Depression

Acupuncture and TCM for Cancer – Integrative Oncology

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

acupuncture treatment
acupuncture treatment for cancer support

Until very recently, it seemed cancer was the one illness that had touched everyone’s life in some way. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world. Almost 40% of the population will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at least once in their lives. We have all lost friends and relatives to this seemingly relentless form of disease. Doctors, scientists, researchers, and organizations have worked tirelessly in recent decades to develop life-saving treatments, and millions of people go on to live full lives as cancer survivors. 

Cancer is a broad term that refers to the unchecked growth of abnormal cells in the body. When the body’s mechanisms for getting rid of old cells begins to break down, these damaged cells begin to divide, in some cases forming masses, or tumors. These types of cancer are usually classified by the organs affected by the tumor, including gynecological cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and endometrial cancer, as well as prostate cancer in men, lung cancer, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, colon, rectal), thyroid, brain, spine, bladder, liver, and kidneys. Carcinomas refer to cancers affecting the skin, and sarcomas to cancers affecting the musculoskeletal system. Hematological cancers involve the proliferation of abnormal blood cells, including leukemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma.

Written records of Traditional Chinese Medicine detection and treatment of cancerous growths go back over 2000 years. In recent decades, TCM has become more recognized as a way to complement and enhance contemporary methods of treating cancer. Integrative Oncology, in which the latest technological and pharmacological advances are combined with Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques and philosophy, forms a holistic way of working with cancer patients.

Cancer Treatment Options

chemotherapy
chemotherapy treatment

Cancer screening is a vital component of modern health care, as early detection offers the best chances for successful treatment. Data show that of the 18 million new cases detected in 2018, 5 million could have been discovered sooner and treated more effectively if we had higher rates of screeningUnfortunately, almost half of colorectal and cervical cancers and a third of breast cancers are not diagnosed until the disease is already in later stages, which makes them harder to treat.

When a cancerous growth is still localized, surgery and/or radiation treatment can remove or destroy much or all of the abnormal growth. When cancer has advanced to a later stage, and cells have spread through the body, then more systemic treatments are used, such as:

  • chemotherapy, which uses cytotoxic drugs to kill tumor cells
  • immunotherapy, a newer type of treatment, uses specifically designed synthetic antibodies to boost the body’s immune system. 
  • targeted therapy seeks to destroy the cancer cells without harming healthy tissues surrounding tumors. 

New treatment options are constantly being researched and tested, giving patients a better chance at stopping the cancer in its tracks.

However, most cancer treatments themselves can cause serious side effects that dramatically impact quality of life. Positive outcomes also vitally depend on a person’s ability to strengthen the body’s immune system while fighting the disease, as well as coping with the severe emotional stresses involved. Research has shown that acupuncture can significantly mitigate side effects of chemotherapy, radiation treatments and other conventional methods of treating cancer. 

Chemotherapy and radiation work by killing cancer cells. As these chemicals do not distinguish between normal and malignant cells, they can also damage surrounding tissues, creating more blockages. The synthetic drugs used also increase toxicity levels within the body. Acupuncture can help increase the production of white blood (immune) cells, detoxify the body and increase energy, so that the cancer can be eradicated, and new, healthy cells can flourish. Acupuncture can also improve sleep and relieve anxiety, so that hope and confidence can outweigh fears and exhaustion.

Acupuncture and TCM can be valuable for cancer patients throughout every stage of treatment, recovery and beyond, not only alleviating the pain and nausea associated with cancer treatments, but also boosting  immune function, relieving anxiety and depression, and even helping to prevent the cancer from coming back.

How Can Acupuncture Help with Cancer Treatment?

white blood cells
TCM can help improve white blood cell count

Acupuncture operates based on the philosophy that the body is powered by Qi – a life force energy – that runs along pathways throughout the body called meridians. Pain and diseases are caused by blockages in these pathways that prevent Qi and nutrient-rich blood from reaching and adequately supplying the organ systems of the body. When the body is balanced and functioning smoothly, the immune system is able to detect and eradicate pathogens on its own. Our bodies do this all the time. While genetic predisposition may increase some people’s cancer risk, the truth is everyone is susceptible to the formation of cancerous cells. When the body is healthy, it can sweep away mutated cells. But when the body is in a weakened state and energies are blocked, cancer cells are able to take hold, multiply, and grow.

Acupuncture can help relieve symptoms caused by the disease itself, as well as the side effects of treatment, including but not limited below:

  • neuropathy 
  • pain
  • nausea/vomiting 
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • depression & anxiety

In addition to providing palliative care for these symptoms, acupuncture treatment works on a deeper level to strengthen Qi, revitalize blood, and restore healthy functioning to the organ systems. The combination of acupuncture treatment to stimulate specific points and herbs to act on chemical/elemental imbalances can approach the root cause of the abnormal cell growth.

Acupuncture for Cancer Treatment Side Effects

acupressure point p6 for nausea
acupressure point P6 helps relieve nausea

The most common side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy are gastrointestinal in nature. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are caused by the medications involved, which may be administered intravenously or by mouth. The extent to which a patient feels nauseated depends on many factors: the location of the cancer being treated in the body, the dosage of the medications, the timing of administration, and a person’s prior susceptibility to nausea and vomiting. Treatment for tumors in the brain, liver, or gastrointestinal tract–such as esophageal, pancreatic, colon, or stomach cancers–is more likely to cause vomiting. Women, in general, are more likely to experience severe nausea. Antiemetic drugs or stomach acid-reducing medication like Esmeprazole can sometimes help with the nausea, but they don’t work in many cases. One controlled study showed that acupuncture given to patients undergoing chemotherapy reduced the duration and frequency of unpleasant gastric upsets. The TCM providers in this case used acupuncture points to reduce spasming of the stomach and intestines, while strengthening liver and spleen function to improve digestion and absorption. The patients given acupuncture ended up spending less time in the hospital.

Using acupressure point PC6, located below the wrist on the inner forearm in between the two tendons, is very effective for controlling nausea. Relief of retching and vomiting helps patients withstand chemotherapy sessions better and helps keep appetite and proper nutrition up.

Another side effect of chemotherapy is neutropenia, or low white blood cell count. This is especially prevalent amongst patients being treated for bone marrow cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The low level of bacteria-fighting immune cells puts people at higher risk for developing infections during the course of their treatment. A study involving women with ovarian cancer suggested that acupuncture treatment helped patients maintain higher levels of white blood cells and neutrophils. The study also suggested that acupuncture measurably reduced cortisol levels, positively impacting patients’ stress.

Protecting cancer patients from side effects of chemotherapy such as neutropenia and severe nausea allows them to adhere more closely to their treatment programs, which can improve outcomes.

Acupuncture for Late Stage Cancer Pain and Neuropathy

Pain is, unfortunately, the most pervasive symptom experienced by people with cancer, yet this pain is often inadequately treated with analgesics. Recent epidemic-level problems with opiate use mean that doctors and patients are hesitant to use these powerful medications, which can lead to addiction. Acupuncture offers an alternative method for reducing pain naturally, without any additional risks involved. 

Cancer pain can be pathophysiologically caused by tumorous growths themselves causing compression around other tissues and nerves. It can also be caused by secondary tissue damage created by chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or surgeries. When nerves are damaged, neuropathy pain can result.

To manage all of the different types of pain, patients are often prescribed some combination of acetaminophen, opiates, anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, and antidepressants. All of these can cause serious side effects, and some patients will build up a tolerance to the medications, reducing their efficacy. Some people develop a dependence or addiction.

Pain, as a subjective experience, affects emotional and mental health as much as it does the physical body. Pain can be amplified by the very real fear that it will only get worse or never end. Adequate pain management is vital to keeping a positive frame of mind and hopeful attitude. When pain is reduced, attention and energy can be freed up for increased healing and motivation to maintain healthy behaviors that will improve the chances for recovery and prevent recurrence.

Most people who seek out acupuncture do so for chronic pain conditions. While much of how TCM works is still unproven by scientific study, many research studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective modality for pain relief, such that it is now widely accepted as an adjunct by the medical community. Acupuncture treatment can be used on its own to help alleviate pain, or in addition to pain medications, in which case it will help both to address the pain and to mitigate the side effects of the drugs.

Top 3 Tips for Cancer Prevention

green cruciferous vegetables
Eat plenty of greens & cruciferous veggies

TCM is preventative medicine. It is always best to manage lifestyle for maximum health in order to prevent disease from forming in the first place. While some people are more at risk for developing certain kinds of cancer than others, everyone can benefit from healthy habits that reduce these risks. Regular acupuncture treatments help balance Qi and maintain good flow between the organ systems of the body. But it is up to each individual to eat in such a way that the cells receive abundant nutrient-rich blood, to avoid toxins whenever possible, and to move the body frequently and with intention.

  1. Green tea contains chemicals called polyphenols, especially EGCG. These antioxidants inhibit the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer growth. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee or black tea, and can be drunk throughout the day.
  2. Exercise – Many studies have shown that increased physical activity reduces the risks of specific types of cancer, such as: pancreatic, endometrial, breast, colon cancer, esophageal, kidney, and stomach cancer. Exercise prevents cancerous growth by helping to regulate hormone levels, preventing high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and obesity, and reducing inflammation throughout the body.
  3. Healthy diet – A well-rounded food program lowers the risk of cancer. Focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to help fight cancer. Other fish that can help reduce the risk of endometrial cancer in women include halibut, sardines and tuna. Cruciferous vegetables are especially full of nutrients and fiber. Included in this family of vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy. Cruciferous vegetables are high potent anti-cancer phytochemicals. Studies have shown that this vegetable group has the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining, lung, colon, liver, and cervix. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer. Eat fruits and  vegetables raw or only lightly steamed so they retain their cancer fighting phytochemicals. Go for at least one of these greens on a daily basis: arugula, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Napa cabbage, collard greens, daikon, rutabaga, chard, watercress, pea shoots, spinach.

Acupuncture Near Me for Cancer Support

Acupuncture provides palliative care for the many intense discomforts of cancer and cancer treatment. But TCM goes beyond pain relief. Regular acupuncture treatments combined with lifestyle changes can improve patients’ ability to defeat cancer now, and to prevent cancers in the future.

When you or a loved one is fighting cancer, building a team of doctors who will work together to provide integrative health care can increase the chances of survival 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.

How to Treat Menopause Symptoms with Acupuncture and TCM

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

Menopause can be a smooth transition
A smooth transition into menopause is possible.

Menopause is a natural, transformative process that is experienced by half of the population of the world. Like any life process that involves change, it can be accompanied by intense discomfort. Menopause symptoms affect women in middle age physically, emotionally, and mentally. TCM and acupuncture treatment are ideally suited to bring balance and allow women to navigate this time with greater ease and menopause symptom relief. Several studies have shown that the three most commonly prescribed forms of Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) or Hormone Replacement all increase the risk of breast cancer, and the risks increase the longer these therapies are used. Acupuncture and TCM treat menopausal hot flashes effectively without any side effects.

Signs of Menopause Symptoms: Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and More

Menopause is technically defined as when a woman has not had a period for a full twelve months. The period of time during which a woman begins experiencing symptoms related to menopause is actually the pre-menopausal or “perimenopausal” state. This phase can unfold over the course of a few months or up to several years; the average amount of time is about four years. Most women begin experiencing perimenopause in their 40s, although some women begin feeling different and having irregular periods as early as their 30s, and other women don’t feel changes until their 50s. 

Perimenopausal symptoms and signs can include:

  1. Irregular menstrual periods
  2. Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats
  3. Difficulty sleeping
  4. Vaginal dryness
  5. Low libido
  6. Urinary incontinence
  7. Loss of bone density
  8. Higher “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol
  9. Anxiety, irritability, depression
  10. Headaches
  11. Weight gain

About 80% of women will experience hot flashes at some point during their perimenopausal phase. These sudden hot flushes are caused by lower estrogen levels, which can confuse the brain’s typical regulation of internal temperature. These episodes can feel really disconcerting and disruptive. 

Acupuncture for Menopause Treatment and Menopause Supplements

meditation
Finding balance to relieve anxiety and irritability.

Studies have shown that acupuncture treatments can reduce the frequency of hot flashes. As few as three treatments produced significant positive results, while a full course of treatment (at least eight sessions) provided relief for many women for up to six months. In addition to relieving hot flashes, acupuncture also improves quality of life in many other ways: reducing headaches and other body aches, alleviating anxiety and depression, and improving sleep. TCM also offers customized herbal formulae that support the body’s hormone balance and help with menopause symptom relief.  In many ways, the effects of perimenopause and menopause are not quantifiable, as some are more emotional in nature. This change occurs not just in the body, but in the mind. At this time, a woman is seeing herself differently, reevaluating her own sense of identity and purpose, and in some cases, shifting her focus and energies in life.

Acupuncture for PMS Symptoms and Menopause

Physically, a woman goes through many significant changes over the years, and different factors come into play. If a woman’s body is out of balance — due to trauma, stress, illness, injury, diet, environment, etc.–she may experience difficulties with her female organ function. Painful periods, irregular periods, cysts, fibroids and endometriosis are all common conditions — but they do not happen without some imbalances causing them. A lifetime of choices, experiences, pains and pleasures add up to create the health status we live with now, in this moment.

Women’s health issues can be addressed, at any stage of life, with acupuncture and herbs, as well as the right kind of food and lifestyle choices. If a woman finds and partners with a good healthcare practitioner, and practices a lifestyle that helps her achieve optimal health, she does not have to suffer through years of PMS, nor through years of menopausal symptoms, either. Unfortunately, many women do not know there is an alternative to using pain relief medicines, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement to manage symptoms. These drugs do not offer a real solution to the problems; they mask them. As women, we are often expected to simply accept these problems and learn to cope. But why settle for that, when we have the means to correct them?

What is a Natural Remedy for Hot Flashes? Acupuncture and Menopause Supplements

TCM looks at female care as “ovarian care.” Besides paying attention to our liver, heart, lungs, and kidneys, we also focus on menstrual and premenstrual care, pregnancy and postpartum care, and menopause care. These are unique to women. The ovaries are the major players when it comes to female hormones, cycles, and reproductive health. Girls, young women and older women can all benefit from regular treatment, herbal supplementation, and lifestyle improvements to encourage healthy and smooth functioning of these processes. If, as a younger woman, you are able to manage your hormones, then, when menopause comes, it hopefully will not be too much of a problem. If you are already experiencing menopause symptoms, it is not too late to get Yin and Yang balance restored, so that you can enjoy this phase of life and many healthy years to come! 

According to TCM, most menopausal disorders fall under kidney and/or liver Yin deficiency. This manifests in hot flashes, waking often at night around 3:00-4:00 a.m., dreamy light sleep, irritability, memory loss, dry eyes, mood swings, and irregular periods. A smaller percentage of symptoms fall under kidney Yang deficiency; low back soreness, incontinence, water retention, fatigue, indigestion, and weight gain. We use very specific acupuncture points to help with each of these different problems, and are able to treat each woman’s unique combination of issues. We also have our unique techniques (needling and massage) and herbal products to help skin stay firm and smooth.

8 Self-Care Best Practices for Menopause

goji berries
Eat goji berries and other superfoods

Acupuncture and herbal modalities have been taking care of these women’s health issues for thousands of years.  Besides seeking these professional services, there are many things you can do at home to facilitate a smooth transition:

  1. For Yin deficiency, stick with cooling and juicy foods like fresh veggies, fruit, yams, sweet rice, mung beans, lotus roots or seeds. Stay away from alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods which increase internal fire or heat. Snacking on Goji berries is recommended, drinking chrysanthemum tea, chamomile tea or Art of Wellness’s own Night Tea can help you rest and sleep better.
  2. For Yang deficiency, drink warm lemon water upon rising, eat more cooked and warm food, nuts, especially walnuts and pecans, stay away from dairy, icy foods and drinks and greasy, heavy meals. 20-30 minute hot foot spa before bedtime is recommended. Rub the low back along the midline of the spine and on both sides until very warm.
  3. For saggy or loose skin, facial rejuvenation acupuncture needling will help stimulate collagen production and improve facial circulation.
  4. Speed-walk 30-45 minutes per day.
  5. Rub hands to warm them, then rub the soles of each foot 100 times. Practice daily.
  6. Meditate 20 minutes daily, in the morning or ideally, at bedtime.
  7. Suggested Menopause Meditation: focus on the lower abdominal area (Dan Tian), until it feels warm. Then, move the warm sensation into your kidney area.
  8. Try this Lotus smoothie recipe. Good for anyone, but especially for women experiencing menopausal symptoms: ½ cup lotus seed, ½ lily bulbs, 1 tablespoon mung beans, 1 tablespoon sweet rice, 10 pieces of honey dates. Rinse all ingredients but dates. Add 6 cups of water, cook for 20 minutes. Blend. Garnish with a few goji berries. Make 4 servings. Serve warm for breakfast, or cold for an afternoon snack. Feel free to add fruit, such as banana, berries, apple, pear, etc.

If you or a woman you care about is experiencing menopause symptoms, look for acupuncture near me, and call Art of Wellness, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA. Our clinic is one of the top 19 pick among 825 similar clinics in the great Los Angeles area. Our doctors have over 30-years experiences of practicing TCM and acupuncture. Dr. Cai is a specialist in all women’s health issues.

 

*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.

 

TCM and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects people all throughout the world. Most commonly experienced during fall and winter months, the symptoms of SAD include depression, hypersomnia, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts and decreased social interaction. Higher levels of anxiety are experienced at the end of the summer season as those who suffer from this ailment start to anticipate the coming months of less sunshine and increased symptomatology.  continue reading »

Who’s Pushing Your Buttons?

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

Everybody wants to be happy. But, who is in control of your feelings? You? Somebody else? Life itself?

Once, I had just flown back to L.A. After waiting in a long line, I managed to get a taxi.

When I got in, the driver asked, “Where to, sir?” He sounded nervous.

“Santa Monica.”

“OK! That’s better,” he said, pleased.

“Why?” I asked.

“This morning, I’ve been driving around and around the airport. Finally I had one customer. I asked him where he was going, and he says, ‘Manchester.’ That was it! It made me so sad.”

I was laughing. “Oh, I see. So you have two buttons in your heart? One is for happy, and one is for sad? The passenger who goes to Manchester pushes the sad button, which makes you unhappy, then the one who goes to Santa Monica pushes the happy button and makes you happy for the rest of the day?”

The driver smiled. “Yeah! Isn’t that interesting?”

Just like the cab driver, most people allow their emotions to be controlled by people and events outside themselves. They go through life being very careful not to let anybody touch their sad buttons. When the button is pushed–the boss gets angry, the kids won’t listen, or the traffic is terrible–there seems to be no choice but to react negatively.orchid-reflection

This reminds me of a story. A monk who loved Chinese Orchids had planted one in a pot and raised it for many years. When he had to go on a trip, he asked one of his students to take care of the plant. The day before the monk returned, the student, who had been caring faithfully for the flower, accidentally dropped the pot, and the orchid died. The student felt awful and approached the monk fearfully to apologize.

But the monk said, “I raised the orchid because it gave me joy. Why would I be sad or angry now that it is gone? Why turn all my happiness to sorrow?”

How to Prepare For Seasonal Affective Disorder

When the seasons change you have to be ready for a change in mood, especially as we move from fall into winter. Although it may not seem as drastic of a shift as you think, it matters more to our mental and physical states than you may know. Seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect around 10 million Americans a year, and this isn’t even the full number of reported cases. continue reading »