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How To Treat ED With Acupuncture and TCM

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

man smoking
Smoking can contribute to ED in men.

Let’s face it: most men have probably had trouble getting hard on occasion, but if it’s happening 50% of the time, or more often, then it may be a sign of men ED, or erectile dysfunction. ED refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection, making it difficult to have sexual intercourse. Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural solution for low sex drive and reproductive health problems, without over the counter ED pills.

In the past few decades, this condition, which used to be referred to as “impotence,” has come to be perceived as a men’s health issue or a men’s fitness issue that can be treated medically, rather than a personal problem. While it’s great that men can get help from doctors for this condition without embarrassment or shame, ED medications may not solve the problem for everyone. Stress, hormones, nutrition, exercise, emotions, and relationship dynamics all play a role in ED. ED can have a serious impact on a man’s quality of life, as it affects self-esteem, romantic relationships, and fertility.

It is estimated that about 30 million men in the U.S. experience erectile dysfunction (ED). By age 60, over 40% of men will probably experience ED. While ED drugs and over the counter ED pills help some men with ED symptoms, many men cannot use these medications because they interfere with others that are commonly used to treat heart disease. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative treatment for ED that can help men with this issue. 

Top 10 Causes of ED

ED is a complex problem, which can involve both physical and mental components. A physical problem that causes a man to experience ED a few times may lead to emotional stress around sex and low sex drive, making the problem worse. Because the brain and hormones contribute so vitally to arousal and erection, sometimes depression, anxiety, or interpersonal feelings are the main cause of the issue. Some of the most common physical causes of ED include:

  1. Heart problems, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, high cholesterol
  2. Diabetes
  3. Obesity
  4. Use of certain prescription medications (antihypertensives, antidepressants)
  5. Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis
  6. Alcoholism or excessive consumption of alcohol
  7. Smoking cigarettes/tobacco
  8. Prostate problems like enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
  9. Lack of sleep, sleep disorders
  10. Low testosterone

Sometimes erectile dysfunction is the reason men discover that they have a heart condition or diabetes that they didn’t realize they had. When high cholesterol causes plaque to build up in the blood vessels, it’s not only the heart that is affected. Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) can also affect a man’s ability to get an erection by restricting blood flow to the penis. Inability to maintain an erection can be a sign that a man has hypertension.

What Is the Treatment for ED?

The most common medical treatment for men with ED are PDE-5 medications (like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra), which work to dilate the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. These ED drugs lower the blood pressure, which is why they cannot be used in conjunction with some other medications, including nitroglycerin or Imdur. If a man were to take both his ED pills and these medications, it could cause dangerously low blood pressure.

Some men experience side effects of taking these ED meds, including: headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, hot flushes, muscle pain, and diarrhea. In rare cases, men may have a painful erection that lasts longer than four hours (priapism), which can require medical treatment and/or cause permanent damage. If necessary, a doctor may numb the penis and use a needle to drain the blood that is trapped there, or use decongestant medications to help relieve the swelling. Other forms of therapy for ED include penile implants and penile injections. TCM acupuncture treatment for ED does not involve any needles inserted into the penis itself.

How Can Acupuncture Help ED?

man exercising in the sun
Acupuncture brings balance to the body, mind ,and emotions

According to TCM theory, ED is classified as a Jin Wei disorder and can follow one of a few patterns:

  1. Liver qi stagnation
  2. Blood stasis
  3. Kidney deficiency

TCM also acknowledges that stress, emotional and mental health disturbances are often a primary cause of ED, and seeks to incorporate counseling and awareness-building, both with the patient, and with the patient’s partner, if applicable. Sessions with a TCM provider usually involve plenty of discussion and feedback; patients feel heard and understood, which can go a long way towards relieving anxiety surrounding the ED or other sexual disorders.

TCM treatment for ED will include both acupuncture and herbs, which, combined, help to address the weakness or blockages that have developed around the liver and kidneys, strengthening the liver qi, relieving stagnation, and clearing dampness.

One study showed that, after a course of treatment including 3-5 acupuncture treatment sessions and daily herbal supplementation, almost half of the men reported satisfaction with the results. 

Another study found that about two-thirds of the men who received TCM treatment reported feeling that they were “cure,” while the other third reported improved erections, but still felt that they needed more help. The group who received placebo treatment did not report improvement.

 

Top 5 Tips for ED Men’s Fitness

man lifting weights
Building muscle can help boost testosterone levels.

The desire to overcome ED and get your sex life back on track can be a great motivation to clean up your diet and get rid of habits you know have been holding you back from peak men’s health. Your acupuncturist can help you plan the best diet for men to help regulate hormones, reduce cholesterol, improve circulation, boost heart health and energy.

  1. Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs. You may feel like these substances help you to relax and get in the mood, but on a deeper physiological level, they are compounding the problem. 
  2. Get more exercise. Ideally, balance cardio with some weight training. Losing fat and building muscle will help to balance the hormones and increase testosterone levels.
  3. Take care of your mental health and emotional well-being. Foster open and honest communication about ED with your partner. Acquaint yourself with men’s and women’s health issues, so that you can care for each other with empathy.
  4. Reduce stress. Prioritize a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Making time for yourself through regular exercise, meditation, and healing modalities like acupuncture can help improve your performance in all other areas of your life
  5. Get adequate sleep. When the body doesn’t get the deep rest it needs, it can lose all kinds of functionality. 

Acupuncture Near Me for ED

ED is a sensitive men’s health issue. Knowing that it’s a common problem that affects lots of other men may help a little, but if ED is becoming a sexual problem that is negatively affecting your life and relationships, it’s worth it to seek out help for erectile dysfunction. If conventional medical treatment for ED isn’t working or isn’t an option, or if you want to take a more holistic approach that will help also boost your fertility and longevity, consider acupuncture treatment for ED. 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

 

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How to Treat Candida With Acupuncture and TCM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Types of Candida Infection

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

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

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

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

What Causes Candida?

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

How Do You Treat Candida?

yeast infection medicine
OTC anti-fungal creams for yeast infection

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Acupuncture Help Candida?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Candida Diet Tips

daikon radish
daikon radish helps get rid of candida

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

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

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

Find Acupuncture Near Me for Candida

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

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Depression With Acupuncture and TCM

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

depression women
Depression can cause feelings of emptiness or an inability to concentrate.

More than ever, people are struggling with feelings of sadness, anxiety, and isolation. Feeling empty or worried all the time, having difficulty concentrating, or even having thoughts of suicide are all possible symptoms of depression. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for helping manage and overcome both low-grade depression and major depression.

Everyone feels worried, sad, or frustrated due to life situations and problems that come up periodically. But feeling persistently fatigued with heavy emotions for days, weeks, or months on end is a signal that a person might be clinically depressed, or in the throes of a depressive episode.

The current global pandemic is causing most of us to feel exhausted with worry over all kinds of issues: personal health, grief for loved ones who are alone, ill, or have passed, desperation over financial concerns, and feelings of being trapped or deeply pessimistic. 

People who already had mental health problems, especially anxiety or depressive disorder, may feel like they have less support than ever, as they cannot see friends or family, and may not have access to meeting with a therapist online. People who have other chronic health conditions, like cancer or chronic pain, may be struggling even more than they normally would, feeling distanced from the care they need.

Everyone is dealing with tremendous stress right now, and we know that stress causes all kinds of health problems. Many people are already used to annual bouts of depression due to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Young people, most of whom have had to adapt to a wildly different form of learning this year, as well as being cut off from their friends, are even more prone to teen depression. Parents and caregivers are putting in extra hours, and may begin to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of this daily struggle. Truly, everyone is at risk for feeling situational depression in times like these.

Remember that treatment for depression is available, and if you are feeling despondent, it is in your best interest to reach out for help. Integrative care that includes different kinds of therapy may work for people who have not been able to find help for their depressive disorder. We are here at Art of Wellness to provide effective help for depression and chronic anxiety through acupuncture and TCM.

Signs of Depression

Many times people hide or deny their feelings of depression, even from themselves. It  is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression so that if you or someone close to you if affected, you will be able to get help. Signs that someone is suffering from depression include:

  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Fatigue, feeling tired all the time
  • Angry, irritable all the time
  • Loss of libido
  • Backache, headache, or digestive problems

Signs of depression in teens and depression in women may cause other symptoms, similar to those of anxiety, like racing and intrusive thoughts, extreme sensitivity to criticism, or withdrawal from family and friends. Having trouble sleeping, or sleeping more than usual are potentially signs of depression, as are significant changes in a person’s eating habits, sudden weight loss or weight gain. Depression can also affect cognitive function and memory.

Top 10 Types of Depression

isolated, lonely
Many people feel isolated. Remember you are not alone, and these feelings will eventually pass.

Depression is a mental health condition that is caused by combinations of different factors, and takes many forms in terms of symptoms and behaviors. Mental health professionals differentiate this condition into different types of depression, according to duration, severity, and specific kinds of behavior, emotional, and thought patterns:

  1. Major Depression or Clinical Depression – is defined as an episode of sadness or loss of interest or pleasure in external stimuli one usually enjoys that lasts for more than two weeks.

  2. Persistent Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia – this is a chronic mental illness characterized by a pessimistic outlook and sad mood that persists for years. In this case, people may have what is sometimes called “high functioning” depression. Even happy occasions do not bring them joy.

  3. Manic Depression or Bipolar Disorder – this condition is marked by extreme changes in mood and energy. A person might, at times, feel so low that they have suicidal thoughts or lose touch with reality, then their mood may suddenly shift into high gear, and they seem to have boundless energy and confidence. These shifts may occur over short or long periods of time.

  4. Postpartum Depression – colloquially known as the “baby blues,” many women experience a form of depression in the months after having given birth. This type of depression occurs because of sudden changes in hormones, and is often marked not only by fatigue and inexplicable feelings of sadness, but also feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, and disturbing thoughts.

  5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – this type of depression is relative to the time of year, that is, a person regularly goes through a recurrent period of fatigue and low mood, a sense of heaviness, and irritability, or difficulty getting along with other people. Most people with SAD experience it during the winter months, but it can actually happen at any time of year.

  6. Psychotic Depression – this is a form of depression that is accompanied by a break with reality, including delusional or paranoid thoughts, and hallucinations.

  7. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – is an extreme form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that interferes with daily life during the 7-10 days preceding the period. It is characterized by severe depressed thoughts that can become suicidal in nature. Then, after the period, the symptoms disappear for a few weeks, until the premenstrual phase occurs again.

  8. Atypical depression – in contrast to its moniker, this type of depression may be the most common. Atypical depression refers to a predictable pattern of depressive feelings and behaviors, including oversleeping, changes in eating habits, problems with relationships, that overtakes one for a while, then clears up when some kind of positive event occurs. This can turn into a pattern of depression that comes and goes over the years.

  9. Situational depression – this type of depression occurs in reaction to some kind of inciting event, maybe one that causes trauma or loss, or simply a major life change like a move or job change. This is a way that some people will adjust to circumstances and stressors in life, and it usually clears up within six months or so after the triggering event.

  10. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) – this is a disorder that occurs in childhood marked by chronic, extreme irritability and a struggle to handle negative emotions. Children with this order may regularly act out or have tantrums when facing frustration.

While some types of depression are considered more severe than others, it is important to keep in mind that all kinds of depression are real health conditions than can and should be addressed before they become even more serious.

Treatment for Depression

In Western medicine, depression is seen mostly as a chemical imbalance affecting hormones and/or neurotransmitters, primarily in the brain. Depression can be triggered by a highly emotional event or difficult circumstances, and then, the chemical imbalance continues to cause negative emotions and disordered thoughts. The conventional medical solution for most forms of depression is a combination of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, and prescription medication, in the form of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. 

Modern psychotherapy aims to help people with depression through the practice of coping skills, problem-solving around relationship issues, and resolving negative emotions.

Different types of antidepressant medication include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs such as Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Celexa), which affect the way the hormone serotonin is produced and absorbed by the brain cells, and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs like Effexor, Cymbalta, and Pristiq), which influence norepinephrine production, as well. All of these medicines basically work by allowing the brain to have more “good mood” chemicals available. Other, less commonly used medications include second-generation antipsychotics, such as Abilify, which are usually used to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but which are sometimes tried when other medications have not helped.

headache, dizziness
Sometimes antidepressants can cause headaches and dizziness.

Many people feel that they benefit from the mood stabilisation these medications can provide. Generally, doctors recommend taking the medications for one to two years, to prevent relapses of the depressive symptoms. However, some people find that they have a hard time coming off of certain antidepressant medications, and unfortunately, there are many unpleasant side effects associated with these drugs.

More than half of the people who take antidepressants report side effects such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness, brain fog
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Restlessness, trouble sleeping, insomnia
  • Sexual dysfunction, loss of libido
  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or trouble urinating
  • Skin rashes or vision problems

In some cases, these side effects may seem manageable in relation to the severe depression they were feeling before, but for others, these problems compound their dissatisfaction with life. More serious side effects, like heart or liver problems can also occur, especially in older people, or because of interactions with other medications used to manage chronic conditions. 

Some research studies have shown that acupuncture treatment can be used as an effective alternative to antidepressant medications, or as an adjunct that helps to offset some of the unwanted side effects. This study showed, also, that patients felt an improvement in their mood and quality of life after only a few weeks of acupuncture treatment, whereas the patients taking antidepressants took longer to register the positive effects.

How Acupuncture Treats Depression

TCM takes a holistic view of health that makes it very effective for treating depression. Going back thousands of years, TCM philosophy has always acknowledged the fundamental connection between mental health and physical health. Emotions and thoughts are as integral to wellness as the proper functioning of the organ systems. Imbalances in organs can cause emotional problems, and vice versa. So, when an acupuncture practitioner addresses mental illness such as depression and anxiety, she is looking at the whole picture. While a medical doctor may see varied symptoms such as digestive trouble, headache, irritability, and trouble sleeping as disparate problems to be solved by different specialists, or treated with different medications, a TCM provider views all of these issues as being part of a particular pattern and treats that pattern as a whole.

sleep
Acupuncture can help relieve sleep problems related to depression.

According to TCM, depression is caused by stagnation, or blockages in the Qi (life force energy). It is usually related to stagnant energy in the liver, spleen, heart or kidneys. Liver Qi stagnation can cause strong feelings of frustration, stomach pain and digestive trouble, heartburn or tightness in the chest, and headaches. Heart or Spleen Deficiency patterns cause worrying, trouble sleeping, and poor appetite. Chronic cases of depression with anxiety are often related to Yin deficiency, which causes irritability, restlessness, poor sleep, and back pain. An acupuncturist looks at all of these symptoms and treats the appropriate pattern with acupuncture and herbs. Acupuncture will also help people by relieving stress, and helping to restore better sleep.

One study looked at patients diagnosed with minor depressive episodes and generalized anxiety. Patients who received ten acupuncture treatments showed significant improvement over those who did not.

A study designed to help show the effect of acupuncture on neural circuity and chemistry as it relates to depression combined acupuncture with antidepressants when treating women with major depressive disorder. The patients receiving both showed improved functional connectivity in the corticostriatal reward circuitry of the brain.

Another study showed that electro-acupuncture treatment has as positive an effect on norepinephrine levels as amitriptyline – a medication commonly prescribed to treat major depression disorder and anxiety disorders.  

Can Acupuncture Help Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression?

Some forms of depression are specific to the area of women’s health. PMDD, pregnancy depression and anxiety, and postpartum depression can all be helped with acupuncture treatment, without the risk of side effects.

It is important, both for their own health and that of the expected baby, that women suffering from depression during pregnancy or in the postpartum period seek help. However, there are risks involved in taking medications during pregnancy. Antidepressant use has been linked to birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Acupuncture, which can provide innumerable benefits during pregnancy, is an option worth exploring to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy.

Acupuncture Near Me for Depression

Depression can make it difficult to take action. Feelings of hopelessness and isolation can cause people to feel that they are beyond help. Stigma around mental health can cause people to hide their anxiety and extreme moods from others. But depression is a real and treatable illness. Whether you have been struggling with depression for a long time, or have just begun to feel worried about your mental health over the past several months, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Art of Wellness. We are here to help you get past this depressed period and begin to feel hope and purpose again.

 

 

*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 Arthritis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

arthritis
acupuncture treatment can relieve stiffness in the joints

Why am I so stiff when I wake up in the morning? Why do my knees hurt when I stand up? Pain in the hands and fingers, pain in the feet and toes. Lower back pain that comes and goes but seems to be getting steadily worse? Any or all of these aches and pains could signal that you have arthritis. TCM and acupuncture can not only help relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis, but it can help you regain and maintain your freedom of movement.

Arthritis is a general term for swelling and pain in the joints. Arthritis is very common, affecting over 50 million people of all ages, and is the leading cause of disability in America. Most people with arthritis take pain medications and go on with their lives, living with discomfort and increasingly limited range of motion.

The term “arthritis” refers to a wide variety of disorders that cause pain in the joints. A “joint” is any place in the body where two or more bones meet and allow for movement. Also called “articulations,” joints are formed by fibrous connective tissues that hold the bones together, and pieces of cartilage that provide cushioning and “slip” between the bones. Chronic, long-term arthritis can cause permanent physical changes in the structure of joints, leading to knobby knuckle joints, for example. Some types of arthritis affect other organs in addition to the joints.

Conventional treatment for arthritis mainly focuses on alleviating pain with analgesics or NSAIDS, and reducing inflammation with injectable medications. In some cases, though, these medications aren’t enough to control pain or to bring back people’s former mobility. Many of these medications also come with unwanted side effects.

Acupuncture can not only help with arthritis pain and stiffness, but TCM methods can help keep the joint tissues strong and healthy, reduce inflammation, and prevent further damage due to osteoarthritis. Autoimmune disorders that are unexplained by modern medical science, including rheumatoid arthritis, have been successfully managed by acupuncture and herbs for centuries. Integrative care that uses TCM modalities can help people manage their weight and lifestyle to prevent arthritis from causing limitations or disability.

What Causes Arthritis?

Arthritic pain in the joints can be caused by many different factors. The most common contributor to osteoarthritis is normal wear and tear on the joints over many years that reduces the amount of cartilage between the bones in key areas. Injuries can also cause damage to cartilage. Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis can cause the body’s own immune system to attack the synovium, the tissues that produce synovial fluid, which provides lubrication to the joints. The medical community has not discovered the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis (nor of most autoimmune disorders), but it is possible they are at least partially genetic in origin. The body’s immune response to certain bacterial and viral infections can also cause swelling in the joints; this is called reactive arthritis. Being overweight also contributes to the development of arthritis, as extra weight puts more strain on the joints.

Top 10 Types of Arthritis

osteoarthritis of the knee
osteoarthritis of the knee

Arthritis is a general term that refers to pain in the joints. There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis. The most common types of arthritis include:

  1. Osteoarthritis – also called degenerative arthritis, this is when the cartilage between the bones wears away, reducing cushioning and shock absorption to the point that the bones begin to rub against each other. 
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis – an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies attack the tissue lining around joints, causing inflammation and chemical reactions that, over time, damage all of the surrounding tissues: bones, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
  3. Psoriatic Arthritis – a type of inflammatory arthritis that occurs in about 30% of people who have psoriasis of the skin. Psoriasis causes skin cells to reproduce excessively, creating scaly red and white patches, often on the elbows and knees. In some cases, people will also develop pain, swelling, and stiffness in these joints, or in the fingers or toes.
  4. Ankylosing Spondylitis – this is an inflammatory disease which often first shows up during young adulthood. It causes the gradual fusing of the vertebrae; a person starts by feeling stiffness and pain in the back, and over time the posture becomes more hunched over as flexibility is reduced. Over time, new bone tissue forms, causing sections of the vertebrae to grow together, usually near the base of the spine, greatly reducing mobility.
  5. Goutgout is a form of metabolic arthritis, in which a build-up of excess uric acid forms sharp crystals in the joints of the foot, causing painful swelling, often especially in the big toe.
  6. Infectious Arthritis – Swelling in the joints can be caused by the invasion of bacteria or a virus. Bacteria that cause food poisoning like salmonella, or STDs like chlamydia, or blood infections like Hepatitis C, can create inflammation that affects joints.
  7. Reactive Arthritis – previously called “Reiter’s syndrome,” reactive arthritis is an acute form of infectious arthritis caused by bacterial infection, most often affecting the knees and ankles, and accompanied by other symptoms like inflammation in the eyes, and skin rashes. It can be caused by a chlamydia infection or bacterial infection in the digestive tract, and usually only lasts a short time. However, people with immune diseases, like HIV, can develop more chronic forms of reactive arthritis.
  8. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) – Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause swelling in the connective tissues of the joints, as well as other symptoms, including: fatigue, rashes on the face, swollen lymph nodes, fever, hair loss, and extreme sensitivity to light and other stimuli.
  9. Fibromyalgia – a syndrome in which the brain amplifies the perception of pain in the joints and muscles. People with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or ankylosing spondylitis may also have fibromyalgia.
  10. Childhood Arthritis or Juvenile Arthritis – a broad term that simply refers to arthritis when it is experienced by a child. Children usually have either an autoimmune type of arthritis or a reactive arthritis triggered by a bacterial or viral infection.

Top 5 Arthritis Symptoms

waist measurement
waist size and extra weight can be indicators of metabolic syndrome

Perhaps because a majority of people over the age of 50 feel some symptoms of arthritis, we often think of stiffness and pain in the joints simply as a normal part of aging. It is true that over time, the wearing down of cartilage and bone tissue is practically inevitable. Still, it is important to pay close attention to potential symptoms of arthritis, and take steps to prevent them from worsening. The top 5 signs of arthritis include:

  1. Pain in joints – may be a constant, nagging pain, or it may come and go
  2. Stiffness – especially feeling stiff when you get up in the morning 
  3. Swelling in joints – sometimes with redness in the skin around the joint
  4. Reduced range of motion – difficulty getting up when you’ve been sitting or lying down
  5. Fatigue – actually, fatigue may be the first sign that someone has rheumatoid arthritis, but this symptom often goes ignored

Recent research has linked rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with metabolic syndrome. People who have been diagnosed with RA are much more likely to also show signs of metabolic syndrome (MS). MS is clinically indicated when a person presents with three or more of these markers: insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity or high waist circumference, high cholesterol and/or triglycerides or raised fasting glucose levels. Osteoarthritis and MS also seem to be linked, especially in cases of osteoarthritis of the knee. It is not clear how precisely these various forms of arthritis may be related to MS, but it is clear that the combination of these health problems puts people at high risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke. The good news is that metabolic syndrome issues and rheumatoid arthritis can be improved with lifestyle management and acupuncture treatment.

Can Acupuncture Help Arthritis?

According to TCM theory, most cases of rheumatoid arthritis fall under the category of Bi Syndromes, which covers various conditions in which Qi (life force energy) and/or Blood are somehow blocked from moving freely through the meridian pathways of the body. Due to Qi and Blood deficiency, cold, dampness, wind, or heat are more likely to invade the system and cause Bi Syndrome to develop. 

In TCM we also consider whether a problem stems from internal or external factors. In some cases, arthritis may be caused by an internal problem that was congenital–meaning, a person was born with it. Qi deficiency as an underlying condition might be an internal factor, which then kicks in when some external factor, such as cold from wind invasion, comes in and creates a blockage, and the Qi is too weak to combat it. Some people are simply more likely to be affected by these factors because of their innate condition. Most of the types of arthritis mentioned above are due to internal factors and inflammation. Only reactive arthritis is caused by external factors of infection. Also, if an injury occurs and does not heal properly, that can lead to arthritis in a joint. A few differentiations of Bi Syndrome that might cause arthritis include:

  • Cold pattern – cold wind with dampness from an external source causes stiffness that improves with the application of heat, and is accompanied by reduced circulation and pale skin. This is why we advise against sitting or being out in cold, damp weather for long periods of time. This can cause cold stagnation to take hold in the joints.
  • Moving Bi – pain is not fixed; it can move to different joints in different areas.
  • Sore Bi – pain more dominant, feels better after applying heat, feels worse when it gets cold. 
  • Fixed Bi – the joint feels heavy, sore and swollen and the pain is in a definite spot, painful to the touch. 
  • Heat pattern – in this case, the joints are red, swollen, and inflamed, and the face is flushed.

A one-size-fits-all approach to care for people with arthritis simply does not work for everyone. The manifestation of inflammation in people with the cold type differs from that in people with the hot type. An acupuncture practitioner will treat a patient with arthritis based on their individual, specific presentation of symptoms. A systematic review showed how treating patients with RA with different therapies according to their TCM diagnosis produced better outcomes than the standard conventional treatments for RA. 

A review of 43 clinical studies showed that TCM for RA not only helps reduce inflammation as a symptom, but improved immune system function. Better regulation of the immune system means that TCM methods help treat arthritis stemming of autoimmune disorders at their source, rather than simply managing pain.

Another review of ten clinical trials analyzed how effective TCM treatment was for people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Eight out of the ten trials concluded that acupuncture was an effective treatment for reducing pain due to osteoarthritis and should be considered as an adjunct or alternative to pharmacological treatments.

Acupuncture treatment combined with Chinese herb supplements and personalized diet coaching can help alleviate symptoms due to different types of arthritis, and may even be able to reverse and prevent further damage to the joints.

Top 5 Tips for Relief of Stiff Joints 

Dr. Cai Tai Chi 4
The fluid movements of Tai Qi help keep joints supple.

While years of use will naturally cause some degradation of joint tissues, there are definitely things you can do to protect your joints and prevent arthritis from slowing you down.

  1. Weight Management – weighing too much puts extra stress on your joints. One pound of fat translates to four pounds of pressure on the bones and tendons. We don’t recommend trendy weight loss diets; instead, focus on eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates from whole grains.
  2. Vary Your Exercise Routine – different types of physical activity provide different sorts of benefits for your joints. If an arthritis condition is acute, it is best to stick with gentle movements that rotate the joints. Cardiovascular exercise is important to strengthen the heart. Strength training, or toning the muscles (lifting weights) helps build strong bones and muscle mass to support your joints. Pay attention to rotating each joint to prevent stiffness or “frozen” joints on a daily basis: wrists, ankles, shoulders, hips, spine, etc. Tai Qi, Qi Gong, and yoga also challenge your balance; this is especially important as we age, to reduce the risk of falls and other accidents. And you can’t beat a nice, long walk for low impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise. Be sure to warm up and cool down with slower, gentle movements at the beginning and end of your workouts so as to avoid any shock to the joints and get your juices (synovial fluid and hyaluronic acid) flowing, literally. Meditation is also very important to maintain mental health. Chronic conditions like arthritis are affected by emotional imbalances that can be helped with meditation practice.
  3. Drink More Water – staying hydrated is so important for keeping the joints lubricated. 
  4. Eat Healthy Fats – make sure to get adequate intake of good fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish or fish oil, nuts and seeds, good quality olive oil, and avocados. Overall an anti-inflammatory diet should be observed whenever there is swelling and pain in the joints, which includes avoiding nightshade vegetables, spicy foods, and sugar.
  5. Wear the Right Shoes and Warm Clothes – choose footwear that fits properly and is supportive. Flip-flops, high heels, and shoes that are too tight can put undue pressure on the joints and don’t provide adequate cushioning and shock absorption. People with Yang Qi deficient conditions should always keep the joints covered with clothing. Exposure can let the cold in.

Acupuncture Near Me for Arthritis

If you or someone you know is feeling the stiffness, swelling, and pain of arthritic joints, don’t wait until it gets worse to do something about it. Regular acupuncture treatment can reduce pain and inflammation. The doctors at Art of Wellness have over 30 years of experience helping patients find arthritis pain relief. 

 

*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 High Blood Pressure With Acupuncture & TCM

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

heart and blood vessels
High blood pressure makes your heart have to work harder.

What is high blood pressure? Blood pressure (BP) is the force with which blood, pumped by the heart, pushes against the inner walls of the arteries and veins. When this force is consistently high, it puts a strain on the delicate tissues of the blood vessels and makes your heart work harder. This is also called hypertension. Most people take medications to control high blood pressure. In this article we’ll discuss how to manage high blood pressure with TCM and acupuncture.

High blood pressure is very common in older adults; about half of people over the age of 60 have high blood pressure. It is very important to have your doctor regularly monitor your blood pressure, because high blood pressure, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and many other serious, life-threatening conditions. 

Your blood pressure reading is made up of two parts: systolic, which measures the force of blood being pumped away from the heart, and diastolic, the force of blood moving in between heart beats, when blood is flowing back into the heart. A normal blood pressure reading is usually considered 120/80 (systolic over diastolic). A consistent reading of BP over 130 would indicate hypertension stage 1, while a BP over 140 would be classified as hypertension stage 2. A BP over 180 signals a hypertensive crisis, and should be treated as an emergency, as it could lead to a stroke or other serious organ failure.

People with high blood pressure are advised to make lifestyle changes, including following a healthier diet, getting more exercise, and quitting smoking. Even a modest weight loss of ten pounds or so can make a big difference to reduce high blood pressure. Most people end up taking antihypertensive medications to lower blood pressure, often for the rest of their lives. Integrative care for high blood pressure that includes acupuncture treatment and herbal supplements according to TCM principles can provide natural remedies for high blood pressure, restoring the health of the circulatory system so that it might not be necessary to take drugs indefinitely.

Signs of High Blood Pressure

In many cases, there are no clear signs that a person has high blood pressure. Most people do not realize they have high blood pressure until it is measured by a medical professional. While people may think that a flushed, red face, or bouts of dizziness are symptoms of high blood pressure, these sorts of signals are not necessarily directly caused by high blood pressure. A flushed face caused by dilated blood vessels can happen for many reasons, usually because of a temporary rise in blood pressure due to heat, or cold weather, physical activity, spicy foods, hot drinks or alcohol, or a reaction to cosmetic skin products. Dizziness can actually be related to the side effects of medications prescribed for high blood pressure. The only way to know for sure is to check your blood pressure.

Many older people, especially women, with high blood pressure, experience bouts of dizziness that may be part of a hypertensive crisis – a sudden increase in blood pressure that can cause temporary dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or headache. A hypertensive emergency is sometimes the reason that a person visits a doctor to have a blood pressure check. It may be that hypertension has an effect on the peripheral auditory and vestibular systems, which can affect a person’s sense of equilibrium and orientation in space. High blood pressure can also contribute to problems with memory or cognitive function.

Top 10 Causes of High Blood Pressure

smoking can cause high blood pressure
Smoking is one of the major causes of high blood pressure.

Many factors can lead to high blood pressure. Aging is one factor. If there is a family history of hypertension, you may be genetically predisposed to having high blood pressure, too. Other risk factors also increase the chances of high blood pressure:

  1. Smoking
  2. Diet high in salt and/or fat
  3. Lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle
  4. Being overweight
  5. Stress
  6. Too much alcohol consumption
  7. Sleep apnea
  8. Thyroid and adrenal problems
  9. Kidney problems
  10. Diabetes

Medical diagnosis and treatment for high blood pressure don’t really focus on finding a root cause of the problem. General guidelines for eating less salt and fat, losing weight, and finding ways to reduce stress may help people reduce high blood pressure, but for most people, modest lifestyle modifications aren’t enough to solve the problem. 

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. Called gestational hypertension, this occurs when a woman has elevated blood pressure during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy. While this type of high blood pressure usually goes away after birth, it can be an indicator of becoming hypertensive later in life. In some cases, having high blood pressure while pregnant can cause problems, such as fetal growth restriction, which may happen if not enough nutrients are being carried to the growing fetus through the blood vessels. If high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine are both detected, a woman may have preeclampsia, a serious problem that is believed to be caused by restricted blood flow to the placenta. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to experience preterm birth and to have unplanned delivery Caesarean section.

Conventional treatment for gestational hypertension typically involves monitoring and managing high blood pressure with medications. While not many clinical studies have been done regarding acupuncture treatment for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia, TCM has been used to treat high blood pressure and complications of pregnancy for thousands of years. From the TCM point of view, high blood pressure during pregnancy may be due to a deficiency of Liver and/or Kidney Yin, or rising Liver Yang energy in response to a Kidney Yin Deficiency, or Blood or Yin Deficiency. A TCM provider would use diagnostic methods to determine the differentiation and use acupuncture points to nourish the appropriate organs, promote better flow of Blood and Qi, and to help alleviate stress.

How to Control Blood Pressure with Acupuncture and TCM

model of woman showing meridians
Qi flows along the meridians

Naturally, for many centuries, TCM practitioners had no way of measuring blood pressure with medical devices. They depended on observations of people’s symptoms, appearance, and careful checking of the pulse by hand. Thus, TCM does take into consideration the patient’s feelings and experience of symptoms of high blood pressure like:

  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness in the knees 
  • Memory loss
  • Vision loss

TCM views dizziness as being a result of too much Liver Yang energy, stagnant Phlegm, Liver-Kidney deficiency, and deficiency or stagnation of Blood and Qi. Hypertension type headaches are caused by the addition of Fire energy coming from the stomach or intestine. Liver Fire can cause irritability and flushing in the face, while Heart Fire can cause chest distress, nervousness, and insomnia. Weakness and fatigue would be caused by the addition of Dampness and accumulated excess fluid. Fluid retention can lead to a distended abdomen, edema, and low back pain.

TCM philosophy also takes into consideration the emotional state as it relates to the physical health of the body. More recent scientific research also confirms that feelings of anger stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. Finding practices that help how to control anger and find calm are another important part of managing high blood pressure.

A TCM practitioner can treat all of these various symptoms with a combination of acupuncture treatment and herbal supplements individually customized for each patient’s specific circumstance. 

One randomized study compared patients receiving acupuncture versus patients receiving sham acupuncture to treat hypertension over a six-week period. The patients who had real treatments showed significantly lower daytime and nighttime blood pressure readings. Another study showed that acupuncture treatment given to patients in conjunction with antihypertensive medications showed significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic BP readings. 

As the results of this research study of many clinical trials concluded, regular acupuncture treatments have the effect of reducing blood pressure, with the effects lasting several days after each treatment. Acupuncture treatment generally has a cumulative effect, and it is necessary to stick with it to get results. It is also crucial that you work with your healthcare practitioner to determine which dietary changes and forms of exercise will best help how to reduce high blood pressure.

Acupuncture Near Me for High Blood Pressure

Managing high blood pressure takes commitment to making long-term lifestyle changes and regular monitoring. Adding acupuncture and TCM to your integrative care regimen may help you reduce high blood pressure, improve related problems like fatigue, dizziness, and headache, and avoid more serious health problems down the line. 

 

*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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