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How to Treat Hashimoto’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

Hashimoto
Fatigue, weight gain, and feeling cold all the time can be signs of Hashimoto’s.

Goiter, enlarged thyroid? Tired all the time, feeling weak, sensitive to cold? Constipation, weight gain, hair loss? These can all be hypothyroidism symptoms. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes low thyroid symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM can offer an alternative hypothyroidism treatment and address Hashimoto’s thyroiditis symptoms.

Recent data shows that hypothyroidism is fairly common. In the U.S., where it was previously thought that about 5% of the population may have some signs of hypothyroidism, more recent research shows that that number is over 10%. While people of all ages can have signs of hypothyroidism, it is most common among women over 50. 

The thyroid and the pituitary gland work to release various thyroid hormones that control metabolism and other processes. The primary thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4); Thyrotropin (TSH) is the hormone that stimulates the production of T3 and T4.

The normal TSH level for most adults is in the range of 0.27 – 4.2 uIU/mL. Lower TSH levels are often a sign that the body is producing too much thyroid hormone, which leads to symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which is often due to Graves disease, which is also an autoimmune thyroid disorder.

When TSH levels are high, there is probably too little thyroid hormone, or low thyroid hormone levels. Hypothyroidism is considered “overt” when a person has high TSH levels and low T4 levels. A person is considered to have subclinical hypothyroidism when their TSH is elevated, but T4 is in the normal range.


Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic thyroiditis, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, but because it is a slowly progressing autoimmune disorder, it can take years for symptoms for thyroid to show up.

Hypothyroidism causes, or risk factors for Hashimoto, include: genetics, changes in hormones during pregnancy, and the presence of other autoimmune diseases. It is possible to have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and also have another autoimmune condition, such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac Disease, Lupus, or Type 1 Diabetes.

In some cases, hypothyroidism can be caused by an iodine deficiency in the diet. This is rare in the U.S., though, and iodine supplementation is not helpful in cases of hypothyroidism that are not caused by a lack of iodine.

Acupuncture and TCM are excellent modalities for treating all kinds of autoimmune disorders, because they work holistically to treat both the root causes of the problem, and hypothyroid symptoms.

 

Top 10 Hashimoto Disease Symptoms

Hashimoto hypothyroidism
Feeling tired, joint pain, muscle weakness, and constipation can be signs of hypothyroidism.

Signs of thyroid issues can take a long time to become severe enough that people notice them and seek diagnosis and treatment. Hypothyroidism symptoms can just seem like “normal” fatigue or other signs of aging. 

Sometimes when people visit their primary care doctor, and they run a typical panel of blood tests, thyroid hormone levels are still in the normal range, so no treatment is recommended.

However, hypothyroidism symptoms typically come on gradually, and will likely get worse with time, as the disease progresses.

Hashimoto’s Disease Symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue, sluggishness, tired all the time
  2. Drowsiness, sleepy all the time
  3. Increased sensitivity to cold, feel cold all the time
  4. Dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss, puffy face
  5. Muscle pain, muscle stiffness, muscle weakness, joint pain, stiff joints
  6. Swollen thyroid, enlarged thyroid gland, goiter, swollen tongue
  7. Memory problems, difficulty concentrating, foggy head
  8. Change in menstrual cycle, irregular menstruation, heavy bleeding during period
  9. Weight gain
  10. Depression, mental health problems

If hypothyroidism is not treated, it can lead to serious complications. These may include: heart problems or cardiovascular diseases, like irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and high cholesterol.

Hashimoto’s can cause problems with sexual function, libido, and fertility in both men and women.

In rare cases, people with untreated low thyroid levels can develop Myxedema. Myxedema is the term for advanced, severe hypothyroidism, which can lead to:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood sodium levels
  • Low blood oxygen levels
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Mental confusion

In extreme cases, Myxedema can lead to a health crisis in which a person may go into shock, a coma, or seizures. Myxedema crisis requires immediate emergency care.

Hypothyroidism can develop slowly, with minimal symptoms. However, it is important to get proper diagnosis and treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. As time goes on, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to more complications.

 

Medical Treatment for Hashimoto’s Disease

Getting a diagnosis for Hashimoto’s disease will usually involve a series of blood tests. As an autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto involves the production of antibodies that mistakenly attack healthy cells. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an antibody test may show that the immune system is making TSO antibodies. Thyroid peroxidase (TSO) a protein that is vital to the production of thyroid hormone.

In addition, blood tests will show if there is elevated TSH and/or low levels of T4. If a person has symptoms, or an enlarged thyroid gland, and high TSH levels, then a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s may be made, whether or not the T4 levels are low.

An ultrasound can indicate that there is swelling or inflammation in the thyroid gland.

 

Hypothyroidism Medication

The usual treatment for Hashimoto’s disease is hormone replacement. Levothyroxine, under the brand names Levoxyl, or Synthroid, is usually given in pill form. This hypothyroid medication mimics the action of T4 hormone.

For many patients, medications for low thyroid will help to stabilize the TSH and T4 levels, and symptoms will improve. However, for some people, the continued autoimmune disorder process continues to cause symptoms, even when thyroid hormone levels are in the normal range.

In these cases, doctors may recommend surgery. A thyroidectomy involves the removal of some or all of the thyroid gland. After a thyroid surgery, a person will need to continue taking thyroid hormone replacement medication, as they will not produce any without the thyroid gland.

Acupuncture and TCM treatment offer an alternative or adjunct therapy for Hashimoto’s disease, which can help improve immune function and address symptoms.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Hashimoto’s?

 

chronic fatigue, low thyroid
Low thyroid can cause chronic fatigue and sluggishness.

Acupuncture works by harmonizing the Qi (life force energy) of the organ systems of the body. When Qi is out of balance, then some bodily processes happen in excess, and others are deficient. A TCM practitioner observes and listens carefully to each person’s individual experience of symptoms to discover which organs are out of balance.

In the case of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, deficiency of Qi and blood can be building up over a long period of time, and gradually begin to impact organs: mainly, the kidneys, spleen, and heart. 

For a while, while the condition is still what conventional medicine considers to be subclinical hypothyroidism, the spleen Qi is weak, and causes some symptoms, like weakness and fatigue. 

Then, as the situation progresses, the kidney Qi is affected, and more symptoms begin to occur. Yang Qi is not able to warm the organs enough, so dampness and cold begin to accumulate. This causes symptoms like constipation, swollen joints, brain fog, and memory problems.

Chronic kidney and liver qi deficiency can cause menstrual problems, and infertility.

If the problem continues, then the heart is affected, too, and cardiovascular symptoms begin to arise, like palpitations, respiratory problems, and low blood pressure.

The acupuncturist deduces from the pattern of symptoms which organs are affected, and then uses acupuncture treatment, herbs, and other modalities like cupping or moxibustion to bring more energy to depleted areas and help nourish them.

Can TCM cure hypothyroidism? Not exactly, but research has shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for thyroid disorders, whether it is used as an alternative medicine for Hashimoto’s disease, or as an adjunct therapy.

Case studies have shown that regular acupuncture treatment can help stabilize thyroid hormone levels, slow the progression of the autoimmune disease, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life.

For those who are trying to conceive and are struggling with infertility issues due to thyroid disorders, acupuncture can be a holistic treatment that helps balance hormones and improve fertility. Acupuncture treatment may help prevent miscarriage due to autoimmune conditions.

Acupuncture can also be helpful for pain management after a thyroidectomy procedure.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Hashimoto’s Disease – West Los Angeles Area

Acupuncture is an excellent modality for helping to treat many autoimmune diseases and thyroid conditions, including Graves disease, hyperthyroidism, and chronic fatigue syndrome. TCM can also help with menopause and perimenopausal symptoms, which often occur concurrently with hypothyroidism in women over 50. Acupuncture can also help with all kinds of mental health problems like depression and anxiety, which may be related to underlying physical conditions.



 

*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 POTS With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

POTS dizzy nausea headaches
POTS is most common in girls and women and often starts in adolescence.

Do you often feel shaky, like you’re fainting, or experience dizziness, especially when you’re getting up from sitting down or lying down? Do you feel like you have a rapid heartbeat, or shortness of breath? Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, known as PoTS syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that causes unstable blood pressure when changing positions. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve dizziness and other symptoms of POTS.

Postural tachycardia syndrome (or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) is a chronic disorder related to the autonomic nervous system that causes people to experience dizziness and increased heart rate when they move into an upright position; this is known as orthostatic intolerance.

POTS syndrome is fairly common, affecting up to 3 million people in the U.S. POTS occurs more often in people assigned female at birth, and often first shows up during the teenage years. 

The most common symptom of POTS is feeling light-headed when changing your position from sitting to standing, or when getting up from lying down.

Whenever we have been sitting or lying down for a while, blood pools in the lower parts of the body. When we get up, the autonomic nervous system starts a series of actions to move blood back up into the top half of the body. This involves squeezing blood vessels, and releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine, to make the heart beat faster.

When a person has POTS, more blood tends to pool in the legs, and the nervous system process doesn’t cause the normal, quick response from the blood vessels, so more hormones are released, which can cause the person’s heart rate to increase, and a dizzy, faint feeling.

Medical science has not yet discovered exactly what causes POTS, but there are different characteristics that allow for categorizing these different types of POTS syndrome:

  • Neuropathic POTS – damage to small fiber nerves that control blood vessel constriction in the abdomen and limbs
  • Hyperadrenergic POTS – when a person has elevated levels of norepinephrine
  • Hypovolemic POTS – when a person has unusually low blood levels
  • Secondary POTS – when POTS symptoms are related to another condition that causes neuropathy, such as Lyme disease, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders like Lupus or celiac disease.

While POTS is not rare, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis, because the criteria can be vague, and the symptoms can so often be related to other conditions, or just seem “normal.” 

For many people, POTS is truly debilitating and can have a serious, negative impact on daily life. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for POTS that can help with dizziness, irregular heartbeat, digestive problems, muscle weakness, migraines, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms, all at the same time.

 

Top 10 POTS Symptoms

The primary symptoms of POTS are related to the cardiovascular system: rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. However, there can be many other POTS symptoms.

  1. Irregular heart rate, rapid heart rate, fast heartbeat, chest pain, heart palpitations
  2. Dizziness, especially when standing up or getting up from lying down, feeling faint
  3. Breathing problems: hyperventilating, bronchial asthma, shortness of breath
  4. Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
  5. Muscle weakness, muscle pain, tremor
  6. Skin rash, flushed face, flushing, sweating
  7. Migraine headaches
  8. Cognitive issues, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  9. Trouble sleeping
  10. Frequent urination, nocturia
POTS dizziness
Symptoms of POTS include dizziness, fatigue, and migraines.

Other symptoms of POTS may include: tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, red or purple appearance of the legs when standing up, and a “jittery” feeling or general nervousness.

As with many syndromes, different people will experience different combinations of symptoms. While dizziness and rapid heartbeat are the signs most commonly associated with POTS, many people with POTS will also suffer from abdominal pain and gastrointestinal problems, perhaps without realizing there is a correlation.

POTS symptoms may resemble many other conditions, such as:

Because POTS is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, many patients will be offered medications to manage headaches, vertigo, or depression, which may not offer much relief.

 

Medical Treatment for POTS

As there is no definitive cure for POTS, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome treatments typically aim to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Dietary modifications are a fundamental component of POTS management. Adequate daily fluid intake is crucial. A diet that includes plenty of salt helps maintain blood volume, aiding blood flow to vital organs. Patients are typically advised to avoid alcohol and carefully monitor caffeine intake, as these substances can exacerbate symptoms.

Exercise is gradually introduced, often starting in reclined or horizontal positions, with the goal of increasing exercise tolerance over time. Physical therapy helps retrain the autonomic nervous system, enhancing blood circulation.

Compression garments can help reduce blood pooling, and specific postures while sitting or sleeping may alleviate symptoms. Identifying triggers such as prolonged sitting, heat, or certain drugs allows for better symptom control. Regular monitoring of blood pressure and pulse, along with adequate sleep hygiene, aids overall well-being.

While no single pharmacological solution is universally effective, some medications may be prescribed based on individual symptoms. These may help to improve blood volume, aid sodium retention, reduce heart rate, and enhance blood vessel constriction.

While POTS symptoms may intermittently improve with medications and lifestyle modifications, the underlying cause of POTS may persist. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can provide a holistic solution for individuals living with POTS, which may help to address the root causes of this syndrome.

 

Can Acupuncture Help POTS?

acupuncture treatment
Acupuncture treatment can help relieve POTS symptoms.

POTS is a kind of Dysautonomia; this is a general term that describes conditions that involve malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system. This causes people’s bodies to have problems with regulating the sorts of functions that are typically automatic, like the beating of the heart, circulation of blood, breathing, and temperature control. 

Western medicine offers some treatments that can help address individual symptoms of dysautonomia, but it does not have a way of treating the root of the problem. It can be difficult to get proper treatment, because people who suffer from POTS and other kinds of dysautonomia often seem reasonably healthy, and their complaints—dizziness, headaches, mental health problems—seem vague.

Acupuncture and TCM have been used to treat these kinds of problems for centuries. Acupuncture treatment can help provide positive effects on the subtle communications of the nervous system, as well as the heart rate, and physiological symptoms of anxiety. According to TCM theory, several organ systems may be involved and need support: not only the heart, but also the kidneys or spleen.

Studies have shown that acupuncture for dysautonomia can help relieve symptoms like heart palpitations, insomnia, and digestive problems.

A qualified acupuncturist is also well-versed in nutrition and can offer more detailed information regarding dietary and lifestyle changes that can help each individual patient. Your TCM provider will spend time learning more about you, so that they can offer personalized advice.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for POTS in West Los Angeles

TCM and acupuncture can help people with all types of autoimmune disorders, nerve disorders, and conditions involving fatigue and dizziness that may be difficult to solve with conventional methods. Acupuncture works on a deeper, more subtle level to help address complex syndromes. If you are regularly experiencing trouble with feeling light-headed, having unexplained headaches and sleep problems, it may be time to seek a more holistic alternative treatment.



 

*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 Guillain-Barre Syndrome With Acupuncture and TCM

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

feet in the sand
Guillain-Barré syndrome usually begins with tingling in the legs and feet.

Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS syndrome) is a neurological disorder and an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks the nervous system. Also known as acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), Guillain-Barre can cause loss of muscular strength, tingling and numbness (neuropathy), and high blood pressure. TCM and Acupuncture can help people recover from Guillain-Barré syndrome.

What causes Guillain Barre syndrome? Scientists are not entirely sure why some people develop this rare functional neurological disorder, but it usually happens when a person has recently had a viral infection, like a respiratory infection or a gastrointestinal infection. GBS is also associated with infections like pneumonia, Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis, and HIV.

This autoimmune disease often progresses quickly and can even lead to paralysis. Most people with Guillain Barre disease will require hospitalization. With treatment,  the majority of people do recover slowly, over the course of several months, or possibly even a few years.

In GBS syndrome, the immune cells damage or destroy the myelin sheaths, which surround and protect nerves. Healthy myelin sheaths allow for the smooth flow of signals around the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. GBS affects the peripheral nervous system, which includes the cranial nerves, the spinal nerves, the peripheral nerves, and the connections between nerves and muscles.

While some cases may be mild, GBS is a serious condition which requires medical care. Some people will have severe symptoms of Guillain Barre which require urgent care, and treatment will probably last for several months. TCM and Acupuncture can be a helpful adjunct treatment to help patients recover from Guillain Barre more quickly and regain their full function more completely.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Symptoms

legs cramps muscle weakness
Muscle weakness, leg cramps, especially at night

GBS syndrome symptoms can start suddenly and get worse quickly. Most often, it starts with a tingling or pins and needles sensation in the lower extremities, which then moves up the limbs towards the center of the body. Muscle weakness can become so severe that a person is effectively paralyzed. 

The most common symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome include:

  1. Muscle weakness in the arms, legs, trouble walking
  2. Muscle weakness in the face, for example, unable to control eyelids or eyeballs, difficulty chewing
  3. Vision problems, double vision, can’t move eyes 
  4. Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, pins and needles in fingers or toes
  5. Severe aches and pains, muscle cramping, especially at night
  6. Lower back pain, low back pain
  7. Loss of reflexes
  8. Loss of bladder control, urinary retention, or loss of bowel function
  9. Nausea, vomiting
  10. Fatigue
  11. Rapid heartbeat
  12. High blood pressure or low blood pressure
  13. Difficulty breathing
  14. Nasal-sounding voice
  15. Abnormal gag reflex

Top 3 Types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

GBS can be difficult to diagnose because it may look different in different patients, and can sometimes be mistaken for other kinds of neuropathies, or conditions like Lyme disease, myasthenia gravis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or sarcoidosis.

Doctors consider Guillain-Barre Syndrome to be a spectrum disorder, meaning different people will display different combinations of symptoms. 

  1. Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP) – starts with numbness, weakness, or pain, usually a vague sort of back pain or neck pain. Sometimes called “ascending paralysis” because the muscles of the legs weaken first, then the muscular weakness seems to move up the body.
  2. Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) or Acute motor and sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) – the first is associated with motor dysfunction; the second with both motor and sensory dysfunction
  3. Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS) – characterized by paralysis of the eye muscles and compromise of the tendon reflexes

The treatments for these different variants of Guillain Barre Syndrome are typically the same.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Treatment

plasmapheresis plasma exchange
Plasmapheresis or plasma exchange treatment for GBS syndrome

A person experiencing GBS syndrome may need immediate medical treatment to help with breathing and be put on a ventilator or require tube feeding for a period of time until they regain control over these functions. They may also need medications to stabilize their blood pressure.

Current medical treatment for Guillain Barre Syndrome focuses mainly on interfering with the antibodies that are attacking the nervous system. One way to do this is with plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis, which can remove antibodies from a person’s blood. Another way is with intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, in which healthy antibodies from other donors are introduced, which can help block the malfunctioning antibodies.

Many patients will go through a period of a few weeks of feeling worse after these types of treatments, but then begin to recover. Most people with Guillain Barre will need to go through a lengthy recovery period that includes physical therapy, exercises and other types of aid in order to regain their full functional mobility. Acupuncture treatment can be a helpful adjunct treatment to speed and optimize the recovery process.

Can Acupuncture Help Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

electroacupuncture
Dr. Tan electroacupuncture treatment

Acupuncture can help people as they are recovering from Guillain Barre syndrome by improving muscle tone and mobility, rebuilding healthy nerve cells and tissues, as well as relieving nerve pain and muscle pain.

Acupuncture combined with moxibustion treatment has been shown to help improve muscle strength in patients with GBS.  Electroacupuncture can help promote new nerve growth while reducing pain.

TCM modalities can help relieve facial paralysis and decrease symptoms of neuropathy like numbness in the fingers and toes.

Patients who have regular acupuncture treatments may see dramatic improvements in their mobility, coordination, and balance.

One study compared patients with GBS who were treated with intravenous immunoglobulin therapy alone, versus patients who were given TCM herbs in addition to the immunoglobulin. The group given the herbal formula showed better motor nerve function and sensory nerve function. The herbs work to relieve inflammation and aid in tissue repair, while clearing dampness and heat, pathogens that are considered to contribute to impaired function of the limbs.

TCM treatment been shown to help with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, Multiple sclerosis, essential tremor, stroke recovery, and Bell’s palsy. Acupuncture can also help with autoimmune disorders, such as celiac disease, lupus, fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune encephalitis, and Crohn’s disease.

Acupuncture Near Me in Los Angeles, CA for Guillain Barre Syndrome

Having Guillain Barre Syndrome will probably have a big impact on a person’s life and wellbeing for a while. It is important to take excellent care of yourself while recovering from GBS syndrome, so that you can regain your strength and health fully. At Art of Wellness TCM and Acupuncture, we take every aspect of your health into consideration when we develop a treatment plan to aid in the recovery from serious illness.

 

 

 

*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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