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Autoimmune Disease

How to Treat Colitis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

abdominal pain, bloated stomach
Abdominal pain and bloated stomach may be signs of colitis.

Diarrhea, bloody stool, fatigue, fever? These could be colitis symptoms. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes swelling in the large intestine, abominable pain, bloating and bloody diarrhea. Acupuncture and TCM can offer an alternative colitis treatment to help relieve ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Colitis is a gastrointestinal disease in which the colon—also known as the bowel, or the large intestine—becomes inflamed and can develop open sores, or ulcers.

Ulcerative colitis is the term for colitis that is caused by an autoimmune disorder. The immune system launches an attack on the tissues of the intestinal lining, causing inflammation and sores. It is similar to Crohn’s disease: an autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract.

What causes colitis? There are several problems that can lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea, and sometimes it can be difficult to discover what is causing a person to have colitis symptoms. 

Parasites, bacterial infections, or food poisoning can cause pain, inflammation in the colon, and diarrhea. For example, e coli bacteria, sometimes found in improperly cooked beef, can cause colitis symptoms. This is known as e colitis, or hemorrhagic colitis.

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms can seem similar to those of colitis. People who suffer from IBS can have abdominal pain and diarrhea, urgency and mucus in their stool. However, IBS is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder, not a disease. IBS does not cause permanent damage to the intestinal lining, while colitis can.

Ischemic colitis is a specific type of colitis caused by a blockage of blood flow to the intestine. This is more common in older adults, and can be the result of a blood clot in an artery, or low blood pressure due to heart failure or recovery from some major surgery. Some conditions, like lupus or sickle cell anemia, can restrict blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract. It could also happen due to a bowel obstruction caused by a tumor or hernia. Some medications can also restrict blood flow to the intestine.

TCM and acupuncture treatment, whether alone or as an adjunct to conventional treatment,  can help relieve the symptoms of colitis by reducing inflammation in the intestine, helping to stop bleeding and helping to restore normal bowel movements.

Colitis Symptoms

woman on toilet
Feeling like you have to go all the time may be a sign of ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis symptoms can be mild at first and become more persistent and/or severe over time. Some common symptoms of colitis, or IBD symptoms, include:

  • Loose stool, loose bowel movements, diarrhea
  • Urgency to go to the bathroom, feeling like you have to poop all the time
  • Feeling like you have to poop, but not being able to
  • Bloody stool, bloody poop
  • Mucus in stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal cramps, cramping
  • Rectal pain
  • Fatigue, feeling tired all the time, no energy
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis can come and go, or “flare up” at times. When symptoms abate, this is called “remission.”

Children can have colitis, which may cause them to not grow properly.

Colitis Treatment

Testing for IBDs might start with some basic blood tests and a stool sample test to see if there are any bacterial or parasitic causes of diarrhea. If inflammation needs to be looked at more closely to discover its location and cause, a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy may be done. Imaging—X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI—may be used to show if there is some kind of obstruction of the intestine.

If testing and treatment have ruled out IBD and other potential causes, a tissue biopsy may be used to diagnose ulcerative colitis, the autoimmune form of colitis.

Generally, once colitis or inflammatory bowel disease has been diagnosed, the main goal is to reduce inflammation in the colon. Anti-inflammatory drugs will usually be prescribed. Anti-diarrheal medications and pain relievers provide some symptomatic relief.

Ulcerative colitis is usually treated with a combination of anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants. Unfortunately, these types of medications can have significant side effects. Long term use of corticosteroids can cause bone loss and swelling, while immunosuppressants can stress the liver and pancreas.

Newer pharmacological treatments include “small molecules,” like Xeljanz, which act as anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants. However, these drugs have been flagged for potentially causing heart problems, and maybe even cancer.

When medications and dietary changes don’t help enough, surgery to remove part of the large intestine may be sought. 

Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative treatment for colitis, which may help relieve symptoms without side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Colitis?

moxibustion moxa treatment
Moxibustion can help relieve gastrointestinal symptoms.

TCM herbs and acupuncture treatment are excellent modalities for helping to reduce inflammation. In the case of colitis and ulcerative colitis, the central problem is that the body is producing an inflammatory response in the large intestine that leads to pain and dysfunction. According to TCM theory, imbalances in the internal organs can cause heat, dampness, or blood stasis. In different people, the ways that colitis shows up may vary, depending on the pathogenic forces at work.

Acupuncture points to help relieve diarrhea, bloating, and bleeding in the colon will be combined with beneficial herbs to help clear heat and dampness. One study done in China showed that patients with ulcerative colitis who received acupuncture and herbal supplements in addition to conventional pharmaceutical treatments healed more quickly than those who did not receive TCM. They also reported feeling less anxiety and depression.

A systematic review of studies done regarding TCM for colitis concluded that acupuncture and herbs were effective compared to medical treatments.

Studies have shown that acupuncture can help balance the gut biome and help strengthen the intestinal walls.

Acupuncture has been shown to help people whose colitis is in remission to maintain better function.

TCM herbs, used in combination with conventional treatment, may help improve the healing of the mucosal lining of the intestine. One study showed that herbs helped stop bleeding from the colon in patients with ulcerative colitis.

Moxibustion has also been shown to help as a treatment for IBD, helping to relieve diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping.

Acupuncture is believed, in part, to help regulate inflammatory bowel diseases by providing positive stimulation of the vagus nerve, which plays an important role in inflammatory responses.

Acupuncture Near Me for Ulcerative Colitis in Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Acupuncture can be an excellent adjunct to standard treatment for gastrointestinal disorders of all kinds, including: IBS, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and Candida. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping people with IBD and colitis to improve their quality of 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 Anemia With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

anemia can cause dizziness and headaches
Anemia can cause fatigue, dizziness, and headaches.

Tired, weak, and pale? These can be symptoms of Anemia. Whether anemia is due to deficiency of iron, or inherited, as with sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, TCM and acupuncture can provide an alternative or adjunct anemia treatment.

Anemia (sometimes spelled ‘anaemia’) is a broad term referring to blood disorders that cause people to either not have enough red blood cells, or to have red blood cells that don’t function properly. Red blood cells are made by the bone marrow, using iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 as building blocks.

Red blood cells carry hemoglobin to organs and tissues throughout the body. Hemoglobin is a protein that contains iron. Hemoglobin picks up oxygen from the lungs and carries it to the rest of the body. If this process is disrupted, then cells in the body don’t get the oxygen they need.

Top 5 Types of Anemia

red blood cells
Anemia occurs when there is a problem with the red blood cells.

There are many different types of anemia. Some are genetically inherited. Others may manifest due to conditions like pregnancy, an injury, an illness like mononucleosis, or nutritional deficiencies. Some types of anemia are related to autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, Crohn’s, or Celiac disease. Anemia can also be caused by blood loss due to an accident or surgery, or internal bleeding. The most common types of anemia include:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Thalassemia
  • Aplastic anemia

Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition in which some red blood cells form in an unusual shape, like a sickle or crescent. These cells have a harder time moving through the blood vessels, so blood flow can become slow or blocked.

Thalassemia is also inherited. With this condition, the body does not make enough hemoglobin.

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when a person doesn’t have enough iron to nourish their red blood cells, so they have low hemoglobin levels. This type of anemia can happen due to a loss of blood, or because a person’s digestive system isn’t absorbing enough iron from their food. Sometimes people develop this type of anemia during pregnancy, because a lot of iron is going to the growing fetus.

Low levels of Vitamin B12 and/or folate can also cause anemia. Pernicious anemia is a type of autoimmune disorder in which the digestive tract cannot properly absorb vitamin B-12 because immune cells are attacking the lining of the stomach. Megaloblastic anemia is another kind of anemia, where the red blood cells are too large, that happens due to a B12 deficiency, or lack of folate.

People can also develop a form of pernicious anemia after having a gastric bypass or other surgery in which a part of the stomach or small intestine is removed. This inhibits their ability to absorb nutrients during digestion.

Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow cannot produce enough blood cells. Aplastic anemia is rare, but it may happen when a person has gone through chemotherapy or radiation treatment, had a reaction to some toxin or medication, or after a viral infection.

Aplastic anemia can also manifest as an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks the bone tissue. Fanconi anemia is a genetic condition that also affects the bone marrow’s ability to make red blood cells.

Top 10 Anemia Symptoms

What are the signs that you are anemic? Pallor, or pale skin, weakness and fatigue, dizziness, and headaches are some of the most well-known iron deficiency symptoms. 

Other signs of anemia include:

  1. Fatigue, feeling tired all the time
  2. Muscle weakness
  3. Markedly pale skin, pallor, or yellow skin 
  4. Shortness of breath, rapid breathing
  5. Changes in stool
  6. Dizziness, light-headed
  7. Palpitations, rapid heart rate
  8. Low blood pressure
  9. Feelings of irritability, anger, frustration, depression, anxiety
  10. Headaches
cravings for ice can be a sign of anemia
Cravings for ice cubes can be a sign of anemia.

Other signs of low iron can include:

  • bruising easily
  • pounding or “whooshing” in the ears 
  • cravings for ice or clay
  • brittle nails
  • hair loss
  • sore tongue

If anemia worsens, low iron symptoms or low hemoglobin symptoms could include: 

  • fainting, passing out 
  • whites of the eyes look blue 
  • chest pain 

Treatment for Anemia

Doctors will usually order a CBC test first to check for anemia. This can reveal how many red blood cells you have, and the shape of the cells. Tests can also show B12 and iron levels.

Iron supplements and high iron foods will be recommended. In more severe cases, iron may be supplied intravenously, or with a blood transfusion. Vitamin B12 shots or supplementation of folic acid and Vitamin C may also be recommended.

Genetic types of anemia like sickle cell disease and thalassemia may be treated with a bone marrow transplant.

Autoimmune related anemia, like aplastic anemia, is usually treated with blood transfusions,  immunosuppressant medications and steroids, and ultimately, bone marrow transplant, or stem cell transplant.

Anemia is, for the most part, considered a chronic illness that can be managed with additional iron and other nutrients. TCM allows us to look more deeply at the root causes of anemia, and to help increase iron absorption by addressing deficiencies affecting the digestive tract.

Can Acupuncture Help Anemia?

In TCM, we see many conditions as occurring due to a deficiency of Qi (vital energy) and/or blood. Blood deficiency can be the result of excessive blood loss, as after an injury, or due to heavy menstrual bleeding, as when a person has uterine fibroids. It can also happen because the organ systems are not able to perform their roles in the production of blood. Blood stasis, which occurs when blood is not being moved or replaced properly, can also be a factor.

In TCM theory, blood is considered to be governed by the heart, stored in the liver, and produced by the spleen. TCM differentiates different patterns of blood deficiency according to which organ systems seem to be affected:

  • Heart blood deficiency: restlessness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, heart palpitations
  • Spleen blood deficiency: weight loss, lack of appetite, mental fatigue
  • Liver blood deficiency: irritability, dry, brittle nails, spasms

Acupuncture treatment for anemia may involve, then, using specific acupoints to help strengthen the Qi of the liver, stomach, and/or spleen.

The root cause of anemia is that the digestive tract is not able to absorb nutrients adequately. Acupuncture has been shown in studies to help increase iron absorption in the intestinal tract. In laboratory studies, acupuncture treatment was seen to increase levels of serum ferritin, a protein that carries iron in the blood.

Chinese herbal supplements for anemia can help to remove blood stasis, strengthen the spleen and heart, and provide nourishment for the production of blood cells.

One study showed that TCM herbs helped reduce mortality risk when used as an adjunct or alternative to medical therapies in patients with aplastic anemia.

Acupuncture Near Me for Anemia in Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Anemia can have an impact not only on your energy and physical well-being, but your mental health, as well. TCM treatment for anemia involves a combination of acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition that can help strengthen the process of blood production and transportation throughout the body, while also helping to relieve symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and irregular heartbeat. The acupuncturists at Art of Wellness have over 30 years of experience helping patients overcome chronic conditions like anemia.



 

*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 Encephalitis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

encephalitis neck pain stiff
Neck pain or stiffness can be a sign of encephalitis.

Headache, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, short-term memory loss? These could be signs of encephalitis, or inflammation in the brain. Infectious encephalitis can happen due to an infection; autoimmune encephalitis (AIE) is a type of autoimmune disorder. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct treatment for encephalitis recovery.

What is encephalitis? Encephalitis refers to a serious condition in which the tissues of the brain become inflamed. It can happen to anyone, but is more common among children and older people.

The symptoms of encephalitis are sometimes ignored, because headaches, neck pain, and “brain fog” are so common and may not seem that serious at first. However, in combination, these signs should not be taken lightly. Like meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis can cause serious complications if left untreated. Encephalitis needs to be caught early and treated in order for people to make a full recovery.

What causes encephalitis? Brain inflammation can be caused by the body’s immune response to an infection, or due to an autoimmune disorder, in which the body produces antibodies that attack the brain tissues. 

Top 10 Causes of Encephalitis

Viral infections are the primary reason that people develop encephalitis. These could be viruses carried by insects, especially mosquitoes, which are then contracted by humans through bites. Other communicable viral infections that pass from person to person through bodily fluids or close contact can also cause infectious encephalitis.

Infections that can lead to encephalitis include:

  1. Mosquito-borne viruses such as: West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine encephalitis, Western Equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis
  2. Tick-borne viruses
  3. Rabies virus – can be contracted through being bitten by an infected animal
  4. Polio virus
  5. Herpes Simplex, Type 1 and Type 2 (HPV1 and HPV2)
  6. Epstein-Barr virus (mono, mononucleosis)
  7. Varicella Oster virus (chicken pox, shingles)
  8. Measles (rubeola)
  9. German measles (rubella)
  10. Mumps

There have been cases of people developing encephalitis as a complication of a COVID-19 infection.

Some cases of encephalitis can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, or by a parasite. It could also be caused by exposure to some sort of allergen or toxin in the environment.

People with weakened immune systems—for example, due to HIV/AIDs—or who take immunosuppressant medications are at a higher risk for developing encephalitis.

Immunotherapy used to treat certain kinds of cancer, such as melanoma, ovarian cancer or lung cancer, has been shown to cause encephalitis in some cases.

Some cases of autoimmune encephalitis, called Anti-NMDAR encephalitis, appear to be related to a certain kind of tumor called a teteroma. In women and young women, especially, this can be an ovarian tumor that produces the antibodies for NMDAR.

Symptoms of Encephalitis

encephalitis in children
Children can develop encephalitis due to a viral or bacterial infection.

A mild case of encephalitis might only cause some flu-like symptoms that clear up within a few weeks. These types of symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck, neck pain
  • Muscle aches, joint pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue, feeling tired and weak
  • Sensitivity to light

More severe symptoms of encephalitis can affect both cognitive and motor function:

  • Mental confusion, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems, short term memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble with coordination or balance
  • Loss of sensations in parts of the body or face
  • Loss of muscle control in parts of the body or face
  • Problems with speaking or hearing
  • Mood swings, changes in personality

Anti-NMDAR encephalitis (when there may be an ovarian tumor involved, especially) can cause symptoms like pro-domal headache, nausea, and fever, which may then progress to more severe complications, including involuntary movements or tremors, urinary incontinence, rapid heartbeat, and psychiatric symptoms like anxiety, paranoia, or mania.

In severe cases, encephalitis can cause loss of consciousness and even cause a person to go into a coma. It is very important to seek urgent medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

Treatment for Encephalitis

encephalitis brain inflammation
Imaging may show inflammation in the brain.

Blood tests can confirm whether a viral or bacterial infection is causing encephalitis. Imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan may show the inflammation in the brain. A spinal tap may show an imbalance in cerebral fluids, or an EEG may show unusual electrical impulses in the brain.

However, there are times when these tests will not show exactly what is causing the encephalitis. As with many autoimmune disorders, it can be hard to pinpoint a clear diagnosis for autoimmune encephalitis (AIE).

Medical treatment for encephalitis will depend on what type it is determined to be. Mild inflammation will usually be treated with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. Antivirals or antibiotics will be prescribed if a specific infection is found to be the cause. Steroids will often be used to help reduce inflammation. In more serious cases, a person may require breathing assistance or anti-seizure medications.

 In cases where the cause is believed to be an autoimmune response, immunotherapy is used to try to interfere with the antibodies that are attacking the brain tissues. Steroids will be usually used in combination with other treatments. Plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, removes some of these antibodies from the blood. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy introduces healthy antibodies to block the action of the malfunctioning antibodies.

In cases of anti-NMDAR encephalitis where a tumor is present, treatment will include the removal of the tumor in addition to immunotherapy. Patients with this type of encephalitis may also be prescribed antipsychotic drugs to relieve psychiatric symptoms.

Immunotherapy works for some patients, but not all. Many patients will be offered second-line treatments such as monoclonal antibodies or antimetabolites. In some cases, people may seem to recover from encephalitis for a while, and then have a relapse in which the inflammation flares up again.

Most people will need significant time and rehabilitation to help them make a full recovery from encephalitis. Some people will have long-lasting effects, such as memory problems, balance and coordination issues, speech problems, and emotional volatility. 

Many of the pharmaceutical treatments available for encephalitis cause significant side effects and can even lead to more physical, emotional and mental health issues. Fortunately, acupuncture and other TCM modalities offer a way to reduce inflammation in the brain and help relieve encephalitis, as well as helping to offset any side effects from other medical interventions.

Can Acupuncture Help Encephalitis?

Chinese herbs reduce inflammation
Chinese herbs can help reduce inflammation.

With acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we seek to treat the root cause and the various symptoms and complications of each condition according to recognizable patterns. This allows us to effectively treat some conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, and inflammatory conditions that may not readily respond to conventional medicine. 

In the TCM view, inflammation occurs because there is too much heat in the body. Yang energy provides the “fire” we need to keep the body warm and energetic. But, if there is an imbalance, and too much heat, this leads to conditions like fever, infections, and inflammation. So, we see pathogenic internal heat as contributing to encephalitis, in addition to outside pathogens like viruses or bacteria. To clear heat that is trapped or stagnant in the body, we will use specific herbs and cooling foods, along with acupuncture treatment and lifestyle changes to reduce physical and mental stress. TCM herbs can also be highly effective against bacterial and viral infections.

The motor control and cognitive problems that can result from encephalitis occur because the inflammation in the brain is affecting the functioning of the central nervous system. With acupuncture, we can help to reestablish connections and neural pathways.

Autoimmune disorders are still not well understood by Western medicine, but with acupuncture we can help to balance and regulate the immune system, so that it is not being inappropriately triggered. This is why acupuncture works well as an adjunct treatment for encephalitis and many other autoimmune disorders.

Acupuncture Near Me for Encephalitis in Los Angeles and West Los Angeles

It can be very difficult when you or someone you love is facing a serious illness and a long, difficult recovery. TCM offers a healthcare option that treats each person in a highly individualized and caring way. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping people gain back their strength and mobility after suffering from conditions like encephalitis, meningitis, Lyme disease, Guillain Barré Syndrome, Myasthenia Gravisand many others.




*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 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

chronic fatigue syndrome
When you have CFS, sleep doesn’t feel refreshing.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalitis (ME/CFS), is a condition marked by extreme fatigue that doesn’t get better, even with rest, and gets worse with physical and mental exertion. Chronic fatigue is not well understood by medical science, but acupuncture and Chinese medicine for chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can be an effective treatment option.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome are always tired, even after getting a normal amount of sleep, and the condition persists for weeks, months, or years. Other chronic fatigue symptoms include body aches, cognitive problems, vision problems, and emotional or mental health problems, like depression and anxiety.

If a person feels tired all the time, with no medical explanation, for six months or more, and has several other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms like dizziness, difficulty concentrating, headaches, or sensitivity to light, then they might be diagnosed with CFS, or myalgic encephalitis (ME CFS).

By definition, a syndrome is a collection of symptoms that often appear together in combination, for which the exact explanation is unknown. Chronic fatigue has been considered a syndrome for some time, but has more recently been given the designation of a “disease;” hence, the newer term “myalgic encephalitis,” which refers to muscle pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can be very similar to those of fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia also experience severe fatigue, but the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia are musculoskeletal pain that comes and goes all over, especially in “tender points” around the major muscles and joints, along with swelling and inflammation. It is possible to have both ME/CFS and fibromyalgia.

Women are much more likely to have chronic fatigue than men. MECFS can begin to appear at any stage of life, but most usually develops in adulthood. It is estimated that up to 90% of people who have chronic fatigue go undiagnosed.

ME/CFS is a serious and disabling condition that can interfere with even the most basic daily activities. People with chronic fatigue may be able to participate in some events where they exert themselves mentally and/or physically, but afterwards, they will feel completely wiped out and have to take time to recover, often confined to bed. This is called post-exertional malaise (PEM).

Top 10 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

ME CFS chronic fatigue
Dizziness and headaches can be signs of chronic fatigue.

The most common ME/CFS symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue, tired all the time, weakness
  2. Sensitivity to light
  3. Trouble concentrating, hard to focus, memory problems, confusion
  4. Dizziness, especially when getting up from lying down
  5. Headaches
  6. Muscle aches, body ache, muscle weakness, joint pain
  7. Enlarged lymph nodes in neck or armpit area, sore throat
  8. Tired after exercise or mental exertion (post-exertional malaise)
  9. Depression, mood swings, moodiness
  10. Insomnia, sleep problems 

Other signs of chronic fatigue syndrome may include: fever, abdominal pain, weight loss or weight gain, allergies, rash, rapid heart beat, and night sweats/hot flashes.

What Causes Chronic Fatigue?

The cause of ME/CFS is not known. Immune system dysfunction, the aftereffects of having a virus, and psychological factors have all been associated with the development of chronic fatigue.

Some people begin to have symptoms of chronic fatigue after having a viral infection, such as Epstein Barr, mononucleosis, or herpes.

While it does seem that some people who suffer from CFS also have immune system problems, chronic fatigue is not considered to be an autoimmune disorder in and of itself.  As with other conditions like lupus or fibromyalgia, CFS sometimes appears after a person has gone through some sort of emotional trauma or physical injury. 

Some people with chronic fatigue have hormone imbalances related to pituitary hormone, adrenal hormone, or hypothalamus hormones, but it is not understood how these might be related to their condition. Diabetes, anemia, or hypothyroidism can also create hormonal imbalances that can contribute to chronic fatigue.

In some cases, chronic fatigue could be due to a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or chronic insomnia. Long-standing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or PTSD can interfere with sleep and hormone responses, contributing to the chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.

Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

tired all the time fatigue
Feeling exhausted after mental or physical activity is called post exertional malaise (PEM).

There is no clear treatment protocol within conventional Western medicine for ME/CFS. A doctor may diagnose myalgic encephalitis if they have ruled out other possibilities and then try to recommend medications or various types of therapy to help people deal with the symptoms of chronic fatigue.

Pain relievers or NSAIDs will often be the standard recommendation for handling ME/CFS related pain like headaches or muscles aches. 

Doctors may prescribe antidepressants as a way of helping patients cope with depression and anxiety related to chronic fatigue. However, these medications can sometimes cause side effects that will exacerbate the chronic fatigue rather than helping it.

Some doctors have tried treating CFS with antiviral medications, corticosteroids, or thyroid hormone medications. None of the pharmacological interventions that have been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome have proved to be very effective.

Thus, many patients with ME/CFS consider turning to alternative medicine or complementary therapies to relieve CFS symptoms. Acupuncture is now widely recognized as an alternative therapy for chronic fatigue. 

Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Help Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Traditional Chinese medicine is well suited to treatment for ME/CFS. Overall, TCM philosophy pays close attention to the subtle balance of energy, known as Qi, within the body as a whole, as well as within the various organ systems. By observing the specific symptoms each person experiences as part of chronic fatigue syndrome, we can pinpoint which organ systems are deficient and need strengthening. 

Classic TCM patterns related to chronic fatigue diagnosis include:

  • Spleen Qi deficiency
  • Liver Qi stagnation
  • Kidney deficiency
  • Yin deficiency
  • Heat toxicity
  • Phlegm obstruction/dampness

Latent heat and dampness are sometimes the long-term effects of a viral infection or other illness, or a long period of emotional stress. These conditions originate from an external pathogenic factor, but then cause a series of imbalances which weaken the kidneys and other organs over time. Acupuncture treatment and herbs can help reduce inflammation and strengthen Qi.

A TCM doctor will choose acupuncture points and a combination of herbs that will help harmonize the affected systems. With herbs, we are able to get nutrients into the body beyond what you can do with foods alone. A balanced diet that cools heat and tonifies the organs will also be important for recovering strength and energy.

One controlled trial found that four weeks of acupuncture treatment led to improvements in CFS symptoms. 

A systematic review of studies regarding acupuncture treatment for ME CFS showed a reduction in the severity of fatigue.

A study using acupuncture and moxibustion treatment for CFS showed a 90% effective rate, with half of the patients feeling that their CFS was “cured.”

Another study involving acupuncture and moxibustion found that the moxa treatment in particular became more and more effective as treatment sessions continued past the 10th treatment. Moxibustion was shown to have an effect on the vagus nerve, which controls the parasympathetic nervous system.

How long it takes to get results from acupuncture treatment for chronic fatigue will vary from person to person, depending on how long the person has been experiencing CFS, and how deeply the organ systems are affected. TCM treatment has a cumulative effect which strengthens over time and several sessions.

Acupuncture Near Me for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) in the Los Angeles Area

ME CFS is far more common than statistics show, because many people suffer in silence and invisibility. Now, many people are struggling with chronic fatigue after having COVID-19. TCM modalities like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and moxibustion, can help relieve fatigue, depression, mental fogginess, poor sleep, and other symptoms of CFS. If you or someone you love has been feeling exhausted for months without improvement, it may be time to consider trying acupuncture for chronic fatigue.



*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 Ataxia With Acupuncture and TCM

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

ataxia muscle weakness
Ataxia causes muscle weakness.

Ataxia is a general term that covers many conditions involving muscle weakness or lack of coordination. Ataxia causes can include: infections, neurological disorders, degenerative brain disease or tumors, some autoimmune disorders, stroke, or alcohol addiction. Acupuncture can help with the muscular weakness and balance problems of cerebellar ataxia and sensory ataxia.

Ataxia can affect the limbs, leading to difficulty with balance and walking. It can also affect the muscles involved in speech, chewing and swallowing, and eye movements.

Different types of Ataxia include:

  1. Cerebellar ataxia – The most common types of ataxia are related to some sort of problem with the cerebellum, the part of the brain in the back of the head, which regulates muscle activity, balance, and equilibrium. Damage or dysfunction of the cerebellum can also cause tremors and difficulty in judging distance (dysmetria).
  2. Sensory ataxia – Ataxia may also happen due to issues with other parts of the brain and nervous system, such as damage to the somatosensory nerve, the brain stem, posterior lobe, cerebral cortex, the spinal cord, or the peripheral nerve. These kinds of ataxia can affect the gait and walking.
  3. Vestibular ataxia – Inner ear problems can cause ataxia that affects balance and can cause vertigo, dizziness, nausea.
  4. Hereditary ataxias – While they are rare, some people are born with hereditary forms of ataxia. These are classified as autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive, and they may begin to show up at any point in life. These types of ataxia are usually degenerative, meaning the symptoms are chronic and get worse over time. Autosomal dominant ataxias used to be called “Marie’s ataxia,“ and autosomal recessive ataxias used to be called “Friedrich’s ataxia.”

Ataxia may be acute or chronic, with symptoms that last for hours, days, weeks, or years, depending on the root cause. An infection, for example, could cause a temporary episode of ataxia. Ataxia can be triggered by an autoimmune flare-up.

Acupuncture and other TCM modalities are uniquely helpful for all kinds of neurological problems, including ataxia symptoms. Acupuncture can help to restore communications between parts of the nervous system and repair damaged nerve cells.

Top 10 Causes of Ataxia:

ataxia muscle weakness
Ataxia can impair motor function and spatial awareness.

Ataxia can be caused by a wide variety of health issues that affect the brain and nervous system:

  1. Stroke, brain aneurysm
  2. Brain tumor or lesions on the spinal cord
  3. Alcohol abuse
  4. Some medications or chemotherapy
  5. Toxins, heavy metal poisoning
  6. Severe vitamin deficiency
  7. Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid problems
  8. Multiple Sclerosis
  9. Celiac Disease
  10. Encephalomyelitis (Chronic fatigue syndrome, ME/CFS) 

Ataxia can also result from serious infections like Lyme disease, Chickenpox, HIV, or COVID-19.

The severity and duration of ataxia symptoms can vary, depending on the cause of ataxia, and the type.

Medical Diagnosis and Treatment for Ataxia

It can be challenging to get a clear diagnosis when a person shows symptoms of Ataxia. Testing for Ataxia often involves performing the Romberg Test. This is a fairly simple, physical test, often used by both doctors to measure a person’s balance and coordination. It is sometimes used by police officers to determine if someone is under the influence of alcohol. 

The patient undergoing examination stands in various positions, closing and opening the eyes, and shaking the head from side to side. The changes in their ability to balance and maintain their position can help a doctor quantify their equilibrium in order to diagnose sensory ataxia, or vestibular ataxia, for instance. It can also help determine if a patient suffers from vertigo.

Other physical testing involves studying a person’s gait, or mode of walking. A person with sensory ataxia, for example, often demonstrates a particularly heavy, high-stepping gait due to the lack of sensation of the bottoms of their feet when they touch the ground.

Blood tests, spinal tap testing, or MRI imaging may show if ataxia is due to some sort of damage to the brain or spinal cord, or if there are lesions, tumors, or possibly some sort of infection causing the problem.

For most ataxia symptoms, however, there is no specific medical treatment. Patients who are having trouble with walking or moving their hands and facial muscles, may be referred to physical therapy or occupational therapy. Some people will need walkers or other physical aids.

Acupuncture offers a way to help people with all kinds of ataxia to improve their muscle coordination, balance, and other problems.

Can Acupuncture Help Ataxia?

ataxia balance
Acupuncture treatment can help improve balance.

Acupuncture treatment and other TCM modalities are suited to helping patients with all kinds of neurological conditions, by enhancing connections between the brain and the nervous system, and helping to restore the healthy development of nerve and neural cells. For patients with ataxia, this means an improvement in muscle coordination and limb function. Similar to the way that acupuncture helps Bell’s Palsy,Trigeminal Neuralgia, Myasthenia Gravis, and Parkinson’s, it may be able to improve eye problems and problems with eating due to nerve damage.

One case study followed a man who had suffered a stroke and was experiencing sensory ataxia. After regular rehab, he regained some of his muscular strength, but still had trouble with balance and perception. Acupuncture helped him regain his sense of spatial awareness and coordination of his lower limbs.

Another study found that acupuncture treatment helped increase connectivity between different parts of the brain and motor function in patients who were recovering from a stroke.

Formulations of traditional Chinese herbs are also a key part of TCM treatment for ataxia. 

Tai Chi movement practice can also benefit people with ataxia, promoting better dynamic balance.

Acupuncture Near Me for Ataxia in West Los Angeles

Conditions like ataxia can be difficult to treat with conventional medicine. Neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, stroke recovery, the long-term effects of a serious infection; these are all situations in which a person may be helped by trying acupuncture and TCM as an alternative or adjunct to traditional treatment. Drs. Tan and Cai at Art of Wellness in Los Angeles, CA have over 30 years of experience helping people regain muscular strength and motor function.



 

*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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