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Can acupuncture help with c. difficile infection?

A: We would have serious concerns if acupuncture treatment was being used as the only treatment for a c difficile infection, except in cases where the symptoms are very mild and where the patient has been advised that stopping antibiotic treatment may be enough. Although c difficile usually develops in settings like hospitals where people are already being prescribed strong antibiotics which can allow the infection to take root, and although discontinuing the antibiotics is often the first stage of treatment, the disease has to be managed with considerable care thenceforth. Complications can arise with serious consequences, and there is also the question of continuing treatment for the condition which necessitated the antibiotic treatment in the first place.

Certainly the symptoms of c difficile infection can be interpreted within the frame of reference of Chinese medicine, and there are a number of both symptomatic and constitutional treatments which might offer help and which might speed up recovery. Quite often there is a background of weakened immune response, and although the research in this area is not very precise it is a long held belief that constitutional treatments like acupuncture can help to boost someone's overall health. Papers such as this one and similar

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20399151

suggest that further research may well demonstrate that there is an enhancement of immune response after acupuncture treatment.

For now, however, we would see the potential benefit of acupuncture treatment as something which sat alongside, and not instead of, the conventional treatment for c. difficile. It may well offer symptom control as well as helping to restore the balance of the whole system, as understood in Chinese medicine terms. If someone has been told that no further conventional treatment is necessary, then the practitioner's duty of care extends to ensuring that both they and the patient ensure that any worsening of the condition is not misinterpreted as 'getting worse before getting better' and that if symptoms re-appear with increasing severity an immediate referral for conventional care is made. 

If the symptoms are mild, then we are confident that acupuncture treatment can be helpful. There are several clearly defined syndromes which reflect the variations in the presentation, and when these are treated within the context of an overall assessment of the patient they have been found over the centuries to be effective at reducing the severity of the symptoms.

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