel my stomach and digestive tract moving—it was kind of crazy at first, but the minute the needles went in, I could feel changes.

Have you made significant changes to your lifestyle? What?
Every time I meet with Senia, I learn something new. Even if it is not related to my digestive issues, there is a tidbit that can help live a better life. One of the first things Senia taught me was about damp and dry foods. I started eliminating or limiting the dampening foods and instantly felt better. I still wasn’t 100 percent, but this made a big difference. I also started to meditate, which helps me channel stress.

Keep reading our follow-up post, when alongside Senia’s diagnosis and treatment plan, we’ll ask Caroline about her biggest surprises, improvements, and her reaction to her treatments!