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Daily Mail journalist enlists the help of acupuncturist Kate Winstanley to 'beat the bloat'

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Acupuncture makes you look and feel better.

Acupuncture for bloating and IBS

Martha Alexander had struggled with bloating for over 4 years.  She is not alone.  Many, many men and women suffer from this painful, embarrassing and demoralising condition.

Here's her story in the Daily Mail which features her visit to have acupuncture with me.

Is stress making you bloated?

Giving up prawns. Eating charcoal. For four years, Martha tried everything to banish her bloat. Then she realised the problem wasn't in her tummy but in her mind...

Daily Mail journalist Martha Alexander tries acupuncture for her chronic bloating.
Daily Mail journalist Martha Alexander tries acupuncture for her chronic bloating.

"To be offered a seat by a handsome man on a train is always nice — except when it’s because he thinks you’re pregnant when you’re not.

The first time it happened I smiled politely and explained, to his mortification, that I wasn’t expecting. Nowadays I just take the seat — it’s less embarrassing for all concerned.

It’s something that happens to me more than it should. I’m a toned size 12, and at 5ft 9in tall I weigh 9st 8lbs — but, as often as twice a week, my stomach mysteriously swells up like a beach ball.

My mid-section pops out and remains bulbous for a couple of days before shrinking to its normal state. I, like one in five of the female population, suffer from bloating. I can make light of it most of the time — it’s not as if my symptoms are life- threatening but, like many women, I find bloating both exhausting  and demoralising.

It’s annoying to be so inflated that I can’t even bend over to do up my shoelaces. It’s irritating to have to dress to conceal; I consistently buy clothes that are a couple of sizes too big, preferring to waft around in a teepee than endure straining buttons or other people’s judgement.

Body-con dresses and sexy pencil skirts are out — I have one tight-fitting dress that I can only wear as a last-minute decision depending on how distended I look and I’ll always take a billowing cardigan or boyfriend blazer to wear over the top just in case.

I cycle more than eight miles every day and run at least four miles four times a week, as I’m training for the Great North Run. In short, it’s frustrating to have the body you deserve for only some of the time: muscly legs topped off with a stomach like Robbie Coltrane’s after Christmas lunch isn’t an aspirational look for women.

The worst thing is how it makes me feel — fat and sluggish.

Martha's bloating at its worst.
Martha's bloating at its worst.

My perception of myself becomes negative and warped: I believe I’m the size of a planet, and start to think that other parts of my body — my face and arms — also look fat. When the bloat has gone, everything feels perfectly OK again.

Food has become a minefield, too — I find picky eaters intensely annoying, so becoming one has been galling. Analysing what I’ve eaten to make links with the state of my stomach is not only exhausting but boring. Food is to be enjoyed, not obsessed over.

The first time my stomach swelled, four years ago, I put it down to having eaten too much at a party. But after repeatedly experiencing this gurgling, acidic bloat that makes my stomach go taut like a drum, I had to get some answers.

So I visited several alternative and conventional therapists to ask their advice.

Acupuncture with Kate Winstanley

THE THERAPY: This 2,000-year-old practice uses needles on certain points of the body to ‘redirect energy’, and promote healing.

How it works:  I visit the  acupuncturist right in the middle of a bout of bloating. I waddled in, sat down and cradled my paunch but Kate doesn’t look at all surprised.

About 60 or 70 per cent of her patients have digestive problems. She took my pulse and told me she was going to put needles in my feet to stimulate my liver; in my wrists for the  large intestine, and in my left ear for my mind.

She screws the needles in until I felt a jolt of energy — like the clutch biting in a car. As she put the final needle into my wrist, my stomach began to rumble like the brass section of a miniature orchestra. Ten minutes later, I was still covered in needles but in a state of deep relaxation.

Dopily, I asked her what she thinks is going on in my gut. ‘There’s a sluggishness to it,’ she said. ‘Your symptoms are often tied in with stress. People are often fine on holiday or weekends.’

This is interesting — I rarely bloat when I’m away from work, feeling relaxed.

COST: From £80 for an initial consultation (

VERDICT: The loud and instant response to the needles left me in no doubt whatsoever about the link between the gut and the specific acupuncture points.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that IBS isn’t easy to cure, but by clearing my mind I hope I can shrink my stomach.  It’s alarming how quickly I cut out chunks of my diet and bought into a ‘free from’ lifestyle. IBS can be exacerbated by wheat, dairy and pulses but cutting them out won’t stop it if it’s stress that lies at the heart of the matter."


UPDATE: Martha is continuing her treatment with me to help her 'beat the bloat' by lowering stress levels.  To find out how acupuncture helps us to manage stress please read this short article here.


Martha also tried: Hair testing, Homeopathy, Nutritional Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Gastrenterology


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