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Digestive Disorders

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 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 Crohn’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

abdominal bloating, stomach pain
Abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea are the common signs of Crohn’s disease.

Abdominal pain that flares up, persistent diarrhea and stomach pain, bloody stool? These can be signs of Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Along with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help reduce the inflammation that causes IBD symptoms.

About 3 million people in the U.S. are living with Crohn’s disease; it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Crohn’s symptoms sometimes begin to show up in childhood or during the teenage years, but most people are diagnosed with Crohn’s in early adulthood. As it does tend to run in families, it is believed that Crohn’s is caused partially by genetic makeup, but even if you have a close family member who has Crohn’s that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get it.

Crohn’s disease is a type of autoimmune disease. In autoimmune disorders, the body’s immune system, which is designed to fight potentially dangerous pathogens, mistakenly attacks normal cells or tissues. In the case of Crohn’s disease, inflammation is caused by the body’s immune system launching an attack against bacteria that are normally present in the gastrointestinal tract to help with digestion. As with other autoimmune diseases (Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, Type 1 diabetes, Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, etc.), the causes are not fully understood by medical science.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are similar to ulcerative colitis symptoms; both are related to chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The difference is the specific location. Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon, or the large intestine. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth, all the way through the stomach, small intestine and large intestine, to the anal area. 

IBDs create inflammation that causes pain, cramping, and compromises the healthy functioning of portions of the GI tract. Over time, Crohn’s can cause so much damage to the tissues of the intestines and other organs that surgeries are required to repair it. 

Treatment of Crohn’s aims not only to reduce symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, but to prevent this kind of damage. Conventional medicine for Crohn’s can help control the disease to some extent. TCM methods, used as an alternative or adjunct to pharmacological treatment for Crohn’s, can relieve symptoms and help to restore healthy digestion and bowel function.

Acupuncture and other TCM treatments such as moxibustion have been shown to help patients with Crohn’s disease by reducing inflammation, allowing for the repair and healing of damaged tissues in the GI tract, and reducing IBD symptoms like nausea and joint pain.

Top 5 Types of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is classified according to where in the GI tract inflammation is causing pain and problems.

  1. Ileocolitis – affects the area where the small intestine connects to the large intestine, causing diarrhea and pain in the lower right abdomen.

  2. Ileitis – affects just the lower part of the small intestine, causing diarrhea and abdominal cramps, weight loss, and possibly fistulas developing between sections of the intestine.

  3. Gastroduodenal – affects the connection of the stomach to the small intestine, causing more upper GI symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

  4. Jejunoileitis – affects the upper part of the small intestine, causing cramping and diarrhea

  5. Granulomatous Colitis – Crohn’s that affects the colon area, causing diarrhea, rectal bleeding, bloody stool, and possible anal fistula or fissure. Skin rashes and joint pain are also more commonly seen with this type of Crohn’s disease.

Top 10 Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn
Crohn’s can cause stomach pain and weight loss.

As with other autoimmune disorders, Crohn’s disease causes flares that come and go. You may have periods of time when everything seems fine, then some stress or change in your environment can trigger a flare up of IBD symptoms. Each person will have their own experience of Crohn’s symptoms:

  1. Diarrhea, explosive diarrhea, urgent need to go
  2. Stomach pain, lower abdominal pain, epigastric pain, stomach ache
  3. Stomach cramps, abdominal cramps, cramping
  4. Rectal bleeding, bleeding from anus, bloody stool
  5. Constipation, feeling like you can’t go or you still have to go even after you’ve gone
  6. Fatigue, tired all the time, chronic fatigue, low energy
  7. Poor appetite, not hungry
  8. Mouth sores, cold sores around mouth
  9. Red eyes, watery eyes, blurred vision, dry eyes, eye pain, sensitivity to light
  10. Swollen joints, joint pain, joint inflammation, colitic arthritis

When it shows up early in life, Crohn’s disease can affect a child’s growth and development. In adults, Crohn’s can cause weight loss and anemia. The chronic inflammation of the GI tract and persistent diarrhea associated with Crohn’s can impede the normal absorption of nutrients from food. Fevers, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances can all become concerns for someone with Crohn’s.

Other potentially related problems can include: kidney stones or other kidney problems, urinary problems, and inflammation of the bile ducts (pericholangitis). 

More serious complications of Crohn’s involve tissue damage in the gastrointestinal tract, creating open sores or ulcers. An anal fissure is when there are tears in the rectal tissue, causing bleeding from the anus. A fistula develops when tissue breaks down between sections of the intestine, or between the intestine and the bladder, or the rectal area and the vagina. A stricture occurs when a section of the intestine becomes so inflamed that the passage becomes narrowed or blocked by scar tissue. Many people with Crohn’s disease end up having surgery to help remove these blockages, also called stenosis, due to bowel stricture, or to repair fistulas that have developed in the intestines.

Diagnosis and Medical Treatment of Crohn’s Disease

Again, as with many autoimmune diseases, it can be difficult to get a clear diagnosis for Crohn’s or IBD. Many people will suffer with stomach pain and diarrhea for a long time without realizing that something deeper is going on, and there is no simple, single test to show that you have Crohn’s. If blood tests and stool tests indicate that there is no other type of infection causing the symptoms, then colonoscopy and/or endoscopy, ultrasound or CT imaging can be used so that doctors can see where the inflammation is and where the ulcerative pain is centered.

Medicine like Imodium is commonly used to help reduce the severity of diarrhea. Immunosuppressant medications, immunomodulators, or monoclonal antibodies may be prescribed to help block the immune responses causing the inflammation. Corticosteroids are often used to help reduce inflammation. These medications, used in combination, can help to reduce symptoms of Crohn’s. However, these drugs can have serious side effects. Biologics can increase the risk of serious respiratory infections and may increase the risk of certain cancers. Corticosteroids can contribute to bone loss (osteoporosis) and cause swelling in other parts of the body. Immunosuppressants can stress the liver and pancreas.

Can Acupuncture Help Crohn’s Disease?

moxibustion
Moxibustion and acupuncture can be effective treatments for Crohn’s disease.

TCM treatments have been proven to be effective for helping to reduce inflammation and relieve pain for many types of conditions, including autoimmune disorders that can be difficult to treat with conventional medicine. TCM works well to help bring relief to people with autoimmune diseases because acupuncture and herbs work upon both the physiological and emotional aspects of the illness. Crohn’s flare ups can be triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues or strong emotions. Acupuncture can help to relieve stress and worry, so that they are less likely to feed into physical symptoms.

Acupuncture and moxibustion can help improve symptoms of diarrhea, stomach cramps, and epigastric pain. Through using these safe healing modalities, acupuncture practitioners are able to help people with bloated stomach, IBS symptoms, and nausea. Acupuncture treatment can also positively affect the vagus nerve in the brain, which plays an important role both in the functioning of the immune system and the parasympathetic nervous system that controls the action of the entire GI tract. Acupuncture can also positively impact the microbial bacteria that reside in the intestines, bringing them closer to normal levels.

A trial study that compared Crohn’s patients treated with acupuncture and moxibustion for 12 weeks with patients who received “sham acupuncture.” The patients who had real treatment showed significant improvement of symptoms over those in the control group.

A study to discover how electro-acupuncture treatment affects the brain-gut connection in patients with Crohn’s showed that acupuncture and moxibustion had a positive impact on activity in the hippocampus and vagus nerve areas of the brain.

Another study that looked at the chemical composition of intestinal mucosa found that acupuncture treatment helped improve the health of the lining of the intestines and reduced inflammation.

Acupuncture Near Me for Crohn’s Disease in Santa Monica, CA

Living with Crohn’s symptoms can be seriously debilitating. Chronic diarrhea and stomach pain can feel like they’re taking over your whole life. It is possible to manage Crohn’s disease symptoms without negative side effects. If you or someone you know is suffering with an IBD, or possibly an autoimmune disorder, or more than one autoimmune disease, it is worth trying TCM methods to see if they work for you.

 

 

*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 Parkinson’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Parkinson
Hand tremor is one of the most well known sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Hand tremor or shaky hands, stiffness in limbs, trouble walking, or problems with balance? These may be signs of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Parkinsons is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily affects the brain cells that produce dopamine. Integrative care with acupuncture treatment may help relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease better than conventional treatments alone.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that causes damage and dysfunction in brain cells, so that communications between the brain and the body don’t work the way they usually do. Sometimes a range of symptoms similar to those experienced by people with Parkinson’s occurs due to small strokes that affect the blood supply to the brain. This condition is called vascular parkinsonism.

More than ten million people are currently living with Parkinson’s disease worldwide. The chances of having PD increase with age, and men are more likely to have Parkinson’s than women. Early onset Parkinson’s can occur in people under 50. While it is often considered a movement disorder that causes hand tremors and other problems with mobility, Parkinson’s disease can cause less obvious symptoms, too.

Parkinson’s disease causes both “motor” and “non-motor symptoms;” the motor symptoms include physical problems like trembling hands or hand shaking, stiffness in the arms and legs, and trouble with balance when walking. The non-motor symptoms may include cognitive problems with memory, foggy-headedness, and trouble sleeping. It might even seem like a person’s personality and social behavior change, because they have trouble speaking and making their usual facial expressions.

Neurological diseases like Parkinson’s can slow the production of chemicals usually produced by the nervous system, including both dopamine and norepinephrine, a chemical that constricts blood vessels to raise blood pressure. It may be this lack of norepinephrine that causes some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as low blood pressure, digestive problems, and fatigue.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, which means that people with PD go through stages as the condition affects more and more brain cells. In the early stages, the motor symptoms are mild and may only occur on one side of the body. In the later stages, a person may not be able to perform basic daily activities like getting dressed, eating, or walking without assistance.

What causes Parkinson’s disease? Medical science does not currently have an answer for why the brain cells become damaged or die in people with Parkinson’s. Scientists have observed that patients with Parkinson’s often have unusual clumps of a protein (alpha-synuclein) in their brain cells; these are called “lewy bodies” (lewy body parkinsons). These may be causing mutations in the cells that impair their ability to produce dopamine and other neurochemicals. Genetics, aging, and toxins in the environment or diet may all play a role in the development of Parkinson’s.

Conventional treatment for Parkinson’s involves finding a combination of medications that may help to reduce tremors and stiffness, and the myriad other symptoms a person with PD may experience. TCM offers an effective and safe adjunctive Parkinson’s treatment. Acupuncture treatment is widely accepted as a way to help relieve pain and nausea related to all types of diseases. TCM treatment can also have a positive effect on neurochemical activity, increase dopamine levels, help improve motor function and gait, and relieve fatigue.

Top 10 Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson
Stooped posture or shoulders hunched over are signs of Parkinson’s.

The early signs of Parkinson’s are generally related to movements of the body, like feeling stiff when getting up or mild hand tremors. People may not realize that other symptoms, like low blood pressure and dizziness, are also related to early stage Parkinson’s. The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include: 

  1. Tremor – a small, involuntary shaking movement occurs most often in the hands, but can also be in a finger or thumb, or the chin. Sometimes called static tremor or resting tremor.
  2. Trouble moving or walking – limbs may feel stiff or rigid, there may be hip pain or shoulder pain. Most noticeably, the arms may not swing naturally when a person walks, or a person may shuffle, feeling it is hard to lift their feet off the floor. Movements that have been automatic for one’s whole life become challenging. 
  3. Dizziness – fainting or feeling dizzy when you get up from sitting or lying down. This happens due to a sudden drop in blood pressure called orthostatic hypotension. A general feeling of weakness, feeling lightheaded, foggy headed, headache, blurred vision, and difficulty thinking or concentrating, and memory problems.
  4. Change in handwriting – this symptom is called micrographia, and it refers to a noticeable difference in a person’s writing, as they make smaller letters and the words are crowded closer together.
  5. Loss of smell, loss of taste, loss of appetite – many people with Parkinson’s develop an inability to smell in the early stage of the disease, known as olfactory loss. This can also affect a person’s ability to taste foods, which can lead to loss of appetite. Some medical theories suggest that Parkinson’s may begin in the olfactory region of the brain.
  6. Disturbed sleep, sleep disorder – sleep problems might simply be trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep, but they may also involve a lot of movement, or “tossing and turning,” or even talking in your sleep, crying out or yelling due to vivid dreams. Restless leg syndrome, when the limbs jerk, or leg cramps, may also be caused by Parkinson’s.
  7. Constipation, nausea, or trouble swallowing – cell damage in the gut may actually be one of the first symptoms of Parkinson’s, causing gastrointestinal problems due to slower movements of the smooth muscles of the digestive tract. Feeling nauseous or having a bloated stomach happens when the contents of the stomach empty too slowly into the intestine.
  8. Changes in the voice – people may notice that your voice sounds hoarse, weaker or more quiet than usual. This can be due to both motor and non-motor problems of PD, related to difficulty swallowing, sore throat due to heartburn, sensation of choking or food stuck in throat. It is also related to cognitive difficulties that make it harder to think of words, causing slow speech, or in other cases, talking too fast to be understood. Sometimes it may seem that a person with Parkinson’s doesn’t feel like talking much.
  9. Changes in facial expression – called “facial masking,” some people with Parkinson’s will find people asking them if they are upset because the expression on their face looks very serious, sad or angry, or they appear to be staring. This happens because of decreased motor function of the muscles of the face.
  10. Changes in posture – people with Parkinson’s may begin to hunch over while sitting, with shoulders hunched forward, or assuming a “stooped” posture while standing or walking. Again, this is due to a lack of communication between the brain and the muscles. This hunched posture can affect deep breathing, and increase the risk of falls.

Parkinson’s symptoms are complex, and vary widely from person to person. People with Parkinson’s are often subject to feelings of depression and anxiety, as well. Treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms requires a multipronged approach that addresses each individual patient’s physical, emotional, and mental health.

Medical Parkinson’s Treatment

When treating Parkinson’s, doctors will often try various combinations of drug therapy, some of which aim to replace dopamine, to help relieve tremors and other motor symptoms of PD. Levodopa/Carbidopa (or Sinemet) is a combination medication that creates a controlled release of dopamine. This can help to alleviate some symptoms, but the symptoms return when the medication is not in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, this medication can cause side effects like nausea and vomiting, and people will often need to take larger doses to get the same effect as the disease progresses. Long-term use sometimes causes dyskinesia, or involuntary movements of the limbs. Doctors may then prescribe another medication, such as Amantadine or Gocovri, to help mitigate these effects, or to help stave off motor symptoms during “off” times when the dopamine-replacing drugs wear off.

Patients with Parkinson’s will often be given other medications to help with problems like constipation, high blood pressure, sleep problems, pain, and depression. TCM and acupuncture offer a holistic way to treat many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s at the same time, without so many drugs and their potential side effects.

How Can Acupuncture Help Parkinson’s?

ben biao TCM theory tree branches
The tree’s branches represent the outward signs of disease.

Part of TCM theory involves the concept of Ben and Biao, or “Root and Branch.” We observe that the expression of illness in the body is like the system of roots and branches of a tree. The branches show us the outward symptoms, while the root of the disease is hidden deeper under the surface, where we can’t see it. In order to treat the symptoms of any illness, we study the branches to find out where the problem originates, then we go to the root of the problem to solve it. We do this with a combination of acupuncture, herbs, and other modalities like moxibustion, cupping, and tuina massage. These TCM treatments allow us to address problems in the organ systems of the body, where lie the roots of illness, while at the same time, helping to relieve the pains and uncomfortable symptoms occurring in the branches.

Parkinson’s disease is considered by TCM philosophy to occur due to deficiencies in the root, which cause excess in the branches. Deficiency of the kidney, liver, spleen, blood and Qi (root problems) contribute to heat, phlegm, stasis, and wind in the limbs (branches). Tremors in the hands, and changes in facial expressions and movements are caused by Wind and Phlegm. According to TCM, Wind causes problems, often in the upper body, that come and go, such as stiffness, spasms, facial tics, and shaking of the limbs–like the wind shaking the branches of a tree. Wind can also cause symptoms like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), sudden headaches, and hives. Phlegm, which blocks the energy channels of the body, disrupts the smooth flow of blood and Qi to the limbs, creating a sense of stiffness, heaviness in the limbs, resistance to moving or speaking, staring, heavy feeling in the chest, and lack of coordination.

Acupuncture treatment for Parkinson’s disease, then, focuses on clearing heat, wind, and phlegm, strengthening and nourishing the blood, and getting the Qi moving smoothly again.

When we use acupuncture and herbs to help Parkinson’s, we see changes occurring in the neurochemical activity of the brain.

One study looked at the changes in neural response in the brain immediately after acupuncture treatment. This study concluded that after 8 weeks of treatment, patients with Parkinson’s showed significant improvement in brain function.

Another clinical study showed that acupuncture helped to increase levels of Tyrosine hydroxylase, a brain chemical involved in the production of dopamine.

TCM herbal formulas have also been clinically demonstrated to help relieve Parkinson’s symptoms like speech problems, tremors, and gait disturbances.

Research has shown that using TCM herbs to treat Parkinson’s is a safe and effective adjunctive therapy to conventional medical treatment.

Acupuncture Near Me for Parkinson’s Disease Santa Monica Westside

Parkinson
Make TCM treatment part of your plan for Parkinson’s disease.

The goal of treatment for Parkinson’s is to slow down the progression of the disease and do what we can to maintain mobility and cognitive function. The sooner we begin treating Parkinson’s disease with acupuncture and TCM methods, the better chance we have to limit the effects of the disease and help patients stay active. If you or someone you love has Parkinson’s, consider adding a TCM doctor to your health care team. Integrative treatment for Parkinson’s with acupuncture and herbs can help treat Parkinson’s naturally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*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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