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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 5 (2008), Issue 3, Pages 251-256

Mechanism of Reflex Regulation of the Gastroduodenal Function by Acupuncture

Faculty of Health Science, National University Corporation, Tsukuba University of Technology, Japan

Received 12 October 2006; Accepted 30 April 2007

Copyright © 2008 Eitaro Noguchi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Many clinical studies focus on the effects of acupuncture on digestive disorders. However, few studies describe the mechanism by which these effects are produced. We present some recent experimental work on the mechanism of acupuncture for reflex regulation of gastroduodenal function in anesthetized rats. In anesthetized rats, it has been proven that acupuncture to the abdomen excites sympathetic nerves via spinal reflexes causing inhibition of motilities while acupuncture of limbs excites vagus nerves via supraspinal reflexes causing an increase in the motilities. It has also been shown that in order to inhibit gastric motilities, acupuncture stimulation of the abdomen must be strong enough to excite group VI fibers of the afferent intercostal nerves. To increase gastric motilities, acupuncture stimulation to hind limbs must be strong enough to excite the high-threshold group III fibers of tibial nerves. It has also been shown that the neural mechanism of duodenal motility stimulation by acupuncture involves the same body regions and intensity of stimulation as that of gastric motilities. Theories regarding the underlying mechanism have proposed somato-autonomic reflexes and responses via endogenous opioids, etc., but without definitive conclusions.