Acupuncture Eases Side Effects of AIDS Drugs
People Report Less Bloating, Cramping
July 27, 2005 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) -- Acupuncture may help relieve
bloating, cramping, and appetite loss among HIV-infected people taking potent
drug cocktails to keep the virus in check.
Since they feel better after acupuncture, people are more likely to take
their drugs properly, resulting in better disease control, says researcher
Elizabeth Sommers, MPH, research director of the AIDS Care Project/Pathways to
Wellness in Boston.
While powerful AIDS drugs are credited with helping HIV-infected people live
longer, the drugs often cause a host of digestive problems, she tells
"Anything we can do to minimize side effects and maximize adherence to
treatment is important," she says. "Acupuncture is one such
Sommers says that acupuncture is already used to curb digestive side effects
in people taking cancer drugs.
Targeted Acupuncture Helps More
The new study, presented here at a meeting of the International AIDS
Society, included 50 HIV-infected men and women taking HIV medications. About
half had been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.
At the start of the study, all of the participants complained that the drugs
caused at least two digestive side effects: Nearly 80% had gas, more than 40%
had bloating, 50% had cramps, nearly 50% had appetite loss, and 10% had
actually lost weight.
The participants then received six weeks of acupuncture. For three weeks the
acupuncture included four sites commonly associated with improvement of
digestive symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and bowel upset. For another
three weeks they received acupuncture at four sites nearby sites not noted for
affecting digestive conditions.
The patients were unaware of which type of acupuncture they were receiving
at any given time.
But after just three weeks of acupuncture treatments, only 60% had two or
more digestive symptoms, Sommers says.
Both sets of acupuncture points improved digestive symptoms. However,
acupuncture at the sites targeting digestive symptoms was more effective in
controlling loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, and bloating.
More People Take Their Drugs After Acupuncture
Among the 20% of people who said they weren't taking their AIDS medications
as directed at the start of the study, half reported improvement after
acupuncture treatment, she says.
None of the participants complained of side effects from the
"We're very heartened by the results and are gearing up for a bigger
study," Sommers says.
Pedro Chequer, MD, director of the National AIDS Program in Brazil, says he
welcomes the research.
"It's worth a try," he tells WebMD. "Now we need the scientific
proof it works so we can offer it to our patients."
Hal Huff, ND, a naturopathic doctor at the Canadian College of Naturopathic
Medicine in Toronto, says the results are similar to what he sees in his own
"We give acupuncture in conjunction with other treatments such as
dietary changes and nutritional supplements, so I can't say for certain whether
it's the acupuncture or the whole package that results in improvement,"
Huff tells WebMD. "But people report fewer digestive problems and improved
compliance with their AIDS medications."