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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Acupuncture for Indigestion

Post Prandial Distress Syndrome

Many people know that acupuncture can be very effective in the treatment of pain, but not many realize that acupuncture for indigestion is the real deal. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for the treatment of certain gastrointestinal diseases, including dyspepsia or indigestion.

In this blog post, let's examine an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled, "Effect of Acupuncture for Postprandial Distress Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial." The study states that:

Postprandial distress syndrome (PDS) is the most common subtype of functional dyspepsia. Acupuncture is commonly used to treat PDS, but its effect is uncertain because of the poor quality of prior studies.

It's stated objective is:

To assess the efficacy of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in patients with PDS.

Postprandial distress syndrome is a type of discomfort in the gut experienced by the patient after eating. The patient experiences excessive fullness and feels satisfied or satiety earlier than usual. This is accompanied by feeling of acidity and burning.

The study

To study the effect of acupuncture on this type of dyspepsia, the scientists involved conducted a multi-center randomized clinical trial with two groups. The patients were divided into the groups - one with real acupuncture and the other with sham. They got their sessions three times a week for four weeks for a total of twelve sessions.

The 2 primary outcomes were the response rate based on overall treatment effect and the elimination rate of all 3 cardinal symptoms: postprandial fullness, upper abdominal bloating, and early satiation after 4 weeks of treatment. Participants were followed until week 16.

What this means is that all three symptoms had to be gone for the treatment to be considered a success. The patients were then followed up for three more months until week 16.

The authors made the following conclusion:

Among the 278 randomly assigned participants, 228 (82%) completed outcome measurements at week 16. The estimated response rate from generalized linear mixed models at week 4 was 83.0% in the acupuncture group versus 51.6% in the sham acupuncture group (difference, 31.4 percentage points [95% CI, 20.3 to 42.5 percentage points]; P < 0.001). The estimated elimination rate of all 3 cardinal symptoms was 27.8% in the acupuncture group versus 17.3% in the sham acupuncture group (difference, 10.5 percentage points [CI, 0.08 to 20.9 percentage points]; P = 0.034). The efficacy of acupuncture was maintained during the 12-week posttreatment follow-up. There were no serious adverse events.

What this means

Unfortunately, there was a good number that did not finish the 16 weeks. At the end of treatment, 83% of those who got acupuncture had improved clinical pictures compared to 51.6% for those who got fake acupuncture. When it came to all three symptoms being eliminated, the difference was 27.8% for the real thing compared to 17.3 for the fake. What's important here is that the improvement lasted all throughout the next three months in the acupuncture group!

Hence, I think that based on this study, using acupuncture for indigestion after meals is a viable option. What's most important for me is that the relief is lasting. The patients feel better even after treatment has stopped.

So if you have some indigestion after eating, feel free to consult your friendly neighborhood acupuncturist!



Yang, et al. Effect of Acupuncture for Postprandial Distress Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Intern Med, 2020 Jun 16;172(12):777-785. doi: 10.7326/M19-2880. Epub 2020 May 12. (

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