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How to Treat PMS With Acupuncture and TCM

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

pms mood swings depression anxiety
PMS can cause mood swings, feelings of anxiety and depression.

Monthly mood swings, bloated stomach, headaches, and weight gain. Why is PMS so bad? Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a set of symptoms that occur in the days before a woman gets her period. PMS symptoms affect every woman differently, and can be serious enough to disrupt your life every month. TCM is an effective way to deal with PMS, because acupuncture treatment can help relieve both physical and emotional symptoms of PMS and severe PMS, also known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

To say that PMS is common among women is an understatement. The vast majority of women experience some changes in both their mental health and their bodies the week before their period starts. Whether or not a woman feels that it has a negative impact on her daily life may change over time. For some women, PMS isn’t a big deal; for others, it’s a major problem that can affect their relationships, impact their work, and make life hell every month.

Most women find their own particular pattern of PMS is somewhat predictable–until it isn’t. One of the most frustrating aspects of menstrual problems is the sense that things change without warning, and symptoms can come on suddenly with ferocious intensity. It can be difficult to describe how you feel before your period, because the symptoms seem to come and go. Some women find that their PMS symptoms are different from month to month. In some cases, they might find that every other month is bad, while the alternating months aren’t so bad. Why is PMS worse some months?

Other than the basic understanding that PMS is caused by fluctuations in hormones and brain chemistry, conventional medical science does not offer much in the way of clear answers about what causes PMS.

TCM provides a different framework for looking at menstrual problems and has been used to treat women’s health issues of all kinds for many centuries. TCM treatments including acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, and Chinese herbs can not only help relieve PMS symptoms, they can also be beneficial for other menstrual problems like irregular periods, PCOS, painful periods, endometriosis, heavy periods, fibroids, and symptoms of perimenopause.

Top 10 Symptoms of PMS

As a syndrome, PMS is considered a collection of symptoms that often appear together, in various combinations in different individuals. In the case of PMS, a woman may feel that her own symptoms change as often as every month, or gradually over the course of years. Girls in their teenage years may experience PMS in one way. Then, a woman in her early adult years may develop a different set of symptoms. After having a baby, a woman may find that her PMS symptoms have changed again. Then, many women in middle age experience changes in PMS symptoms as they go through perimenopause, approaching menopause. The most common signs of premenstrual syndrome include:

  1. Mood swings, low mood, feelings of sadness or anger
  2. Anxiety, feeling tense and irritable, cry easily or lose temper, want to be left alone
  3. Trouble sleeping, insomnia, disturbed sleep
  4. Breast tenderness, sore breasts, swollen breasts
  5. Food cravings, changes in appetite
  6. Weight gain, stomach bloating, water retention, pelvic pressure
  7. Gassiness, changes in digestion and elimination
  8. Acne, skin problems
  9. Changes in libido
  10. Headaches, migraines, difficulty concentrating, foggy head

Less obvious or well-known symptoms of PMS include: vision problems, tingling in the arms or legs, lack of coordination (clumsiness, dropping things), bruising easily, heart palpitations, dizziness, itchy skin, cold sores, toothaches, back pain, joint pain, and increased TMJ jaw pain.

Other health problems can be amplified during the premenstrual period, such as: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, migraines, IBS, clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

The physical and emotional aspects of PMS can affect each other, causing the typical mood swings. Feelings of sadness and frustration, or lack of sleep, may lead to comfort eating, but then the sight and sensation of your bloated stomach can cause you to feel depressed about your body. Minor problems with your spouse or co-workers can suddenly seem overwhelming and make you feel angry or helpless. 

For some women, PMS symptoms are so bad that they feel unable to function the week before their period. Severe PMS is now diagnosed as PMDD.

What Is PMDD?

severe PMS PMDD
PMDD causes severe emotional symptoms.

PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) is a severe form of PMS marked by intense emotional symptoms that dramatically impact a woman’s life, in addition to physical symptoms. “Dysphoria” is the opposite of “euphoria;” in other words, it is a mental state characterized by profound unhappiness and negative feelings. It is estimated that about 5% of all women experience this extreme type of PMS. Signs of PMDD include:

  1. Severe anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia
  2. Severe depression, in some cases even suicidal thoughts, lack of self-worth
  3. Anger and irritability that provokes rage and causes conflicts with other people
  4. Fatigue, low energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of confusion
  5. Intense food cravings, possibly leading to binge eating

Again, there is currently no scientific answer for what causes PMDD, although it is generally believed to be related to the way estrogen levels and progesterone levels change between ovulation and the onset of the menstrual period. Mood is considered to be related to serotonin levels in the brain, and this is why PMDD is usually treated with birth control pills, which suppress ovulation, and/or antidepressants (SSRIs), which affect serotonin uptake.

Medical Treatment for PMS

birth control pills
Doctors often prescribe birth control pills to get rid of PMS symptoms.

Naturally, when a woman asks for advice about PMS or PMDD, she is going to hear suggestions like: “try meditating, exercise more, eat a healthy diet, and get more sleep.” And it is true that making good lifestyle choices is an important part of helping to reduce PMS symptoms. But women who are suffering with serious PMS need solutions beyond these kinds of lifestyle guidelines. 

When women complain of PMS symptoms, doctors will most often recommend OTC pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (NSAIDs) to relieve pain. Diuretics may be used to relieve bloating or premenstrual weight gain. Of course, most commonly, women are prescribed oral birth control pills, which suppress ovulation, and therefore may reduce the severity of PMS symptoms. More and more frequently, women may be prescribed antidepressants to try to deal with emotional symptoms and mood swings, or anxiety medications to take as needed during PMS. In effect, doctors often treat PMS the same way they would depression or anxiety. 

Clearly, birth control pills are not helpful for women who may want to get pregnant, and some women may be concerned about how taking the pill or antidepressants may affect their fertility in the future. None of these pharmacological solutions for PMS address the root cause of the symptoms, and all of these medications carry side effects that may impact a woman’s overall health. Health care for women with TCM seeks to address the deeper internal causes of hormonal imbalances and other problems with the organ systems that are impacting the health of the ovaries and the regularity of the menstrual cycle.

Can Acupuncture Help PMS?

yin yang PMS
When Yin and Yang are balanced, the menstrual cycle can flow smoothly.

While it is only in recent years that conventional medicine has begun to acknowledge connections between physical health and emotional health, TCM has understood for many hundreds of years that health conditions of all kinds, especially those related to the menstrual cycle, are rooted in the balance of energies. Menstruation represents an ongoing process of transformation that occurs not only within the reproductive organs, but which affects every part of a woman, and even the people around her.

The concept of Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy describes two opposing yet complementary forces that are constantly acting upon each other in order to achieve balance. The menstrual cycle is very much based on Yin and Yang energies; during the follicular phase of the cycle (before ovulation), Yin is increasing while Yang is decreasing, and in the luteal phase (after ovulation, before the period), Yang is increasing while Yin is decreasing. The system is designed, naturally, to create the right conditions for conception; this process of Yin and Yang exchange is what determines a woman’s fertility.

While the health of the uterus and ovaries is definitely central to the process, within the TCM philosophy, they are not the only organs involved with menstruation. The Kidneys, Liver, and Heart all have important roles to play, as well. In TCM, we also view the elements of Fire–to provide warmth, controlled by the Heart–and Water, controlled by the Kidneys–to provide moisture, as being vital to all processes within the body, especially to menstruation. Blood is cleansed, stored, and then distributed to the other organs by the Liver. Blood being central to the process of menstruation, the Liver’s role is really key in how the whole thing plays out. 

According to TCM theory, most PMS and PMDD symptoms are caused by problems with Liver Qi. When the Liver Qi is out of balance, it can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, depression, and irritability. The Liver system is particularly susceptible to negative effects of stress.

There are a few different variations of Liver Qi imbalance and other patterns that can contribute to PMS symptoms:

  • Liver Qi invasion – This is a condition of excess, in which there is too much rising Liver Qi, characterized by overall negative emotions that are disruptive, including anger and anxiety, breast tenderness, headaches, dizziness, and constipation.
  • Liver Qi depression – In this case, there is not enough Liver Qi, causing feelings of sadness, heaviness in chest, painful swelling of breasts, sighing, bloated stomach, lack of appetite, cramping during period, scanty blood during period.
  • Spleen Kidney deficiency – In this case, stagnant energy in the Kidney system is preventing water from moving appropriately, causing water retention or edema.

From the scientific medical standpoint, acupuncture treatment has been shown to have a positive effect on neurotransmitters like serotonin, and to impact levels of estrogen and progesterone. This happens naturally because we are using TCM methods to restore optimal function of all the organs. With Chinese herbs we are able to get specific nutrients into the body that we cannot get from the foods we normally eat.

Acupuncture treatment accompanied with specific herbs for PMS patterns can help balance the liver Qi, and bring all of the organs into synergistic harmony.

In order to make lasting change, it is best to have acupuncture treatment at least once or twice a week. We need to deal with each phase of the menstrual cycle as it occurs by tailoring the acupuncture treatment and herbs to your PMS and period symptoms. 

A systematic review of ten controlled trials using acupuncture to treat PMS concluded that TCM treatment of PMS significantly improved symptoms.

Top 3 Tips for PMS Relief From TCM Perspective

yoga tai qi pms period gentle exercise
Gentle exercise to get Qi moving can help with PMS symptoms.

There are still a lot of taboos surrounding women’s health, and many girls and women have never learned how to take care of their reproductive health. Working with an experienced TCM doctor will enable you to get personalized care and advice about how to eat the best diet for PMS symptoms, what activities to avoid before your period, and other female hygiene tips that you may not have heard before. 

  1. Nutrition – conventional Western thinking about healthy eating currently focuses on eating fresh, whole foods, which is good, except that people tend to think this means eating a lot of foods raw or cold, as in salads and smoothies. According to the TCM philosophy of nutrition, though, eating cold foods is actually one of the worst things you can do when it comes to relieving PMS and painful periods. Putting a lot of cold food into the stomach cools down the temperature of the other internal organs, which can contribute to more cramping and worse cramps. During the week before your period, concentrate on eating plenty of nourishing, cooked foods like soups and stews, proteins and vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Avoid too much dairy, sugar, caffeine, hot, spicy or fried foods (that includes chips and crackers), and definitely avoid icy cold beverages and frozen treats.
  2. Keep track of your period – there are many apps available now to help with this, but it can also be a simple chart with room for notes about your symptoms. Keeping track of your PMS symptoms every month can help you recognize patterns in your own behaviors and experiences. A record of PMS symptoms will also help you communicate what you’re feeling to your health care providers when you are seeking treatment for PMS or PMDD.
  3. Exercise – gentle movement modalities that move Qi through the body are great to help PMS: Tai Qi, yoga, or dancing are all good. Avoid deep twists that could squeeze or put pressure on the ovaries and other organs. Again, keep track of your exercise routines and how they affect your physical and emotional wellbeing from month to month so that you can see which type of workout is best for you, or if some types of exercise make PMS worse.

Acupuncture Near Me for PMS in Los Angeles, CA

Many women come to us at Art of Wellness seeking help with menstrual problems or fertility issues. We have over 30 years of experience in helping to relieve symptoms of PMS and all types of period pain and dysfunction. It is possible for the menstrual cycle to flow without extreme feelings or strong physical discomfort. If you feel like PMS or PMDD is negatively impacting your life every month, please do not hesitate to give us a call. 

 

 

*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.

 

 

 

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How to Treat Toothaches With Acupuncture and TCM

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

toothache tooth pain
Acupuncture can help relieve tooth pain and dental anxiety.

Sharp tooth pain, toothache, or throbbing pain in teeth usually means you need to see the dentist. The pain of dental work often necessitates the use of anesthetics, while post-operative pain from dental surgery is usually treated with over the counter pain medications or opioid painkillers. Acupuncture offers an alternative way of dealing with dental pain and can also relieve the dental anxiety many people experience when they have to have dental work done.

Oral pain makes it hard to eat, hard to talk, hard to even think straight. Mouth pain felt in relation to problems with the teeth, or a hurting tooth, is often nerve pain that may be sharp in one place, or radiate to other parts of your face and head. Acupuncture acts upon the neurotransmitters that carry signals between parts of the body and the brain, helping to block pain sensations and relieving tooth pain. 

Different types of mouth pain, not necessarily related to dental problems or the teeth, can also be alleviated by acupuncture, including TMJ jaw pain, clicking or locking of the jaw, tension from grinding teeth, and dry mouth (xerostomia). Myofascial pain, pain in the muscles of the face, and migraines that cause pain in the neck and side of the head can also be helped with acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture and herbs do not replace the need for regular dental visits or necessary dental procedures. However, TCM methods, used in conjunction with good oral hygiene, can help to promote the development of strong teeth in children, and the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums in adults. TCM treatments help improve immune function, as well, which can help prevent mouth infections.

While dentists have a variety of anesthetics they can use to help reduce pain during dental procedures, many people find the injection of anesthetic to be painful and anxiety-inducing in and of itself. There are definitely downsides to the pain relief offered during dental visits, so much so that many people avoid going to the dentist, or at the very least wish there was some alternative form of anesthesia. Recently, there is growing interest and research to show that acupuncture can be an effective means of providing pain relief before, during, and after dental procedures.

It is estimated that up to 30% of people report feeling dental anxiety, while about 10% of patients experience dental phobia. Acupuncture has been shown to help produce a clinically significant decrease in feelings of anxiety or fear of going to the dentist.

Managing Dental Pain

dental pain dental anxiety
Acupuncture can help reduce the need for dental anesthesia.

It is common to experience pain while you are waiting to get into the dentist for a toothache caused by a broken filling or because a crown has fallen out. Most dental pain is usually managed with non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), also known as OTC pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, some people cannot tolerate the regular use of these medicines, as they can cause damage to the lining of the stomach.

Different types of anesthesia used during dental work include: 

  • local anesthetics (lidocaine, articaine, etc.), which numb the area where a tooth is being worked on 
  • sedation (nitrous oxide gas, Valium, Versed, etc.), which helps relax the patient
  • general anesthesia, which means a patient is rendered unconscious for the duration of the dental procedure

Pain after oral surgery is most often treated with over the counter analgesics like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but severe dental pain may be treated with opioid painkillers. Dentists in the U.S. are far more likely to prescribe opioid pain medications than they do in other countries. Dentists are also more likely to prescribe long-acting opioids, and to prescribe opioids for a longer period of time. The growing numbers of people addicted to opioids in America is largely due to over-prescription of these drugs. TCM methods like acupuncture can relieve a toothache and reduce post-operative pain and bleeding without side effects or risk of dependence.

Can Acupuncture Help Tooth Pain?

Acupuncture treatment has an analgesic effect, reducing pain and inflammation of all kinds. Acupuncture not only offers natural pain relief for toothache, but can also help reduce bleeding during dental procedures such as tooth extractions.

A controlled study that compared two groups of patients have teeth extracted, one group treated with articaine hydrochloride injections and the other groups treated with acupuncture needles, found that pain relief was comparable between the anesthesia and acupuncture groups, while bleeding was less amongst those patients given acupuncture.

In addition to helping with pain and bleeding during and after a dental procedure, many people find it helpful to come in and have an acupuncture treatment just prior to their dental appointment in order to help alleviate anxiety. Acupuncture may also help to reduce a person’s gag reflex, which can be easily triggered during fittings for orthodontic devices, or impressions.

With acupuncture treatment, we can also effectively treat dental anxiety, allowing for patients to feel more relaxed going into their dental appointment and feel less pain during and after a dental procedure.

Top 3 Pressure Points to Help Tooth Pain

acupressure point LI4 for tension-type headaches
Acupressure point LI4 is helpful for both headaches and toothaches.

Acupressure has been shown to help reduce anxiety, gag reflex, and the need for dental injections for pain during fittings for prosthetics. Specific points on the head and face, in particular, can help relieve toothache and swelling.

If you are experiencing acute tooth pain, plan to see your dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, using these acupressure points for toothaches can help you stay calm and alleviate the pain until you can get treatment.

  1. ST6, Stomach Meridian Point 6, is located in the cheek, equidistant between the corner of the mouth and the earlobe. Apply pressure to the jaw muscle here to help relieve toothache and jaw pain.
  2. SI18, Small Intestine Meridian Point 18, is right in the cheek hollow, perpendicular to the corner of the eye and outside of the nose. Apply pressure to this point to help relieve tooth pain and swollen gums.
  3. LI4, Large Intestine Meridian Point 4, is located in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Squeeze with firm pressure here. Often used to relieve headaches, but this point helps tooth pain, as well.

Acupuncture Near Me for Tooth Pain on the Westside of Los Angeles

No one likes going to the dentist. However, if you have a hurting tooth but you’ve been avoiding the dentist out of fear, or if you know you have to have some major work done, and you are dreading it, please consider scheduling an acupuncture appointment before your next dentist appointment. Discover for yourself how acupuncture can help relieve dental anxiety and post-procedural dental pain. You may find you feel much more relaxed about the whole thing, and herbs and acupuncture can help staunch bleeding and speed recovery after dental work.

 

 

*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.

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How to Quit Smoking With Acupuncture and TCM

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

quitting smoking, stop smoking
Smoking can lead to chronic health problems.

Have you been trying to stop smoking, but are having a hard time quitting? You know that quitting smoking will definitely improve your overall health and longevity, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Acupuncture treatment can reduce cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms of nicotine, and help relieve anxiety you feel when you stop smoking. 

Smoking tobacco causes several million unnecessary deaths every year, and is associated with multiple chronic diseases, including lung disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung cancer and other types of cancer. But deaths related to smoking are just the tip of the iceberg. According to the CDC, over 16 million Americans are currently living with a chronic disease caused, at least in part, by smoking. Smoking increases the risk of stroke, erectile dysfunction in men (ED), and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. On average, smoking takes ten years off a person’s life.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Because once you have a smoking habit, quitting smoking is very hard. Tobacco contains a natural chemical called nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. It acts upon the neurotransmitters in the brain that release dopamine: the “feel-good” chemical. When you inhale tobacco smoke, nicotine goes directly to your brain, and you get an immediate “reward” in the form of dopamine. Once your brain gets used to this reaction, it wants more of it. Even when you know you should stop smoking, and you want to quit, a part of your brain is signalling you not to stop.

Vaping, or smoking from a vape pen, or e-cigarette, is the latest trend. There has been some suggestion that this form of smoking causes less damage than cigarettes do, because Juul pens don’t have many of the toxic additives that are in regular cigarettes. So far, researchers don’t know how long-term vape use will affect people’s overall health. However, it is clear that people who vape can easily become just as addicted to nicotine as smokers of cigarettes, cigars, and pipes do.

Once the brain has become attuned to the dopamine reaction caused by nicotine, a very powerful social-emotional component is added to the physical, chemical component. Being in a place where you have smoked in the past, seeing a friend who smokes, smelling smoke in the air, and of course, seeing an ad for cigarettes–all these sorts of cues in your daily environment can have a dramatic impact on your desire to smoke.

quitting smoking
It’s the nicotine in cigarettes that is addictive.

Almost half of all smokers in the U.S. make an attempt to quit smoking each year. But, obviously, people fail in their attempts to stop smoking all the time. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include intense anxiety. When faced with a powerful combination of physical and emotional stress, most people will return to that quick fix. Even when a person develops serious problems due to smoking, like a constant cough, emphysema, sleep apnea/snoring, infertility, acid reflux/heartburn, loss of smell and taste; even when a person knows that second hand smoking can hurt their loved ones, they still may find it impossible to quit. People need help to quit smoking.

Typical smoking cessation aids include nicotine gum or patches, medications, and programs designed to educate and support people as they try to overcome smoking addiction. While these methods offer help, they do not work for everybody. Most people have to try to quit smoking many times and try different methods before finding success. 

Many people gain weight when they quit smoking, because the cravings for a cigarette are replaced by cravings for sweets or other foods and drinks that keep your hands and mouth occupied. It’s more than just an oral habit, though; nicotine affects the way your body uses insulin and releases glucose, so when you quit smoking, there is a very real change in blood sugar levels and a subsequent desire to eat more carbohydrates. When it feels like you have to choose between two different risk factors–being a smoker, or being overweight–,it may seem like a hopeless situation. 

TCM for smoking cessation offers a different, multi-pronged approach. With acupuncture treatment for nicotine addiction, we can work on several of the problems smoking causes at the same time. Using acupuncture to stimulate specific pressure points for reducing cravings and alleviating symptoms of smoking withdrawal is only one way that TCM can help people quit smoking and regain good health.

Top 10 Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal

When you try quitting smoking “cold turkey,” you will probably feel more severe symptoms of withdrawal for the first few days. Withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:

  1. Intense cravings for a cigarette that last for 5-10 minutes
  2. Feelings of anxiety and stress
  3. Food cravings, weight gain, rise in blood sugar
  4. Sleep problems, insomnia
  5. Persistent cough, “smoker’s cough”
  6. Flu-like symptoms: fever, fatigue, body ache, headache
  7. High blood pressure, fast heart rate
  8. Memory problems, difficulty concentrating
  9. Dizziness
  10. Constipation, bloated stomach

Medical Approach to Quitting Smoking

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been the common form of help for nicotine withdrawal for decades. This involves using nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or lozenges, which help people gradually wean themselves off of nicotine by lowering the dose over time. Nicotine patch side effects can include a rapid heart beat, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

Medications such as Zyban and Chantix are also used to help people quit smoking. Zyban (Bupropion) is also known as Welbutrin, which is used to treat depression. A prescription medication called Varenicline (Chantix) is the newest medical treatment available to help people stop smoking. Varenicline works by blocking the receptors in the brain that react to nicotine to stimulate dopamine production. Varenicline is still fairly new, and researchers do not yet know the long-term effects of taking it. Common Chantix side effects include nausea, insomnia, and headaches; more serious psychiatric reactions, such as depression and suicidal ideation have also been reported. Drug interventions for smoking cessation are more effective when combined with education and counseling.

The most effective methods to help people stop smoking treat both the brain chemistry that is causing nicotine addiction and the emotional symptoms that arise when quitting. TCM methods of acupuncture and herbs are naturally able to help address addiction because they work on the whole person–physically, mentally, and spiritually.

How Can Acupuncture Help You Quit Smoking?

quitting smoking, stop smoking
Quitting smoking is hard. Most people need some kind of help to stop smoking.

In conventional medical terms, we mostly think of cigarette smoking as being harmful to the lungs, due to smoke inhalation, and the cardiovascular system, due to the well-known fast heartbeat we associate with nicotine use. In TCM, we do consider that smoking weakens the lungs, but this, in turn, causes problems in the other major organ systems of the body. A buildup of heat in the Heart and Stomach can lead to stagnant Liver Qi. These forces are what cause the withdrawal symptoms of anxious feelings, heart palpitations, irritability, food cravings, and poor sleep. With acupuncture and herbs, we work to clear heat and detoxify the lungs and all of the organs.

A specific set of points on the outer ear are often used to help combat the cravings associated with overcoming addictions of all kinds, including nicotine dependence. Often we will send a patient home with small ear seeds fixed to these points so that they can be squeezed and stimulated whenever you feel an urge to smoke. This will also help with food cravings and prevent overeating and weight gain when you quit smoking. 

Acupuncture helps to release endorphins, replacing the familiar dopamine hit with a different sense of relaxation. Endorphins promote a sense of wellbeing and relieve pain. Dopamine works on the reward center of the brain, causing a mental and emotional reaction that leads to addiction. Acupuncture treatment works holistically to help relieve emotional pain–symptoms of anxiety and depression–by positively impacting neurochemical activity. Shifting from dopamine dependence to more abundant endorphins and serotonin will help restore restful sleep.

A controlled trial study compared patients who received acupuncture, patients who received acupuncture and education and counseling, and patients who received sham acupuncture to help them quit smoking over a period of four weeks. The percentage rate of patients who had quit smoking after 18-month follow up was highest among those who received acupuncture, and especially highest among those who had acupuncture and counseling.

A study of almost 3000 people who received acupuncture treatment for smoking over an eight week period showed that the treatment helped many people abstain from cigarettes, and helped many more to cut back on how many cigarettes they smoked.

Chinese Medicine Near Me to Stop Smoking in the Great Los Angeles Area

The decision to quit smoking for good can be a life-changing one. But for most people, it’s also one of the most difficult things they will ever do. Cigarettes are addictive, and to stop smoking, you may need professional help. If you’ve already tried NRT and not been able to finally quit, you may want to consider trying the TCM approach. Whether you chain smoke or only vape socially, whether you are quitting smoking because you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant, or you have lung cancer stage 4, it is never too early or too late to stop smoking. Acupuncture for smoking cessation can help you get past the cravings for cigarettes that make it so hard to quit. Acupuncture and herbs can not only help you kick the habit, but can also help you get rid of that cough, brighten your skin, and sleep better. Most of all, you will have made an important choice to prioritize your health and prevent chronic illness from taking hold later in life.

 

*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.

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How to Treat UTI With Acupuncture and TCM

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

pee all the time, UTI, urinary incontinence
UTIs cause frequent urination

Why do I feel like I have to pee all the time? A urinary tract infection, usually referred to as UTI, is a bacterial infection that affects the bladder and/or other parts of the urinary system, causing urinary urgency, often accompanied by a burning pain when you go to the bathroom. Acupuncture and TCM is a good way to get to the root causes of frequent urination, including recurrent UTIs.

Urinary frequency, or an unusual urgency to urinate, can be caused by several different health conditions. A common cause of bladder pain, pressure on the bladder, or a burning sensation when peeing is a bacterial infection in the urinary tract, or UTI. But there can be many other reasons for constantly feeling like you have to pee, including diabetes, interstitial cystitis (IC), pregnancy, prostate problems, ovarian cysts, and more.

Over half of all adult women have experienced a UTI (also called cystitis) at some point in their lives. Many women get UTIs frequently, making them the most common type of non-hospital-related infection in the U.S. Up to 6% of all doctor visits are related to UTIs. A UTI can occur when bacteria, usually E. coli, gets into the urethra and travels up into the bladder, or further into the urinary tract. This can happen because of hygiene habits, after sex or exercising, or the use of contraceptives or period products. It can also happen when urine sits in the bladder for too long, or because a person has a weakened immune system.

While UTI treatment at home remedies such as drinking cranberry juice are popular, most women recognize that once they get that constant urge to pee, they have no choice but to rush to the doctor for antibiotics. Typical UTI medical treatment almost always involves confirming the infection by lab analysis, and a prescribed course of antibiotics, along with analgesic medicine (such as Pyridium) to help the UTI pain in bladder. Unfortunately, many women keep getting UTIs. Infections that are antibiotic resistant are increasingly common, and antibiotics do not get to the root of the problem.

Interstitial cystitis (IC), or painful bladder syndrome, is a condition that causes a constant sensation of having to pee, or bladder pressure, even when there is no infection present. Recurrent UTI and IC are a significant source of anxiety and depression for women, as they can cause almost constant pain and an inability to leave the house due to the constant urge to urinate.

UTI in men is not as common as UTI in women. The more common cause of frequent urination in men is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), in which an enlarged prostate presses on the urinary organs, blocking the flow of urine, and causing backup that can lead to bacterial urinary tract infection men.

Sometimes what feels like a UTI might be something else. Growths in the pelvic area, such as ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, or tumors can cause pressure in the bladder, bladder pain, or urinary frequency at night. Even when there is no infection, there may urinary symptoms such as: 

  1. Strong urge to pee frequently (more than 8 times per day)
  2. Difficulty urinating
  3. Urine is different color than usual
  4. Pain during peeing, or burning sensation when peeing
  5. Nocturia, frequent urination at night

The conventional medicine answer to UTI is antibiotic treatment, but this is not the only answer for everyone. TCM methods of acupuncture and herbs can help with improving the function of bladder and kidney systems, reducing symptoms from recurrent UTIs, as well as helping to address the deeper problems that cause inflammation and pressure in the bladder.

Top 10 Urinary Frequency Causes

There are many possible causes of frequent urination

  1. UTI (urinary tract infection, also called cystitis, or bladder infection)
  2. Kidney infection – when bacteria move further up into the urinary tract, the kidneys can become infected. Sometimes people with nerve damage in the spine cannot feel UTI symptoms (neurogenic bladder), so the infection becomes more widespread.
  3. Bladder stones – when the bladder does not empty completely, urine can crystallize and form hard stones, causing pain during urination.
  4. Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) – a syndrome of urinary pain symptoms, the exact cause of which is unknown. Inflammation of the bladder lining may be due to trauma (from surgery or delivery/birth), overdistension, or dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles.
  5. Prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate accompanied by irritation of the nerves in the area; not necessarily an infection, although a bacterial infection of the prostate can occur.
  6. Urinary incontinence – leakage of urine, occurs when the urethral sphincter that controls the flow and stoppage of urine is weak. More common in women and older people. 
  7. Vaginitis – inflammation of the vagina, usually due to infection. Candida, or yeast infection, is one type of vaginitis.
  8. Diabetes – can cause a variety of urinary problems, due to the body producing more urine to process blood sugar, and nerve damage that leads to urinary retention and incontinence. Constant thirst is also a sign of diabetic urinary symptoms.
  9. Side effects of cancer treatment in pelvic area – cancer treatments that affect the pelvis, including radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgeries to remove pelvic organs, can all cause irritation or damage to the bladder.
  10. Overactive bladder (OAB) – a group of symptoms, including frequent urination, leakage, nocturia (getting up to pee at night), and primarily, a strong urge to urinate often. Considered to be caused by inappropriate signalling of the nerves that communicate between the brain and the urinary tract organs.
pregnancy urinary frequency
Pregnancy can put pressure on the bladder, causing urinary frequency.

Causes of frequent urination vary somewhat according to biological sex. Frequent urination in men is often caused by prostate problems, while frequent urination in women may be due to pregnancy or other womens’ health conditions related to the ovaries or uterus.

Pressure on the bladder because of pregnancy, or from other organs, can also cause urinary frequency and discomfort. This can happen due to an anterior prolapse, when the pelvic floor is weakened, and the uterus, intestine, or bladder drop from their normal position. When a woman is pregnant, the heavy uterus often causes more frequent urination, or, in some cases, urinary retention. Damage or trauma to the pelvic floor can occur during delivery, so many women experience weak pelvic floor muscles, prolapsed uterus or bladder, and ongoing urinary urgency after they have had a baby.

In men, an enlarged prostate or prostatitis (infection and inflammation of the prostate) can put pressure on the bladder and other parts of the urinary system.

A frequent need to pee can also be caused by drinking too much coffee or alcohol, or taking diuretics.

Can Acupuncture Help Frequent Urination?

In Chinese Medicine, urinary problems come under the classification of “Lin Syndromes.” Lin disorders generally involve painful, “dribbling” urination and are caused by disharmonies in the Bladder and Kidneys, as well as involving other major organs like the Heart, Liver, and Spleen. Dampness and Heat are the primary pathogenic factors, so we use acupuncture treatment and herbal formulations to clear heat and dampness from the body.

Top 5 TCM differentiations of UTI:

  1. Damp Heat – characterized by frequent urination, burning sensation when peeing, painful pressure in bladder, dark urine or cloudy urine that smells unusual, feelings of nausea, bitter taste in mouth
  2. Heart Fire – frequency and urgency, thirst, hot, red face and chest, trouble sleeping/insomnia, irritability, anxiety, heart palpitations
  3. Liver Fire – excess heat causes painful burning during urination, headaches, ringing in ears/tinnitus, constipation, feelings of anger and frustration, redness in eyes and face.
  4. Fatigue Lin – covers urinary disorders that involve incomplete emptying of the bladder, due to prostate enlargement or prolapsed pelvic organs.
  5. Stone Lin – obstructions of the urinary system due to buildup of minerals that create stones in the bladder, kidney stones, etc.

Patients who have problems with recurring UTIs may be resistant to the antibiotics they’ve been given.  TCM herbs can be used as an additional or alternative remedy from antibiotics and help to strengthen the immune system overall. One review of studies involving the use of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) for UTIs concluded that the herbs, whether used alone or in conjunction with antibiotics, worked better than antibiotics alone.

One study showed that women who were prone to getting UTIs who were treated with acupuncture as preventative care only got a UTI one-third as often as women who didn’t receive acupuncture. Acupuncture has also been shown to be highly effective for bladder pain due to interstitial cystitis. Studies have also shown that TCM treatment can relieve the blockage of urine caused by an enlarged prostate (BPH).

Top 5 Tips for Preventing UTI

drink water to prevent UTI
Drink more water to prevent UTIs.

What a relief! Now that you’ve gotten over that urinary tract infection, it’s important to take steps to prevent getting another UTI. Here are some natural ways to prevent UTIs:

  1. Drink more water – This may seem counterintuitive, as you don’t want to have to pee even more. But you do want to be constantly flushing bacteria out of the urinary tract. Avoid drinks like coffee and soda, which can be irritating to the bladder.
  2. Go when you feel you need to – Some therapies for overactive bladder or IC involve training yourself to hold urine, but for most people, this is not a good idea. Retaining urine for too long contributes to bacterial growth and causes overdistension of the bladder.
  3. Hygiene – be sure to wipe from front to back when you go to the bathroom. Change clothes and underwear often, especially after sweating. During your menstrual period, change your pad and tampon frequently. 
  4. After sex – always go to the bathroom and urinate before falling asleep. 
  5. Avoid chemical products – Avoid using deodorants, douches, or scented wipes around the genital area. Consider whether contraceptive products like spermicides might also be part of the problem.

Acupuncture Near Me for UTI

While it is rare for a UTI to become so serious that you have a fever or become nauseated, urinary problems should be taken seriously before they become worse. If your UTIs keep coming back, or you constantly feel like you have to pee, it may be a sign that there is something deeper going on. As people age, urge incontinence, prolapsed organs due to weak pelvic floor muscles, and nerve damage can lead to more serious bladder problems. TCM provides a holistic way to treat urinary tract issues, as well as other, possibly hidden conditions in the pelvic region. Urinary urgency may be a signal of something else, so don’t ignore it. Consult with your acupuncturist to find urinary frequency relief.

 

 

*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.

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How to Treat Herpes Simplex With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Cold sores on the mouth or around the genitals are signs of herpes simplex.

Cold sores around mouth, blisters on lips? Burning, itching sores around the genital area? Herpes simplex is a skin disorder caused by one of two viral infections: HSV-1 or HSV-2. TCM methods, including acupuncture and herbs, can help clear up a painful herpes outbreak and prevent herpes simplex outbreaks in the future.

Herpes simplex is one of the most common kinds of infectious disease, affecting several billions of people worldwide. It is estimated that about 66% of the world’s population has had a HSV-1 infection at some point in their lives. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the viral infection that is associated with oral herpes or orolabial herpes–the one that causes sores around the mouth, often referred to as “cold sores” or “fever blisters.” Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the kind that causes genital herpes. Herpes virus is related to varicella-zoster viruses, the viruses that cause Chickenpox and Shingles.

How do you get herpes? The skin infection caused by herpes simplex spreads from person to person through close contact. HSV-1, or oral herpes, can spread through sharing utensils, toothbrushes, or towels, or by touching one of the mouth sores, or kissing. HSV-2, or genital herpes, is usually spread through sexual contact is therefore considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In fact, either one of the two viral infections can cause sores on the mouth or genital area, or even on other parts of the body. If oral herpes, or HSV-1, gets into the eyes, it can cause serious damage, even causing scarring or permanent loss of vision.

A person can pass herpes to another person even if they aren’t having an active outbreak with visible sores. A pregnant woman can pass the herpes virus to her baby during birth, and the virus can also be passed during breastfeeding. Once a person has been infected with HSV-2, the virus stays in the body and can lie dormant, then resurface in periodic recurrent outbreaks.

Initially, herpes skin disorders manifest in the skin cells, causing the red, painful, blister-like sores. After a while, the infection moves deeper, into the nerve cells, where it can lie dormant until something happens to activate it again, like an illness or stressful life event.

Medical treatment for herpes simplex focuses on minimizing the pain of an outbreak of sores and attempting to prevent future outbreaks with antiviral medications. People who have genital herpes must take care to practice safe sex and avoid sex during outbreaks in order to prevent spreading herpes to their partners. People with herpes can suffer from depression brought on by the knowledge that they may have to live with this highly contagious viral infection for the rest of their lives, and with the danger of possibly transmitting herpes simplex to others with whom they are intimate.

Fortunately, TCM herbs and acupuncture offer an alternative medicine option for dealing with herpes simplex. TCM can help with quick healing of the burning sores that signify an outbreak, but can also work on a deeper level to strengthen the immune system so that it can fight the virus better from within.

Top 5 Symptoms of Herpes Simplex

Signs of a herpes simplex infection depend on which type of viral infection you have, and where the infection spreads. Usually, symptoms manifest either around the mouth or genital area, but sometimes the herpes virus can spread to the eyes (herpes keratitis). The most common symptoms of herpes include:

  1. Itching, burning, tingling around the mouth or genital area
  2. Painful, fluid-filled blisters or sores around the mouth or genital area
  3. Flu-like symptoms: fever, body aches, swollen glands
  4. Trouble urinating, burning sensation when peeing
  5. Pain in eyes, cloudy vision

Once a person has had their first symptomatic period of a herpes infection, they may have recurrence of symptoms periodically–in some cases, frequently. The majority of people who have been infected with HSV-2 experience another outbreak within a year; some people experience recurrent outbreaks several times a year or as often as once a month.

There are a few other skin conditions that might sometimes be mistaken for herpes simplex. Impetigo is a bacterial infection that can cause red sores to form around the mouth and nose. “Jock itch” is a fungal infection that can cause a red rash in the groin area. Folliculitis is when hair follicles become inflamed and form pimples with pus; this can happen in the facial or genital region due to shaving, but it can also be related to herpes, if the viral infection causes irritation and blockages in the hair follicles. Molluscum contagiosum is another viral skin infection that causes raised lesions to form; however, they are generally painless and flesh-colored, not similar to herpes lesions. Bacterial vaginosis, a common bacterial infection which can cause a burning sensation in the vagina, may increase a woman’s chances of getting herpes and other STDs.

What Triggers a Herpes Outbreak?

The herpes virus is similar to the varicella virus (chickenpox) in that it stays in the body long after the initial infection, and can flare up and cause trouble later on. The varicella virus can lie dormant for many years, and then emerge as a case of Shingles late in life, causing a very painful rash.

herpes simplex outbreak
Exposure to sunlight can trigger a herpes outbreak

Herpes can cause rare or frequent outbreaks, depending on the severity of the initial infection, how or if it was treated, and what sort of care a person takes to prevent recurrences. A person who has experienced recurrent outbreaks may become aware of early signs that show up a few days before sores actually break out on the skin, such as tingling or shooting pain in the genital area or around the hips or legs. 

The things that can trigger a herpes simplex outbreaks include:

  • Illness, fever
  • Suppression or weakness of the immune system
  • Exposure to sunlight, changes of the season or temperature
  • Menstrual period, hormonal changes
  • Prolonged period of stress, emotional stress
  • Surgery, trauma

Medical Treatment for Herpes Simplex

The typical treatment for herpes simplex HSV-1 and HSV-2 includes the use of antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These medications may be taken intermittently, to help treat outbreaks when they occur, or, in some cases, may be recommended for daily usage to help prevent outbreaks from occurring. For some people, these medications help to reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and there is some evidence that they may help prevent a person’s sexual partner from being infected. However, these antiviral medications do not help everyone who has herpes simplex. They can only reduce the spread of the virus in the body; they do not eliminate it completely. Some people may become allergic or resistant to the drugs. Some people experience side effects, including potentially serious kidney problems or unusual bleeding. 

TCM treatment with herbs and acupuncture can help to reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks and prevent recurrence, without any negative side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Herpes?

From the TCM point of view, the redness and burning of the blister-like rash that accompanies viral infections like herpes and varicella is caused by heat and dampness. Clearing heat and damp from the liver and gallbladder will usually be one of the primary goals of acupuncture treatment and herbal supplementation, as this will help to quickly cool down an outbreak of the painful sores. Maintaining the health and balance of the liver system long-term will help to prevent future outbreaks. 

TCM also factors in emotional well-being when considering each individual’s presentation of a disease. The flare up of herpes simplex viral infection is associated with stress and negative emotions, especially anger. Anger is connected to the Liver and Gallbladder, and also to the eyes, which is why sometimes the herpes skin disorder will manifest in the eyes. Learning lifestyle behaviors and dietary choices that will help to balance the emotions and reduce excess heat in the body will also help reduce the occurrence of herpes flare ups.

Chinese herbs herpes
Herbs can help relieve herpes simplex outbreaks.

Some herbal formulations work well to heal sores related to herpes outbreak. There are also specific Chinese herbs that function as “antivirals.” These herbs can help control the virus in the body, which, when combined with treatment and herbs that strengthen the immune system, can be effective at reducing the risk of recurrent outbreaks of herpes.

Acupuncture Near Me for Herpes Simplex

While herpes simplex is often considered a disease one has to “learn to live with,” it is not necessary to suffer the pain and emotional burden of herpes simplex infection without relief. Alternative medicine for herpes in the form of acupuncture and herbs offers a holistic treatment option that can help relieve the physical symptoms of recurrent herpes outbreaks as well as associated mental and emotional struggles with shame, anxiety, depression, and relationship concerns. Boosting the immune system, strengthening the Qi and organ systems, reducing heat through proper nutrition, and relieving stress can all work to help people with herpes live free of the fear of the next outbreak.

 

 

*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.

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