Chinese Medicine

How to Treat Bloated Stomach With Acupuncture and TCM

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

bloated stomach pain
Bloated stomach after eating can be painful and embarrassing.

Do you feel constantly gassy or have a bloated stomach after eating? Digestive problems like gastritis or colitis can cause abdominal bloat. Stress and hormonal imbalances can also contribute to inflammation and bloated stomach pain. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help improve digestion and relieve abdominal bloating.

Abdominal bloating occurs when gas builds up in the gastrointestinal tract, filling the stomach and/or intestines with air. This can cause the belly area to get swollen and distended. Bloating can cause  an inflated belly, sharp pain in the abdomen, belching and flatulence, nausea, or a sudden strong urge to go to the bathroom. Bloating can be related to fluid retention; this is sometimes called “water bloat.”

Problems with digestion that lead to a feeling of heaviness, “like a rock” in your belly after eating, are common. People who have been diagnosed with some type of functional gastro-intestinal disorder (FGID)–like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or dyspepsia (indigestion)–are extremely likely to experience abdominal pain and bloating after eating, while up to 30% of all people report having bloating at least some of the time. Inflammation in the walls of the stomach (gastritis) or intestine (ulcerative colitis) can also cause bloating.

Women often feel bloated before or during their menstrual period, and female reproductive disorders like endometriosis, fibroids (leiomyoma of the uterus), and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can cause abdominal pain and bloating.

FGIDs can be very hard to manage; it may be difficult to get a clear diagnosis or effective medical treatment. Problems like constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain and bloating are highly subjective, and people are often made to feel like it’s normal to have these issues, or that all they need to do is avoid certain foods. 

Feelings of anxiety and depression are common among people who suffer from moderate to severe bloating on a regular basis. This can become a vicious cycle, as the pain and swelling of the abdomen causes anxiety, and the physiological effects of the emotional stress trigger the bloating to happen again and again. Sometimes people dread eating meals because they are so afraid of the painful and embarrassing bloated stomach.

Digestive upsets are complex to treat because there can be many factors contributing to the discomfort. So many different conditions can cause bloating, it can be hard to get a clear handle on the true cause. This is a case when TCM methods of diagnosis offer many advantages, because a TCM practitioner will be able to study the whole picture presented by a patient and pinpoint what underlying conditions are causing gas and distension. Acupuncture and herbs can help resolve abdominal bloating and other symptoms at their root source.

Top 10 Abdominal Bloating Causes

abdominal bloating
Abdominal bloating and anxiety can go hand in hand.

Why might someone feel bloated and gassy all the time? Many different types of gastrointestinal disorders can contribute to a bloated belly and excess gas, as can hormonal and emotional changes. What causes abdominal bloating can be one issue or a combination of factors:

  1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease, Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease
  3. Gastritis, stomach ulcers, inflammation of the stomach
  4. Food intolerance, gluten intolerance, celiac disease
  5. PMS, menstruation
  6. Stress, anxiety, depression
  7. Pregnancy
  8. Constipation 
  9. Liver disease
  10. Abdominal adhesions, or scar tissue from surgeries

Eating behaviors like eating too quickly, swallowing air while eating, or eating fiber-rich foods that cause gas like beans, can lead to bloating. Drinking a lot of carbonated beverages can lead to excess gas in the GI tract. Smoking can also be a factor. Some medications can cause bloating as a side effect, including antibiotics, oral birth control pills, opioid pain medications, medicines to relieve constipation, and even some supplements, like iron pills.

Cancers of the abdominal organs, such as ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, or pancreatic cancer, can also cause bloating in the belly. Gallstones or gallbladder disease, kidney problems, and liver problems can all cause stomach pain and bloating.

Medical Treatment for Abdominal Bloating

Many people do not seek medical help for bloating, trying to manage it on their own with over the counter medications that promise relief from gas pain and acid reflux. Antacids only help with the kind of bloating that is caused by food, though; they don’t help with bloating related to FGIDs, hormones, or emotional stress. When a person does ask their primary care doctor or even a gastroenterologist for help with bloating, they may find that the treatment options are very limited. Doctors will usually reassure patients that gas and bloating, while uncomfortable, are not actually dangerous. Then, they will often advise that patients go on a strict elimination diet, cutting out wheat, dairy, and most vegetables and legumes. Sometimes doctors will prescribe antibiotics to alter the balance of gut bacteria. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help with bloating. Conventional medical science still has a ways to go to fully understand the underlying causes of digestive problems like bloating.

Because bloating is not viewed as a disorder in and of itself, not much serious research has been done to show what types of treatments work best to get rid of bloating. TCM treatment has been shown in a randomized controlled trial, a peer-reviewed study, and a hospital-based investigation to help in relieving stomach pain due to chronic gastritis.

How Can Acupuncture Help With Bloating?

TCM offers a multidisciplinary approach to the digestive problems, hormone imbalances, and emotional upsets that can cause bloating. An experienced acupuncturist is able to use methods of diagnosis such as studying the appearance of the tongue, feeling the pulse, and asking lots of questions about how and when the symptoms occur to find the specific pattern of imbalance that is causing gastric distress.

Different presentations of digestive conditions that may cause abdominal bloating and pain include:

  1. Spleen/Stomach Deficiency – characterized by symptoms: chronic bloating, poor appetite, feel worse after eating, pallor, and fatigue. This type of bloating can be caused by antibiotics, too much raw or fermented food, eating disorders, a long period of illness, or chronic inflammatory disorders.
  2. Damp-Phlegm – symptoms include: distended stomach, nausea, acid reflux, diarrhea. This type of bloating can be caused by dietary habits that include excess sugar, alcohol, fatty or fried foods, and dairy products. Can also be related to damp environmental conditions. 
  3. Liver Qi stagnation – common symptoms are: stomachaches, stomach gurgling, belching, and constipation. This type of bloating can be caused by stress, feelings of anxiety or anger, and irregular, emotional eating behaviors.

TCM treatment for abdominal bloating will use acupuncture and herbs to bring the stomach and liver back into harmonious function, clearing phlegm and improving digestion. Treatment will be individualized based on the underlying causes of the imbalance; if reproductive hormones are involved, then that factor will be taken into consideration when preparing the herbal formula. If mental health issues are a factor, specific points will be added to help relieve anxiety. Naturally, your acupuncturist will have some clear instructions on how to optimize your nutrition to reduce bloating.

Top 5 Tips for How to Stop Bloating

bloated stomach eating habits
Pay attention while you’re eating, and be sure to chew food thoroughly.

While bloating may be caused by all sorts of different factors, there is no doubt that making some changes to your eating habits will probably have an impact on how bloated you feel. What helps bloating may be different for each person’s constitution or lifestyle, so it will be very helpful to have an in-depth conversation with your acupuncture provider about what bloating diet is best for you.

  1. Chew your food thoroughly. Many people eat fast, and don’t pay much attention to chewing their food well before they swallow. Food is really meant to be broken down and mixed with saliva in the mouth before it moves down the esophagus and into the stomach. Skipping this important step by swallowing half-chewed food means that your stomach has to produce more acid and work much harder to digest the food before it moves deeper into your gastrointestinal tract. Eating too quickly can also easily lead to eating more than you need. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive the message that the stomach is full. Chew slowly, and enjoy every bite; this will improve your digestion.
  2. Avoid icy cold drinks and foods. Cold liquids are shocking and unfriendly to your internal organs, both those of the digestive tract and the female reproductive organs. Constantly drinking ice-cold beverages irritates the smooth muscle tissues of the stomach, intestines, and uterus. Drink more warm liquids, which are soothing to these organs.
  3. Ginger tea – many of our herbal formulations include slices of fresh ginger to help soothe the stomach and GI tract. Ginger helps the body to produce more of the digestive enzymes that work to break down food, and relieves cramping in the belly. All you need to do is keep a knob of fresh ginger on hand, cut two or three slices and steep in hot water as you would a teabag. Sip anytime, but especially before meals, to help relieve gastritis pain and bloating. 
  4. Choose foods in harmony with the season. Raw foods are appropriate in the summer, but in the winter, it’s better to eat cooked foods. Eating more bitter-tasting foods, like dark leafy greens, helps the liver and kidneys.
  5. Use acupressure to help relieve bloating and gassiness. Acupoints are located along the meridians and correspond to various organ systems. Applying gentle, steady, downward pressure to acupoint ST36 (Zu San Li), which is associated with the stomach, can help to relieve bloating, stomach pain, nausea, and feelings of stress. ST36 is located on the outer edge of the shin bone, about 4 finger widths beneath the kneecap.

Acupuncture Near Me for Abdominal Bloating

TCM offers a holistic approach to digestive problems of all kinds. Symptoms like abdominal bloating, stomach pain, and gassiness are usually signs that there is a deeper problem. If you haven’t been able to solve the problem of bloating with conventional medicine or dietary changes, you may be able to get help for digestive difficulties with acupuncture and herbs.

 

 

*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 Candida With Acupuncture and TCM

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

coated tongue
A coated tongue may be a sign of candida.

Why do I keep getting yeast infections? White patches on the tongue? It could be the common fungal infection Candida, also known as Candidiasis or a yeast infection. Candida infection can happen to people of all ages and in different parts of the body. Acupuncture and TCM Chinese herbs can help resolve recurrent yeast infections and thrush in the mouth.

Candida albicans, the species of candida fungus that most often causes candidiasis, is a type of yeast that naturally exists in the human body. When the population of candida is kept to normal levels, it causes no harm; in fact, it acts to help digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food. But when proliferation of the fungus gets out of control, candida can cause burning pain, redness and inflammation, and difficulty with normal processes like eating, digestion, and elimination. In extreme cases, candidiasis can cause serious illness.

Candida overgrowth most often happens in the mouth (known as “thrush”), or in the genital area (usually called a “yeast infection”). Thrush in babies’ mouth commonly affects very young infants, creating white or yellow patches or sores in and around the mouth that can affect feeding. Thrush in adults is less common, but can occur when someone’s immune system is weak, or if they wear dentures or use medications for dry mouth, causing the typical white patches, cracks in the corners of the lips, and burning sensations in and around the mouth and throat.

Most women have probably experienced a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives. This type of candida causes burning and itching in the vulva and vagina along with a white, clumpy discharge. Candidiasis can also affect men, causing an itchy rash on the penis.

Is candida or thrush contagious? It’s rare for a person to “catch” a fungal infection from another person, but it is possible, for example, for a person to pass a yeast infection to his or her partner through sexual contact. It is also possible for a mother to develop thrush on her nipples from nursing her baby who has oral candidiasis.

Candida overgrowth can affect other parts of the body, including the finger or toe nails (candidal paronychia), and especially areas of the skin that tend to be damp and sweaty, like the armpits or the creases around the groin. 

In some cases, invasive candidiasis can get deeper into the body, infecting the gastrointestinal system or even getting into the bloodstream, which can lead to infection of various organs, including the eyes, heart or kidneys. This type of candida infection can become serious, causing fever, and even sepsis, which can be fatal.

Candida overgrowth creates different problems for different people. That is why TCM, acupuncture, and herbal medicine provide an excellent way to treat candida. TCM theory of candidiasis treatment allows for a highly individualized approach to each patient, so that we can get rid of yeast infections for good.

Top 5 Types of Candida Infection

thrush in babies mouth
thrush in babies’ mouth can affect feeding

Candida overgrowth can occur in different parts of the body. The most common kinds of yeast infection or candida are:

  1. Oral candidiasis – also known as thrush in mouth, or yeast infection in the mouth. Thrush in babies usually occurs because the infection passes from the mother’s vaginal area to the baby during birth, and the infant’s immune system is not developed enough to fight it. What thrush on tongue looks like: white patches that can be wiped off.
  2. Vaginal candidiasis – commonly known as a vaginal yeast infection, candidiasis of the female genitals causes redness, burning, and “cottage cheese-like” discharge. 
  3. Candidal balanitis – candida infection of the male genitals happens particularly in uncircumcised men. More recent research has led some medical professionals to believe that fungal infections may cause a prostate problem, infection in prostate, prostatitis symptoms, enlarged prostate symptoms, and symptoms to prostate cancer.
  4. Cutaneous candidiasis – or yeast infection on skin. Candida can cause diaper rash in babies, and red, itchy, peeling patches in areas where the skin has many folds and creases. Candidiasis can also infect the fingernails, toenails and nail beds.
  5. Invasive candidiasis – When candida gets into the digestive tract or bloodstream, it can cause a serious systemic infection that affects the blood, heart, brain, esophagus, and/or digestive tract. This happens most often in people with compromised immune systems, especially people with HIV or who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

Candida overgrowth can also lead to symptoms of fatigue, chronic allergies, chronic sinusitis or post-nasal drip. Central nerve damage, constant irritability, and chronic fatigue syndrome are all signs that a person may have a deep candida infection.

What Causes Candida?

Candida yeasts are present in every human body. What causes candidiasis is abnormal fungal overgrowth due to a lack of friendly bacteria or a weakened immune system. Women often get yeast infections during pregnancy because of changes in the balance of bacteria in their pelvic area. Antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, and chemotherapy drugs can all contribute to candidiasis by affecting the gut flora. Just a few rounds of antibiotics can destroy all of the healthy bacteria we need to maintain proper balance. Personal habits and hygiene mishaps, like wearing too-tight pants or the same sweaty workout clothes all day, can also lead to yeast infections. Food choices can also play an important role in whether or not a person is prone to yeast infections. It may be recommended that people go on a “candida cleanse” or special candida diet to help stop the candida overgrowth.

How Do You Treat Candida?

yeast infection medicine
OTC anti-fungal creams for yeast infection

Often a mild case of candidiasis in the mouth will go away within a few weeks on its own. If oral thrush treatment is needed, a doctor may prescribe antifungal nystatin drops, mouthwash, or lozenges.

Cutaneous candida (skin infection), vaginal yeast infections, and male genital infections will usually be treated with antifungal medications such as Fluconazole, which can be taken orally, or topical antifungal creams like Nystatin. 

These antifungals may help to alleviate the symptoms of candidiasis by stopping the yeast overgrowth. However, for many people who experience recurrent yeast infections, they are only a temporary solution. Frequent use can build up an antifungal resistance. When candida keeps coming back, there is surely a deeper cause for the ongoing yeast infections.

Azoles and other types of antifungal medications are used to stop the growth of the candida in patients with invasive candidiasis. Unfortunately, they can also be toxic to other organs, like the kidneys. For people who are already in poor health, these medications may cause more harm.

Acupuncture and TCM provide a method for dealing with candidiasis while improving immune function, and revitalizing the health of the skin, reproductive organs, digestive tract, or whatever parts of the body are affected by candida overgrowth.

How Can Acupuncture Help Candida?

In TCM philosophy, the spleen and stomach play important roles in digestion, especially the transformation of one fluid into another, and the movement of fluids through the digestive and eliminative organs. Basically, in TCM, the spleen is responsible for turning what we eat and drink into healthy blood and Qi (life force energy). When the spleen and stomach are weak and not working well, excess fluid builds up and encourages the candida yeasts to reproduce.

Candida is considered to be caused by spleen/stomach deficiency and dampness. When dampness collects in the pelvic region, it creates phlegm and leads to congestion and heaviness. This is what can lead to vaginal yeast infections or a prostate problem in men. 

In other cases, the improper functioning of the stomach causes heat and fire to develop in the upper part of the body, which can cause thrush in the mouth, or the kind of invasive candidiasis that affects the heart. 

Your acupuncturist will work to improve spleen and stomach function to restore balance of the intestinal flora with a combination of acupuncture, customized herbs, and a complete nutritional analysis to create an appropriate diet to cleanse candida from the system.

Acupuncture treatment will strengthen and tonify the spleen and other organs. Herbs can be used internally and externally to help relieve candidiasis. TCM formulations that have developed over many centuries are known to have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of using herbs in external forms for women’s genital infections. Using herbs via steam, hip bath, or douche bypasses the digestive system so that the herbs can directly help to reduce inflammation and discharge.

Top 5 Candida Diet Tips

daikon radish
daikon radish helps get rid of candida

A TCM practitioner will focus on creating and implementing a food program that helps to clear dampness from the body. Candida infection tends to occur when the body is more acidic. A diet that is high in refined sugars and meats and low in vegetables tends to create a lower PH level (below 7). Eating more dark green leafy vegetables will help to make the body more alkaline. It is also very important to check behavioral habits that might be contributing to the yeast overgrowth. 

  1. Avoid all refined sugars, sweeteners, sweets, and even fruits. These foods all cause the candida yeast to spread more quickly. Stay away from foods with yeasts in them, like bread, crackers, packaged cereals, and pretzels. Vinegar and alcohol should also be cut out of the diet until the situation improves.
  2. Avoid milk, cheese, eggs, and red meats, and emphasize instead lots of green vegetables. Chlorophyll (the phytonutrient present in all green leaves) is especially helpful for getting rid of candidiasis. Stay away from eating fungi, like mushrooms, and pickled vegetables.
  3. Eat more warm, cooked foods, especially soups and rice, which are easy to digest. Other helpful foods include orange and yellow winter squashes and daikon radish.
  4. Use a baking soda solution (1-2% solution) to douche or as a hip bath to help get rid of a vaginal yeast infection.
  5. Taking a high quality probiotic supplement can help to restore proper balance of the gut flora and control yeast growth.

Be sure to keep the skin in sensitive areas clean and dry, but avoid using harsh soaps or deodorants. Avoid too-hot showers or baths, especially in shared spaces. Always change out of wet bathing suits and workout clothes right away. Wear loose clothing made of natural fibers.

Find Acupuncture Near Me for Candida

It can be very frustrating to suffer with recurrent yeast infections. If you keep getting yeast infections, it may be time to try a different treatment to help get rid of them. New parents who are worried about thrush in babies may find that starting to work with a TCM provider offers a safe, natural alternative to antibiotics and other medications. You may discover that an integrative approach to solving problems with candidiasis works better in the long run than over the counter creams or prescriptions to get rid of candida.

 

*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 Leiomyoma of the Uterus With Acupuncture and TCM

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

woman in pain
Painful, heavy periods are debilitating.

Heavy bleeding, menstrual cramps, long periods? This could be a sign that a woman has leiomyoma of the uterus. Also known as uterine fibroids, leiomyomas are growths or benign tumors in or on the wall of the uterus. TCM and Acupuncture provide a natural alternative treatment that can help relieve uterine fibroid symptoms.

A leiomyoma, in general, is a growth in smooth muscle tissue. Leiomyomas can develop in any muscle tissue in the body, including that of the intestines, esophagus, and under the skin, but the most common type of leiomyoma occurs in the uterus.

Many women have uterine fibroids and aren’t aware of them. It is estimated that 60-80% of women will have leiomyomas of the uterus at some point during their reproductive years (“childbearing age” – anytime from menarche to menopause). Only about 30% of women report symptoms of fibroids to their doctor, though, because many women do not notice any signs of leiomyoma of the uterus. It is probably rare for someone to have a single fibroid tumor; usually, there are multiple tumors. Fibroids can be hereditary; if your mother had them, you may be more likely to have them, too. 

Fibroid tumors can grow inside the uterus, or on the outside of the uterine walls. Sometimes they stay small, and in many cases they don’t cause problems. In some cases, though, they can grow large and press against other internal organs. Fibroids of any size can cause symptoms like painful or irregular periods, abdominal bloatingback pain, and bladder problems.

The primary sign that a woman has uterine fibroids is heavy bleeding during menstruation. In many cases, doctors will say that there is no need for medical intervention. Sometimes hormone suppressing medications are used to try to slow the growth of the tumors and reduce the period-related symptoms. In about 20% of cases, people opt for surgery to remove fibroids. Often the fibroids stop growing and may even shrink after menopause. It is extremely rare for leiomyomas of the uterus to become cancerous. However, uterine fibroids can cause women so much pain that it becomes disabling.

Fortunately, there is natural treatment for fibroids with TCM. Acupuncture and herbs are excellent modalities for helping all kinds of womens’ health issues related to the female reproductive organs. TCM doctors have been observing and treating growths in the pelvic area for many centuries. Acupuncture and herbs can help women with leiomyomas of the uterus, as well as related issues such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts.

Top 10 Signs of Fibroids

woman in bathroom
Fibroids can cause elimination problems as well as heavy bleeding and cramps.

In many–if not most–cases, women do not realize they have fibroids, either because they have no symptoms, or they don’t notice the signs as being something out of the ordinary. Some women will feel these symptoms of leiomyoma of the uterus:

  1. Heavy menstrual bleeding, heavy periods
  2. Longer periods
  3. Irregular menstruation, irregular periods, spotting
  4. Feeling pressure in the pelvic area, fullness in the belly
  5. Frequent urination (have to pee all the time)
  6. Urinary retention (having trouble peeing)
  7. Low back pain
  8. Constipation
  9. Enlarged abdomen, belly bloated
  10. Pain during sex

The sort of heavy bleeding caused by fibroids can lead to anemia. Some fibroids can grow as large as a grapefruit, which clearly is going to cause distension in the abdominal area and put pressure on the other pelvic organs and blood vessels, potentially causing a lot of dysfunction and discomfort. But the size of a fibroid is not necessarily an indicator of whether it will cause painful periods or heavy bleeding. Even small leiomyoma of the uterus can cause pain and excessive bleeding. Emotional imbalance can also be a symptom of uterine fibroids. Leiomyomas of the uterus can cause difficulties during pregnancy, and in some cases, have a negative impact on fertility.

What Is the Treatment for Fibroids?

Sometimes a doctor may discover larger leiomyomas while doing a routine pelvic exam. When women seek medical treatment for fibroids, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound, CT, sonography, MRI, or x-rays) will be used to try to determine the location and size of the growths. 

Current medical science does not provide a clear explanation for what causes leiomyomas to grow in the uterus; it is only understood that estrogens seem to contribute to their growth, so the first line of treatment usually focuses on trying to alter the levels of female hormones in an effort to slow the development of the fibroid tumors.

Hormone medications, oral contraceptives, and even hormone-releasing IUDs are often prescribed to help control the heavy periods (cause spotting or no periods). These drugs do not do anything to change the fibroids themselves, though, and obviously, they are not suitable solutions for women who have plans to become pregnant. 

For women whose bleeding is so excessive that it becomes disabling, Lupron may be recommended. Lupron acts upon the pituitary gland to turn off estrogen production, which can essentially start early menopause. Many women experience menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and headaches while taking Lupron. It is usually prescribed for women who are planning on undergoing surgery, as it can temporarily reduce the size of the leiomyomas to make them easier to remove. It is not viable as a long-term treatment on its own, though; as soon as a woman stops taking the medication, the fibroids will grow back.

There are relatively non-invasive surgery techniques that are able to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus; this is called myomectomy, which can be performed via incision or laparoscopically. Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) is a newer procedure that blocks blood flow to the leiomyomas by injecting particles into the arteries connected to them. Some women opt to have a hysterectomy, a major surgery to remove the entire uterus, to get rid of fibroids for good.

Unfortunately, many women think that painful periods and heavy bleeding during periods is normal. Heavy periods may be common, but they are not “normal” or necessary. Women do not have to suffer with terrible cramps and lose a lot of blood every month. TCM herbs and acupuncture offer a natural way to get relief from painful periods and reduce fibroids.

How Can Acupuncture Help Fibroids?

woman cold drink
Icy cold drinks and foods can cool the uterus and lead to female health problems.

In TCM, we have a category of disorders that we classify as “Zheng Jia,” which mean “masses.” This umbrella concept covers all the womens’ health issues that stem from growths or tumors that affect the female reproductive system, including uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts/PCOS, endometriosis, and reproductive cancers. 

According to TCM theory, Zheng Jia disorders arise from internal factors such as blood stasis,/phlegm (spleen deficiency), liver stagnation (fire), and cold uterus.

Top 3 Factors Causing Fibroids According to TCM:

  1. Blood stasis/Liver Stagnation – Qi (life force energy) helps blood to flow. If Qi is blocked, blood flow gets stuck. Good Qi flow relies strongly on the liver and the emotions related to it. People who tend to have negative PMS symptoms like irritability, breast tenderness, and cramping probably have compromised liver Qi due to long-term stress. Liver Qi stagnation leads to blood stasis, which contributes to the formation of the fibroid tumors. Presenting symptoms: irritability, breast tenderness, distended abdomen, strong emotions, heavy flow during period, bright  or deep red color, possibly with clots, and some cramping. Bright red or deep red blood is an indication of liver fire.
  2. Cold uterus – Habits like always drinking cold beverages (especially during periods) and underdressing in cold environments can cause restricted flow of blood, which, over time, causes circulation issues and gradual development of tumors. Symptoms include: menstrual blood is darker red, cramping which improves with the application of heat (heating pad or hot water bottle) or after passing clots, feeling of being cold all the time, needing extra layers of clothing and blankets (yang deficiency). 
  3. Phlegm/Spleen/Stomach Deficiency – This type of deficiency causes improper digestion of food, creating dampness and phlegm that builds up in the system and affects the blood flow, stagnation that causes the tumors to grow. Symptoms: indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, tendency to gain weight, lighter colored, watery period flow, maybe with some mucus.

When a TCM practitioner works with a patient with fibroids, she will not only choose acupoints and herbs to help shrink the growths themselves, but will also address the underlying factors that have led to the growth of the leiomyomas in the first place. With the right guidance and lifestyle modifications, the deeper stagnation can be resolved, which will help to reduce existing fibroids and prevent more from forming.

One study of Chinese Medicine herbs used to treat uterine fibroids in over 200 women showed a 72% reduction in bleeding, as well as over half of the patients reporting a reduction in back pain and abdominal pain. For over half of the patients in this study, imaging showed a reduction in size or even disappearance of the leiomyomas of the uterus.

Another study compared women receiving acupuncture and herbs versus patients treated with a combination of mifepristone, a steroid medication, and Chinese herbs. All of the women saw some benefits, but the ones who had acupuncture treatment saw an overall greater reduction in the volume of their fibroids.

One of the primary benefits of receiving regular acupuncture treatment is the prevention of blockages along the meridians and in the blood circulation. We believe that women who practice health maintenance with acupuncture are less likely to develop growths in the pelvis and to have better reproductive health and more comfortable periods overall. Acupuncture and herbs can help to manage the pain and bleeding caused by fibroids, offering an effective alternative to hormone medications or surgery.

Top 3 Tips for Fibroid Self-Care

woman meditation
Stress reduction is key to solving many health problems.

Lifestyle and behaviors contribute to the formation of pelvic tumors. Knowing which habits may cause female health problems can help relieve painful periods.

  1. Manage stress – constant stress and anxiety have a profound effect on liver health, which in turn impacts the reproductive organs. Regular exercise, meditation practice, and prioritizing rest and sleep are keys to stress reduction. Don’t take on more projects and responsibilities than you feel you can handle. Ask for help when you are feeling overworked.
  2. Modify diet – avoid mucus-producing foods, especially deep-fried foods, dairy products, and red meat, which are harder for the body to process thoroughly. Undigested foods like this create mucus and stagnation. During the period, the pelvic area is vulnerable, and anything inappropriate can cause extra problems. Choose warm foods, ensure you do not have any indigestion. If you do, address it with acupuncture and herbal supplements. 
  3. Stay away from cold especially during the period, a miscarriage, or post-partum. Anytime there is bleeding from the uterus, the uterus is open, and it is crucial to keep everything warm to allow proper blood flow.

Acupuncture Near Me for Uterine Fibroids

TCM has been used to treat all types of gynecological conditions since at least 1000 B.C. At Art of Wellness, we bring unique expertise to this area of women’s health care, combining over 30 years of experience in both traditional methods of treatment and partnering with the top womens’ medicine and fertility specialists in the Los Angeles area. Find relief from the pain of fibroids through integrative care for leiomyoma with acupuncture.

 

 

 

*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 Hives With Acupuncture and TCM

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

hive urticaria rash
The burning itchy rash caused by hives can move around the body.

Skin rash with itchy welts or red bumps that seem to appear suddenly, then move to another part of the body, or go away? Hives, also known as urticaria, are caused by a type of allergic reaction that creates a temporary rash or swelling of the skin. TCM and acupuncture have been used for centuries to help relieve hives caused by allergies.

Hives are fairly common, occurring in about 20% of people of all ages. An acute, or short-lived, case of hives may occur because of being exposed to some unusual, new chemical or natural irritant in a person’s environment, maybe in some product, or some pollen or bug. These usually go away quickly, and it may be fairly obvious what it was that caused the outbreak of hives. However, sometimes people develop chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), in which a person may break out in hives often on an ongoing basis and have no idea why it keeps happening.

Allergies can manifest in many ways: sometimes causing sneezing, watery eyes, or skin problems. Hives are another way that an allergic reaction can show up. Hives, or urticaria, are distinguishable from other types of skin rash, like eczema or shingles rash, because, unlike other rashes, they do not form fluid-filled bumps or cause dryness, scaliness, or cracking of the skin. Rather, hives are raised welts on the skin that appear red, but then turn white when you press on them; this is known as “blanching.” Hives can look like small, narrow lines, or big, patchy blotches.

Urticaria is related to, and sometimes confused with, angioedema, which is a similar condition, in which deep layers of skin become swollen, often around the eyes and mouth, also due to irritation by some allergen. Angioderma can coexist with hives, and can be more dangerous than hives, if it causes tissues in the throat or tongue to become so swollen that the airway is blocked.

Hives often clear up on their own within a few days or weeks without any treatment. However, some people develop chronic hives, in which the hives rash keeps recurring for weeks or months, or longer. Chronic hives can be a uniquely painful and frustrating condition; never knowing when you might break out into a burning, itchy rash. Hives worse at night or hives worse after sleeping are common experiences for people who suffer from chronic urticaria. Breaking out in hives can make a person feel panic, making it very difficult to get on with daily tasks. Acupuncture treatment can help alleviate the burning and itching of acute hives or chronic hives, and help relieve the allergies, stress, and other underlying conditions that bring them on.

Top 10 Hives Causes or Triggers

allergy pet dander hives
Pet dander can trigger hives.

In general, what causes hives most of the time is an allergic reaction to some external stimulus. Touching something, eating something, or inhaling something that you are allergic to can cause urticaria to break out on the skin, sometimes briefly, sometimes moving around from one area or the skin to another, or seeming to spread over the skin. Things that can cause hives include:

  1. Foods, especially those that are well-known allergens like nuts, shellfish, dairy, and eggs, but also fruits, especially citrus fruits
  2. Contact with certain plants
  3. Pollen in the environment
  4. Medications, including antibiotics, OTC pain relievers
  5. Latex
  6. Pet dander
  7. External stimuli from the climate – sun exposure, heat, cold
  8. Bacterial infections in the body, like strep throat or a UTI
  9. Viral infections in the body, like colds, hepatitis or mononucleosis (viral hives)
  10. Blood transfusions

Insect bites or itchy rashes that cause you to scratch at your skin can also cause hives to appear in other areas. Simple pressure on the skin, from sitting or leaning on a patch of skin for a long time, can cause hives. Some people break out in hives when they are under a lot of pressure or emotional stress, even if they are not aware of having allergies or other underlying causes for hives. Sometimes this is called a “stress rash.”

Treatment for Hives

Hives are most commonly treated with antihistamines, which can help relieve itching. Many people experience some type of side effect from taking antihistamines, including: headache, drowsiness, fatigue, and hay fever type symptoms. Some people do get relief from a temporary hives rash after taking Benadryl or something similar. But for others, it may not help, and then doctors often prescribe a corticosteroid as an anti-inflammatory. If steroid treatment for hives does not help, immunosuppressants may be recommended. Depending on the root cause of the hives, these types of pharmacological solutions may or may not work to relieve hives. Acupuncture and TCM treatment focuses on solving the deeper problems that cause hives, without any negative side effects.

How Can Acupuncture Help Hives?

hot bath hives
Hot baths and showers can damage your skin’s protective layers and trigger hives.

As we have seen, conventional western medicine mostly looks at hives in terms of allergies. But in order to resolve the hives, we have to look more closely at why a person has those allergies. Why are some people affected so strongly by certain foods or certain environmental conditions while other people are not affected at all? We have to consider a person’s constitutional health.

As we have discussed in other articles, in TCM the concept of Wei Qi refers to the body’s protective defenses, the action of which stems mainly from the lungs and the skin. Many types of illness are considered to be related to a weakness or breakdown in the Wei Qi that allows external pathogenic factors to enter the body and take hold. Wind is one such external pathogenic factor. Heat and cold are others. Viral and bacterial infections also find their way into the body when the Wei Qi energy is weakened.

6 Pathogenic Factors According to TCM:

  1. Wind
  2. Cold
  3. Summer Heat
  4. Dampness
  5. Dryness
  6. Fire

Hives come mostly from wind and heat. In TCM, urticaria is known as Feng Zhen Kuai, or “wind rash patch.” Wind describes the nature of urticaria rash in the sense that the hives welts come and go, as if blown about. 

When people get hives, it is usually because of one of a few common factors.

  1. Yin deficiency/Dryness – If the body is too dry, when any allergens get in, there is not enough moisture in the body to wash them out of the system; this causes the breakout.
  2. Fire/Heat – If there is too much heat, fire, and inflammation in the body, when there is exposure to allergens, the body can’t take any more and will break out.
  3. Liver stagnation with Heat – When a person is under stress for a long time, it can exacerbate stagnation of Qi in the liver system, which over time causes heat to build up, then the body cannot process little irritations. The liver and kidneys have to do all the work to filter toxins out of the body, but when those organs are overstressed, the body will try to get rid of excess heat through the skin.

Usually, if a person is having chronic hives, it has a lot to do with their food and their habits around their exposure to the elements. For example, in the winter time, in order to be harmonious with the season, the body is meant to experience cold. But many people keep the heater on and keep their environment very warm all the time. This leads to dry air and can cause even people without any allergies to feel itchy. People also tend to take long, hot showers, which can destroy some of the skin’s natural protective layers and cause it to be raw and easily irritated. 

In western thought, when a person has a reaction such as hives to certain foods (spicy foods, alcohol), it is thought of as an allergic reaction, but in Chinese medicine we see this as being the body’s reaction to too much heat. If a person already has a fiery constitution, or liver stagnation, and then there are external hot conditions, and hot foods coming in all at once, the internal heat can explode out, creating the burning rash on the skin.

Cupping can be very helpful for treating hives; it exfoliates the skin and helps to draw toxins out. This will help to cool down the hives outbreak. Then we go further with acupuncture and herbs to strengthen the lungs, the liver, and the Wei Qi.

A systematic review of clinical trials studying the use of TCM methods and acupuncture to treat hives, both as an alternative and an adjunct to medication treatment, concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce symptoms of hives or chronic urticaria. Chinese herbs are also well-known for helping to relieve hives.

Top 5 Tips for Hives Relief

wind hives
Wind, whether cold or hot and dry, can cause hives.

How to get rid of hives for good will mean paying attention to what triggers the rash for each individual. To avoid this kind of allergic reaction hives, protect your Wei Qi with healthy habits. Prioritize rest and good nutrition to build up your immunity and protect your lungs and skin.

  1. Avoid a cold wind blowing on you, whether outside, or from a fan or air conditioner. Dress appropriately; always bring an extra layer so you don’t catch a chill or have a bright sun shining on your skin for a long time when you didn’t expect it.
  2. Avoid very hot showers, baths, saunas, etc. 
  3. Engage in regular exercise to help boost your blood circulation; walking is always ideal. This will help to reduce stress, as will a meditation practice.
  4. Get plenty of rest. Good quality sleep is essential to help build up the Wei Qi.
  5. Avoid foods that are either too hot (spicy or fried, red meats) or too cold (raw foods). No alcohol or coffee. These triggering foods and beverages can really make the hives worse. Drink more water to eliminate the dryness in the body.

If a patient is having trouble figuring out what it is that is causing his or her hives breakouts, a TCM provider may be able to find the underlying reason behind the rash.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hives

People of all ages can receive acupuncture treatment for hives and allergies. The doctors at Art of Wellness have been helping people get relief from allergies and itchy skin conditions for over three decades. We can provide help for children with hives with herbs and acupuncture. If you or someone you love is suffering from hives, please consider giving TCM and herbs a try.

 

 

 

*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 Shingles With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Shingles rash
Shingles rash usually appears on the side of the torso.

Itchy, painful skin rash of blisters on one side of your torso? Burning rash on your face? These are the classic signs of shingles, also known as herpes zoster or varicella zoster, the same viral infection that causes chicken pox. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can calm the acute pain of the shingles rash and help it to heal more quickly, while also offsetting the nerve damage that can result from a herpes zoster infection.

Shingles most often affects older adults, but it can happen to people of all ages. Estimates suggest that one-third of all people will develop herpes zoster at some point in their lives. If you had chicken pox when you were younger, the virus still lives in your body, settling into the nerve tissue in the spinal cord near the brain. When the virus is somehow triggered, it can reactivate, creating a very painful, burning rash, usually in some small, localised area. While medical science hasn’t pinpointed exactly what causes the varicella virus to lie dormant and then reemerge, shingles is believed to be triggered in at least some cases by emotional and mental stress. Chronic stress can cause serious compromisation of the body’s immune system, allowing an old disease to take hold in the body again. People with autoimmune disease, cancer, or HIV may be at increased risk for developing shingles, as well as people who take medications, like steroids, that affect the immune system.

While shingles may go away on its own after a few to several weeks, there can be serious complications. If the rash develops on the face near the eyes, it can cause vision problems, even blindness. Some people develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which can cause the burning, itching, and painful sensations to continue even after the rash on the surface of the skin has cleared up. Neuralgia is basically synonymous with neuropathy, a condition in which nerve cells have been damaged, causing tingling and pain.

If shingles lesions appear near the ears, or affect the facial nerve that connects to the ears, it can lead to Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS), also known as herpes zoster oticus, which can cause dizziness or vertigo, earaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and even hearing loss. Other potential complications of shingles include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling in the brain).

Acupuncture can be an effective alternative or adjunct to conventional medications for helping to relieve the intense acute pain of the shingles rash in the short term, and can also be used to help prevent and alleviate the potential long-term effects of shingles, like postherpetic neuralgia.

Top 5 Symptoms of Shingles

shingles rash face
Shingles rash can develop on one side of the face near the eye

Usually before a shingles rash is visible on the skin, the person will begin feeling a tingling or burning sensation in that area. This can last a few or several days before the rash breaks out.

The signs of herpes zoster include:

  1. A rash that develops in a stripe (sometimes called a “shingles band” or a dermatome) on one side of the torso, ribcage, or waist area, or on one side of the face near the eye or ear. The rash is red and blistered and causes a lot of pain, burning, and itching.
  2. Fever
  3. Headache
  4. Chills
  5. Stomach upset, stomachache, nausea, or vomiting

In some cases, the rash clears up on its own within a few weeks. However, because shingles can sometimes become more complicated, creating skin infections and other more serious conditions, it is advisable to seek help from your health care providers as soon as you suspect you might have it.

What Is the Treatment for Shingles?

Shingles is not a curable illness; it is the resurfacing of an old viral infection that pretty much has to run its course. Medical treatment usually involves a prescription for antiviral medication such as Acyclovir, which, if taken within the first few days, may help reduce the severity of the rash and lessen the time that it lasts. Management of shingles pain is mostly taken care of with over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, although a doctor may also recommend topical creams, possibly with corticosteroids.

While a person has an active shingles rash, he or she is contagious to other people who have not yet had a case of the chickenpox or the varicella zoster vaccine. This means that other people could contract chickenpox from exposure to the person with shingles; but another person can not get shingles from a person who has shingles. It is important to keep the rash covered, avoid touching and scratching it, wash your hands, clothes, and bedding frequently, and stay away from young children, pregnant women, and anyone who may be vulnerable to getting chickenpox.

How Can Acupuncture Help Shingles?

acupuncture treatment
acupuncture treatment can help relieve the painful shingles rash

While the scientific understanding of how viruses spread and function in the human body is clearly still very much a work in progress, acupuncture and herbs have been used to help the condition we recognize as shingles for over a thousand years. TCM philosophy views shingles as being related mainly to heat and dampness. As acupuncturists, we see shingles generally presenting in one of three ways:

  1. Liver Fire – in this case, the rash will be very red and hot, with a burning sensation. This type of herpes zoster outbreak is probably related to a long period of emotional stress or overwork, possibly combined with an unhealthy diet or too much alcohol consumption. Treatment will focus on clearing the heat from the liver-gall bladder system and reducing inflammation. The next steps of care are to reduce stress and boost immune function.
  2. Damp Heat – this rash will look more like pus or fluid-filled blisters with a very thin skin. Draining dampness and heat from the body with acupuncture and herbs is indicated.
  3. Qi and Blood stagnation – this is more the sort of long-term infection that can lead to postherpetic neuralgia, and is related to older age and an overall weakened immune system, and is more likely to be compounded by fatigue and poor sleep. Treatment will focus on getting the qi and blood moving freely through the body again.

Your TCM practitioner will also give guidance about the best foods to add or avoid to help relieve shingles inflammation and nerve pain. In general, avoiding spicy foods, seafood, sugar, and alcohol is a good way to start.

In a research study that combined TCM treatment with medication therapy, the patients who received acupuncture had an extremely low incidence of developing PHN, while 30% of the  patients who only received drug therapy ended up with some form of neuralgia and pain still present after three months. The people who had acupuncture healed more quickly and reported less need for painkillers, too.

Another study compared patients treated for shingles with a TCM protocol of acupuncture, herbs and moxibustion only, versus patients treated with antiviral pills, topical creams, and pain relievers. The patients who had acupuncture had a significantly higher overall effectiveness rate (97.7%) compared to the group taking medications (81.8%), with efficacy defined by resolution of pain and clearing of the shingles rash.

Acupuncture Near Me for Shingles 

Acupuncture and herbs can be used safely, alone or as an adjunct therapy, to hasten healing of a herpes zoster rash and to prevent long-term nerve damage and pain due to neuralgia. TCM treatment can also work on the other, subtler symptoms of shingles, like headache and stomach upset, without the need for additional medications. Building the immune system back up, helping to repair and prevent nerve damage, and reversing the effects of stress that can trigger a shingles outbreak are other benefits of seeking acupuncture near me for shingles relief and recovery.

 

 

*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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