Published online Jul 21, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i27.8304
Peer-review started: January 16, 2015
First decision: March 10, 2015
Revised: March 26, 2015
Accepted: May 4, 2015
Article in press: May 4, 2015
Published online: July 21, 2015
In China, acupuncture has been considered an effective method for treating gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction diseases for thousands of years. In fact, acupuncture has gained progressive acceptance from both practitioners and patients worldwide. However, the therapeutic effects and underlying mechanisms in treating GI dysfunction have not yet been established due to a lack of systematic and comprehensive review articles. Therefore, the aim of this review is to discuss the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for GI dysfunction and the associated underlying mechanisms. A search of PubMed was conducted for articles that were published over the past 10 years using the terms “acupuncture”, “gastrointestine”, and other relevant keywords. In the following review, we describe the effect and underlying mechanisms of acupuncture on GI function from the perspectives of GI motility, visceral sensitivity, the GI barrier, and the brain-gut axis. The dual regulatory effects of acupuncture may manifest by promoting gastric peristalsis in subjects with low initial gastric motility, and suppressing peristalsis in subjects with active initial motility. In addition, the regulation of acupuncture on gastric motility may be intensity-dependent. Our findings suggest that further studies are needed to investigate the effects and more systematic mechanisms in treating GI dysfunction, and to promote the application of acupuncture for the treatment of GI diseases.
Core tip: Acupuncture has been used as an appropriate adjunctive treatment for gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction diseases. However, the therapeutic effects and underlying mechanisms in treating GI dysfunction have not yet been established due to a lack of systematic and comprehensive review articles. This review clarifies the effects and underlying mechanisms of acupuncture on GI function from various perspectives including GI motility, visceral sensitivity, the GI barrier, and the brain-gut axis. In addition, the dual regulatory effects and the intensity-dependent nature of acupuncture on GI motility are discussed.