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Digestive Disorders

How to Treat SIBO With Acupuncture and TCM

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by Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

SIBO bloating stomach pain
Stomach pain and bloating can be signs of SIBO.

Abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea? These can be SIBO symptoms. SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, can cause bloated stomach, abdominal cramps and pain. Acupuncture and TCM can offer alternative SIBO treatment and bloating relief.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition in which an abnormal increase in the population of bacteria occurs in the small intestine. 

Unlike the large intestine, which is rich in bacterial flora essential for digestion and immune function, the small intestine typically contains relatively few bacteria. When these bacteria proliferate excessively in the small intestine, they can disrupt normal digestion and nutrient absorption, leading to a variety of uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms.

Problems with gut motility also contribute to SIBO symptoms. Peristalsis is the process by which the smooth muscle tissues in the intestine move food matter through the gastrointestinal tract. When peristalsis isn’t happening the way it should, this is known as dysmotility. This can lead to stagnation of food matter in the intestine, which allows for an overgrowth of bacteria to build up. This in turn can causes hydrogen and methane gas to be produced by the fermentation of carbohydrates that are stagnant in the small intestine. This excess gas causes painful bloating and distension of the abdomen.

SIBO can cause a range of digestive symptoms, such as bloated stomach, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and malabsorption of nutrients from food, which can result in unwanted weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly common among people suffering from SIBO.

Other symptoms, seemingly unrelated to the gastrointestinal system, can include: fatigue, headache, low fever, and rosacea. 

SIBO is often associated with other health issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, and diabetes.

Acupuncture and TCM can work as an adjunct or alternative treatment for SIBO symptoms.

This can lead to hydrogen and methane gas being produced by the fermentation of carbohydrates that are stagnant in the small intestine. This excess gas can cause painful bloating and a distended abdomen.

 

What Causes SIBO?

SIBO gas and stomach pain
SIBO can cause a lot of abdominal pain and gas.

A wide variety of different issues can play a role in the development of SIBO. Many conditions may cause problems with the secretion of gastric acids, with motility of the small intestine, gut immune function, and structural issues related to surgeries, injuries, or other abnormalities of the intestine.

Conditions that may contribute to SIBO include:

  1. Gastroparesis due to diabetes, or connective tissue disorders, viral infection, or ischemia
  2. Cirrhosis
  3. Chronic renal failure
  4. Scleroderma
  5. Crohn’s disease
  6. Celiac disease
  7. Recurrent rounds of antibiotics
  8. Excessive consumption of alcohol
  9. GI tract surgeries that create structural abnormalities
  10. Immune deficiencies of T-cell or antibody responses

 

What’s the Difference Between IBS and SIBO?

Symptoms of SIBO are very similar to IBS symptoms, and it is possible for a person to have both IBS and SIBO at the same time. The difference between SIBO and irritable bowel syndrome is that IBS is a functional syndrome stemming from issues in the large intestine, whereas SIBO occurs in the small intestine.

One review of studies showed that the incidence of SIBO among patients with IBS is much higher than among people who don’t have IBS symptoms. The exact link between IBS and SIBO has not yet been clarified by medical science.

 

Medical Treatment for SIBO

In Western medicine, the treatment of SIBO typically involves a multi-faceted approach aimed at reducing the bacterial overgrowth, addressing the underlying causes, and managing symptoms. 

Along with trying to find and address any underlying conditions that may be causing or contributing to SIBO, the mainstays of conventional treatment include antibiotics and medications to help improve gut motility.

The primary treatment for SIBO is the use of antibiotics to reduce the bacterial load in the small intestine. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include rifaximin, metronidazole, and ciprofloxacin. These antibiotics are chosen for their ability to target the small intestine bacteria while minimizing disruption to the rest of the gut microbiota.

Unfortunately, while antibiotics may help reduce bacteria, but they can also come with unwanted side effects. Rifaximin can cause bladder pain, urinary frequency, difficulty urinating, and cloudy urine. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety, dizziness, headaches, fast breathing, fast heartbeat, and problems sleeping.

Antibiotics do not necessarily ease symptoms like gas and bloating, and can cause constipation and black, tarry stool.

Prokinetics are medications that help improve gut motility, ensuring that food and bacteria move efficiently through the digestive tract, which can help prevent bacterial stasis and overgrowth. Common prokinetics include erythromycin in low doses, prucalopride, and metoclopramide.

Dietary modifications will usually be recommended to help manage SIBO. Patients are often advised to follow specific diets such as the low FODMAP diet, which reduces the intake of fermentable carbohydrates that can feed bacterial overgrowth. Other dietary approaches may include the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or an elemental diet, which involves consuming easily digestible, nutrient-rich formulas.

It can be difficult for people to follow a SIBO diet, and many physicians are not able to spend the time with patients that is required to properly support these behavioral changes. Without dietary support, the antibiotics and prokinetics may not do enough to get rid of SIBO.

Successful treatment of SIBO often requires addressing any underlying conditions that contribute to bacterial overgrowth. This could involve treating gastrointestinal motility disorders, managing chronic pancreatitis, or addressing structural abnormalities such as strictures or diverticula.

By understanding the underlying causes and employing a comprehensive treatment strategy, conventional medicine aims to alleviate symptoms and reduce the recurrence of SIBO. However, due to the chronic nature of the condition and the complexity of the gut microbiome, many patients seek complementary treatments such as acupuncture and herbal medicine to support their overall gut health and enhance the effectiveness of their treatment plan.

 

Can Acupuncture Help SIBO?

Turmeric Cinnamon herbs for SIBO
Herbs like cinnamon, turmeric, and cloves can help relieve SIBO symptoms.

Chinese herbal medicine has its own way of helping to relieve SIBO, improve motility and digestion, and soothe uncomfortable stomach pain and bloating. 

TCM theory views stagnation of Qi and blood as being one of the primary pathogenic forces in the body that causes pain and disease. In the case of SIBO, weakness or stagnation of organ systems, such as the stomach, liver, and spleen, is often part of the diagnostic pattern.

Diet, herbs, and supplements may all play an important role, in addition to acupuncture treatment for SIBO. Digestive enzymes and/or probiotics may be helpful in some cases. It may be necessary to eliminate some foods for a time to help control excessive fermentation and bacterial proliferation that is causing the gas and bloating.

There are foods and herbs that can work as natural prokinetics, to help improve gut motility and aid in proper absorption of nutrients. Ginger, turmeric, and peppermint oil are a few easy-to-find products that can help with digestion. There are also classic Chinese herbal preparations that can work even better than pharmaceutical prokinetics to help relieve constipation and indigestion.

A review of trials in China using Modified Runchang-Tang (MRCT) showed that in a sampling of over 2000 patients, this herbal formula worked better than conventional laxatives for relieving constipation.

Another review found that Modified Chaihu Shugan powder (MCSP) worked better than chemical prokinetics to help resolve symptoms of dyspepsia, or indigestion.

In addition to specific Chinese herb formulas that can help relieve digestive issues and work to get rid of unhealthy bacteria, there are other well-known common herbs that can also be helpful:

  • Black cumin
  • Garlic
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Thyme
  • All-spice
  • Bay leaves
  • Mustard
  • Rosemary

Acupuncture practitioners have generally received much more specialized training in nutrition than conventional doctors. Your acupuncturist will be able to make dietary recommendations that are specific to your symptoms and condition.

 

Acupuncture for SIBO Near Me in Los Angeles

Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai at Art of Wellness in West Los Angeles/Santa Monica have over 30 years of experience helping people with all types of gastrointestinal disorders. You do not have to suffer with gas pain and bloating, constipation or persistent diarrhea. Try Chinese medicine as an alternative or adjunct treatment for SIBO and IBS.








*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 Gastroparesis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

Stomach pain, nausea, and belching can be signs of gastroparesis.
Stomach pain, nausea, and belching can be signs of gastroparesis.

Bloated stomach, indigestion? Acid reflux, regurgitating food? Abdominal pain or nausea? These can be signs of gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve gastroparesis symptoms. 

What is gastroparesis? Gastric paralysis is a functional problem that occurs when the stomach muscles and the nerves that are connected to them aren’t activating normally. Weak stomach contractions lead to delayed emptying of the stomach into the small intestine.

Gastroparesis impacts your digestion, triggering uncomfortable symptoms, and limiting your ability to get proper nutrition and keep your blood sugar levels steady.

There are different types of gastroparesis.

  • Diabetes-related gastroparesis – a side effect of diabetes
  • Post-surgical gastroparesis – occurs after surgery, such as gallbladder or pancreas surgery, gastric bypass surgery, stomach surgery for ulcer, or hysterectomy
  • Idiopathic gastroparesis – occurs without a clear explanation

Most people experience idiopathic gastroparesis, which means that doctors cannot necessarily identify what causes gastroparesis in many cases.

Some medications can delay stomach emptying, including narcotic pain medications like codeine, morphine, or oxycodone. Medications that work on nerve signals, such as those used to treat overactive bladder, can delay gastric emptying.

Scleroderma, an autoimmune condition that affects collagen production and smooth muscle tissues, can lead to gastroparesis. Parkinson’s disease, which affects nerve signals, can lead to delayed emptying of the stomach. Hypothyroidism can also affect nutrition and digestion, as can eating disorders, metabolic disorders, and/or chronic fatigue.

Acupuncture is a good modality for helping to relieve gastroparesis symptoms, because it works on the nervous system, to help restore the proper signaling to muscles.

Rumination Syndrome

Gastroparesis is sometimes confused with “rumination syndrome.” Rumination syndrome refers to the regular regurgitation of undigested food. People with this syndrome often regurgitate undigested food back up shortly after a meal. This condition is usually related to the functioning of muscles of the diaphragm and unconscious behaviors around chewing and swallowing.

 

Gastroparesis Symptoms

Feeling full quickly when you eat can be a symptom of gastroparesis.
Feeling full quickly when you eat can be a symptom of gastroparesis.

The most common signs of gastroparesis are bloating, pain, nausea, and feeling full quickly when you eat.

Other symptoms of gastroparesis include:

  1. Feeling full quickly when eating
  2. Nausea, feeling nauseous after eating
  3. Vomiting, spitting up undigested food after eating
  4. Bloating, bloated stomach, abdominal bloating, abdominal cramping, stomach cramps, SIBO
  5. Belching, burping
  6. Acid reflux, heartburn
  7. High blood sugar, low blood sugar
  8. Lack of appetite
  9. Weight loss
  10. Malnutrition

Gastroparesis needs to be addressed, as it can compromise your overall health by blocking you from getting proper nutrition from your food.

 

Gastroparesis Treatment

 

Medical treatment for gastroparesis will depend on which type a person seems to have. If a person has diabetes-related gastroparesis, for example, treatment will necessitate better management of blood sugar levels. 

Initial diagnosis usually involves imaging tests to see what is happening with the stomach and if there may be a blockage. Gastric motility tests help doctors see how your stomach muscles are working.

People will often be advised to change their dietary habits: possibly following a liquid diet for a period of time, or eating smaller meals throughout the day. You may be told to avoid fats and fiber, as these macronutrients can contribute to delayed stomach emptying.

In some cases, intravenous feeding or tube feeding may be necessary, if a person is severely undernourished due to gastroparesis.

Antiemetic medications may be prescribed to help with nausea and vomiting. Proton pump inhibitors may be recommended to help with acid reflux symptoms. 

There are some medications that can help promote better gastric emptying by stimulating more muscular contractions. Erythromycin and metoclopramide are two drugs used to treat gastroparesis. These medications can have side effects, like stomach cramps, nausea and constipation. They can also have negative interactions with other medications.

If these treatments are not helping, surgical options may be offered. A gastrostomy or may be inserted to help drain the stomach. A jejunostomy tube can be placed to bypass the stomach, so that nutrition gets into the intestines. A pyloroplasty is an operation in which the muscular valve of the stomach is widened.

Newer, experimental treatments involve placing electrodes on the stomach to help activate contractions. Botox injections have also been tried, as a way to calm spasms in the stomach.

Acupuncture treatment can help relieve gastroparesis symptoms without side effects or invasive procedures.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Gastroparesis?

 

Acupuncture can help relieve stomach pain and nausea due to gastroparesis.
Acupuncture can help relieve stomach pain and nausea due to gastroparesis.

According to TCM theory, gastroparesis can be caused by a deficiency of stomach and/or spleen Qi. Part of the TCM treatment protocol for gastroparesis might involve using herbs and certain foods to help warm and nourish the spleen. Acupuncture treatment can help improve muscular function, as well help to relieve stomach pain.

The motility of the gastrointestinal system is controlled by nerve and electric impulses. Acupuncture, and in particular, electro-acupuncture, can have a positive effect on stimulating electrical activity and restoring neural pathways within the body.

Acupuncture has been shown to be helpful for relieving many GI symptoms, like nausea and  bloating. This makes it a good treatment for many types of gastric disorders and stomach problems. 

In one study, three different groups of people were all given acupuncture treatment, with emphasis on different acupoints used for each group. All three groups of patients had significant improvement in their gastroparesis symptoms.

Specifically, testing with barium meal showed that acupuncture helped improve the speed of stomach emptying. Patients also reported positive changes in their feeling of fullness after a meal and experienced less bloating.

One case study of a woman in her 60s who had been suffering for two years with gastroparesis symptoms showed significant improvement of nausea, timely stomach emptying, and energy levels after just four acupuncture treatments. 

Another case study of a man in his 60s who presented with symptoms of fullness, stomach pain and distension, with delayed stomach emptying, ended with complete resolution of his symptoms after eleven acupuncture treatment sessions.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Gastroparesis in Los Angeles

 

At Art of Wellness in West Los Angeles, Doctors Tan and Cai have over 35 years of experience helping people find relief from all kinds of gastrointestinal symptoms and stomach problems, including: IBS, stomach ulcer, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. It’s worth trying acupuncture to see if it can help relieve gastroparesis symptoms 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 POTS With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

POTS dizzy nausea headaches
POTS is most common in girls and women and often starts in adolescence.

Do you often feel shaky, like you’re fainting, or experience dizziness, especially when you’re getting up from sitting down or lying down? Do you feel like you have a rapid heartbeat, or shortness of breath? Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, known as PoTS syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that causes unstable blood pressure when changing positions. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve dizziness and other symptoms of POTS.

Postural tachycardia syndrome (or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) is a chronic disorder related to the autonomic nervous system that causes people to experience dizziness and increased heart rate when they move into an upright position; this is known as orthostatic intolerance, which is a type of dysautonomia.

POTS syndrome is fairly common, affecting up to 3 million people in the U.S. POTS occurs more often in people assigned female at birth, and often first shows up during the teenage years. 

The most common symptom of POTS is feeling light-headed when changing your position from sitting to standing, or when getting up from lying down.

Whenever we have been sitting or lying down for a while, blood pools in the lower parts of the body. When we get up, the autonomic nervous system starts a series of actions to move blood back up into the top half of the body. This involves squeezing blood vessels, and releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine, to make the heart beat faster.

When a person has POTS, more blood tends to pool in the legs, and the nervous system process doesn’t cause the normal, quick response from the blood vessels, so more hormones are released, which can cause the person’s heart rate to increase, and a dizzy, faint feeling.

Medical science has not yet discovered exactly what causes POTS, but there are different characteristics that allow for categorizing these different types of POTS syndrome:

  • Neuropathic POTS – damage to small fiber nerves that control blood vessel constriction in the abdomen and limbs
  • Hyperadrenergic POTS – when a person has elevated levels of norepinephrine
  • Hypovolemic POTS – when a person has unusually low blood levels
  • Secondary POTS – when POTS symptoms are related to another condition that causes neuropathy, such as Lyme disease, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders like Lupus or celiac disease.

While POTS is not rare, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis, because the criteria can be vague, and the symptoms can so often be related to other conditions, or just seem “normal.” 

For many people, POTS is truly debilitating and can have a serious, negative impact on daily life. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for POTS that can help with dizziness, irregular heartbeat, digestive problems, muscle weakness, migraines, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms, all at the same time.

 

Top 10 POTS Symptoms

The primary symptoms of POTS are related to the cardiovascular system: rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. However, there can be many other POTS symptoms.

  1. Irregular heart rate, rapid heart rate, fast heartbeat, chest pain, heart palpitations
  2. Dizziness, especially when standing up or getting up from lying down, feeling faint
  3. Breathing problems: hyperventilating, bronchial asthma, shortness of breath
  4. Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
  5. Muscle weakness, muscle pain, tremor
  6. Skin rash, flushed face, flushing, sweating
  7. Migraine headaches
  8. Cognitive issues, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  9. Trouble sleeping
  10. Frequent urination, nocturia
POTS dizziness
Symptoms of POTS include dizziness, fatigue, and migraines.

Other symptoms of POTS may include: tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, red or purple appearance of the legs when standing up, and a “jittery” feeling or general nervousness.

As with many syndromes, different people will experience different combinations of symptoms. While dizziness and rapid heartbeat are the signs most commonly associated with POTS, many people with POTS will also suffer from abdominal pain and gastrointestinal problems, perhaps without realizing there is a correlation.

POTS symptoms may resemble many other conditions, such as:

Because POTS is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, many patients will be offered medications to manage headaches, vertigo, or depression, which may not offer much relief.

 

Medical Treatment for POTS

As there is no definitive cure for POTS, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome treatments typically aim to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Dietary modifications are a fundamental component of POTS management. Adequate daily fluid intake is crucial. A diet that includes plenty of salt helps maintain blood volume, aiding blood flow to vital organs. Patients are typically advised to avoid alcohol and carefully monitor caffeine intake, as these substances can exacerbate symptoms.

Exercise is gradually introduced, often starting in reclined or horizontal positions, with the goal of increasing exercise tolerance over time. Physical therapy helps retrain the autonomic nervous system, enhancing blood circulation.

Compression garments can help reduce blood pooling, and specific postures while sitting or sleeping may alleviate symptoms. Identifying triggers such as prolonged sitting, heat, or certain drugs allows for better symptom control. Regular monitoring of blood pressure and pulse, along with adequate sleep hygiene, aids overall well-being.

While no single pharmacological solution is universally effective, some medications may be prescribed based on individual symptoms. These may help to improve blood volume, aid sodium retention, reduce heart rate, and enhance blood vessel constriction.

While POTS symptoms may intermittently improve with medications and lifestyle modifications, the underlying cause of POTS may persist. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can provide a holistic solution for individuals living with POTS, which may help to address the root causes of this syndrome.

 

Can Acupuncture Help POTS?

acupuncture treatment
Acupuncture treatment can help relieve POTS symptoms.

POTS is a kind of Dysautonomia; this is a general term that describes conditions that involve malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system. This causes people’s bodies to have problems with regulating the sorts of functions that are typically automatic, like the beating of the heart, circulation of blood, breathing, and temperature control. 

Western medicine offers some treatments that can help address individual symptoms of dysautonomia, but it does not have a way of treating the root of the problem. It can be difficult to get proper treatment, because people who suffer from POTS and other kinds of dysautonomia often seem reasonably healthy, and their complaints—dizziness, headaches, mental health problems—seem vague.

Acupuncture and TCM have been used to treat these kinds of problems for centuries. Acupuncture treatment can help provide positive effects on the subtle communications of the nervous system, as well as the heart rate, and physiological symptoms of anxiety. According to TCM theory, several organ systems may be involved and need support: not only the heart, but also the kidneys or spleen.

Studies have shown that acupuncture for dysautonomia can help relieve symptoms like heart palpitations, insomnia, and digestive problems.

A qualified acupuncturist is also well-versed in nutrition and can offer more detailed information regarding dietary and lifestyle changes that can help each individual patient. Your TCM provider will spend time learning more about you, so that they can offer personalized advice.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for POTS in West Los Angeles

TCM and acupuncture can help people with all types of autoimmune disorders, nerve disorders, and conditions involving fatigue and dizziness that may be difficult to solve with conventional methods. Acupuncture works on a deeper, more subtle level to help address complex syndromes. If you are regularly experiencing trouble with feeling light-headed, having unexplained headaches and sleep problems, it may be time to seek a more holistic alternative treatment.



 

*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 Scleroderma With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

scleroderma skin hard
Scleroderma causes hardening skin and can cause internal scarring.

Hard, thickening, tight skin? Itchy, dry skin that is shiny? Changing skin color? These could be symptoms of scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to produce too much collagen. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can help relieve inflammation and pain while helping to resolve the underlying cause of scleroderma.

Scleroderma can be considered a type of dermatosis (skin lesion), and also a type of connective tissue disease (negatively impacting tissues that connect structures in the body), as it usually affects skin and cartilage, often starting in the extremities, and then extending up the limbs towards the trunk.

Collagen is a form of fibrous protein that the body produces to maintain the structure of skin cells, muscles, bones, and connective tissue. The immune system triggers collagen production when we are injured, but in the case of scleroderma, the body is overproducing and accumulating too much collagen.

Localized scleroderma affects primarily the skin tissue, but can also spread to subcutaneous tissues, like fascia and muscles.

In some cases, scleroderma can also impact internal organs, like the esophagus, lungs, heart, and kidneys. This is known as systemic scleroderma.

 

Top 3 Types of Scleroderma

Localized scleroderma can be differentiated into 3 types: 

  1. Localized scleroderma – a few patches of discolored skin (circumscribed morphea); these skin lesions can vary in size, may be oval shaped, and are usually yellow in the center with a red border.
  2. Generalized scleroderma – also called generalized morphea, with this type there are more patches of thick, hard skin on various parts of the body, which may overlap.
  3. Linear scleroderma – more common in children, may show up as one band of affected skin on a limb or on the trunk, with a few patches of morphea. Linear scleroderma on arms and legs may affect the growth and development of that limb, as scleroderma may impact the muscle and bone tissues as well as the skin.

Systemic scleroderma is rare, but happens more commonly in women between the ages of 30 and 50. This type of scleroderma can manifest in different ways.

Systemic scleroderma can sometimes first show up as Raynaud’s phenomenon, or Raynaud’s syndrome, in which the blood vessels in the hands and feet close up when the weather is cold and cause color changes to the skin, as well as sensations of numbness, prickling, tingling, or pain. Stress can also trigger Raynaud’s.

Systemic scleroderma can cause scarring on the skin and internal organs, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux, cardiovascular and pulmonary problems, or renal disease.

Acupuncture treatment can be used as an adjunct treatment to help relieve symptoms of pain related to skin hardening, as well as helping to alleviate heartburn and GERD type symptoms in patients with esophageal symptoms of scleroderma. TCM can also help address the root causes of scleroderma and other autoimmune disorders.

What Causes Scleroderma? 

scleroderma hands
Localized scleroderma usually affects skin on the extremities or limbs.

As with most autoimmune disorders, medical science has not yet discovered exactly why some people develop this condition. While it is not passed from parent to child the way genetic diseases are, you are more likely to have scleroderma if someone else in your immediate family has it, too.

It is believed that factors like environmental toxins and/or viral infections can trigger scleroderma symptoms to flare up. The overproduction of collagen is due to abnormal functioning of the immune system.

Because women develop scleroderma more often than men do, it may be that there is a hormonal factor that affects the disease, as well.

 

Diagnosis and Medical Treatment for Scleroderma

There is no cure for scleroderma, so conventional medical treatments aim to alleviate symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. The treatment plan may vary depending on the specific manifestations and severity of the disease.

To diagnose scleroderma, doctors rely on a combination of clinical assessments, medical history review, physical examinations, and lab tests. A doctor will first observe skin changes, such as thickening and hardening, then look for internal organ involvement and other symptoms.

Blood tests can help identify specific antibodies associated with scleroderma, such as antinuclear antibodies (ANA), anti-centromere antibodies (ACA), and anti-Scl-70 (anti-topoisomerase I) antibodies. Additionally, blood tests can assess organ function, including kidney and liver function, as well as inflammatory markers.

X-rays, ultrasound, or CT scans may be used to evaluate internal organ involvement, such as lung fibrosis, gastrointestinal complications, and cardiac abnormalities.

A skin biopsy sample may be taken to confirm the presence of fibrosis and assess the degree of inflammation.

cold weather Raynaud's hands
Cold can trigger Raynaud’s numb fingers and toes.

Medications that may be recommended for treating scleroderma symptoms include:

  1. Immunosuppressants: Medications such as methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, and azathioprine may be prescribed to suppress the immune response and reduce inflammation.
  2. Corticosteroids: Oral or topical corticosteroids can help manage inflammation and alleviate symptoms in certain cases. However, long-term use may have potential side effects and is usually minimized.
  3. Vasodilators: Medications like calcium channel blockers and prostacyclin analogs may be prescribed to improve blood flow and manage Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  4. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These medications can help manage gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms, which are common in scleroderma patients.

Patients are often advised to make lifestyle changes to manage their condition effectively. These may include:using skin moisturizers and avoiding excessive sun exposure, and using sunscreen with a high SPF, avoiding cold temperatures and stress to prevent triggering Raynaud’s, quitting smoking, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Scleroderma?

TCM treatment for scleroderma focuses more on addressing the underlying causes of the condition, rather than simply trying to relieve symptoms. An acupuncturist will look closely at the whole person, listen carefully to hear all the symptoms they are experiencing, even those which may seem unrelated, feel their pulse and make other observations, and then ascertain which diagnostic pattern may apply. 

According to TCM theory, scleroderma symptoms may occur due to:

  • Blood stagnation
  • Yang deficiency
  • Kidney Qi deficiency or yang deficiency
  • Liver and Gallbladder damp heat
  • Liver blood deficiency
  • Liver win
  • Spleen yang deficiency
  • Stagnation of cold, wind, and/or damp

Depending on the diagnosis, the TCM practitioner will then plan a treatment protocol to address the root cause, using acupuncture and herbs. For example, herbs can help move stagnant blood, relieving the skin conditions related to scleroderma. Herbs can even help to inhibit collagen production, to help reduce skin hardening.

Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce the number of Raynaud’s attacks.

Moxibustion treatment may also be used to help relieve symptoms related to Raynaud’s phenomenon.

The use of acupuncture for stress relief is also integral to treatment for scleroderma, as stress can trigger a worsening of symptoms.

Acupuncture can help reduce esophageal reflux in cases where esophageal strictures have developed due to scleroderma in the digestive tract and help improve kidney function when kidneys have been impacted by fibrosis.

TCM herbal formulations for scleroderma will be individualized for each patient’s needs. Herbs may be used to help warm and nourish the organs, while clearing dampness and activating stagnant blood and Qi.

Acupuncture Near Me for Scleroderma in Los Angeles

Acupuncture and TCM herbal medicine can be excellent modalities for helping with difficult to treat skin conditions, connective tissue disorders, and autoimmune disorders, including:

If you are experiencing painful skin problems or digestive problems, consider seeking out alternative care in addition to conventional treatments.





*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 Stomach Ulcer With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

abdominal pain, stomach ulcer
Burning pain in stomach is a sign of peptic ulcers.

Burning sensation in your stomach? Persistent abdominal pain? Frequent heartburn and indigestion? These could be stomach ulcer symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM can help alleviate ulcer symptoms and reduce inflammation.

Stomach ulcers, also known as peptic ulcers, are painful sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Acid that is naturally present in the digestive tract begins to eat away at the lining of the stomach or intestinal walls. This can cause discomfort, burning pain, and other symptoms that significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Peptic ulcers may lead to complications if left untreated. In these cases, we may refer to the condition as peptic ulcer disease (PUD).

If the ulcer is near a blood vessel, it can cause internal bleeding. In severe cases, an ulcer can burn through the wall of the stomach, which leads to undigested food and digestive juice leaking out into the abdominal cavity. This is known as a “perforated ulcer” and often requires immediate surgery.

A peptic ulcer can also be so inflamed that it blocks food from moving through the digestive tract, which can cause you to feel full quickly, regurgitate food, and lose weight unintentionally. This is known as “obstruction.”

Ulcers are typically treated with medications and, in more severe cases, surgery. Acupuncture treatment can be used as an alternative or adjunct treatment to help heal ulcers, with or without surgery. 

 

What Causes Stomach Ulcers?

mouth ulcers, canker sores
Canker sores, or mouth ulcers, can be related to stomach ulcers.

Stomach ulcers are often caused by an imbalance between the digestive fluids and the protective mechanisms of the stomach lining. There is usually a lining of mucus that helps protect the stomach from digestive fluids, but sometimes there is too little mucus and too much acid.

A bacterial infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria is often involved in the formation of an ulcer. This bacteria can cause inflammation that affects the stomach lining. Left untreated, an H. pylori infection in the digestive tract can increase your risk for certain types of gastric cancers.

Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers or aphthous ulcers, can also be caused by the H. pylori bacterial infection. Canker sores can also be related to other gastrointestinal disorders, like Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (colitis).

A rare condition called Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES), in which a tumor called a gastrinoma develops in the pancreas or top part of the small intestine, can cause excessive amounts of stomach acids to be produced, which can lead to the formation of ulcers.

Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medication (NSAIDs), like Ibuprofen can also cause inflammation in the stomach.

Lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating a lot of spicy foods irritate the stomach lining and contribute to the development of ulcers.

Emotional and/or physiological stress can throw off the body’s pH balance, which can also cause excessive stomach acids to be produced.

 

Top 5 Symptoms of Stomach Ulcers

While it is possible to have an ulcer and not be aware of it because you don’t have any symptoms, most people with ulcers will experience some pain in their stomach. 

  1. Abdominal pain: A burning or gnawing pain in the abdomen, typically between the breastbone and the navel. The pain may be worse when the stomach is empty, such as between meals, and at night. 
  2. Indigestion: Discomfort or bloating after eating, belching, and heartburn (acid reflux).
  3. Nausea and vomiting: Feeling nauseous and experiencing vomiting, especially after meals. Some people may even vomit blood.
  4. Loss of appetite: A decreased desire to eat due to feelings of fullness or discomfort.
  5. Blood in the stool: In severe cases, ulcers can lead to bleeding, resulting in blood in the stool or black, tarry stools.

Other ulcer symptoms can include:  changes in appetite, intolerance to certain foods, especially fatty foods, feeling faint, having trouble breathing, and weight loss.

People may feel that the stomach pain is alleviated by eating certain foods that create a buffer against the stomach acid.

While medications and lifestyle changes are commonly used to treat peptic ulcer symptoms, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offer a holistic approach to address the root causes and alleviate symptoms of stomach ulcers.

 

Medical Treatment for Peptic Ulcers

When you seek conventional treatment for stomach ulcers, an endoscopy may be performed so that your doctor can see the ulcer(s) and possibly stop bleeding or remove abnormal tissue. Medications may be offered, and in some cases, surgery may be indicated.

Medications for stomach ulcer treatment include:

  1. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These drugs reduce stomach acid production, allowing the ulcer to heal. PPIs include omeprazole, lansoprazole, and esomeprazole.
  2. Histamine receptor blockers (H2 blockers): These medications reduce acid production, providing relief and promoting ulcer healing. Famotidine and ranitidine are common H2 blockers.
  3. Antibiotics: If an H. pylori infection is present, a combination of antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and clarithromycin, will be prescribed to get rid of the bacteria.

Stomach ulcer surgery may be necessary if complications like perforation or obstruction occur. 

Repairs to a stomach ulcer can be performed during an endoscopic procedure, where a camera and tools are introduced through the throat. 

Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery can be done through a small incision in the abdomen. Holes in the stomach may be patched with something called a Graham Patch. 

If the hole is too large to be patched, then a small part of the stomach may be cut away, and the whole stomach will be closed, and, if necessary, reconnected to the top of the small intestine. This procedure is called a partial gastrectomy.

While conventional medical intervention for stomach ulcers can help bring relief, they do not necessarily prevent the recurrence of ulcers. Medications and surgery do not address the chronic stress that may have contributed to the formation of the ulcers in the first place.

Acupuncture treatment can help restore balance of the emotions as well as gastric fluids. It can also promote healing after ulcer surgery and prevent further occurrence of ulcers. If an ulcer is not yet so severe that surgery is needed, acupuncture treatment may be able to help heal the ulcer before it becomes worse.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Stomach Ulcers?

acupuncture treatment
Acupuncture treatment can help reduce stomach acid.

Acupuncture treatment for stomach ulcers, gastric pain, and also canker sores (mouth ulcers), is usually focused on harmonizing the Qi (life force energy) of the stomach and the spleen. Heat and dampness are pathogenic forces that can cause imbalance in the stomach and spleen, while heat and wind in the lungs can also be a factor, from the TCM theory perspective.

Therefore, acupuncture points will be chosen to help strengthen and regulate the stomach and spleen. Acupuncture has been shown to have an effect on the vagus nerve and help reduce overactive acid production in the stomach. Acupuncture also affects the central nervous system, with the effect of reducing pain sensations.

One study compared patients who received acupuncture treatment for peptic ulcers in addition to medication (bismuth subnitrate and amoxicillin) versus patients who received only medications. The patient who also had acupuncture had a higher recovery rate, clearing the H. pylori bacterial infections, and also had a dramatically reduced recurrence rate in the following year after treatment ended.

A laboratory study showed that acupuncture helped to repair ulcerated tissues, reduce the secretion of gastric acids, and improve the condition of gastric mucosa, or stomach lining.

Another study showed that acupuncture treatment for chronic gastritis—inflammation of the stomach lining—was more effective than a drug protocol consisting of proton pump inhibitors, NSAIDs, and antibiotics.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Stomach Ulcer – Los Angeles Area

At Art of Wellness Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in West L.A., we have over 35 years of experience helping people with gastrointestinal disorders of all kinds. Problems such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, diverticulitis, colitis (IBD), IBS, and Crohn’s disease can all be relieved by using TCM as an alternative or complementary medicine treatment.




*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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