Acupuncture

How to Treat Allergy With Acupuncture and TCM

seasonal allergies
seasonal allergies are caused by pollens and other substances

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D., & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Sinus congestion, runny nose, watery eyes? Itchy skin problem or rashes? It may be seasonal allergies, or an allergic reaction to some specific food or chemical. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can not only help to relieve allergy symptoms, but help to strengthen the body’s immune defenses, so that it is less vulnerable to allergens in the environment.

An allergy is when your immune system produces an antibody response to some substance; it could be a reaction to a plant pollen, an insect venom, a chemical in the air, or some type of food. The body is perceiving the foreign substance as a threat and manufactures antibodies to fight against it. A runny nose (rhinitis), watery eyes, itches in different parts of the head and body, and sneezing are the body’s way of trying to throw off the triggering allergens. Allergies can also cause asthma, which is when the body reacts to triggers with inflammation in the lungs and bronchial tubes, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

At least 50 million Americans experience some form of allergy symptoms every year, and the number is growing. The ever-increasing amounts of food additives, chemical pollutants, and other triggers in the environment are causing more and more people of all ages to develop allergies.  TCM and Acupuncture have been recognized for a while by the WHO as helpful modalities to relieve respiratory illnesses, including seasonal allergies, rhinitis, sinusitis,  and allergy-related asthma.

Top 5 Types of Allergies

itchy eyes and runny nose
itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose are common symptoms of seasonal allergies

Different types of allergies create a variety of symptoms. Seasonal allergies only show up at certain times of the year, when a particular pollen or other natural trigger is abundant, while chronic allergies can flare up at any time.

  1. Pollen Allergies – these are often referred to as “seasonal allergies,” or “hay fever,” and are triggered by natural pollens given off by trees, weeds, grass, and flowers or mold spores, pet dander. These types of allergy cause sneezing and runny nose (rhinitis) and eye allergies, or itchy, watering eyes.
  2. Insect Allergies – these can refer to the types of acute allergic reactions people have to bug bites (mosquito bites or spider bites) or stings from bees or wasps. It can also refer to respiratory or skin reactions to exposure to dust mites or cockroaches in the home environment.
  3. Skin Allergies – these include acute skin allergies like the hives or rashes caused by poison ivy or poison oak. They also include skin reactions to latex. Eczema is a more chronic skin allergy condition, where inflammation causes itchy patches of skin that can become very dry and scaly. Eczema often starts in childhood. Flare-ups can happen due to external irritants, like certain soaps or detergents, fabrics, ingredients in topical ointments or lotions, or smoke in the air. Stress is also a contributing factor to eczema.
  4. Food Allergies – food allergies are especially common in children, with over 5% of children in the U.S. diagnosed in recent years. Certain types of nuts, dairy, soy, wheat, and shellfish are the most common food allergens. In some cases, food allergies are so severe that exposure can lead to a life-threatening reaction of anaphylaxis, an emergency situation in which blood pressure can slow down dramatically, and a person may have severe difficulty breathing. Every year, 200,000 people seek emergency medical care for a severe food allergy reaction.
  5. Drug Allergy – many people have allergic reactions to certain types of medication, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, ACE inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, and even aspirin. The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction to medication are: hives or rash, fever, stomach upset, or asthma-like wheezing. A severe drug allergy can also cause anaphylaxis.

Allergy treatment first involves finding out exactly what allergens will potentially cause a reaction. Allergy testing helps determine what, specifically, is triggering the symptoms. Then, a person is encouraged to avoid this trigger as best they can. Many people try over the counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays to help manage their allergy symptoms. For more severe allergies, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids in spray, pill, or ointment formulations. Epinephrine injections are necessary to stop severe reactions and prevent anaphylactic shock.

Immunotherapy is an option for some people with a chronic allergic condition. A small amount of the allergen is introduced into the body either via injection (allergy shots) or in a sublingual (under the tongue) form. These can help people build us a better resistance to the allergy trigger over time.

How Can Acupuncture Help Seasonal Allergies?

Modern medical science has made many recent advances in understanding of the human body’s immune system. It is highly complex, and there is still much to learn. In TCM, we have for many centuries been aware of and observed what we call “Wei Qi,” which essentially means protective energy. 

herbs for allergies
Chinese herbs can help relieve and prevent allergic reactions

TCM always acknowledges dualities and the relationship between opposing and coordinating forces. In every case, we look for internal factors and external factors that are affecting the health of the person. In TCM, the immune system has both internal and external components. The external Wei Qi is a protective force that functions as a shield, blocking external pathogens like wind, dampness, and cold, from entering into the body. The lungs provide the energy to keep Wei Qi strong and especially to keep pathogens from entering through the nose and mouth. However, when Wei Qi is weak, it becomes easy for Wind to enter the head and bring with it other external pathogens, like cold, heat, dampness, or dryness. 

According to TCM, a person who suffers from allergies generally has a deficiency of Wei Qi, making them more susceptible to invasions of Wind. Acupuncture treatment might focus, for example, on strengthening the lungs and spleen, which helps to build the Wei Qi back up. Herbal remedies can both relieve hay fever symptoms and rhinitis, and help to tonify the Wei Qi, so that allergic reactions will lessen over time. 

One trial found that people were able to reduce their use of allergy medication after an eight-week course of acupuncture treatment for allergies. Another research study found that patients in a control group who received acupuncture reported better control of allergy symptoms during pollen season, with less reliance on antihistamines.

TCM and Acupuncture for Food Allergy

Recent research supports the efficacy of TCM herbs for helping to prevent severe reactions in people who suffer from food allergies. A specific formulation of eight Chinese herbs has been shown to be helpful for reducing the incidence of anaphylaxis in people with various types of food allergies, including milk, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and fruits. Herbal creams and herb bath preparations can also help prevent severe reactions, when used consistently for a course of treatment. 

An acupuncture practitioner will also use their wide knowledge of nutrition to help patients with food sensitivities and food intolerance manage their diet. Often, when dealing with allergies and sensitivities, it can be challenging to find what needs to be eliminated, as it is not always immediately obvious to a person which foods or other environmental factors are involved in creating the uncomfortable symptoms. A TCM doctor will spend time looking carefully at all of the lifestyle behaviors involved and make appropriate recommendations to help remove hidden triggers.

Top 3 Tips to Help Allergies Naturally

Getting regular acupuncture “tune-ups” is one great, natural way to help relieve allergies. Here are some other ideas you can put into practice to help rid your home and work environment of potential allergens.

  1. Air Filter – a good-quality HEPA filter will remove particles of pollen, dust, and pet dander from the ambient air. This works best if you also make sure to keep the windows and doors closed when you suspect pollen is heavy in the air outside.
  2. Probiotics – a recent systematic review showed that taking probiotics can help reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Probiotics help balance gut flora, which we now know is vital to proper immune functioning and prevention of inflammation.
  3. Wash Your Hands – Manage allergens that come home with you by washing your hands and putting your clothes in the laundry as soon as you get home.

Acupuncture Near Me for Allergy Relief

Seasonal allergies, food allergies, and allergies to chemicals and medication are all on the rise. While people are able to get some relief from conventional medications, TCM treatment offers a viable alternative without the possible side effects of these medicines. Acupuncture can help reduce the need for emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions, and also help prevent hay fever from recurring, year after year. Partner with an acupuncturist near me for allergy treatment now to ensure that when allergy season rolls around again, you are prepared with a strong defense. 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

How to Help Stroke Recovery With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac, Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

man with walker
Stroke victims often need rehabilitation to regain motor skills.

Can acupuncture help stroke recovery? After even a mild stroke, people will often have many problems: weakness in parts of the body, pain or tingling in hands, arms or legs, lack of awareness (or neglect) of parts of the body, and slurred speech. There can also be emotional and mental health issues after a stroke, like depression, anxiety, or anger. Stroke recovery acupuncture can have a positive impact on balance, coordination, and overall sense of wellbeing.

A stroke is a medical emergency event that occurs when the flow of blood to some part of the brain is blocked, starving that part of the brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function. Sometimes this happens because of a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke), or a blood clot (ischemic stroke) creating the blockage. A “mini stroke,” or transient ischemic attack, is when blood flow is only compromised for a few minutes, and then the situation improves. Without adequate blood flow, brain cells deteriorate and die very quickly. Any type of stroke is very dangerous to a person’s health and requires immediate medical care. Even in the case of a mini stroke, or mild stroke, a person must seek care to check for damage and to help prevent a stroke from occurring again.

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Many people who suffer a stroke end up losing some of their physical and mental faculties. How a person goes through the recovery process after a stroke can make a huge difference in the ultimate outcome. Typical post-stroke treatment includes physical therapy to help people regain motor function. 

The human brain is actually amazingly able to regenerate itself, given the appropriate nourishment and circumstances. With good nutrition and the right exercise, blood vessels will rebuild themselves, and new neurons (specialized brain cells) will be created. It is vital, though, that the flow of nutrient-rich blood to the brain is maximized, and that a person is motivated and able to work through the difficulties of retraining the brain and body to function. 

This is where TCM and acupuncture come in. Acupuncture treatment works to enhance the flow of Qi and blood to blocked areas of the body, while TCM herbs are carefully chosen to provide nutrients people may not be able to get from foods. Acupuncture helps reestablish connections in the nervous system, and stimulates muscle and organ tissues to aid in healing after stroke.

How To Tell If You’re Having a Stroke

“Am I having a stroke?” It’s important to review the signs of a stroke, so that if you or someone close to you could be having a stroke, you can act quickly to get help. If you are having a stroke, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. A stroke causes damage to brain cells, so every moment is critical when it comes to surviving a stroke and maintaining functional abilities.

“FAST stroke” is the first way to tell if someone is having a stroke; start by remembering the acronym FAST for stroke test:

  • F – Face drooping, often on one side, mouth especially looks lopsided
  • A – Arm weakness, usually on one side, person cannot lift arm, or it feels numb
  • S – Speech difficulty – speech is slurred, or the person is unable to speak or has trouble forming thoughts into words (aphasia)
  • T – Time to call 911. If a person shows the signs of stroke, they need medical attention right away. Get them to the emergency room as quickly as possible.
brain model
Brain cells can sustain damage quickly when starved of oxygen.

Depending on where in the brain the stroke has occurred, symptoms will vary somewhat. A stroke that occurs in the right hemisphere in the brain will cause weakness and numbness on the left side of the body. It may also affect a person’s ability to recognize what is going on with the weakened parts of the body; this is what we call “neglect.” Visual and/or spatial impairment are common signs of right side stroke; it may be hard to see or find things. 

Strokes on the left side of the brain cause weakness on the right side of the body, and may also impair vision and/or the ability to orient oneself in space. The ability to reason, read, and perform mathematical calculations may be impaired. Left side stroke is more likely to cause feelings of depression and change a person’s personality so that they become more anxious and hesitant.

Once a person has been gotten to medical help, health care providers use the NIH stroke scale to assess how severe the stroke is. In some cases the use of anti-clotting medications will restore blood flow to the affected area. This works best if the patient can be given this medication within three hours of the beginning of the stroke. Other times, a procedure called a thrombectomy may need to be performed, in which a surgeon will remove the clot with a thin catheter instrument. In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, patients may require surgery or a blood transfusion to manage bleeding in the brain. 

Can Acupuncture Help Prevent Stroke?

old man
A stroke can lead to problems with memory, vision, speech, and cognition.

A stroke occurs in the brain, but from the TCM perspective, the problem doesn’t begin or end in the head. A stroke is the result of disruption of the normal flow of blood and Qi in the body, and some type of inciting event causing the blood to rush suddenly upwards into the head. A stroke is often the result of conditions in the body that have developed over time, but then too much stress or an emotional upheaval causes the immediate emergency event of a stroke.

Western medicine views high blood pressure as one of the main factors that can lead to stroke. So, while an acupuncturist also views stroke as being related to problems with the movement of blood, we have concepts that explain what problems within the body are causing the impeding of proper flow. According to TCM, stroke happens due to internal factors of deficiency, stagnation, fire/heat, phlegm and wind:

  • Yin Deficiency – especially affecting the liver and kidney systems. This happens often due to behaviors like staying up late, not getting enough sleep, and eating more heat-producing foods.
  • Heat – strong emotions of anger and frustration, due to stress and conflict, can contribute to a build up of too much hot energy in the body, especially impacting the heart and liver.
  • Phlegm – another internal factor, the formation of phlegm in the body can happen due to unhealthy eating habits. The build up of phlegm particularly affects the spleen and contributes to post-stroke problems with speech, numbness in the limbs, and mental fog.
  • Stagnation – this refers to blood and/or Qi being stuck, unable to flow freely through the vessels and meridians. Acupuncture treatment and exercise can help get Qi and blood moving again.
  • Wind – In TCM, Wind is a pathogenic factor that can enter the body from the outside environment (external), or wind can be an internal factor, generated within the body. In the case of stroke, internal wind is considered to be the cause of a person losing their conscious awareness of their body and becoming mentally disconnected and/or physically paralysed. 

Cupping may be used in addition to acupuncture to aid stroke recovery. Cupping increases blood flow and may be helpful in particular for one of the lesser known symptoms following a stroke: persistent hiccups.

Stroke Rehabilitation Acupuncture Near Me

Your acupuncture and TCM provider has lots of tools at his or her disposal to help you manage your health and longevity. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of heart problems, your risk for having a stroke is higher. Your acupuncturist can help you manage these conditions and provide counseling so that you can make the optimal lifestyle changes to prevent stroke. If you have suffered a stroke, you will need lots of support and may need a fairly rigorous course of therapy to help you regain your strength and ability. Patients who are recovering from a stroke should ideally receive 2-3 acupuncture treatments per week in order to get the most benefit. Integrative care may be the key to making the fullest recovery possible after a stroke.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

How to Treat Hyperthyroidism With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D., & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Thyroid problem or menopause?
Thyroid problems or menopause?

Changes in mood, appetite, hair, and skin?  Wondering whether these could be signs of menopause; or could it be a thyroid problem? The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often similar to what we think of as typical signs of menopause. Acupuncture treatment has been shown to be effective at helping to manage many types of endocrine system conditions, including hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Hyperthyroidism, sometimes called “overactive thyroid,” refers to a set of various disorders in which the thyroid gland produces excess hormones. This leads to thyrotoxicosis, a condition in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the body. Sometimes this is indicated by a visible swelling of the thyroid gland in the front of the neck, known as a “goiter.”

Thyroid disorders are much more common in women than in men, and they often develop in young adulthood, between the ages of 20 and 40. However, people of any age can show signs of hyperthyroidism. In older adults, the symptoms of an overactive thyroid can be subtle, and easily confused with those of other hormonal imbalance conditions such as perimenopause symptoms and diabetes. It can often be difficult and take years for patients to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, and then to find the right treatment to solve their problem. Hyperthyroidism can have different root causes, and treating it effectively requires finding the correct source of the problem.

It is important to address thyroid problems because hyperthyroidism increases the risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. There is some evidence that people with Graves’ disease are at higher risk for developing thyroid cancers. Acupuncture has been shown to be a safe and effective alternative or adjunct treatment for all kinds of thyroid disorders. The TCM approach can help correct the symptoms of excess thyroid hormone by restoring balance at the source of the problem.

Top 5 Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Several different factors can lead to enlargement or inflammation of the thyroid and the overproduction and output of thyroid hormones. Some causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Hyperthyroidism can develop due to nodules or a multinodular goiter on the thyroid gland, which causes it to secrete extra hormones. 
  • Thyroiditis, swelling of the thyroid gland, can linger after a viral infection. Some thyroid problems are caused by autoimmune disorders. 
  • Graves’ disease causes antibodies to mistakenly attack the tissue of the thyroid, causing inflammation and overproduction of thyroid hormones. 
  • The thyroid gland uses the mineral iodine to make thyroid hormones, so sometimes hyperthyroidism is linked with too much iodine in the diet, often due to the use of certain supplements. 
  • Sometimes people are prescribed hormone replacement medications, and taking too much of them leads to hyperthyroidism.

Hashimoto disease also attacks the thyroid gland, but in that case, it causes the thyroid to stop producing enough hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. 

Top 10 Signs of an Overactive Thyroid

check front of neck for enlarged thyroid goiter
Check your neck for signs of an enlarged thyroid

The thyroid gland is located on the lower front of the neck, beneath the larynx, or voice box. Check for signs of swelling that might indicate an enlarged thyroid (goitres) by watching in a mirror as you tilt your head back slightly and swallow a mouthful of water. If you notice any bulging, have it checked by a doctor.

Other signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  1. Nervousness or anxiety, a “hyperactive” restless feeling
  2. Fast or irregular heart rate
  3. Irritability
  4. Unexplained weight loss, constant thirst and hunger
  5. Having to urinate frequently and/or loose bowels
  6. Difficulty sleeping
  7. Itchiness or “twitching” 
  8. Sensitivity to temperatures, excessive sweating, red hands
  9. Swelling in the neck
  10. Loss of libido

As you can see, many of these are often associated with menopausal symptoms: feeling hot and sweaty (hot flashes), low libido (vaginal atrophy or dryness), irritability/sensitivity, sleep problems, etc. 

When hyperthyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disorder, there is often noticeable bulging or protrusion of the eyes. This is called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, Graves’ eye disease, or Thyroid Eye Disease (TED). This happens because some of the tissues around the eye are chemically similar to those of the thyroid gland, and the immune system is attacking those cells, resulting in inflammation around the eye. This can cause blurry vision, dryness because the lids can’t close fully over the eyeball, and headaches because of pressure behind the eyes. Changes in hair texture or loss of hair are another sign of Graves’ disease.

Hormone Testing for Thyroid Problems

The endocrine system is very complex and relies upon the harmonious functioning of several different endocrine glands producing hormones that work in concert to maintain stability of a person’s whole life process: waking, sleeping, self-regulating temperature, eating and digesting, and many other more subtle processes. The proper working of the thyroid gland is in close relationship with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, both located in the brain.

The thyroid gland produces various hormones which have to do with growth, metabolism, and reproduction, including thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The pituitary gland produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which triggers production of the thyroid hormones T4, T3, and others. Thus the pituitary gland is responsible for gauging how much thyroid hormone is flowing through the body in the bloodstream, and making adjustments as necessary. 

When a thyroid problem is suspected, the first kind of testing done is usually a TSH blood test. A TSH test showing a high TSH level would suggest that thyroid hormone levels are low, and that the pituitary gland is making more TSH to try to stimulate production, while a low TSH would indicate that the thyroid may be producing too much hormone, and the pituitary gland is trying to slow down production. Either kind of abnormal TSH level might lead to more specific testing to determine levels of T4, “free T4 (FT4),” or T3.

Medical treatment for hyperactive thyroid depends on what is causing the problem. If the thyroid is producing too much hormone “autonomously,” that is, if there are normal TSH levels and the pituitary gland seems to be functioning, then radioactive iodine is usually employed to bring down the thyroid hormone levels. When the problem is an autoimmune problem, as in Graves’ disease, a course of “anti-thyroid” medication, such as thiamazole, may bring the hormone levels back to normal. An enlarged thyroid gland may indicate a surgical solution.

Can Acupuncture Help Thyroid Problems?

dry itchy eyes
Dry, itchy eyes and skin can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder

In TCM philosophy, most disease stems from imbalances in the key energies of the body and spirit. “Qi” a life force energy that flows along pathways through the body called “meridians,” must be kept strong and flowing freely; if Qi is weak, or the meridians are blocked, certain organs will not get the nourishment they need, and illness will result. Yin and Yang are two energies that work together in opposition to maintain balance, like a scale. If either Yin or Yang becomes dominant, the other one becomes weaker, and there will be problems of “deficiency” and/or “excess.”

In the case of an overactive thyroid, the constant striving of Yang energy creates a deficiency of Yin, and the overall Qi energy is also weakened. The hyperactive energy of hyperthyroidism is interpreted through TCM as being related to heat, and especially too much fiery energy from the liver. We view blockages as being related to stagnation of Qi, or blood, or phlegm. In this case, phlegm stagnation is impeding the flow to and from the thyroid gland.

  • Liver heat causes symptoms like: redness of the skin, itchiness, irritability, hunger and high metabolism, and a quickened pulse. 
  • Weakness of Qi and Yin causes: trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, sweating, and dryness of the eyes and mouth. 
  • Phlegm stagnation is considered the reason for the swelling of the thyroid gland itself.

TCM treatment for hyperthyroidism uses acupuncture and individualized herbal formulations to clear heat and phlegm, strengthen Qi and Yin, and cool down liver fire and overworked Yang.

One study showed improvement in hyperthyroid symptoms of over 88% of patients after having received a course of acupuncture, with some patients making full recoveries. A study that focused on the use of a specific Chinese herb formulation in addition to methimazole medication for patients with Graves’ disease concluded that TCM herbs were effective as an adjunct treatment for helping to bring FT3, FT4, and TSH levels back to normal.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hyperthyroidism

Disorders of the thyroid and the endocrine system in general, especially those that are related to autoimmune disorders, can be very challenging to manage. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience dealing with all types of hormone imbalances. The TCM approach offers a highly personalized course of treatment for hyperthyroidism, which can be a valuable adjunct to conventional medicine. If you or someone you know suspects they may have an overactive thyroid, consider consulting with a qualified acupuncturist as part of your health care plan.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

How to Treat Diabetes With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Early signs of diabetes include dizziness, confusion, and trouble seeing.

What is the best way to lose weight to manage diabetes? Can you keep glucose levels normal by finding the right foods to eat to lose weight? Keeping diabetes under good control requires a lot of daily effort and working with a team of health care professionals who care about you. Adding an acupuncture and TCM expert to your diabetes care team can help you manage your blood sugar and find the best diet for weight loss for you, personally.

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent health problems in the world today, and the number of people who have diabetes is growing dramatically. It is estimated that half of all people who have diabetes don’t realize they have it.

Diabetes affects people of all ages. Diabetes makes life difficult, creates complications during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), drastically increases the chances of developing other serious health problems like heart disease and stroke, and directly causes millions of deaths every year. 

Diabetes is a condition in which there is something wrong with the way the body is producing and using the hormone insulin. Insulin’s job is to help the cells of the body make use of the sugar energy from the food we eat as it travels through the body in the bloodstream. When we don’t have enough insulin to do this job, blood sugar levels get too high, and the rest of the body’s cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function.

There are two types of diabetes. “Type 1 diabetes” used to be called “juvenile diabetes” because it is usually diagnosed during childhood. Type 1 diabetes can actually develop at any age, and it means that the pancreas doesn’t produce the hormone insulin the way it should. The exact cause of Type 1 diabetes isn’t fully understood, but it is thought to be a type of autoimmune dysfunction that harms pancreatic cells. Only 5-10% of people with diabetes have Type 1.

Type 2 Diabetes is far more common. One in ten Americans has Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also caused by problems with insulin production by the pancreas. When a person has Type 2 diabetes, cells all over the body are not responding appropriately to insulin, so the pancreas works harder to create more and more insulin. This is called “insulin resistance.”

Type 2 Diabetes usually develops over the course of several years, and during that time, people may have what we now call “prediabetes.” If you are prediabetic, it means your blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. This is a window of opportunity to prevent full-fledged diabetes from becoming a problem. Learning to track blood glucose levels, keep blood sugars low, practice the best exercise to lose weight, and maintain a balanced diet can go a long way towards helping to prevent and manage diabetes.

Acupuncture is becoming more and more widely recognized as an effective adjunct treatment to help in all aspects of diabetes care and management.

Top 10 Signs of Diabetes

eye
Diabetes can cause blurred vision.

For most people, the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are so subtle that they go unnoticed. People can have prediabetes or diabetes for years without knowing they have it. Early signs of diabetes include:

  1. Feeling tired and hungry all the time
  2. Feeling thirsty all the time
  3. Having to urinate frequently
  4. Dry, itchy skin and/or eyes
  5. Blurry vision
  6. Feeling light-headed or jittery
  7. Excessive sweating
  8. Cuts and sores are slow to heal
  9. Yeast infections
  10. Pain, tingling, or numbness in the legs and feet (diabetic neuropathy)

If blood sugar levels climb dangerously high, it is called hyperglycemia. Severe hyperglycemia might make a person feel extremely weak and thirsty, have a stomach ache or nausea, blurred vision, and feel very dizzy. 

Most of the time diabetes makes levels of blood glucose high, but sometimes people with diabetes will experience episodes of very low blood sugars, known as hypoglycemia. If a person takes too much of their diabetes medication that reduces blood sugar, or eats something that causes an imbalance, or does a lot of exercise, they might become hypoglycemic and need to take glucose tablets or eat some

Glucose testing
Glucose testing

carbohydrate foods to bring the sugar levels back up. The common signs of a hypoglycemic attack include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Clammy skin, sweating
  • Feeling shaky or weak
  • Hunger
  • Light-headedness
  • Tingling in the face

If you feel these symptoms–or see someone in this kind of distress–keep calm, check blood glucose level if possible, eat or drink some fast-absorbing carbohydrates, and wait a few minutes to see how the situation improves. In extreme cases, hypoglycemics can lose consciousness and need emergency medical treatment.

Doctors make a definitive diagnosis of diabetes by measuring A1C levels, testing fasting blood sugar, or administering an oral glucose tolerance test. These different types of glucose test give doctors a reading of how high a patient’s blood glucose levels are under various circumstances. 

Treating Diabetes With Good Nutrition

Diabetes has to be carefully managed, primarily through making informed nutritional choices and getting enough exercise so as to maintain steady blood sugar levels. Many people will also need to take insulin in order to maintain normal glucose levels. Patients may be prescribed oral insulin, injectable insulin, or an automatic insulin pump. A primary care physician may be able to help with managing diabetes, but often people will also need to seek the advice of an endocrinologist and a nutritionist to help them learn how to manage their medications and carbohydrate intake appropriately. Often, patients will be advised to lose weight

Nutrition is not considered separate from medicine in TCM; rather, facilitating a proper diet is one of the primary ways TCM addresses illness and disease. Acupuncture practitioners are highly trained in nutrition and can be instrumental in helping diabetes patients find the healthiest and best way to lose weight. We do not advocate fast weight loss or trendy diets. The fastest way to lose weight is probably not going to be the best way, certainly not in terms of being able to maintain a balanced eating plan long-term. Your acupuncturist can recommend the best foods to eat to lose weight while still feeling satisfied and keeping blood sugar levels in the normal range throughout the day.

TCM and Acupuncture for Diabetes

TCM has been treating “Xiao Ke,” or “wasting and thirsting disease,” for thousands of years. According to TCM philosophy, diabetes is the result of excess heat and dampness accumulating in the body. Acupuncture treatment is employed to stimulate better function of the pancreas.

Acupuncture has been shown to help improve many types of disease related to endocrine function. Research has indicated that acupuncture treatment can help to reduce fasting and after-eating blood sugar levels, increase insulin production, and reduce insulin resistance.

Combining acupuncture treatment and the use of Metformin has been shown to be more effective for increasing insulin sensitivity than Metformin alone.

At the same time that your acupuncture provider chooses acupuncture points and herbal formulae to improve glucose levels, he or she can also help treat the other symptoms of diabetes related to nerve problems, such as blurry vision and diabetic neuropathy.

How to Treat Diabetic Neuropathy with TCM and Acupuncture

feet
Foot care is especially important when you have diabetes.

Over time, diabetes causes damage to nerve endings throughout the body. This can result in different kinds of neuropathy:

  • Peripheral neuropathy – most often causes tingling, pain, and/or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Autonomic neuropathy – compromises basic functions like the heart pumping blood, and the excretory system working due to the damage of nerves around the vital organs
  • Proximal neuropathy – causes pain and numbness in the hip and buttocks area, usually just on one side of the body
  • Focal neuropathy – nerve compression in a specific area of the body that causes tingling and weakness; examples are carpal tunnel syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome.

One study of diabetes patients with peripheral neuropathy showed that, after ten weeks of acupuncture treatment, the majority of them reported significant improvement in their symptoms and were able to cut down on pain medications.

Another research study showed over 95% improvement in neuropathy pain when acupuncture treatment was used in conjunction with typical medication (amitriptyline hydrochloride) to relieve pain and tingling.

Acupuncture treatment for neuropathy pain due to diabetes focuses primarily on clearing dampness that is blocking Qi from moving smoothly through the body. Chinese herbs are also instrumental for providing nutrients that people would not otherwise be able to get from their diet.

Top 5 Type 2 Diabetes Food List

avocado
avocados provide healthy fats and fiber

Getting blood sugar levels under control requires a full-time effort on the part of the patient. It can be difficult to make the necessary dietary changes to help reverse Type 2 Diabetes, but it can be done. The best way to lose weight for prediabetes diet control is to take it slow and steady, replacing high fat, high sugar foods with complex carbohydrates that take longer to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Your TCM practitioner will help you to make decisions for your specific needs, but here are some good food choices for a weight loss meal plan:

  1. High Omega-3 fatty acid fish – salmon, sardines, etc. High in protein and good fats to keep you feeling full, also helps reduce inflammation and risks for heart disease.
  2. Lots of leafy greens – full of Vitamin C and antioxidants, you can fill up on greens often without any negative effects to your blood sugar levels.
  3. Avocados – low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and healthy fats, adding avo to your salad will help you feel satisfied.
  4. Beans and Seeds – legumes and seeds like chia and flax are “super foods” because they provide the whole package: protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates and fats, plus minerals and B vitamins.
  5. Low fat Greek or plain yogurt – provides protein and is low in carbohydrates (as long as it has no added sugar), plus the natural probiotics can be beneficial. Pair with fresh berries for a healthy treat.

Acupuncture Near Me for Diabetes 

An acupuncturist with expertise in helping people manage diabetes and lose weight can be a valuable member of your health care team. Whether you suspect you might have prediabetes, have just been diagnosed with diabetes, or have been struggling with diabetes for many years, TCM methods may help you get relief from painful neuropathy, lose weight safely, and reduce your dependence on diabetes medications. Diabetes can be controlled so that it doesn’t control you.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

How to Treat Asthma With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

asthma cough
Asthma cough is usually worse in the morning and at night.

Difficulty breathing? Could it be seasonal allergies, or could I have asthma? Asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and an allergy cough that is usually more pronounced in the morning and evening. Acupuncture and TCM have long been recognized as offering effective treatment for allergic rhinitis related to asthma.

Asthma, a chronic lung condition which creates inflammation of the airways of the respiratory system, often begins causing breathing problems in childhood. In fact, asthma is the most common chronic disease affecting children worldwide. Sometimes asthma symptoms go away as a child grows up, but asthma can affect both children and adults long-term. 

What is an asthma attack? An asthma attack occurs when the bronchial tubes become constricted. The tightening of muscles around the bronchi, combined with inflammation on the inner walls of these airways, causes shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, and wheezing. Asthma attacks can be profoundly frightening; sometimes people describe the experience as feeling like they’re drowning. 

Allergy triggers like dust mites and ragweed often cause asthma symptoms to flare up. Asthma attacks are often triggered by the same sorts of things that cause other types of allergic reactions: high pollen counts, pet dander, chemical perfumes, or smoke. An asthma attack can also be caused by changes in temperature, strong aerobic exercise, or a bout of intense crying or laughing. A viral respiratory infection can also trigger asthma.

Asthma attacks due to seasonal allergies are often managed by conventional medicine with inhalers, corticosteroids like methylprednisolone, or antihistamines like Zyrtecs. Usually doctors will prescribe a medication intended for long-term management of symptoms, and a “rescue inhaler” designed to stop an asthma attack in progress. Allergy medications can help relieve hay fever symptoms like itchy eyes and sneezing and help prevent a full-blown asthma attack, but they do not address the immune system imbalances that are the root cause of asthma and allergies. Acupuncture treatment used in addition to standard medical remedies for asthma has been clinically shown to help reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. Along with helping people maintain their normal activities and sleep better, TCM methods used in conjunction with conventional medical therapy can reduce the need for trips to the emergency room or hospital for asthma attacks.

Can asthma be cured? Asthma may never go away completely, but it can be managed so effectively that it no longer has a negative impact on your life.

Top 5 Asthma Symptoms

Asthma symptoms often begin appearing during childhood, but asthma can come on at any age. When a person develops asthma later in life, it is called “adult onset asthma.” Sometimes people don’t realize they have asthma because they aren’t experiencing what they think of as the classic “asthma attack.” A persistent cough, especially one that gets worse at night, is actually one of the most pervasive symptoms of asthma. Other symptoms of asthma include:

  1. Coughing frequently, allergy cough
  2. Wheezing (that whistling sound when you breathe)
  3. Shortness of breath (having trouble drawing a full breath)
  4. Rapid breathing
  5. Chest tightness, breathing chest pain

Why is asthma worse at night? The precise reason for the increase of asthma symptoms during the night, known as “nocturnal asthma,” has not been medically proven, but it is probably due to a combination of factors:

  • Cooler air entering the bronchial passages
  • Increase of allergens like pollen in the air
  • Exposure to dust mites or pet dander in the bed
  • Reclining sleep position makes it harder to breathe
  • Hormone secretions that occur during sleep

Nighttime asthma can really affect your ability to get enough quality sleep

model of the lungs
Asthma affects the lungs and bronchial tubes.

Many of the symptoms of asthma are similar to those of an allergic reaction. However, seasonal allergies usually also cause symptoms like: head congestion, runny nose, itching inside the mouth, throat, and ears, sinus pain, and postnasal drip. Asthma doesn’t cause these sorts of upper respiratory symptoms because it is a condition of the lungs and bronchial tubes. 

In order to make a definitive diagnosis of asthma, a doctor will usually perform tests that determine your lung function. A spirometer is a tool that helps determine how much air you are able to inhale and exhale. If you are able to inhale better after being given medication from an inhaler, then it will be concluded that you probably have asthma. An x-ray can show whether the bronchial tubes are blocked and determine whether there might be some other cause for lung damage, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. Often people will also be given allergy testing to determine what triggers may affect their breathing.

Can Acupuncture Help Asthma?

Asthma has been recognized by TCM since ancient times. We call asthma “Xiao Chuan,” which means “wheezing, breathlessness.” According to TCM theory, the lungs control inhaling, while the kidneys control exhaling. Lung Qi (energy) should move downward, while Liver Qi should move upward, and these energies work in harmony. Asthma is the result of one or all of these energies entering into a state of imbalance or deficiency. Excess wind and/or phlegm get trapped in the lungs and airways, creating obstructions and producing the wheezing and shortness of breath associated with asthma. Acupuncture treatment focuses largely on strengthening the kidneys and lungs, and clearing phlegm and wind from the system.

One study determined that acupuncture treatment reduced “respiratory resistance,” helping to open up the bronchial tubes. A study in Denmark focused specifically on young children with asthma showed that symptoms and need for medications was reduced significantly after ten acupuncture treatments. A systematic review of nine studies involving patients using TCM as a complementary therapy in addition to conventional treatment showed an overall improvement in asthma symptoms and concluded that acupuncture should be considered as an adjunct to medications.

breathe deeply
Acupuncture and herbs can help people with asthma and allergies breathe easier.

As always, herbal supplementation is also a crucial component of TCM treatment for asthma and allergiesResearch has shown that classic TCM herbal formulations for asthma provide many therapeutic benefits, including: reducing hyperreactivity in the bronchial tubes, reducing inflammation of the lungs and tubes, and calming muscle contractions around the airways. One study specifically focused on children with asthma concluded that patients who were given a specific TCM herb combination showed significant improvement over a 12-week period when compared to a control group of children who received a placebo instead.

Asthma attacks are genuinely frightening, and when severe, can even be life-threatening. It is important that people with asthma have emergency inhalant medications to help them in the event of a serious asthma attack. However, the regular use of steroid medications comes with other risks. Corticosteroids can suppress normal immune function, affect the adrenal hormones, and actually increase inflammation. These unwanted side effects may be especially concerning for young children with asthma. Chinese herbs offer a safe alternative to steroids, having been used for thousands of years with no negative side effects.

Top 5 Tips to Help Control Asthma

It’s important to seek health care for managing asthma, but there are home remedies for shortness of breath and natural remedies for wheezing that may help you take control of asthma attacks and help you sleep better without an asthma coughing attack in the night.

  1. Don’t smoke, and avoid other people who do. Stay out of places where there is second-hand cigarette smoke or other ambient smoke or chemical perfumes.
  2. Use a high quality air filter in your home. Keep dust and mold under control. Remove old carpets and any other fabrics that might have dust mites in them.
  3. Manage stress. Stress and anxiety can be triggers for asthma attacks. Regular acupuncture treatment will help, as will consistent practice of meditation and breathing exercises.
  4. Avoid dairy products. Milk and other dairy foods are notorious for creating congestion and irritating the airways.
  5. Drink warm, soothing liquids throughout the day. Tea and warm honey-lemon water keep the airways moist and open, while providing immune-boosting properties.

Acupuncture Near Me for Asthma

The benefits of acupuncture treatment are cumulative. Building a strong and consistent partnership with a TCM provider can help you to manage asthma and allergy symptoms, boost your overall immunity, and prevent other health problems from developing. If you or someone you know has breathing problems, allergies, or food sensitivities, call Art of Wellness today to get started with a wellness regimen that will have you breathing easier.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.