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How to Treat Colic and Infant Reflux With Acupuncture and TCM

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

baby reflux, infant reflux, colic
Chinese medicine can help with baby reflux and colic.

Colic and infant reflux are conditions that can cause excessive crying in babies and a lot of worry for new parents. Newborn reflux is when a baby spits up a lot, which is sometimes treated as GERD in infants. Infant reflux, also called baby reflux, and colicky pain can both be soothed with acupuncture and TCM treatment for babies.

Colic or Baby Reflux Can Be Treated With Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

What is colic? Infantile colic is a well-known yet little understood syndrome, with crying being the primary symptom. Signs of colic include fussiness and crying inconsolably for hours. The crying, which can be more like screaming, often occurs at about the same time every day, usually in the later afternoon or evening. A colicky baby may also have a red face and display motor behaviors like clenched fists and drawing their legs up to their tummy.

What causes colic is not known, but it is sometimes attributed to gassiness and the movement of the undeveloped digestive system, which the colic newborn experiences with intense discomfort. It has been suggested that it may be related to food allergies in some infants, or to gut health. Some people also link colic to birth trauma. Babies with colic may have sensitivities related to the nervous system and have more trouble adapting to their environment, both externally and internally.

Colic is fairly common, affecting about 10-35% of infants. Most babies outgrow colicky abdominal pain within a matter of months. Those few months can be very stressful for the whole family, though. Colic is considered to be a factor in some mothers developing postpartum depression, so finding colic remedies is important for everyone’s mental health.

The symptoms of colic can sometimes look similar to those of infant reflux. Baby reflux also leads to fussy crying, wiggling and arching the body, and having trouble settling down to sleep.

Infant reflux refers specifically to a baby spitting up undigested milk from the stomach. This is also called GER (gastroesophageal reflux) and is actually a normal thing that happens with most babies. 

Reflux happens because there is not a firm seal created by the esophageal sphincter muscle, which is still developing in a young infant. Sometimes premature infants are especially susceptible to having infant reflux.

Babies’ stomachs are designed to take in just a little bit of milk at a time. If the baby is getting too much milk, or swallowing air, it can cause leaking from the stomach up into the esophagus, especially when lying down.

baby reflux, infanta reflux, colic
Changing baby’s sleeping and feeding positions may help reduce colic and reflux.

Sometimes just working out the right feeding schedule, burping, and sleeping positions helps. In other cases, nothing seems to help. If spitting up or vomiting is interfering with the baby getting enough nutrients, then failure to thrive can become a real concern.

Acid reflux in newborns that is on the level of a disorder is rare (less than 1%). Sometimes, though, a baby may actually have GERD, where the spitting up happens very frequently and is causing the baby to feel sensations that we think of as “heartburn.” This can also lead to respiratory problems like coughing or choking due to breathing in the stomach acids.

You might find it hard to imagine acupuncture treatment being used for a tiny baby, but infants respond very positively to treatment. Sometimes auricular acupuncture (acupuncture on ear), where seeds are used instead of needles, is an option. Acupuncture can help baby reflux and colic on many levels: relieving pain, reducing bloating and inflammation in the digestive tract, while calming anxiety and restlessness and improving sleep.

Top 10 Signs of Infant Reflux

Newborn reflux symptoms can look similar to the symptoms of colic, but if there is frequent regurgitation of milk, or respiratory symptoms like coughing and wheezing, that may indicate baby reflux as opposed to colicky symptoms. Symptoms of infant reflux include:

  1. Frequent spitting up or vomiting
  2. Fussiness, irritability
  3. Crying a lot, screaming inconsolably 
  4. Arching back, tensing the body, wiggling
  5. Hiccups
  6. Coughing or wheezing while feeding
  7. Excessive drooling
  8. Poor sleep
  9. Doesn’t want to feed
  10. Spit up is green or bright yellow

New parents may be easily overwhelmed when it appears that their baby is in pain and isn’t digesting their food properly. If dietary changes and adjustments to the feeding schedule aren’t helping, then parents may seek medical advice.

Treatment for Infant Reflux

baby reflux, infant reflux, colic
Some cases of infant reflux may be related to food allergy.

Generally, if your doctor just sees colicky symptoms, there is not a whole lot they can do other than offer suggestions for changing the dietary routine and making your baby as comfortable as possible.

In recent years, it seems that doctors are more and more likely to make a diagnosis of infant reflux when a baby is spitting up and crying, and to recommend medication as a treatment.

In the last few decades, GERD medications for reducing stomach acids, known as PPIs, (proton pump inhibitors), like Prilosec and Prevacid, have been deemed safe for adults and infants. However, evidence has also pointed to various problems and side effects with using these medications for more than a short period of time.

Changing the production of stomach acids in a young baby can affect how they are absorbing nutrients, like calcium and Vitamin B12. Use of PPIs has also been observed to cause kidney problems and affect bone density in adults. Less stomach acid can lead to more bacteria and more respiratory infections.

The majority of babies who experience infant reflux and/or colic will get over it naturally, usually within a few months. Anything that can be done to help understand the child’s constitution and promote good health during this time should certainly be considered. However, many people will not feel that resorting to medications is the best or only option.

Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to help acid reflux in babies and adults, without side effects. TCM treatment can help strengthen an infant’s digestive system, nervous system, and immune system, all at the same time.

Can Acupuncture Help Infant Reflux and Colic?

An acupuncturist will look carefully at the baby for symptoms of reflux and colic so as to differentiate, according to TCM principles, where there is an imbalance. For example, if a baby is crying, has a red face, and is feverish, we might see the pattern of “hot colic,” which happens when there is too much warmth in the stomach Qi. Babies with “cold colic” may be more listless and have chilly hands and feet. When treating Colic and infant reflux, the TCM practitioner will work on balancing and regulating the stomach Qi and clearing stagnation.

baby reflux, infant reflux, colic
Resolving colic or infant reflux is important for both baby and parents’ mental health.

Many acupuncture points can be stimulated in order to help make the baby more comfortable and calm. The Yin Tang point can be helpful for reducing restlessnessShen Men is the classic point to regulate the nervous system and help banish anxiety. Stomach points can help to reduce nausea and help stimulate the appetite. 

Case studies have shown that small infants who are vomiting or spitting up can respond to acupuncture quickly, even after just one treatment. A larger study showed that acupuncture was effective at relieving colicky symptoms, shortening the duration of episodes of fussy crying.

Studies with adults have shown that acupuncture and herbs are more effective for long term reduction of acid reflux than PPIs. Acupuncture treatment can also help strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).

In many cases, new parents need individualized support for making feeding and dietary changes. A qualified acupuncture provider is also highly trained in nutrition and can help determine if there are certain foods that need to be eliminated from the nursing parent’s diet or from the formula of choice. Finding positions and practices that help the baby relax before and during feeding, burp appropriately, and be settled to sleep when a feeding has come to a satisfactory close can be life-changing. These will be easier to implement when acupuncture treatment has helped even out the infant’s nervous system and soothed the stomach.

Acupuncture Near Me for Infant Reflux and Colic in Los Angeles

Parenting is a hard job, especially when the baby is not eating or sleeping well. TCM treatment can help with all kinds of postpartum issues for both mother and child, including problems with breastfeeding, postpartum depression, an infant’s weight loss or failure to thrive, as well as colic and infant reflux. Please, if your baby is crying and seems to be in pain, or is having trouble feeding, do not hesitate to call us at Art of Wellness. Drs. Cai and Tan have over 30 years of experience treating mothers and children with gentle acupuncture, herbs, and good advice.



*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 Cystic Fibrosis With TCM and Acupuncture

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lungs cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis can cause clogging in the airways and lungs.

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

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that causes phlegm or mucus in the body to be too thick and sticky, which can lead to malfunctioning of vital organs. Cystic fibrosis can cause infections and ultimately, damage to the lungs, heart, and digestive system. Acupuncture and TCM can provide complementary treatment for cystic fibrosis symptoms.

CF disease causes serious problems throughout a person’s system due to the production of abnormal mucus (sometimes spelled mucous). Mucous should be mostly made of water, so that it provides lubrication in and around the major organs. Mucus that does not have the right balance of water and salt can clog parts of the body, especially the airways, making it difficult to breathe. The thick mucus can also cause blockages in the digestive system.

Cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations of the CFTR gene, which provides the information for producing the CFTR protein. When this protein doesn’t work right, it can lead to the wrong amount of salt or water in the mucus. If mucus is too sticky, then organs like the lungs, intestines, and liver have a hard time doing their respective jobs. Thick mucus in the pancreas, in particular, can cause digestive problems, malnutrition, and can affect insulin production, leading to diabetes.

As recently as a few decades ago, it used to be that children with CF rarely lived into adulthood. Now, CF life expectancy has increased due to advances in cystic fibrosis treatment. Current cystic fibrosis life expectancy statistics show that the average person with CF will live into their mid-40s; there are now many senior citizens still living with CF, and there are more adults with cystic fibrosis than children.

There are many different types of cystic fibrosis treatment, which can help reduce symptoms and complications. Medical treatment for cystic fibrosis aims to change the quality of the mucus, clear mucus from the lungs, reduce chances of infection, and improve the absorption of nutrients from food. Acupuncture and other TCM treatment for cystic fibrosis can also be used to help improve these CF symptoms.

Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms

Signs of cystic fibrosis symptoms in infants may look different than CF symptoms in adults. A person is born with CF, but different symptoms may develop over time.

cystic fibrosis children
Cystic fibrosis in children requires special care.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis in children may include:

  • Salty sweat, skin tastes salty
  • Phlegmy cough, coughing up blood
  • Wheezing, trouble breathing
  • Poor growth, low weight, failure to thrive
  • Greasy stool or constipation
  • Gassy, stomach ache, pain in belly
  • Finger clubbing, clubbed fingers, or clubbed toes

Other, deeper health problems may develop as children with cystic fibrosis grow, including: lung infections, sinus infections, pancreatitis, gallstones, liver disease, diabetes, rectal prolapse, or high blood pressure in the lung arteries that can lead to heart failure.

Most people are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis while they are still very young, but it is possible for a person to grow into adulthood without knowing they have CF. 

Adults with cystic fibrosis may experience:

  • Decreased immune function, low levels of antibodies
  • Liver problems, cirrhosis
  • Lack of digestive enzymes due to low functioning of the pancreas
  • Intestinal blockages
  • Low absorption of nutrients due to mucus in the intestinal tract
  • Infertility in men; male infertility
  • Bone disease, arthritis

Cystic Fibrosis Genetics

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease that is caused by a recessive gene. Cystic fibrosis inheritance means that both parents have a mutated copy of the CFTR gene; in other words, each parent is a cystic fibrosis carrier, even though in most cases, neither parent has CF or cystic fibrosis symptoms.

Cystic Fibrosis Diagnosis and CF Testing

Most newborn babies are tested for signs of cystic fibrosis in the U.S., so parents will usually learn that their child has CF soon after birth. This way, cystic fibrosis treatment can be implemented immediately, which offers the best chances of keeping CF disease under control. 

Initial screening for CF involves first checking for high levels of IRT, a chemical protein released by the pancreas. High levels of IRT can be an indicator of CF or other problems with the pancreas; although, it can also be related to infant stress or premature delivery. If the IRT is high, then other tests will be performed.

A sweat test is considered the primary way to diagnose cystic fibrosis. Sweat is collected from the skin. If it shows high levels of salt, or chloride (a chemical component of salt), this is an indication that a person has CF.

Genetic testing, or CR carrier testing,  will usually be performed in order to confirm the CF diagnosis, and so that the specific genetic defects that will affect the patient’s health are understood fully.

Cystic Fibrosis Treatment

Up until recently, most CF treatments were aimed at helping to provide symptomatic relief. Cystic fibrosis medications include drugs that can help thin mucus, bronchodilators to help open the airways, and antibiotics to help prevent and control infections. Many of these medications are inhaled through a nebulizer.

A cystic fibrosis vest is a machine worn around the chest that vibrates and can be used as a daily therapy to help clear mucus from the lungs.

More recent advances have led to the development of genetic therapies for cystic fibrosis. CFTR modulator therapies address the underlying CF causes having to do with cell membranes and the CFTR protein. This new treatment may be able to improve lung function in patients who have the most common form of CFTR gene mutation.

People with CF need to eat more calories and a higher fat diet in order to be able to maintain a healthy weight and get enough nutrients, so they are usually prescribed a special cystic fibrosis diet to help them achieve this.

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic illness that requires constant care. TCM and acupuncture can provide a meaningful adjunct treatment to medical therapies to improve quality of life and longevity.

Can Acupuncture Help Cystic Fibrosis?

cupping treatment lungs cystic fibrosis
Cupping can help move mucus from the lungs.

Centuries before medical science began to understand how genetic diseases are passed down, TCM has acknowledged that certain conditions are part of a person’s constitution when they are born. 

According to TCM theory, we are all born with Qi. Some Qi can be replenished (Postnatal Qi), and other Qi is given to us at birth in a finite amount (Yuan Qi, or Ancestral Qi). 

Difficulty with breathing and digesting food causes people with CF to have a harder time replenishing Qi. They also have less of the finite type of Qi, so they must take extra care to preserve it. Because of this weaker Qi, the organ systems of the body have deficiencies that must be helped with nourishment and care. Kidney deficiency, which is related to the weaker Yuan Qi, can lead to lack of fluids in the body, as is typical in CF. TCM can help improve organ function through modalities like acupuncture, cupping, herbs, and nutrition.

TCM methods used in combination can help to clear phlegm from the lungs and other organs. This, in turn, will help a person fight off infections better. 

Cupping, a modality that creates suction to increase circulation can help draw congestion from the lungs. Chinese herbs and the right nutrition program can help to improve the balance of fluids in the body, to help thin mucus.

Many adults with cystic fibrosis experience chest pain, gastrointestinal pain, and/or headaches. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease these types of pain.

Acupuncture Near Me for Cystic Fibrosis, Los Angeles Area

Living with a chronic illness is an everyday challenge. It is necessary for patients with Cystic fibrosis to build a team of healthcare professionals who can support them with the right treatment for their individual needs. An acupuncturist takes into consideration the whole person: their specific symptoms, and also their mental and emotional health. Regular visits with a TCM doctor can help alleviate the physical symptoms of CF, but also help maintain emotional balance, addressing feelings of depression and anxiety. If you or someone you know has cystic fibrosis, please consider adding acupuncture to your healthcare plan.

 

 

*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 Celiac Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

gluten free celiac disease
Bread and many other foods contain gluten.

Do you have digestive problems like a bloated stomach, diarrhea, and abdominal pain? Unintentional weight loss, fatigue, skin rashes? These can all be signs of Celiac disease. Different from food allergies, Celiac is a serious autoimmune disorder that can lead to malnutrition and other debilitating health problems. TCM herbs and acupuncture treatment offer a good alternative way of managing Celiac disease and gluten intolerance symptoms.

In recent years, you have probably heard a lot of people saying they are switching to a gluten free diet because they have a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance. Sometimes people may just be trying to see if they feel better when they cut out wheat products, or they are going on a low carb diet to help them lose weight. Other people may be experiencing symptoms like diarrhea and nausea and hope that going on an IBS diet will help.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is present in some grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. When a person has Celiac disease, gluten is perceived by the immune system as a dangerous foreign substance, triggering an immune response. Antibodies (white blood cells) are produced as a reaction to gluten entering the body, and the antibodies end up causing inflammation and damage to the inside of the intestinal tract.

This damage to the small intestine is called villous atrophy, and this is what causes inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients, leading to the myriad symptoms of Celiac. Celiac symptoms vary widely, and can include both digestive problems, and other conditions, like anemia, that stem from the lack of proper nourishment to the body.

wheat allergy food allergies
Some people are allergic to wheat; others have gluten intolerance.

There is such a thing as a true wheat allergy, which for some people causes respiratory problems like difficulty breathing and nasal congestion, and other allergy symptoms like swelling and itching around the mouth and throat, hives or other itchy skin rashes, and headaches. Wheat allergies are a response to chemical compounds in wheat, which is found in a wide variety of food products. In some cases, exposure to wheat can cause anaphylaxis, which requires emergency medical attention because it can involve trouble breathing and swallowing, chest tightening, throat swelling, dizziness, and fainting.

Some doctors now recognize gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a separate condition from Celiac disease. For some people, gluten causes an immune response and symptoms, but not the same kind of damage to the intestines that Celiac does. If gluten intolerance is suspected, then following a gluten free diet for a period of time and noticing if symptoms clear up is usually the recommended course of action.

Celiac disease tends to run in families, and so is considered to be passed genetically. People can begin to show signs of Celiac at any age. It is estimated that at least 1% of the population has Celiac disease, but that number may be significantly higher, as it is still not a very well understood condition. Many people who have Celiac disease are unaware of it, or have been misdiagnosed with other conditions. Researchers believe that the incidence of Celiac disease is increasing worldwide, probably due to some environmental factors.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs provide a holistic way to treat Celiac disease, relieving the painful symptoms and providing detailed guidance for lifestyle and dietary changes that can help people manage Celiac and gluten intolerance. Nutrition is considered to be one of the primary branches of TCM, along with acupuncture and herbs. A TCM practitioner will be able to give you dietary recommendations far beyond just telling you to eat gluten free foods.

Top 10 Celiac Disease Symptoms

People can experience a variety of gluten intolerance symptoms, including digestive problems, allergy symptoms like skin rash, and other symptoms related to nutritional deficiency, like anemia and weight loss. Signs of gluten intolerance may be different in children, who are more susceptible to malnourishment that can lead to a failure to thrive.

headache stomach pain fatigue celiac
Fatigue, headaches, and stomach pain can all be signs of Celiac disease.

Celiac symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Weight loss
  3. Diarrhea, pale colored stools, foul-smelling, fatty, greasy stool
  4. Abdominal bloating, bloated stomach, gas, stomach pain, abdominal pain
  5. Nausea, vomiting
  6. Constipation
  7. Headache, headaches, migraines, migraine headaches
  8. Skin rash, mouth ulcers, mouth sores, canker sores
  9. Neuropathy, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, problems with balance, joint pain
  10. Cognitive problems, foggy head, difficulty concentrating

Celiac can lead to anemia, iron deficiency, loss of bone density (osteoporosis), weak bones, soft bones, bone loss (osteopenia), joint pain, or arthritis. People can also have liver problems, including fatty liver.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a specific type of skin rash that causes itching and blisters to appear, primarily on the knees, elbows, torso, top of the head, and buttocks.

Women may find that celiac disease affects their hormones, menstrual periods, and can have an impact on fertility, even causing recurrent miscarriages

Celiac disease can also contribute to infertility and low sperm count in men.

When a child develops celiac disease, the inability to absorb nutrients from food can cause problems with normal growth, such as short stature, delayed puberty, and damage to tooth enamel. Developmental disorders and behavioral issues can also be related to celiac, like ADD/ADHD and irritability. 

In extreme cases, Celiac can cause seizures.

Celiac Disease Diagnosis and Treatment 

stomach pain abdominal pain
Abdominal pain and bloating can be symptoms of Celiac or gluten intolerance.

Going through the process of being diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance is quite complicated and involves multiple tests. From the medical standpoint, it is best that you do not eliminate gluten or change your diet before the testing, so that it can accurately show how gluten is affecting your immune system and your intestines.

First, you will probably have a blood test that looks for certain antibodies that would indicate an autoimmune reaction to gluten. Some people may test negative for antibodies, and yet still have Celiac, though, so this blood testing is not enough to be conclusive. Genetic testing may be done, which looks for specific antigens to rule out Celiac. If testing shows that a person has antibodies, and they also have a specific type of skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis), that is usually enough for a doctor to give an official diagnosis of Celiac disease.

Endoscopy is an imaging test which uses a little camera to see if there is damage to the intestinal lining. They will also take some tissue samples from the lining of the intestine to check for inflammation and damage. The results of these tests may lead to a formal Celiac diagnosis. People will often need to have an endoscopy to find out if they have Celiac disease, and then possibly repeated endoscopies to see if the inflammation is getting better or worse.

Sometimes people will try figuring out what is going on themselves with a food sensitivity test or food intolerance test kit that you can do at home and send in for results. Food allergy testing may give you some information as to whether you have a reaction to a specific allergen (egg allergy, milk allergy, peanut allergy, shellfish allergy) or have a food sensitivity, but they cannot tell you if you really have Celiac disease or gut inflammation.

Going through the diagnostic process for autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease can be exhausting in and of itself. Meanwhile, you aren’t yet getting treatment for your symptoms. The only treatment available in conventional medicine for Celiac disease really is to follow a gluten free diet. Most doctors are not able to do much beyond give you a list of foods you shouldn’t eat, or refer you to a dietitian.

TCM has the ability to provide more comprehensive care for people with Celiac disease, and many other autoimmune conditions. Acupuncturists are highly trained professionals when it comes to offering patients detailed guidance for following an effective Celiac disease diet.

Can Acupuncture Help Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?

gluten free foods
Your acupuncturist will help you follow a gluten free diet.

TCM has more to offer than just acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine. Nutrition is one of core competencies every TCM practitioner must master. 

Acupuncture treatment can help relieve digestive symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, and also have a positive impact on the system malfunctioning that leads to autoimmune reactions. With Chinese herbs, we are able to get very potent nutrients into the body that wouldn’t normally come from food. For people with Celiac, or other problems like food allergies or sensitivities, malnutrition due to malabsorption is a real problem. 

A TCM nutrition approach can help restore the body’s health with foods and herbs better than a simple elimination diet for Celiac disease can. An acupuncturist listens carefully to the particular symptoms and sensations you describe. These provide important clues as to which organ systems are involved, and where yin and yang are out of balance. Then TCM provides a framework for tailoring the treatment and food plan for Celiac disease to each individual’s needs.

According to TCM theory, the stomach and spleen are responsible for digesting food. Celiac disease symptoms are, according to a typical TCM diagnosis, related to a spleen deficiency. When Qi in the spleen is weak, the body is not getting the nutrients it needs. Building up the strength of the spleen will often be the focus of the acupuncture portion of the treatment. Herbs and specific nourishing foods will be recommended, which will help anemia and soothe the digestive tract.

Acupuncture Near Me For Celiac Disease, West Los Angeles

Autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease can be especially frustrating because they seem to take over your whole life. Not only physical health, but mental health is compromised. Treatment options are limited. Fortunately, TCM offers a complementary form of medicine that is able to provide multi-faceted care for autoimmune disorders like Celiac, including: Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Acupuncture treatment can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression as you learn to manage your illness.

If you or someone you know has been suffering from digestive issues, and you suspect it may have something to do with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, be prepared to go through testing, but also give some thought to adding a TCM provider to your health care team. At Art of Wellness, we have over 35 years of providing excellent care through TCM treatments, including expert nutrition services. It is like getting an acupuncturist and dietitian in one.

 

*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 Morning Sickness With Acupuncture and TCM

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

morning sickness pregnancy
“Morning sickness” can cause nausea at any time of day.

Nausea or vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy, known as “morning sickness,” is experienced by more than half of all pregnant women. Severe nausea and vomiting, or morning sickness that lasts all day or further into pregnancy–called Hyperemesis Gravidarumis less common, but can cause health problems for both the mother and the developing fetus. Acupuncture and TCM provide a natural and effective alternative for dealing with both mild and severe morning sickness.

“Morning sickness” is somewhat of a misnomer, although nausea during the first several weeks of pregnancy is often experienced early in the day, before eating. Having an empty stomach can exacerbate the queasy feeling of morning sickness. But why is it called morning sickness when it lasts all day? As many women know, morning sickness can strike at any time of day or night, and some women feel nauseous throughout the day.

The majority (at least 70%, maybe more) of all pregnant women experience some nausea during early pregnancy. Morning sickness usually begins occurring when a woman is around 6 weeks pregnant, and goes away by about the 12th week of pregnancy, or the transition into the second trimester. However, some women will continue to feel morning sickness later in pregnancy.

Medical science has not determined exactly what causes morning sickness, although it is generally thought to be related to changes in hormones, particularly an increase in hCG, known as the “pregnancy hormone.” A recent research study found that a specific genetic sequence present in some women may account for increased nausea during pregnancy. Some researchers at Cornell University have posited that morning sickness may be an evolutionary development that prevents harm to babies in utero by keeping the mother’s diet free of potentially toxic substances. They observed that in cultures where the staple diet relies more on starches and less on meat, pregnant women were less likely to experience morning sickness.

For most women, the morning sickness that occurs in the early months of pregnancy is not dangerous to their health or that of the fetus. However, feeling nauseous a lot of time is certainly uncomfortable. Some lifestyle habits can help get the nausea and vomiting under control. Acupuncture treatment and herbs can help even more to provide relief from the daily nausea of morning sickness.

For some women, morning sickness is more than just a nuisance. Not being able to keep any food down and vomiting repeatedly throughout the day for weeks or even months on end can cause serious health issues for mom and baby. Lack of proper nutrition, dehydration, and weight loss can lead to unwanted outcomes later on, including pre-term delivery and low birth weight of the infant. Hyperemesis gravidarum requires treatment. Acupuncture help for morning sickness is a natural alternative to drugs used to treat nausea.

Top 5 Symptoms of Morning Sickness

The symptom of nausea during early pregnancy is often what first lets a woman know she might be pregnant. Feeling queasy, dizzy, sensitive to smells, an aversion to certain foods, and occasionally vomiting are the most common signs of morning sickness. The sensations can be likened to those of motion sickness, or having a hangover. Many women report having a metallic taste in their mouth, and/or more saliva, which can contribute to feeling nauseated.

Severe morning sickness is a more serious problem. Signs of hyperemesis gravidarum include:

  1. Vomiting 3-4 times per day or more
  2. Feeling light-headed or dizzy after vomiting
  3. Dehydration: thirst, dry mouth, not having to urinate normally
  4. Heart beating fast, heart palpitations
  5. Losing weight during pregnancy (more than 10 pounds)

Some women may be at higher risk for hyperemesis gravidarum if they are: having multiples (twins or triplets), if their mother also had severe morning sickness (genetics), or if they generally tend to have a more sensitive stomach, even when not pregnant. Stress, lack of sleep, and hot weather can all trigger more nausea during pregnancy.

Medical Treatment for Morning Sickness

morning sickness pregnancy
Morning sickness can continue later in pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is challenging to treat effectively, as care must be taken to avoid drugs that could harm the mother or the developing fetus. Often women are not treated for severe morning sickness until they have become so sick and dehydrated from vomiting that they need urgent care. At this point, a woman may need to be hospitalized and treated intravenously for dehydration.

There has been a somewhat standard practice of people recommending and using over-the-counter antihistamines or antiemetics like Pepto-Bismol to help quell nausea. In a 6-year study of women with hyperemesis gravidarum, researchers found that women who had used medications like Benadryl during pregnancy were more likely to experience adverse outcomes. A combination of vitamin B-6 and doxylamine is sometimes recommended. This drug combination is sold as an OTC sleep aid. Phenothiazine is sometimes prescribed for women with morning sickness, but it’s efficacy and safety for this use has not been studied extensively.

These medicines are used because they seem relatively risk-free, but they still carry the risk of side effects, like drowsiness, headaches, dry mouth, etc. In many cases, they are not totally effective. Acupuncture and TCM herbal formulations offer relief from nausea and other pregnancy issues without any negative side effects.

How Can Acupuncture Treat Nausea?

acupressure point for menstrual cramps
Apply gentle pressure to help relieve nausea

According to TCM, Qi (life force energy) moves through the body along meridians, channels that connect the organ systems. The Chong meridian connects the reproductive organs to the brain and the heart. This particular energy channel is related to all concerns having to do with female reproductive health and gynecological conditions, including menstruation and pregnancy. Its relation to the heart means that it is also connected to feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, and palpitations.

Each woman’s experience of morning sickness is different, so a TCM practitioner will look carefully at each individual patient to determine the specific imbalances causing the nausea and address them appropriately with acupuncture and herbs.

In TCM theory, morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum are related to the stomach, spleen, and liver. When a woman becomes pregnant, blood and Qi are strongly directed towards the pelvic area to nourish the womb (uterus) and the developing fetus. This surge of energy will also affect the digestive organs, potentially causing stomach problems. This is more likely to happen to women who have had weak digestion previously, perhaps due to a lack of proper functioning of the spleen. Likewise, the direction of more blood to the reproductive organs can cause a decrease in Yin energy in the Liver, thus increasing Yang energy. Liver fire can also trigger imbalance in the Stomach, leading to nausea and vomiting.

acupressure point PC-6 for nausea morning sickness
Acupressure point PC-6 for nausea and morning sickness.

A specific acupressure/acupuncture point on the wrist is especially helpful for reducing nausea. This acupoint is known as PC6, or Nei Guan, 内关, which translates as “Inner Pass.” You may have seen special bracelets or wristbands recommended to help reduce nausea due to morning sickness (or motion sickness or postoperative nausea related to opioid medications). These products are designed to stimulate this acupressure point for nausea. While applying gentle pressure to this point can certainly be beneficial for women experiencing morning sickness, acupuncture treatment that includes this point and others is even more effective.

A systematic review of published studies related to the use of PC6 stimulation for nausea and vomiting found that this treatment produces clinically effective results, not only for pregnant women, but also for patients in cancer treatment and other people experiencing severe nausea.

A randomized trial conducted in Sweden to study the use of acupuncture treatment in conjunction with standard medical treatment for women with hyperemesis gravidarum found that acupuncture was not only very safe and free of side effects, but that women who received acupuncture were able to get over their severe nausea and vomiting more quickly than women getting only the standard treatment.
A study conducted at a maternity hospital in Australia compared women who received acupuncture for morning sickness to groups receiving placebo treatment or no treatment. The women who received acupuncture reported significantly less nausea and retching.

Top 5 Tips to Help Morning Sickness

grapefruit pomelo nausea morning sickness
Sniffing the skin of a grapefruit or pomelo fruit can help nip nausea in the bud.

Naturally, pregnancy is a time to embrace new lifestyle habits that are beneficial to both mother and baby. Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy can be especially difficult if you are feeling nauseous. Getting enough nutrition and rest during pregnancy is vital. 

  1. Eat plain, “bland,” warm foods. Avoid anything that is spicy, salty, fatty, fried, or cold.
  2. Eat smaller meals/snacks at regular intervals throughout the day, so as to avoid the stomach being empty or too full, and to keep blood sugar levels steady.
  3. Sip water slowly and regularly. Don’t gulp down large amounts of liquid all at once.
  4. Sip ginger tea, made by steeping a few slices of fresh ginger.
  5. Actively prioritize stress reduction. Anxiety can exacerbate the nausea of morning sickness. Take frequent rest breaks. Ask your TCM provider to show you some gentle meditative exercises like Tai Qi or Chi Gong that can help relieve stress and nausea.

Talking with a trusted healthcare professional who understands what you’re going through can be helpful for calming anxieties about your pregnancy. Finding an experienced acupuncturist who can help you through any and all of the symptoms and worries that may come up during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care can help to ease stress and discomfort.

Acupuncture Near Me for Morning Sickness

Acupuncture is an excellent modality not only for helping to relieve nausea due to morning sickness; TCM is a holistic form of medicine that can help women throughout pregnancy. Many discomforts and concerns may come up as a woman anticipates birth. Working with an integrative health provider who has a thorough understanding of gynecology and obstetrics from both Eastern and Western medical points of view can be beneficial to the physical and emotional health of both mother and baby. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping women attain better reproductive health: from painful periods, to fertility issues, through pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.

 

 

*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 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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