A study by Liaoning University of Chinese Medicine suggests that acupuncture may have a positive effect for those with diarrhea predominate Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The study took 30 male rats & put them through various stressors such as drinking water deprivation, electric shock & uncomfortable temperature variations. The rats were then divided into two groups, with 20 rats acting as the baseline model for the study while the other 10 were selected to receive acupuncture. The acupuncture was administered to the following acupuncture “channels”: “Xiajiao” (Lower Abdomen), “Dachang” (Large Intestine), “Gan” (Liver) and “Pi” (Spleen). Acupuncture treatments were given twice daily for seven days.

The results showed that the rats who did not receive acupuncture saw a downgraded level of serotonin transporters. Meanwhile, rats who did receive acupuncture saw markedly higher levels of serotonin transporters versus the model group.

Serotonin transporters or SERTs are responsible for the recapture & recycling of serotonin. For the body to be able to regulate serotonin levels it must be able release enough SERTs to recapture serotonin back into the neurotransmitter. If there are not enough SERTs then serotonin receptors & surrounding tissue will become saturated with serotonin causing undesired effects. Other studies have suggested that lower than normal SERT levels & higher than normal serotonin levels have been seen in those with diarrhea predominant IBS. Interestingly, other studies have shown lower than normal SERT levels & lower than normal serotonin levels in those with constipation predominate IBS. It would appear that serotonin plays a part in IBS, but how much & why still remains a mystery.

While this study does appear to show possible benefit from acupuncture one must also realize that rat models don’t always translate to humans. Additionally one might question if the simulation of IBS via the stressors imposed on the rats creates an accurate model of IBS symptoms in the first place.


  • Effects of oculo-acupuncture therapy on colonic serotonin reuptake transporter expression in rats with irritable bowel syndrome.[link]
  • Review Article: Intestinal Serotonin Signaling in IBS: Evidence for Altered Serotonin Signaling in IBS.[link]