Chinese Medicine

How to Treat Allergy With Acupuncture and TCM

seasonal allergies
seasonal allergies are caused by pollens and other substances

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Types of Allergies

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Acupuncture Help Seasonal Allergies?

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

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

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

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

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

TCM and Acupuncture for Food Allergy

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

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

Top 3 Tips to Help Allergies Naturally

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

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

Acupuncture Near Me for Allergy Relief

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

 

 

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

How to Treat Arthritis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

arthritis
acupuncture treatment can relieve stiffness in the joints

Why am I so stiff when I wake up in the morning? Why do my knees hurt when I stand up? Pain in the hands and fingers, pain in the feet and toes. Lower back pain that comes and goes but seems to be getting steadily worse? Any or all of these aches and pains could signal that you have arthritis. TCM and acupuncture can not only help relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis, but it can help you regain and maintain your freedom of movement.

Arthritis is a general term for swelling and pain in the joints. Arthritis is very common, affecting over 50 million people of all ages, and is the leading cause of disability in America. Most people with arthritis take pain medications and go on with their lives, living with discomfort and increasingly limited range of motion.

The term “arthritis” refers to a wide variety of disorders that cause pain in the joints. A “joint” is any place in the body where two or more bones meet and allow for movement. Also called “articulations,” joints are formed by fibrous connective tissues that hold the bones together, and pieces of cartilage that provide cushioning and “slip” between the bones. Chronic, long-term arthritis can cause permanent physical changes in the structure of joints, leading to knobby knuckle joints, for example. Some types of arthritis affect other organs in addition to the joints.

Conventional treatment for arthritis mainly focuses on alleviating pain with analgesics or NSAIDS, and reducing inflammation with injectable medications. In some cases, though, these medications aren’t enough to control pain or to bring back people’s former mobility. Many of these medications also come with unwanted side effects.

Acupuncture can not only help with arthritis pain and stiffness, but TCM methods can help keep the joint tissues strong and healthy, reduce inflammation, and prevent further damage due to osteoarthritis. Autoimmune disorders that are unexplained by modern medical science, including rheumatoid arthritis, have been successfully managed by acupuncture and herbs for centuries. Integrative care that uses TCM modalities can help people manage their weight and lifestyle to prevent arthritis from causing limitations or disability.

What Causes Arthritis?

Arthritic pain in the joints can be caused by many different factors. The most common contributor to osteoarthritis is normal wear and tear on the joints over many years that reduces the amount of cartilage between the bones in key areas. Injuries can also cause damage to cartilage. Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis can cause the body’s own immune system to attack the synovium, the tissues that produce synovial fluid, which provides lubrication to the joints. The medical community has not discovered the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis (nor of most autoimmune disorders), but it is possible they are at least partially genetic in origin. The body’s immune response to certain bacterial and viral infections can also cause swelling in the joints; this is called reactive arthritis. Being overweight also contributes to the development of arthritis, as extra weight puts more strain on the joints.

Top 10 Types of Arthritis

osteoarthritis of the knee
osteoarthritis of the knee

Arthritis is a general term that refers to pain in the joints. There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis. The most common types of arthritis include:

  1. Osteoarthritis – also called degenerative arthritis, this is when the cartilage between the bones wears away, reducing cushioning and shock absorption to the point that the bones begin to rub against each other. 
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis – an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies attack the tissue lining around joints, causing inflammation and chemical reactions that, over time, damage all of the surrounding tissues: bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
  3. Psoriatic Arthritis – a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs in about 30% of people who have psoriasis of the skin. Psoriasis causes skin cells to reproduce excessively, creating scaly red and white patches, often on the elbows and knees. In some cases, people will also develop pain, swelling, and stiffness in these joints, or in the fingers or toes.
  4. Ankylosing Spondylitis – this is an inflammatory disease which often first shows up during young adulthood. It causes the gradual fusing of the vertebrae; a person starts by feeling stiffness and pain in the back, and over time the posture becomes more hunched over as flexibility is reduced. Over time, new bone tissue forms, causing sections of the vertebrae to grow together, usually near the base of the spine, greatly reducing mobility.
  5. Gout – a form of metabolic arthritis, in which a build-up of excess uric acid forms sharp crystals in the joints of the foot, causing painful swelling, often especially in the big toe.
  6. Infectious Arthritis – Swelling in the joints can be caused by the invasion of bacteria or a virus. Bacteria that cause food poisoning like salmonella, or STDs like chlamydia, or blood infections like Hepatitis C, can create inflammation that affects joints.
  7. Reactive Arthritis – previously called “Reiter’s syndrome,” reactive arthritis is an acute form of infectious arthritis caused by bacterial infection, most often affecting the knees and ankles, and accompanied by other symptoms like inflammation in the eyes, and skin rashes. It can be caused by a chlamydia infection or bacterial infection in the digestive tract, and usually only lasts a short time. However, people with immune diseases, like HIV, can develop more chronic forms of reactive arthritis.
  8. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) – Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause swelling in the connective tissues of the joints, as well as other symptoms, including: fatigue, rashes on the face, swollen lymph nodes, fever, hair loss, and extreme sensitivity to light and other stimuli.
  9. Fibromyalgia – a syndrome in which the brain amplifies the perception of pain in the joints and muscles. People with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or ankylosing spondylitis may also have fibromyalgia.
  10. Childhood Arthritis or Juvenile Arthritis – a broad term that simply refers to arthritis when it is experienced by a child. Children usually have either an autoimmune type of arthritis or a reactive arthritis triggered by a bacterial or viral infection.

Top 5 Arthritis Symptoms

waist measurement
waist size and extra weight can be indicators of metabolic syndrome

Perhaps because a majority of people over the age of 50 feel some symptoms of arthritis, we often think of stiffness and pain in the joints simply as a normal part of aging. It is true that over time, the wearing down of cartilage and bone tissue is practically inevitable. Still, it is important to pay close attention to potential symptoms of arthritis, and take steps to prevent them from worsening. The top 5 signs of arthritis include:

  1. Pain in joints – may be a constant, nagging pain, or it may come and go
  2. Stiffness – especially feeling stiff when you get up in the morning 
  3. Swelling in joints – sometimes with redness in the skin around the joint
  4. Reduced range of motion – difficulty getting up when you’ve been sitting or lying down
  5. Fatigue – actually, fatigue may be the first sign that someone has rheumatoid arthritis, but this symptom often goes ignored

Recent research has linked rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with metabolic syndrome. People who have been diagnosed with RA are much more likely to also show signs of metabolic syndrome (MS). MS is clinically indicated when a person presents with three or more of these markers: insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity or high waist circumference, high cholesterol and/or triglycerides or raised fasting glucose levels. Osteoarthritis and MS also seem to be linked, especially in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee. It is not clear how precisely these various forms of arthritis may be related to MS, but it is clear that the combination of these health problems puts people at high risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke. The good news is that metabolic syndrome issues and rheumatoid arthritis can be improved with lifestyle management and acupuncture treatment.

Can Acupuncture Help Arthritis?

According to TCM theory, most cases of rheumatoid arthritis fall under the category of Bi Syndromes, which covers various conditions in which Qi (life force energy) and/or Blood are somehow blocked from moving freely through the meridian pathways of the body. Due to Qi and Blood deficiency, cold, dampness, wind, or heat are more likely to invade the system and cause Bi Syndrome to develop. 

In TCM we also consider whether a problem stems from internal or external factors. In some cases, arthritis may be caused by an internal problem that was congenital–meaning, a person was born with it. Qi deficiency as an underlying condition might be an internal factor, which then kicks in when some external factor, such as cold from wind invasion, comes in and creates a blockage, and the Qi is too weak to combat it. Some people are simply more likely to be affected by these factors because of their innate condition. Most of the types of arthritis mentioned above are due to internal factors and inflammation. Only reactive arthritis is caused by external factors of infection. Also, if an injury occurs and does not heal properly, that can lead to arthritis in a joint. A few differentiations of Bi Syndrome that might cause arthritis include:

  • Cold pattern – cold wind with dampness from an external source causes stiffness that improves with the application of heat, and is accompanied by reduced circulation and pale skin. This is why we advise against sitting or being out in cold, damp weather for long periods of time. This can cause cold stagnation to take hold in the joints.
  • Moving Bi – pain is not fixed; it can move to different joints in different areas.
  • Sore Bi – pain more dominant, feels better after applying heat, feels worse when it gets cold. 
  • Fixed Bi – the joint feels heavy, sore and swollen and the pain is in a definite spot, painful to the touch. 
  • Heat pattern – in this case, the joints are red, swollen, and inflamed, and the face is flushed.

A one-size-fits-all approach to care for people with arthritis simply does not work for everyone. The manifestation of inflammation in people with the cold type differs from that in people with the hot type. An acupuncture practitioner will treat a patient with arthritis based on their individual, specific presentation of symptoms. A systematic review showed how treating patients with RA with different therapies according to their TCM diagnosis produced better outcomes than the standard conventional treatments for RA. 

A review of 43 clinical studies showed that TCM for RA not only helps reduce inflammation as a symptom, but improved immune system function. Better regulation of the immune system means that TCM methods help treat arthritis stemming of autoimmune disorders at their source, rather than simply managing pain.

Another review of ten clinical trials analyzed how effective TCM treatment was for people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Eight out of the ten trials concluded that acupuncture was an effective treatment for reducing pain due to osteoarthritis and should be considered as an adjunct or alternative to pharmacological treatments.

Acupuncture treatment combined with Chinese herb supplements and personalized diet coaching can help alleviate symptoms due to different types of arthritis, and may even be able to reverse and prevent further damage to the joints.

Top 5 Tips for Relief of Stiff Joints 

Dr. Cai Tai Chi 4
The fluid movements of Tai Qi help keep joints supple.

While years of use will naturally cause some degradation of joint tissues, there are definitely things you can do to protect your joints and prevent arthritis from slowing you down.

  1. Weight Management – weighing too much puts extra stress on your joints. One pound of fat translates to four pounds of pressure on the bones and tendons. We don’t recommend trendy weight loss diets; instead, focus on eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates from whole grains.
  2. Vary Your Exercise Routine – different types of physical activity provide different sorts of benefits for your joints. If an arthritis condition is acute, it is best to stick with gentle movements that rotate the joints. Cardiovascular exercise is important to strengthen the heart. Strength training, or toning the muscles (lifting weights) helps build strong bones and muscle mass to support your joints. Pay attention to rotating each joint to prevent stiffness or “frozen” joints on a daily basis: wrists, ankles, shoulders, hips, spine, etc. Tai Qi, Qi Gong, and yoga also challenge your balance; this is especially important as we age, to reduce the risk of falls and other accidents. And you can’t beat a nice, long walk for low impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise. Be sure to warm up and cool down with slower, gentle movements at the beginning and end of your workouts so as to avoid any shock to the joints and get your juices (synovial fluid and hyaluronic acid) flowing, literally. Meditation is also very important to maintain mental health. Chronic conditions like arthritis are affected by emotional imbalances that can be helped with meditation practice.
  3. Drink More Water – staying hydrated is so important for keeping the joints lubricated. 
  4. Eat Healthy Fats – make sure to get adequate intake of good fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish or fish oil, nuts and seeds, good quality olive oil, and avocados. Overall an anti-inflammatory diet should be observed whenever there is swelling and pain in the joints, which includes avoiding nightshade vegetables, spicy foods, and sugar.
  5. Wear the Right Shoes and Warm Clothes – choose footwear that fits properly and is supportive. Flip-flops, high heels, and shoes that are too tight can put undue pressure on the joints and don’t provide adequate cushioning and shock absorption. People with Yang Qi deficient conditions should always keep the joints covered with clothing. Exposure can let the cold in.

Acupuncture Near Me for Arthritis

If you or someone you know is feeling the stiffness, swelling, and pain of arthritic joints, don’t wait until it gets worse to do something about it. Regular acupuncture treatment can reduce pain and inflammation. The doctors at Art of Wellness have over 30 years of experience helping patients find arthritis pain 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.

 

 

How to Treat High Blood Pressure With Acupuncture & TCM

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

heart and blood vessels
High blood pressure makes your heart have to work harder.

What is high blood pressure? Blood pressure (BP) is the force with which blood, pumped by the heart, pushes against the inner walls of the arteries and veins. When this force is consistently high, it puts a strain on the delicate tissues of the blood vessels and makes your heart work harder. This is also called hypertension. Most people take medications to control high blood pressure. In this article we’ll discuss how to manage high blood pressure with TCM and acupuncture.

High blood pressure is very common in older adults; about half of people over the age of 60 have high blood pressure. It is very important to have your doctor regularly monitor your blood pressure, because high blood pressure, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and many other serious, life-threatening conditions. 

Your blood pressure reading is made up of two parts: systolic, which measures the force of blood being pumped away from the heart, and diastolic, the force of blood moving in between heart beats, when blood is flowing back into the heart. A normal blood pressure reading is usually considered 120/80 (systolic over diastolic). A consistent reading of BP over 130 would indicate hypertension stage 1, while a BP over 140 would be classified as hypertension stage 2. A BP over 180 signals a hypertensive crisis, and should be treated as an emergency, as it could lead to a stroke or other serious organ failure.

People with high blood pressure are advised to make lifestyle changes, including following a healthier diet, getting more exercise, and quitting smoking. Even a modest weight loss of ten pounds or so can make a big difference to reduce high blood pressure. Most people end up taking antihypertensive medications to lower blood pressure, often for the rest of their lives. Integrative care for high blood pressure that includes acupuncture treatment and herbal supplements according to TCM principles can provide natural remedies for high blood pressure, restoring the health of the circulatory system so that it might not be necessary to take drugs indefinitely.

Signs of High Blood Pressure

In many cases, there are no clear signs that a person has high blood pressure. Most people do not realize they have high blood pressure until it is measured by a medical professional. While people may think that a flushed, red face, or bouts of dizziness are symptoms of high blood pressure, these sorts of signals are not necessarily directly caused by high blood pressure. A flushed face caused by dilated blood vessels can happen for many reasons, usually because of a temporary rise in blood pressure due to heat, or cold weather, physical activity, spicy foods, hot drinks or alcohol, or a reaction to cosmetic skin products. Dizziness can actually be related to the side effects of medications prescribed for high blood pressure. The only way to know for sure is to check your blood pressure.

Many older people, especially women, with high blood pressure, experience bouts of dizziness that may be part of a hypertensive crisis – a sudden increase in blood pressure that can cause temporary dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or headache. A hypertensive emergency is sometimes the reason that a person visits a doctor to have a blood pressure check. It may be that hypertension has an effect on the peripheral auditory and vestibular systems, which can affect a person’s sense of equilibrium and orientation in space. 

Top 10 Causes of High Blood Pressure

smoking can cause high blood pressure
Smoking is one of the major causes of high blood pressure.

Many factors can lead to high blood pressure. Aging is one factor. If there is a family history of hypertension, you may be genetically predisposed to having high blood pressure, too. Other risk factors also increase the chances of high blood pressure:

  1. Smoking
  2. Diet high in salt and/or fat
  3. Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle
  4. Being overweight
  5. Stress
  6. Too much alcohol consumption
  7. Sleep apnea
  8. Thyroid and adrenal problems
  9. Kidney problems
  10. Diabetes

Medical diagnosis and treatment for high blood pressure don’t really focus on finding a root cause of the problem. General guidelines for eating less salt and fat, losing weight, and finding ways to reduce stress may help people reduce high blood pressure, but for most people, modest lifestyle modifications aren’t enough to solve the problem. 

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. Called gestational hypertension, this occurs when a woman has elevated blood pressure during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy. While this type of high blood pressure usually goes away after birth, it can be an indicator of becoming hypertensive later in life. In some cases, having high blood pressure while pregnant can cause problems, such as fetal growth restriction, which may happen if not enough nutrients are being carried to the growing fetus through the blood vessels. If high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine are both detected, a woman may have preeclampsia, a serious problem that is believed to be caused by restricted blood flow to the placenta. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to experience preterm birth and to have unplanned delivery Caesarean section.

Conventional treatment for gestational hypertension typically involves monitoring and managing high blood pressure with medications. While not many clinical studies have been done regarding acupuncture treatment for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia, TCM has been used to treat high blood pressure and complications of pregnancy for thousands of years. From the TCM point of view, high blood pressure during pregnancy may be due to a deficiency of Liver and/or Kidney Yin, or rising Liver Yang energy in response to a Kidney Yin Deficiency, or Blood or Yin Deficiency. A TCM provider would use diagnostic methods to determine the differentiation and use acupuncture points to nourish the appropriate organs, promote better flow of Blood and Qi, and to help alleviate stress.

How to Control Blood Pressure with Acupuncture and TCM

model of woman showing meridians
Qi flows along the meridians

Naturally, for many centuries, TCM practitioners had no way of measuring blood pressure with medical devices. They depended on observations of people’s symptoms, appearance, and careful checking of the pulse by hand. Thus, TCM does take into consideration the patient’s feelings and experience of symptoms of high blood pressure like:

  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness in the knees 
  • Memory loss
  • Vision loss

TCM views dizziness as being a result of too much Liver Yang energy, stagnant Phlegm, Liver-Kidney deficiency, and deficiency or stagnation of Blood and Qi. Hypertension type headaches are caused by the addition of Fire energy coming from the stomach or intestine. Liver Fire can cause irritability and flushing in the face, while Heart Fire can cause chest distress, nervousness, and insomnia. Weakness and fatigue would be caused by the addition of Dampness and accumulated excess fluid. Fluid retention can lead to a distended abdomen, edema, and low back pain.

TCM philosophy also takes into consideration the emotional state as it relates to the physical health of the body. More recent scientific research also confirms that feelings of anger stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. Finding practices that help how to control anger and find calm are another important part of managing high blood pressure.

A TCM practitioner can treat all of these various symptoms with a combination of acupuncture treatment and herbal supplements individually customized for each patient’s specific circumstance. 

One randomized study compared patients receiving acupuncture versus patients receiving sham acupuncture to treat hypertension over a six-week period. The patients who had real treatments showed significantly lower daytime and nighttime blood pressure readings. Another study showed that acupuncture treatment given to patients in conjunction with antihypertensive medications showed significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic BP readings. 

As the results of this research study of many clinical trials concluded, regular acupuncture treatments have the effect of reducing blood pressure, with the effects lasting several days after each treatment. Acupuncture treatment generally has a cumulative effect, and it is necessary to stick with it to get results. It is also crucial that you work with your healthcare practitioner to determine which dietary changes and forms of exercise will best help how to reduce high blood pressure.

Acupuncture Near Me for High Blood Pressure

Managing high blood pressure takes commitment to making long-term lifestyle changes and regular monitoring. Adding acupuncture and TCM to your integrative care regimen may help you reduce high blood pressure, improve related problems like fatigue, dizziness, and headache, and avoid more serious health problems down the line. 

 

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

How To Prevent Miscarriage With Acupuncture and TCM

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Dr. Cai treating a patient
Acupuncture treatment can help prevent miscarriage

Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of pregnancy. While it is not talked about much, it is very common; 10-20% of pregnancies end in early miscarriage. TCM and acupuncture methods, well-known for helping women with infertility issues, can be used successfully to prevent threatened miscarriage.

Sometimes called spontaneous abortion, miscarriage at 12 weeks or earlier is often due to chromosomal abnormalities in the developing fetus. In some cases, miscarriage or recurrent miscarriages are caused by the mother’s health condition. 

While miscarriage is common, and very early miscarriage, sometimes called chemical pregnancy, may even go unnoticed, women who have experienced this should seek out care. The spontaneous ending of pregnancy is emotionally difficult no matter the circumstances, and hormone imbalances can cause other problems if left unaddressed. Acupuncture treatment and TCM herbal supplements can help support a full recovery and lay a healthy foundation for getting pregnant after miscarriage.

Signs and Symptoms of Miscarriage

While some bleeding in the first trimester is common (about 20% of women experience this), it can be an indication that the pregnancy is at risk. 

Other signs of miscarriage include:

  • Vaginal bleeding that is brownish or bright red
  • Discharge that include clots
  • Cramping or pain in the abdomen or lower back area, similar to menstrual cramps
  • Contractions in the uterus that occur every 5-20 minutes, similar to labor pains
  • Decrease in other early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and breast tenderness

In some cases, a miscarriage occurs without any signs of cramping or bleeding at all. Sometimes referred to as a missed miscarriage, missed abortion, or silent miscarriage, in this situation, a woman may not discover that she has miscarried until a doctor finds that there is no fetal heartbeat and checks via ultrasound and/or testing for HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels.

What Causes Miscarriage?

A positive pregnancy test usually can’t confirm a pregnancy until the third or fourth week, once implantation has occurred. It is estimated that miscarriage at 4 weeks or earlier, or when a fertilized egg has not successfully implanted, happens in up to 70% of conceptions. Miscarriage at 6 weeks or later is much less common; only about 5% of pregnancies end once this time when the heartbeat can be detected has passed.

Maternal age is one risk factor (20% of women over 35 might miscarry, while as many as 80% of pregnant women over 45 might miscarry). Chromosomal abnormalities in an embryo are more likely when a woman is older. The other most common reasons for a miscarriage to occur include:

  • Hormonal imbalances – due to PCOS, low progesterone, diabetes, thyroid condition, etc.
  • Thin or nutrient-poor endometrial lining
  • Autoimmune issues
  • Structural issues of the cervix or uterus, polyps, fibroid
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Smoking, alcohol, use of drugs

One of the primary reasons that a woman might miscarry during the second trimester is cervical insufficiency. In this case, there may be no prior symptoms, but the miscarriage begins with pressure or the water breaking. Once this weakness of the cervix has been discovered, doctors can treat this condition and protect subsequent pregnancies by making a “circling” stitch in the cervix at around the 12th week. 

Recovering from a Miscarriage

The extent to which a woman may need medical intervention during miscarriage varies, depending on how advanced the pregnancy. If the pregnancy was still in the very early stages, and there is heavy bleeding, then the uterus may empty itself. However, if things have progressed further into the first trimester, and miscarriage at 12 weeks or thereabouts occurs, a woman may need medical attention to help expel all of the tissues from the uterus. This may be accomplished with medication (misoprostol, sometimes combined with mifepristone), taken orally or as a suppository, which will cause more cramping and the expulsion of the fetal and placental tissues. In other cases, it may be necessary for a doctor to perform a D & C (dilation and curettage), in which the tissues are surgically removed from the uterus.

Conventional medical treatment for miscarriage unfortunately does not offer much in the way of healing. The hormonal and emotional effects of a miscarriage can be profoundly upsetting. Feelings of grief, disappointment, and loss are very real, and if unresolved, can affect a woman’s mental and physical health going forward. Your acupuncture practitioner can provide holistic alternative care to help you recover from miscarriage. A program of acupuncture treatments, herbs, and caring support will focus on reestablishing a good flow of Qi and blood to the reproductive system while alleviating stress and anxiety. Balancing the hormones and emotions allows for the menstrual cycle to return to normal, and strengthens the organ systems so that subsequent pregnancy will start from a place of peak heath.

Can Acupuncture Help Prevent Miscarriage?

bed rest may be recommended
Bed rest may be recommended to help prevent miscarriage.

According to TCM theory, the vital energies–Jing (or essence), Qi (life force energy), Yin (female/cool energy) and Yang (male/warm energy)–must be balanced for optimal health, and this is especially true when a woman is preparing to bring a new life into the world. The quality of eggs and sperm depend on it. Naturally, as a woman ages, there will be some depletion of these energies, and this can be exacerbated by lifestyle habits: stress, overwork, diet, lack of sleep, etc. 

Overall, TCM recognizes 4 differentiations of conditions that can lead to miscarriage:

  • Kidney deficiency – Women with this type of deficiency may have experienced a late menarche (delayed first period), irregular cycles, anovulatory cycles (don’t always ovulate), long cycles. A woman might have been born with a kidney deficiency or it can develop due to exhaustion, heavy labor, or excessive sexual behaviors.
  • Blood or Qi deficiency – This condition is related to the digestive system, when the stomach and/or spleen are not bringing enough nutrients to support and nourish the embryo.
  • Excess Heat – If internal fire is too strong, it causes bleeding. This can cause the placenta to become detached and uterine contractions to begin, causing miscarriage.
  • Injury – a fall or accident or excessive sexual activity during pregnancy can irritate the uterus, causing contractions.

Other causes could include: medications, antibiotics, food poisoning, or exposure to environmental toxins. Based on the presenting symptoms, an acupuncturist will determine which differentiation and create a treatment plan to address root causes. We can help to prevent miscarriage when there is spotting or cramping by calming the uterus to stop contractions and bleeding. Bed rest may be recommended, involving no exercise, no sexual activity, and no heavy labor.

The most effective preventive treatment happens pre-pregnancy. If a woman has one or two miscarriages or even three or more (habitual miscarriage), it is important that we take action to prevent problems before conception. Three months of treatment will prepare the body well to insure a full-term pregnancy. Ideally, a woman who is ready to get pregnant would seek acupuncture treatment and herbs to help strengthen all aspects of the reproductive systems for at least a few cycles before conceiving.

Acupuncture treatment can help prevent miscarriage by:

  • Balancing hormones
  • Treating PCOS
  • Improving the quality of endometrial lining
  • Calming contractions early in the pregnancy
  • Improving blood flow and preventing clotting
  • Regulating immune responses
  • Reducing stress and anxiety

Top 5 Tips to Prevent Miscarriage 

mint tea
try chrysanthemum or peppermint tea as a cooling alternative

Self care is always important, but during pregnancy, it is especially vital to prioritize your health and wellness. The need to eat and rest appropriately cannot be overemphasized during this crucial time.

  1. Eat cooling foods – During pregnancy, women carry more heat in the body and often feel hot. It is best not to have anything too spicy; spicy food can encourage bleeding and trigger contractions. Cooling foods include: cucumbers, melons, citrus fruits, celery, leafy greens, soy and mung beans, eggs, millet, buckwheat, whole wheat.
  2. Avoid warming foods – Warming foods raise yang energy and body temperature. Be moderated from: deep fried food, coconut, leeks, onions, roasted walnuts, pistachios and pine nuts, and spices like cinnamon, cloves, pepper, ginger, garlic, mustard, chili pepper, or add more cooling food if there is warming food.
  3. Stay away from alcohol and coffee. Try chrysanthemum tea or peppermint tea as an alternative. 
  4. Make sure you are getting the right balance of calcium and magnesium. Most people get more calcium than magnesium. Foods high in magnesium include spinach, beans, brown rice, and fish like halibut and salmon. 
  5. If you experience bleeding or cramping, cease all activities, including manual labor, exercise and sex.

Acupuncture Near Me for Miscarriage Prevention

At Art of Wellness, our doctors have over 30 years of expertise in women’s healthcare through TCM and acupuncture. We specialize in helping women fulfill their dream of a healthy, full-term pregnancy from infertility treatment, to miscarriage prevention and complete pregnancy care. If you or someone you love is concerned about threatened miscarriage, please contact us to arrange an initial consultation and get started with a treatment plan right away.

We recommend that any woman who is seeking to start a family should begin partnering with her TCM practitioner before conceiving–ideally, for three months or menstrual cycles. This allows for any underlying health issues that may affect things to be addressed and gives the best chance for a full-term, healthy pregnancy.

 

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

How to Treat Migraine with TCM and Acupuncture

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

 

migraine
Migraine is a debilitating disorder

Migraine is a disorder that affects about 10% of people worldwide; women are three times more likely to suffer migraine headaches than men. A migraine is an intense headache that lasts anywhere from several hours to three days and is severe enough to impede normal activities. The throbbing, pulsating, or stabbing pain in the head typical of a migraine is usually accompanied by a variety of other symptoms, including nausea and increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Migraines develop in stages over several hours or days, and the exact nature of the experience differs widely from person to person.

Migraine is a recurrent condition, and patients are typically diagnosed with migraine if they have experienced at least five of these types of headaches in their lifetime. Some people suffer from chronic migraines that cause them to be debilitated several times per month.

There are different types of headaches, but migraine headaches are distinct from tension headaches, sinusitis headaches, and cluster headaches in key ways.

Although much research has been done, the physiological processes that cause migraines are still not completely understood. There is no cure for migraines, and treatment methods focus on preventing migraines from beginning or fully developing, and alleviating the symptoms until the attack abates.

While more research is needed to demonstrate exactly how acupuncture impacts brain chemistry, studies have made it clear that TCM methods and acupuncture treatment are an effective alternative for relieving migraine.

What Causes Migraine?

Current medical theory generally attributes migraines to abnormal neurological functions in the brain cells. This may be due to genetics, as susceptibility to migraines does tend to run in families, especially from mothers to daughters. A cascade of chemical activity, possibly caused by fluctuations in hormones, causes the blood vessels to constrict, which leads to the pressure in head, throbbing pain and elevated nerve sensations. Migraines have also been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve condition in which the median nerve is compressed.

Stages and Symptoms of Migraine

Migraines do not simply cause a severe headache. Migraine episodes go through a pattern of stages, during which a variety of symptoms come and go. While a person may not be able to predict when a migraine will come on, once he or she is familiar with these stages, the course of the migraine attack is somewhat predictable.

  1. Premonitory or Prodrome Stage of Migraine – In the early part of the migraine, a person might experience physical signs such as stiffness in the neck (cervicogenic headache), especially on one side, frequent yawning, cravings for certain foods, marked thirstiness, and increased urination. Emotionally and mentally, a sense of fatigue, irritability, depression, or confusion might pervade. Some people feel hyperactive or even euphoric. This period can last for hours or days.
  2. Aura – Not everyone who has migraines experiences what is known as the Aura phase, which produces unusual sensory distortions. In other cases, people may experience the Aura phase, but not the subsequent headache pain phase. Some examples of migraine with aura symptomology include: Allodynia (hypersensitivity to touch, so much that it is painful), Metamorphopsia – a profound change in perception of the size of objects, including one’s own body, altered spatial awareness, Aphasia – impairment in the language center of the brain that causes forgetting words, feeling generally unable to express oneself verbally, Visual – seeing wavy lines or flashing lights (phosphenes), “blind spots” or reduced field of vision (scotoma), Auditory – loss of hearing, auditory hallucinations, Headache and dizziness or vertigo.
  3. Headache – Some people may have only mild pain during this phase, and therefore do not recognize they are having  a migraine. Many migraine sufferers, however, experience severe throbbing headache, sharp pain in head, or stabbing pain (ice pick headache), often on one side of the head, headache back of head, headache behind eyes, or in the temples on head. The pain is usually worse if one is active. Heightened sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells are common, and people usually feel like retreating to a dark, quiet room to lie down. During this phase, people may also experience nausea and/or vomiting, dehydration, dizziness, hot flashes and/or chills, and strong emotions such as anxiety, fear, and depression. This phase can last anywhere from several hours to three days.
  4. Postdrome – The final phase of migraine is sometimes likened to a “hangover.” People generally feel low energy and low mood, as well as fatigue and compromised cognitive function. This phase, too, can last several hours to a few days.

Migraine episodes have a devastating impact on people’s ability to function normally. More than half of migraine sufferers miss at least two days of work per month, and many more try to get through their workdays even though they are in the middle of a migraine.

Are Migraines Related to Hormones?

Headaches can disrupt your life
Acupuncture helps relieve migraine pain and sensory symptoms

While anyone can have migraines, women are three times more likely to experience them, especially during their reproductive years. Many women perceive their migraine to be a period headache, because it occurs prior to or during the menstrual period. These types of migraine can be particularly debilitating. The cause of headache is believed to be due to a sudden drop in estrogen. This same mechanism can cause frequent headaches during perimenopause or early menopause due to fluctuations in estrogen levels.

Sometimes women are prescribed the use of continual oral contraceptive medication (i.e., skipping the placebo week of pills) in order to prevent drops in estrogen that may be causing migraine. This treatment does not work for everyone, though, and obviously is not helpful for women who may wish to get pregnant. 

Serotonin levels have also been linked to migraine. Research has shown that fluctuations in neurotransmitters and vascular functions in the brain are part of the migraine pathology, but it remains unclear exactly how this plays out. Triptans, drugs which act upon the serotonin receptors in the brain, are currently the most common treatment for acute migraine, as in some cases, they will stop a migraine attack from progressing. These medications do not work for everyone, though, and they cause constriction of blood vessels, which can lead to other problems, such as tightness, tingling, and hot flushes in various parts of the body.

Targeting the production and function of one of two specific hormones may produce some positive results, but as migraines appear to stem from a complex combination of hormonal, vascular, and metabolic malfunctions, a more holistic approach may be indicated. Acupuncture has been shown to help regulate hormones like estrogen and serotonin, specifically, but TCM achieves those results by observing and treating the whole person, emotionally, mentally, and physically; not only focusing on one or two isolated chemicals.

Acupuncture and TCM for Migraine Help

TCM theory is based on the concept of Qi as a life force energy which flows through the body along channels called meridians. Qi and blood move through these channels, several of which meet in the head. Blockages and stagnation in one organ system can impact other organ systems. Recurrent migraines are considered to be caused by stasis and deficiencies in the liver, spleen, and kidney, which cause yang energy from the liver to rise to the head. Overconsumption of the wrong kinds of foods can cause phlegm build-up in these organs, while alcohol and pungent foods can create excess heat energy. A typical TCM treatment protocol might involve using specific acupuncture points and herbs to quench liver fire and eliminate phlegm. 

Acupuncture can work on migraine pain with its natural analgesic effects, while also helping to prevent future attacks by resolving these deeper organ system imbalances. One study showed that migraine patients given acupuncture treatment experienced fewer episodes and missed fewer days of work than those given medications. The results also indicated that acupuncture was more cost effective than the medications. A review of randomized trials involving thousands of patients concluded that acupuncture is effective at reducing the number of days lost to migraines and should be considered a valuable treatment option.

Top 5 Home Remedies for Migraine Headaches

raw ginger
Use fresh ginger to make a soothing tea.

Migraines appear to be triggered by various stressors, lack of sleep, and certain foods. Aside from seeking acupuncture near me for migraine, there are several things you can do to prevent and relieve severe headaches. Natural remedies for migraines involve simple dietary, exercise and lifestyle modifications.

  1. Avoid foods that can trigger migraines. The most common ones are processed or prepared foods with added nitrates or MSG. Dairy products, especially very salty or aged cheeses, and chocolate should be avoided if you are susceptible to migraine, as well as extremely cold drinks and desserts. Dried foods like fruits and beans, and pickled foods can also be problematic.
  2. Emphasize foods high in magnesium, especially nuts, seeds, and high quality eggs.
  3. Ginger is known to relieve nausea and vomiting, and may alleviate other effects of migraine. One study showed that ginger was just as effective as Sumatriptan for decreasing symptoms of migraine. We recommend simply slicing fresh ginger root and steeping it in hot water to drink as a tea. 
  4. Try essential oils like lavender or peppermint. Rubbing a little bit into the temples can be soothing.
  5. Find a gentle practice that combines breathing, movement, and meditation. Yoga, particularly restorative yoga, has been shown to be helpful for headaches. This may be because it helps people relax more fully. It also encourages better symmetry between the right and left sides of the body and brain.

Best Acupuncture in Los Angeles for Migraine Help

Drs. Cai and Tan at Art of Wellness in Santa Monica have over thirty years of experience treating migraine and other types of headache with TCM, acupuncture, and herbal remedies. Headache help is just a phone call away. If you or someone you know has been suffering with severe headache or chronic migraines, please do not wait another day to call 310-451-5522 and get started with an acupuncture treatment program that will allow you to reclaim your life and experience headache 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.