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Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Asthma

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Asthma affects approximately 20 million Americans every year. Conventional treatment options are limited to steroid inhalers and bronchodilators. While these medications are effective in relieving the symptoms of asthma, the side effects of continuous long-term treatment can be severe. There are numerous natural strategies to consider for chronic asthma that can offer effective treatment without the side effects.

The following is a list of nutritional supplements and herbal formulas to consider for asthma:

Supplements

Quercetin – Recognized as one of the superior flavonoids because of its marked antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is known for its ability to stabilize mast cells and help control allergies. If the asthma is directly related to allergic reactions, then quercetin is an excellent supplement to try.

Grape Seed extract – A strong antioxidant that is also very good at reducing inflammation and breaking the chronic pattern of allergy-induced asthma.

Cod liver oil – High in essential fatty acids, cod liver oil reduces inflammation, promotes healthy circulation, and is generally strengthening for immunity.

MSM – MSM is an organic sulfur-containing nutrient, a naturally-occurring compound in the environment and in the human body. Sulfur is necessary for the structure of every cell in the body. Hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and antioxidants all depend on it. Because the body utilizes and expends it on a daily basis, sulfur must be continually replenished for optimal nutrition and health. MSM has anti-inflammatory properties. It boosts immunity and is helpful for allergies.

Chinese herbs

Ginseng and gecko: A Chinese herbal formula (ren shen ge jie san) that clears heat and phlegm from the lungs and strengthens both lung and spleen Qi

Ding chuan tang: The most widely used herbal formula for asthma, ding chuan tang can be applied to all kinds of asthma. In particular, if the asthma is exacerbated by the onset of a cold, this formula works well.

Jade Windscreen: A Chinese herbal formula (yu ping feng san) that can be combined with one of the above formulas to add another support in strengthening immunity and boosting lung function.

Acupuncture
Practiced for over 2,500 years in various cultures throughout Asia, acupuncture has enjoyed a long history of treating internal medical conditions. Acupuncture can be very effective in the treatment of asthma. Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation and balance the major organs that are contributing to one’s symptoms. In Chinese medicine, asthma can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, diet, allergies, candida infection and constitutional weakness. All of these factors are related to different internal organs that are causing the lungs to constrict. Acupuncture theory involves combining the patient’s symptoms with pulse and tongue diagnosis to get a clear picture of the body’s inner workings. Acupoints are used on the corresponding meridians that will balance any energetic or functional disharmonies. Adjunctive therapies are also very helpful for asthma, such as cupping and gua sha.

Diet
The main strategy for asthma sufferers is to avoid foods that provoke inflammation in the body. At the top of this list is the whole class of refined sugars and carbohydrates. Any food that converts into sugar very quickly in the body is going to cause inflammation. Many asthma patients report a marked improvement in their symptoms simply by taking this step.
In Chinese medicine, the lungs share a close relationship with the large intestine. Intestinal toxicity can cause a whole slew of internal problems, including asthma and allergies. If there is a history of constipation, then a cleansing approach is useful to detoxify the colon, which will indirectly benefit the lungs. A high fiber diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables is the key. Flax seed, prune, pear, ripe banana, and herbs such as rhubarb root are helpful colon cleansers.

Deep breathing
Anytime the asthma is in remission, I recommend undertaking deep breathing exercises as much as possible. Ujayi breathing in yoga is a very helpful practice for building lung capacity and strength. This is a long, exaggerated breath that is coordinated with each asana (yoga posture). Many of the chest opening asanas are healing for the lungs as well. Pranayama exercises such as the one minute breath and alternate nasal breathing are beneficial, especially is done on a daily basis. The one minute breath involves inhaling as slowly as possible for as long as possible, holding for as long as possible, then exhaling for as long as possible. Try to build up to a full minute of doing this. Alternate nasal breathing involves plugging one nostril, then inhaling deeply through the other, switching sides, then exhaling slowly and fully, inhaling deeply, then switching sides. This can be repeated several times.

If your stress level is high, then I recommend learning how to meditate for 15-30 minutes per day. If you need help with this, please click here.

Acupuncture and Natural Treatment Options for Depression

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Approximately 38 million Americans suffer with chronic anxiety or depression. One out of eight adults are currently taking antidepressant medications. While these medications can offer support and benefit on certain occasions, there are indeed many people that do not respond well to this form of treatment. This can be due to a number of factors including:

  • Various side effects that outweigh the benefits of the medication
  • A developed tolerance to the medication that causes the benefits to diminish
  • Excessive sensitivty to the concentrated nature of these medications
  • A belief system that suggests that the depression is not due to a biochemical imbalance, or that this imbalance is the result of a deeper spiritual issu

In my clinical practice, I have worked with a number of patients who were convinced that they had run out of options after finding medications and/or talk therapy to be ineffective for their needs. Many of these people try acupuncture as a last resort. Based on the experience I have had in working with numerous patients who suffer from chronic depression, I now firmly believe that Chinese medicine, nutritional supplemenation, meditation, and yoga can offer tremendously helpful support in healing the root causes of this epidemic. This approach is much more comprehensive and much less invasive to the brain that using SSRI medications. It accounts for not only biochemical factors, but also energetic, nutritional, and spiritual influences as well.

Acupuncture
Practiced for over 2,500 years, acupuncture is a branch of Chinese medicine that treats the energetic level of the human body/mind. As surprising as it is to most people, acupuncture is usually a profoundly relaxing experience that establishes a deep quality of restoration and balance to the central nervous system. Most people feel altered, floaty, dreamy, or sleepy after treatment. This feeling tends to stick around for a few hours after the treatment and becomes a more continuous experience with repetitive treatment. Acupuncture works by balancing the flow of Qi, or internal life force, in the body. Anxiety is typically a byproduct of weak Qi in the heart or kidneys. Other symptoms such as low back pain, heart palpitations, insomnia, irritability, or nightmares commonly accompany the depression.

Chinese Herbs
There are a number of Chinese herbal formulas that can work wonders for depression. Here is a brief list of formulas I commonly use in my practice to treat this condition.

  • gui pi tang
  • jin gui shen qi wan
  • bu zhong yi qi tang
  • cyperus 18 by 7 Forests
  • polygala far reaching by Health concerns

Western herbs can also be helpful. Here is a brief list of herbs that can be bought at the local health food store:

  • St. John’s wort
  • gingko biloba
  • rhodiola rosea
  • siberian ginseng

Nutrition
One of the most important considerations here is to maintain stable blood sugar throughout the day. The majority of anxiety patients suffer from hypoglycemia. They tend to eat refined carbohydrates and/or drink coffee to start the day, only to experience the typical ‘crash’ around 2-4pm. To keep the blood sugar stable, begin the day with a high protein breakfast such as eggs, turkey bacon, whole oats, or smoothies with whey or goat protein in them. Eat a low glycemic snack every 2-3 hours. Avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine. It can also be revealing to avoid allergenic foods such as wheat, gluten, pasteurized dairy, and refined sugar for one month to see if the depression significantly improves. Here is a brief list of nutritional supplements that can be very helpful in treating depression:

  • 5HTP
  • SAMe
  • Fish oil
  • B vitamin complex

Meditation and Yoga
Many people find meditation and yoga to be their most powerful allies in healing depression. With regular practice of various breathing techniques and yoga postures, people often feel that they have much more control over the depression and that it need not run their life anymore. These practices can be direct gateways to the rest and restore mode of the nervous system. On a deeper level, they can help us forge a spiritual connection with our lives that instills an unshakable sense of trust and safety in the workings of the universe.

From a holistive perspective, our symptoms are never random. There is always a reason why they creep up. In the case of depression, it is helpful to disengage from our personal feelings about it and look at the bigger picture. What is the depression telling us about ourselves and where we are at in life? Is it a warning sign that something is amiss and needs to be acknowledged or changed? In any regard, the practices mentioned here can offer a profound level of support in getting to the root of the problem and inducing a gentle course in a new direction of inspiration and insight.

Acupuncture and Natural Therapies Options for Digestion

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It is estimated that approximately 62 million Americans experience digestive problems on an ongoing basis. This is due to the harmful repercussions of the standard American diet on our population coupled with the high level of stress that the average American experiences. Digestive problems can range from minor annoyances, such as gas and bloating, to life-threatening illnesses, such as crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, unremitting diarrhea, and various cancers that target digestive organs. Whatever the case, it is always worth being proactive about our digestive health. The information contained in this article on acupuncture and natural therapies should definitely get you going in the right direction, not only with your digestion but also with your health in general. Let’s take a look at a few common disorders and what can be done about them.

Constipation
The standard American diet can easily lead to chronic constipation. This diet is low in fiber and antioxidants and high in difficult to digest additives and refined ingredients. Many, many people are constipated and they don’t even know it. They may have regular bowel movements, but they are still not flushing their systems thoroughly, which creates intestinal toxicity. Intestinal cleansing is often a top priority in healing numerous chronic health problems. There are several natural herbal remedies and nutritional supplements that can relieve constipation and heal the underlying imbalances.

  • Chinese herbal formulas such as ma zi ren wan and run chang wan are gentle laxatives that are not habit forming.
  • Aloe vera juice reduces inflammation and promotes peristalsis (smooth muscle contraction in the bowel).
  • Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal complex that gently eases constipation and removes stagnant waste from the intestines.
  • Psyllium husk is a high fiber product that alleviates constipation.
  • Flax meal and seed are excellent high fiber sources for constipation.
  • Senna leaf is useful for severe constipation.

Diarrhea
Chronic diarrhea can be dangerous for your health. It is still one of the leading causes of death in the world. Diarrhea is related to spleen weakness or intestinal inflammation. It is always a top treatment priority to heal this condition. Stress and anxiety can trigger regular bouts of diarrhea, as can processed and refined foods. Here are a few basic remedies for diarrhea:

  • Chinese herbal formulas such as bu zhong yi qi tang (ginseng and astragalus), si jun qi tang (4 Gentlemen), liu jun zi tang (6 Gentlemen), and jin gui shen qi tang (rehmannia 8) are helpful for alleviating diarrhea due to deficiency. Tong xie yao feng, Isatis Cooling, and jia wei xiao yao wan are helpful for diarrhea due to heat and inflammation.
  • Western herbs such as slippery elm, chamomile, peppermint, and ginger harmonize and soothe the stomach to stop diarrhea.
  • Probiotics such as acidophilus are useful as long-term adjuncts in treating diarrhea.

Bloating and gas
These symptoms tend to arise from eating too much or too fast, excessive stress, refined foods, coffee and alcohol, and sugar. Aside from slowing down and eating less of these foods, here are a few herbal suggestions:

  • Chai hu shu gan wan — the quintessential Chinese formula for the combination of stress and gas.
  • Xiao yao wan — Excellent for digestive problems that arise during menses and excessive stress.
  • Liu jun zi tang — Strengthens the spleen and takes phlegm out of the gut, which is often related to gas and bloating.
  • Acidophilus and bifidus — Bloating and gas can be related to candida overgrowth, which is a pathological yeast that causes an array of physical and emotional imbalances.

Irritable bowel Syndrome
IBS is a very common problem that affects millions of Americans. Doctors will often diagnose IBS when the patient’s symptoms don’t seem to match up with anything else, so they call it irritable bowel. This disorder is characterized by bowels fluctuating from constipation to diarrhea with intermittent abdominal pain or distention. People with IBS tend to be sensitive to a variety of foods including high fiber foods, refined sugar, wheat, and gluten products. Symptoms can continue indefinitely and can be resistant to conventional treatments. I have treated several patients with IBS, usually with very positive results. Acupuncture theory asserts that IBS typically involves a disharmony between the liver and the spleen. The liver becomes hyperactive due to stress, anger, and frustration, which causes it to weaken the spleen, causing loose bowels and fatigue. Treatment involves relaxing the liver and strengthening the spleen.

  • Herbal formulas such as Irritease by K’An Herbals and Isatis Cooling by Health Concerns have proven helpful. In general, I recommend committing to weekly acupuncture and herbal treatment for 4-8 visits, depending upon the severity and duration of your symptoms.
  • Acidophilus and bifidus cand be helpful, as many people with IBS also have candida
  • Chamomile and peppermint have a soothing effect on the gut and can reduce irritation

Most digestive disorders respond very well to consistent acupuncture and herbal treatment. Making dietary changes that restore and detoxify the gut also enhances treatment progress. Digestion is one of the main reference points for gauging one’s overall health. If there are weaknesses or imbalances here, it is likely that one’s overall health is compromised. Maintaining healthy digestion is an essential component in our quest for optimal health.

I should mention that for those of you suffering from crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or colon cancer, it is definitely best to seek out professional alternative and allopathic medical treatment. These diseases are simply too involved to offer blanket solutions in this article. There are many powerful natural remedies for these diseases, but their application is specific to your unique needs.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

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Many people will not try acupuncture because they are afraid that the needles will hurt or that the experience will be unpleasant. This is really a tragedy, as acupuncture has the capacity to effectively treat a variety of chronic health conditions that typically do not respond to other forms of intervention.

In my practice, I have used acupuncture to treat both children and adults. In fact, I have done full acupuncture treatments on kids as young as 4, including needling points on the face, scalp, hands, and feet. Even patients this age typically do not experience any discomfort that lasts for more than a second or two.

The truth of the matter is that nobody really likes needles. We are generally conditioned to have an aversion to them because of the trauma involved in getting shots and other procedures using hypodermic needles. It is always funny when a new patient comes in and confesses in a voice that suggest their situation is utterly unique, ‘I don’t like needles.’ Most new patients make this confession– and most are very surprised by how pleasant the treatment actually is, even though it involves needles.

There are times where you can feel an insertion prick with the needles that lasts for a couple of seconds. You can also feel a nervy sensation that radiates through the area being worked on for a brief period of time. Other sensations include a dull achiness or pressure around the needles.

Many traditional Chinese doctors use a more aggressive style of needling that involves strong stimulation and thick needles. I have found this to be a turnoff for many Westerners, as excellent results can be achieved without having to induce strong sensations around the needles.

If you are interested in acupuncture but are reluctant to try it because of the potential pain involved in treatment, I encourage you to move through that fear, as you will likely find acupuncture to be a pleasant, gentle, and very effective form of treatment for your health care needs.

I hope this helps you overcome any apprehension so you can get proactive about your health using this ancient and powerful form of medicine.

Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Endometriosis

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Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is one of the few natural treatment options that can be profoundly helpful for women suffering from endometriosis. This condition, which occurs when the tissue that lines the endometrium is found to be growing outside the uterus, is a painful and sometimes debilitating condition that affects 10 to 20% of American women of childbearing age. The typical symptoms are severe menstrual cramping, irregular menstrual bleeding, lower back pain, pain after intercourse, fatigue, and occasionally difficulty in conception.

Endometriosis is seen as a sign of blood stagnation in Chinese medicine. This can be due to blood deficiency, kidney deficiency, or excessive internal cold. Each specific pattern tends to respond very well to treatment. There are some cases of endometrial growth, however, that are so pronounced that surgical intervention is necessary. Most mild to moderate cases can be treated with Chinese medicine.

The typical course of treatment for endometriosis is acupuncture once a week for 6-8 visits, at which time we will assess for progress and discuss future treatment. The process tends to be condensed if the patient is willing to take Chinese herbs and make some dietary changes. The following herbal formulas have proven to be effective in the treatment of endometriosis:

  1. shao fu zhy yu tang: treats blood stagnation and cold in the lower abdominal region
  2. crampbark plus: A formula by Health Concerns that regulates the blood
  3. gui zhi fu ling wan: Perhaps the most popular herbal formula for cysts, fibroid and enodmetriosisAlong with acupuncture and herbs, it’s also important to make the following dietary changes:
  4. avoid refined sugar
  5. minimize refined carbs
  6. minimize coffee
  7. eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables
  8. take flax oil daily
  9. get plenty of essential fats: fish, nuts, seeds, legumes
  10. make sure meat selections are free range/organic

It is also important to exercise 3-4 times a week to maintain the proper circulation of Qi and blood throughout the body.

Pursuing acupuncture and herbal treatment for endometriosis can be a life-changing decision for many women. When combined with proper diet and exercise, the root cause of this condition can often be healed.