Patient Blogs | Crohn's Disease
How Acupuncture Helped My Crohn’s Disease

Treating Crohn’s disease is a tricky thing since one approach does not fit all. For some people, just taking medications is enough. Others may rely more on holistic or complementary approaches. Personally, I feel my best with a combination of both.

It wasn’t easy to reach this point. For several years, I only took whatever my gastroenterologist prescribed me. I did well with a cocktail of medicine for a while, but then I would start feeling sick again, had to change medications, and the cycle continued. My health worsened. I was exhausted all the time, experienced extreme stomach pain, and my tolerance for food was lessening. It was difficult to deal with, and I felt like I wasn’t even living. 

I hated feeling so isolated and out of control, so I did some research on holistic approaches. I started modifying my diet by going gluten free. I felt a bit of relief, so I knew there was something to this. I went to a dietitian, who suggested a monthlong elimination diet where I stopped eating certain foods for a while, and then reintroduced them one at a time to see if they had an effect on my symptoms.

I found out I was sensitive to gluten, wheat, corn, and dairy. I love all of these foods, so it was tough to give them up. But it was more important to me to get some of my life back, so I made the sacrifice. Once again, I felt the tiniest bit of relief, but still had an immense amount of stomach pain and fatigue.

I was in my mid-20s at this point and so frustrated. All the work I was putting into changing my diet wasn’t helping, and I was terrified by the idea of suffering for the next 60-70 years. I continued researching holistic practices that worked for other people with IBD and decided to try acupuncture, as it seemed to be the most effective with the least side effects. 

I found a Chinese medicine doctor who not only did acupuncture, but also used herbs and provided dietary guidelines. I must emphasize that it’s extremely important to conduct background research on practitioners’ credentials and success history. Some practices, like herbal medicine, can be dangerous. The person I chose was licensed by the state to practice traditional Chinese medicine, had a lot of knowledge about IBD, and was honest and open about what to expect from her treatments.

During the first appointment after I shared my health history, the practitioner performed acupuncture. It didn’t hurt, but it felt weird just lying still for an hour with a bunch of needles all over my body. The next day, all the pain I’ve experienced for years was completely gone! That’s when I knew this was the right path to take. 

The acupuncturist also told me to go on a limited diet of just meat, seafood, eggs, and cooked produce until my health improved. It was difficult at first and involved a lot of tears in the kitchen. Nevertheless, I continued to feel better and did activities such as weightlifting, traveling, and walked a half marathon for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in Ireland. 

I had a flare after a few months, and being between jobs left me without insurance. I became extremely sick as I couldn’t afford medications, and no amount of acupuncture, herbs, and diet could get me out of it. It took a long time to recover, but with a combination of both Western and Chinese medicine, I’ve been in remission for almost 2 years. 

I still have difficult days, but I take fewer medications and do acupuncture for maintenance. I spend more time doing the things I love with my friends and family. I am grateful for all of the approaches that have given me a second chance at life.


Photo Credit: Goodshoot RF via Getty Images

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Basmah Ali

Basmah Ali

Diagnosed since 2003

Basmah Ali has been living with Crohn's disease for 18 years. She is working toward becoming a certified wellness coach and loves sharing food and lifestyle tips on Instagram. Ali is a part of Girls With Guts, an organization addressing obstacles women of color encounter while living with inflammatory bowel disease. She enjoys traveling, weightlifting, reading, and playing with her nephews and nieces. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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