Herbal Medicine

How to Treat ADHD With Acupuncture and TCM

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

ADHD Attention Deficit disorder
Being easily distracted can be a sign of ADD or ADHD.

Does my child have ADHD? Do I have ADHD? ADD/ADHD is a mental health disorder that causes children and adults to have problems with concentration, hyperactivity, or both. Trouble in school, problems at work, physical restlessness, mood swings, and frequent feelings of frustration can all be signs of ADHD in children and adult ADHD. Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to help symptoms of ADHD holistically, without the side effects caused by ADHD medications.

ADD stands for Attention-Deficit Disorder, referring to the poor concentration and problems staying on task that are often experienced by people with this neurodevelopmental disorder. Children and adults with ADD are easily distracted; they may appear to be “daydreaming” a lot of the time. ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, in reference to cases in which a person also exhibits impulsiveness, or difficulty sitting still. ADHD usually starts in childhood; often, ADHD symptoms carry over into adulthood and continue to cause problems if not addressed.

While ADHD in adolescents and children has been studied widely in recent years, the causes are still unknown. It is generally believed to be due to disordered biological processes occurring in the brain, and considered to be possibly genetic in origin. ADHD may be related to atypically low levels of chemical neurotransmitters like dopamine. Metabolism in the part of the brain that controls attention, movement, and social interaction appears to be different in brain imaging tests of children with ADHD.

ADHD hyperactivity frustration
Becoming frustrated or angry easily can be a sign of ADHD.

For children with ADHD, this may lead to problems in school, even learning disabilities. Interrupting, not being able to wait their turn, fidgeting, and being forgetful or seeming “careless” are the obvious outward signs of ADHD that can make school challenging for children, and cause them to be considered disruptive in the classroom. 

Adult attention disorder may show up as reckless behavior (traffic tickets, accidents, etc.), problems in relationships, trouble organizing things like paying bills or missing appointments, losing belongings, not being a “good listener,” or anger management issues.

According to current conventional medical thought, ADHD is considered a psychiatric condition: a product of chemical imbalance in the brain. ADHD in children is associated with behavioral problems that make it difficult to excel in school. Adults with ADD may have trouble finding success in their daily work and lives. For these reasons, people will consider getting medical treatment for ADHD. As with most psychiatric issues, treatment tends to focus on a combination of behavioral counseling and pharmacological intervention. Medications used to treat ADHD in both children and adults are stimulants that are thought to help boost attention span and a person’s ability to focus.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs can be used as an adjunct therapy or an alternative to medical treatment with drugs for ADHD in both children and adults.

Top 3 Types of ADHD:

ADD or ADHD symptoms manifest in a unique combination in each individual. Presentations of ADHD are divided into three categories:

  1. Inattentive/easily distracted type
  2. Hyperactive, impulsive behavior type
  3. Combined type, exhibits both inattention and hyperactivity

While boys are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, this may have something to do with the fact that ADHD symptoms show up differently in girls than they do in boys. Parents and teachers may have a stronger tendency to explain girls’ behavior as being personality-based (“talkative” or “tomboy-ish”) rather than a serious problem worthy of attention. Girls may also be more likely to compensate for their ADHD, finding coping mechanisms that help them get along with teachers and appear to be OK, even if they are struggling with schoolwork or social problems.

ADHD and ASD (autism spectrum disorder) can often present in similar ways, and can coexist in some cases. Over half of people who have been diagnosed as autistic also show signs of ADHD, while about a quarter of people with ADHD are also considered to be on the autism spectrum. Some of the key differences between these two neurodevelopmental disorders are that children with ADHD are much more likely to show improvement in their behaviors as they grow up, and that people with ASD are more likely to exhibit “hyperfocus” rather than distraction.

When symptoms of ADHD are found in children, it is not unusual for parents to recognize that they, too, have faced similar struggles in their lives. Research suggests that about half of the time that a child is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, at least one of their parents shows signs of the disorder, as well.

Top 10 Symptoms of Adult ADHD

sleep problems ADHD insomnia
Insomnia, restlessness, and other sleep problems can be a sign of ADHD.

Because ADD/ADHD is a mental health issue, it can be difficult to clearly identify. Many of the symptoms associated with ADHD are similar to those of anxiety. It is not uncommon for people with adult ADHD to also have anxiety or depression, so the conditions overlap. 

  1. Trouble focusing on tasks or multitasking, poor concentration
  2. Impulsive behavior, recklessness
  3. Disorganization
  4. Poor time management skills, difficulty prioritizing or staying on topic
  5. Restlessness, sleep problems
  6. Easily frustrated
  7. Frequent mood swings
  8. Lose temper easily
  9. Difficulty articulating thoughts to others
  10. Difficulty coping with stress

Of course, everyone experiences some or all of these behaviors and emotions at some point in their lives. But if these problems began in childhood and continue to cause problems in daily life on an ongoing basis, then it may be due to adult ADHD.

Test for ADHD

Evaluation for ADHD is usually performed by a mental health professional, pediatrician, or family physician. There is no one specific test to determine if a child or adult has ADHD. Diagnosis is usually based on a comprehensive discussion with the patient and family members to determine whether a person displays 5-6 or more commonly recognized symptoms of ADD or ADHD, according to guidelines set by the American Psychiatric Association.

Brain imaging methods such as MRIs are used to conduct research about ADHD, but they are not part of a typical diagnostic process for the average person.

Medications for ADHD

Doctors commonly treat ADD or ADHD with stimulant medications that increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine and are meant to help them focus better. These medications are based in amphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine, etc.) or methylphenidate (Ritalin, etc.). Some are short-acting and need to be taken in 4-hour intervals; others are longer-acting, or designed to last all day.

While these medications are considered safe for children, they do not work in every case, and they carry a variety of side effects, including: changes in appetite, stomach problems, and sleep problems. These types of drugs constrict the blood vessels and can cause heart problems like arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks in some patients. They can also have a negative impact on mood and mental health, causing a child or adult to become even more irritable and/or anxious. In some cases, stimulant medications have been linked to suicidal ideation and aggressive behavior in children and adolescents.

Acupuncture for ADHD

ADHD children acupuncture
Auricular acupuncture can be a great modality for helping young children.

TCM philosophy acknowledges the interconnectedness of the mind, spirit, and body. In the TCM view, problems like ADHD are concerned with imbalances of the Heart, the Mind, and the Shen (spirit or emotions). Pathogens like fire, wind, and dampness can invade the head, affecting the mind as well as the physical organs of the body. 

Problems with concentration and restlessness stem from wind and excess heat in the head. Feelings of anger and frustration are often rooted in Liver Qi stagnation. Troubles with the appetite and digestion are often connected to deficiency in the Kidneys and Spleen. Thus, acupuncture treatment and herbal preparations will be designed to clear heat, get Liver Qi moving freely, and strengthen the Spleen and Kidneys.

The medications often prescribed to treat ADHD can actually have further negative effects on the heart and kidneys, causing deficiencies of Liver Qi and Kidney Qi.

A research study conducted with almost 600 children showed that acupuncture had an 84% efficacy rate. A study to test the effectiveness of electro-acupuncture on preschoolers with ADHD found not only that the majority of children showed improvement of symptoms, but that the improvement was still evident at a six-month follow-up.

Auricular acupuncture, in which points on the outer ear are stimulated with very tiny, thin needles or seeds that can be stuck to the ear and gently massaged daily, can be particularly effective for children, as it is very minimally invasive.
Certain herbs used in formulations to address attention deficits have been shown to help improve learning and memory.

Acupuncture Near Me for ADHD

If you or your child is struggling with attention deficits or impulsiveness, it can be stressful and scary to decide what to do about it. Poor concentration and hyperactivity can get in the way of doing well in school or work, and make it difficult to have positive social interactions and form relationships. It is certainly important to address these issues rather than ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away. However, many people are concerned that medications may have negative side effects, or be habit-forming. You may want to consider acupuncture as a natural way to address ADHD.

 

 

*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 Lyme Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Lyme disease tick
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks.

Red, circular rash that looks like a “bulls-eye?” Joint pain, muscle aches, and fatigue? These are signs that a person may have Lyme disease, an infectious disease that humans can contract when they are bitten by an infected tick. Lyme, a bacterial infection, can take a while to develop, and can cause chronic symptoms if it is not treated effectively. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative or adjunct way to help resolve the painful, debilitating symptoms of long-term Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a type of bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Ticks are parasitic arachnids, small spider-like creatures who bite other animals and feed on blood. If a tick is infected with a disease, it can infect the person or other animal it bites. Lyme disease, which is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, is just one of several infectious diseases that ticks can spread, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF).  

These critters are sometimes called “deer ticks” or “bear ticks” because they generally thrive in forest environments where they live symbiotically with these kinds of animals. But being bit by deer tick (tick on deer) doesn’t only happen in deeply wooded areas; anywhere that deer, squirrels, lizards, or birds may come into suburban areas, it is possible to be bitten by a tick. Actually, ticks, and therefore the infectious diseases they carry, are growing more prevalent because of humans encroaching into animals’ habitats. Tick bites most commonly occur in spring and summer.

Ticks do not fly; they can only get onto dogs or humans by crawling on them. This can happen quite easily if a tick is on a bush or other plant, and a person or dog brushes up against it. Ticks attach themselves to a host, and slowly suck their blood.  

Lyme disease in dogs cannot be transmitted to humans, nor is lyme disease contagious, passing from human to human; you can only get Lyme disease by being bitten yourself. In order to pass Lyme disease to a person, a tick generally has to have been attached to that person’s skin for 36 hours or more. Ticks can be as small as the head of a pin, and they burrow in moist, hairy areas of their host’s body, so it is actually quite easy to have a tick on you without knowing it. After the tick drops off, a person may not feel anything at all, or only have a small, red bump that resembles a mild insect bite. In some cases, though, a person may feel right away that the area of the bite is hot, swollen, or causing a burning sensation.

If the tick was carrying Lyme disease, it can take several days to a few weeks for the more serious symptoms of Lyme to develop. Even then, the symptoms are not necessarily distinctive. 

The early symptoms of Lyme disease can feel like a flu; fever, fatigue, aches and pains. Not everyone infected with Lyme will have the characteristic tick bullseye rash that develops around the site of the tick bite. When treated promptly with antibiotics, most cases of Lyme disease will resolve within a few weeks. However, many cases of Lyme disease are not diagnosed right away, and if it goes undetected, chronic problems can develop in the ensuing months. Once the bacteria has spread throughout the body, even a long course of antibiotics may not be able to get rid of it. Long-term Lyme symptoms may appear similar to other chronic inflammatory, autoimmune, or neurological conditions, such as fibromyalgia, Bell’s palsy, MS, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

In extreme cases Lyme disease causes shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, fatigue, and other symptoms so severe that people can’t go about their regular daily routine. Sometimes diagnosis and treatment is further complicated by coinfections: concurrent other infections, that can also have been transmitted via the tick bite, or occur independently of it. Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses like RMSF can also trigger sepsis infections, which can be life-threatening, or lead to chronic pain, and/or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  An MRSA skin infection (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a type of staph infection that enters the skin through a wound, can develop around the infected tick bite; this staph skin infection is particularly resistant to antibiotics.

Unfortunately, symptoms of Lyme can become progressively worse over time, leading to disability and even death. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative for helping to heal Lyme disease, whether it is still in the early stages, or when it has become a chronic infectious disease.

Top 10 Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease fatigue
Extreme fatigue can be a symptom of Lyme disease.

Signs of Lyme disease develop slowly, in stages, and can vary widely from person to person. Without the presence of the tell-tale bulls’ eye rash, both patients and doctors may have difficulty linking the spectrum of symptoms to a Lyme infection.

  1. Joint pain, swollen joins, arthritis
  2. Neuropathy, numbness or tingling, Bell’s palsy (face drooping)
  3. Fatigue
  4. Bulls-eye rash, also known as erythema migrans rash
  5. Headaches, migraines
  6. Sleep problems, sleep apnea
  7. Brain fog
  8. Trouble breathing
  9. Vertigo, dizziness
  10. Blurred vision

Other possible symptoms of Lyme include: ringing in the ears (tinnitus), heart palpitations, problems with memory and concentration, vision problems or inflammation around the eyes, and liver problems, like hepatitis. Symptoms of lyme disease in dogs are similar to those in humans, including stiff, swollen joints, tiredness, and loss of appetite.

Long-term effects of Lyme disease are sometimes referred to as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.” Doctors are not sure why some people, even after being treated with antibiotics, seem to still be affected by long-term effects of Lyme disease.

Medical Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease

Getting a clear diagnosis of Lyme disease can be difficult. Currently, there is a two-step diagnostic process recommended to determine if a person has contracted Lyme disease. Two main kinds of tests can detect antibodies the body’s immune system creates to fight off the infection. However, it takes a while–at least several weeks, usually–for the body to build up enough of the antibodies that they become detectable. Often when people are aware early on that they may have been infected, and they get a test, it turns out to be negative. Usually, doctors try first one type of antibody test, and then the other to see if they get a positive result. Even then, medical science acknowledges that many (perhaps half of) Lyme disease cases are not detected this way.

A newer, still somewhat unproven form of testing involves taking a blood culture and trying to grow the bacteria that cause Lyme in a laboratory setting. This testing is more advanced and may be difficult for patients to access.

Once physicians have determined that Lyme infection is present, the usual treatment is a course of antibiotics that lasts a few to several weeks. In many cases, this seems to clear up the infection. In others, though, the antibiotics do not resolve the myriad symptoms patients are experiencing. Using antibiotics on a long-term basis is often not effective, and carries other risks to a person’s health. 

Ongoing joint pain and inflammation is then usually treated with steroid medications or NSAIDS. Sleep problems and fatigue are often treated with antidepressants. These medications may help relieve symptoms temporarily, but they come with side effects, and do not address the root causes of the chronic symptoms of Lyme disease. 

3 Stages of Lyme Disease

When early detection occurs, the Western medical approach of using antibiotics can often resolve Lyme disease within a few to several weeks. However, if the infectious disease is not found soon enough, Lyme disease will progress to more advanced stages. TCM methods can be helpful during all three stages of Lyme.

  1. First Stage Lyme disease – Within the first few weeks of the infection, and with early detection,  antibiotics can be very helpful, working pretty well to stop the spread of the bacteria. However, because Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed, many people do not receive this treatment soon enough. During this phase, the symptoms are similar to those of the flu: chills, fatigue, heaviness in the limbs. As the infection moves in deeper, it can cause the skin rash, or hives. TCM treatment during the first stage will focus on clearing heat and detoxifying the body to rid it of infection.
  2. Second Stage Lyme disease – If the bacteria causing Lyme disease is not halted in its spread, it begins to affect the organs and the blood. The central nervous system and heart can become infected. These infections can last for months, and if not taken care of, can develop into the third phase. This is when a person may begin to feel joint aches, and arthritis-like symptoms. The body’s Qi and blood become deficient. Treatment with acupuncture and herbs at this point will work to help boost the Qi, clear heat and strengthen the whole immune system, and clear inflammation.
  3. Advanced stage Lyme disease – As the infection drags on, it can cause joint, skin, and nerve damage can take hold. Ongoing Qi and blood deficiency and stagnation cause fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, and memory loss.

A TCM provider will recognize what stage of Lyme disease a patient is in according to their symptoms, and customize the acupuncture points and herbal formulae used depending on their needs.

Acupuncture for Infectious Diseases

Chinese herbs
Chinese herbs can work to help get rid of deep infections.

For millennia, TCM has recognized a type of disease that is caused by infection and can affect all systems of the body. We call this type of illness Gu zheng, or “Gu syndrome.” This classification covers illnesses caused by “invisible” pathogens, like viruses, funguses, and parasites. Along with the toxins from the tick bite, we consider how pathogens like heat, wind, and dampness all play a role in the illness. According to TCM theory, extreme heat in the body is also considered “toxic.” This category of condition helps us understand a variety of different systemic inflammatory illnesses, and gives us a framework for addressing each individual’s presenting symptoms. 

One of the key features of Gu syndrome illnesses is how terrible and hopeless they can make people feel. Not only do people suffering from chronic inflammatory or immune-related conditions feel constantly tired and ache-y, but some of the sensations seem to come and go and feel so mysterious that they can’t be explained satisfactorily. If this is then compounded with the fact that many doctors don’t understand or know how to deal with the illness, it can leave patients feeling very frustrated and helpless. After months or years of this, debilitating physical symptoms may be accompanied by feelings of depression and anxiety.

A Yale Medical University study of patients, all in their 40s, suffering from long-term Lyme complications found that they had to reduce their activities, or even give up working, and doubted that they would ever recover. In interviews, patients made it clear that working with doctors who were more holistic was far preferred, and thus many had turned to CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) providers for help with Lyme disease.

Making a full recovery from long-term Lyme disease is possible, but it can take a long time to get rid of a bacterial infection that has woven itself deeply into the body’s organ systems. The benefit of Chinese herbal medicine for Lyme is that the powerful substances in the herbs can penetrate deep into the body at a cellular level. Working with an experienced acupuncturist means that your Chinese herbs for Lyme disease can be regularly updated, according to your individual needs, as you progress. This, in combination with acupuncture treatment for Lyme disease, moxibustion, and nutrition guidelines for an anti-inflammatory diet can all help patients feel better faster and prevent any further damage to the organs and the nervous system.

Top 5 Tips for Lyme Disease Self-Care

Lyme disease fatigue
Extra rest is important to help recovery from Lyme disease.

Sometimes re-prioritizing health over all else is necessary in order to heal from a serious infectious disease.

  1. Conserve energy. Rest as much as possible.  
  2. Drink extra water. 
  3. Eliminate coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, chips, roasted nuts, any food that adds heat and inflames further. Try to reduce heat.
  4. Eat more cooling foods. Mung bean tea is an ideal choice.
  5. In the later stages of the disease, we may need to add more strengthening foods, like chicken stock and soup, and will recommend different herbal formulae, as well. 

Overall, reducing stress and finding a meditation practice is helpful. For more detailed instructions on how to eat right to reduce inflammation, see our article specifically addressing anti-inflammatory food and lifestyle choices.

Acupuncture Near Me for Lyme Disease

Dealing with a complicated illness like Lyme disease is challenging for people and doctors. A long process of discovery and commitment may be necessary. Working with an experienced TCM provider gives patients the benefits of a multi-pronged, holistic way of addressing multiple symptoms, both physical and emotional. Acupuncture for infectious diseases like Lyme takes into account each patient’s individual concerns, and addresses the complex symptoms of Lyme in concert.

 

 

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

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How to Treat Bloated Stomach With Acupuncture and TCM

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

bloated stomach pain
Bloated stomach after eating can be painful and embarrassing.

Do you feel constantly gassy or have a bloated stomach after eating? Digestive problems like gastritis or colitis can cause abdominal bloat. Stress and hormonal imbalances can also contribute to inflammation and bloated stomach pain. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help improve digestion and relieve abdominal bloating.

Abdominal bloating occurs when gas builds up in the gastrointestinal tract, filling the stomach and/or intestines with air. This can cause the belly area to get swollen and distended. Bloating can cause  an inflated belly, sharp pain in the abdomen, belching and flatulence, nausea, or a sudden strong urge to go to the bathroom. Bloating can be related to fluid retention; this is sometimes called “water bloat.”

Problems with digestion that lead to a feeling of heaviness, “like a rock” in your belly after eating, are common. People who have been diagnosed with some type of functional gastro-intestinal disorder (FGID)–like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or dyspepsia (indigestion)–are extremely likely to experience abdominal pain and bloating after eating, while up to 30% of all people report having bloating at least some of the time. Inflammation in the walls of the stomach (gastritis) or intestine (ulcerative colitis) can also cause bloating.

Women often feel bloated before or during their menstrual period, and female reproductive disorders like endometriosis, fibroids (leiomyoma of the uterus), and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can cause abdominal pain and bloating.

FGIDs can be very hard to manage; it may be difficult to get a clear diagnosis or effective medical treatment. Problems like constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain and bloating are highly subjective, and people are often made to feel like it’s normal to have these issues, or that all they need to do is avoid certain foods. 

Feelings of anxiety and depression are common among people who suffer from moderate to severe bloating on a regular basis. This can become a vicious cycle, as the pain and swelling of the abdomen causes anxiety, and the physiological effects of the emotional stress trigger the bloating to happen again and again. Sometimes people dread eating meals because they are so afraid of the painful and embarrassing bloated stomach.

Digestive upsets are complex to treat because there can be many factors contributing to the discomfort. So many different conditions can cause bloating, it can be hard to get a clear handle on the true cause. This is a case when TCM methods of diagnosis offer many advantages, because a TCM practitioner will be able to study the whole picture presented by a patient and pinpoint what underlying conditions are causing gas and distension. Acupuncture and herbs can help resolve abdominal bloating and other symptoms at their root source.

Top 10 Abdominal Bloating Causes

abdominal bloating
Abdominal bloating and anxiety can go hand in hand.

Why might someone feel bloated and gassy all the time? Many different types of gastrointestinal disorders can contribute to a bloated belly and excess gas, as can hormonal and emotional changes. What causes abdominal bloating can be one issue or a combination of factors:

  1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease, Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease
  3. Gastritis, stomach ulcers, inflammation of the stomach
  4. Food intolerance, gluten intolerance, celiac disease
  5. PMS, menstruation
  6. Stress, anxiety, depression
  7. Pregnancy
  8. Constipation 
  9. Liver disease
  10. Abdominal adhesions, or scar tissue from surgeries

Eating behaviors like eating too quickly, swallowing air while eating, or eating fiber-rich foods that cause gas like beans, can lead to bloating. Drinking a lot of carbonated beverages can lead to excess gas in the GI tract. Smoking can also be a factor. Some medications can cause bloating as a side effect, including antibiotics, oral birth control pills, opioid pain medications, medicines to relieve constipation, and even some supplements, like iron pills.

Cancers of the abdominal organs, such as ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, or pancreatic cancer, can also cause bloating in the belly. Gallstones or gallbladder disease, kidney problems, and liver problems can all cause stomach pain and bloating.

Medical Treatment for Abdominal Bloating

Many people do not seek medical help for bloating, trying to manage it on their own with over the counter medications that promise relief from gas pain and acid reflux. Antacids only help with the kind of bloating that is caused by food, though; they don’t help with bloating related to FGIDs, hormones, or emotional stress. When a person does ask their primary care doctor or even a gastroenterologist for help with bloating, they may find that the treatment options are very limited. Doctors will usually reassure patients that gas and bloating, while uncomfortable, are not actually dangerous. Then, they will often advise that patients go on a strict elimination diet, cutting out wheat, dairy, and most vegetables and legumes. Sometimes doctors will prescribe antibiotics to alter the balance of gut bacteria. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help with bloating. Conventional medical science still has a ways to go to fully understand the underlying causes of digestive problems like bloating.

Because bloating is not viewed as a disorder in and of itself, not much serious research has been done to show what types of treatments work best to get rid of bloating. TCM treatment has been shown in a randomized controlled trial, a peer-reviewed study, and a hospital-based investigation to help in relieving stomach pain due to chronic gastritis.

How Can Acupuncture Help With Bloating?

TCM offers a multidisciplinary approach to the digestive problems, hormone imbalances, and emotional upsets that can cause bloating. An experienced acupuncturist is able to use methods of diagnosis such as studying the appearance of the tongue, feeling the pulse, and asking lots of questions about how and when the symptoms occur to find the specific pattern of imbalance that is causing gastric distress.

Different presentations of digestive conditions that may cause abdominal bloating and pain include:

  1. Spleen/Stomach Deficiency – characterized by symptoms: chronic bloating, poor appetite, feel worse after eating, pallor, and fatigue. This type of bloating can be caused by antibiotics, too much raw or fermented food, eating disorders, a long period of illness, or chronic inflammatory disorders.
  2. Damp-Phlegm – symptoms include: distended stomach, nausea, acid reflux, diarrhea. This type of bloating can be caused by dietary habits that include excess sugar, alcohol, fatty or fried foods, and dairy products. Can also be related to damp environmental conditions. 
  3. Liver Qi stagnation – common symptoms are: stomachaches, stomach gurgling, belching, and constipation. This type of bloating can be caused by stress, feelings of anxiety or anger, and irregular, emotional eating behaviors.

TCM treatment for abdominal bloating will use acupuncture and herbs to bring the stomach and liver back into harmonious function, clearing phlegm and improving digestion. Treatment will be individualized based on the underlying causes of the imbalance; if reproductive hormones are involved, then that factor will be taken into consideration when preparing the herbal formula. If mental health issues are a factor, specific points will be added to help relieve anxiety. Naturally, your acupuncturist will have some clear instructions on how to optimize your nutrition to reduce bloating.

Top 5 Tips for How to Stop Bloating

bloated stomach eating habits
Pay attention while you’re eating, and be sure to chew food thoroughly.

While bloating may be caused by all sorts of different factors, there is no doubt that making some changes to your eating habits will probably have an impact on how bloated you feel. What helps bloating may be different for each person’s constitution or lifestyle, so it will be very helpful to have an in-depth conversation with your acupuncture provider about what bloating diet is best for you.

  1. Chew your food thoroughly. Many people eat fast, and don’t pay much attention to chewing their food well before they swallow. Food is really meant to be broken down and mixed with saliva in the mouth before it moves down the esophagus and into the stomach. Skipping this important step by swallowing half-chewed food means that your stomach has to produce more acid and work much harder to digest the food before it moves deeper into your gastrointestinal tract. Eating too quickly can also easily lead to eating more than you need. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive the message that the stomach is full. Chew slowly, and enjoy every bite; this will improve your digestion.
  2. Avoid icy cold drinks and foods. Cold liquids are shocking and unfriendly to your internal organs, both those of the digestive tract and the female reproductive organs. Constantly drinking ice-cold beverages irritates the smooth muscle tissues of the stomach, intestines, and uterus. Drink more warm liquids, which are soothing to these organs.
  3. Ginger tea – many of our herbal formulations include slices of fresh ginger to help soothe the stomach and GI tract. Ginger helps the body to produce more of the digestive enzymes that work to break down food, and relieves cramping in the belly. All you need to do is keep a knob of fresh ginger on hand, cut two or three slices and steep in hot water as you would a teabag. Sip anytime, but especially before meals, to help relieve gastritis pain and bloating. 
  4. Choose foods in harmony with the season. Raw foods are appropriate in the summer, but in the winter, it’s better to eat cooked foods. Eating more bitter-tasting foods, like dark leafy greens, helps the liver and kidneys.
  5. Use acupressure to help relieve bloating and gassiness. Acupoints are located along the meridians and correspond to various organ systems. Applying gentle, steady, downward pressure to acupoint ST36 (Zu San Li), which is associated with the stomach, can help to relieve bloating, stomach pain, nausea, and feelings of stress. ST36 is located on the outer edge of the shin bone, about 4 finger widths beneath the kneecap.

Acupuncture Near Me for Abdominal Bloating

TCM offers a holistic approach to digestive problems of all kinds. Symptoms like abdominal bloating, stomach pain, and gassiness are usually signs that there is a deeper problem. If you haven’t been able to solve the problem of bloating with conventional medicine or dietary changes, you may be able to get help for digestive difficulties with acupuncture and herbs.

 

 

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

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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 Gout With Acupuncture and TCM

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

toes feet
Gout often affects the big toe, the foot, or the ankle.

Sudden, intense pain and swelling in the big toe? Foot, ankle, knee, or elbow is red, hot, swollen and very painful? It may be a type of arthritis called gout that is caused by unusually high uric acid levels in the body. TCM methods have been used to effectively manage gout with acupuncture and herbs for thousands of years.

Gout, sometimes called gouty arthritis, is a kind of arthritis that develops over time due to other underlying conditions. When there is a sudden flare-up that creates a lot of pain and swelling in a joint, it is called an acute attack of gout. Gout is almost always related to a person’s diet and lifestyle, and part of any treatment plan is reducing intake of beverages and foods that cause gout.

Conventional treatment for gout involves first allowing the acute attack to subside, then using medications and monitoring to bring down high uric acid levels. Acupuncture and TCM have been shown in clinical studies to be even more effective at providing immediate gout pain relief and bringing down uric acid levels than typical drug therapies.

What Is Gout? 

Gout is a very painful form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint, often the big toe joint. Uric acid is formed as a byproduct of digestion; when the body breaks down purines–chemicals in certain foods–the resulting uric acid is processed by the kidneys and leaves the body in liquid waste. If too much uric acid is being produced, or if the kidneys are weak and unable to process it adequately, the level of uric acid in the bloodstream rises (hyperuricemia), and deposits of uric acid crystals begin to gather in the joints. These crystals have sharp edges, which are what cause the severe pain and swelling of a gout attack.

While older men are generally at higher risk for developing gout, gout can affect people of all ages and genders. Women are more likely to develop gout after menopause, when their uric acid levels tend to rise. People who are high risk for gout are those who already suffer from:

People  who have a family history of gout, or who tend to eat a lot of meat and/or drink a lot of alcohol also face a higher risk for gout. Regular use of diuretics can precede attacks of gout.

The symptoms of gout can be very similar to those of other types of arthritis, but gout causes are different than those of rheumatoid arthritis. Thus is it important to seek help from your health care providers for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis versus gout.

Top 5 Signs and Symptoms of Gout

elbow knee
pain, swelling, or redness in your elbow or knee could be gout

The underlying condition that causes gout is related to the kidneys, but the actual experience of gout is a form of acute inflammation, usually in one of the smaller joints of the limbs or extremities– most often there is gout in feet, especially the big toe joint. A person may have hyperuricemia for a long time, causing uric acid buildup in the body, but it doesn’t actually become “gout” until there is a flare-up of painful symptoms. The signs of a gout attack are:

  1. Intense pain in a joint (gout in big toe, gout in foot, gout in ankle, gout in hands, heel pain are all common)
  2. Redness
  3. Swelling
  4. Tenderness to even a slight touch
  5. Hot to the touch

Diagnostics for gouty arthritis include blood tests to check for uric acid levels, or extraction of fluids from the joint to check for uric acid crystals. Signs of gout in the joint may also show up in x-rays, or in an ultrasound or CT scan. 

What is the Medical Treatment for Gout?

There are two components to conventional medical gout treatment: treatment for immediate gout pain relief, to reduce the pain and swelling of an acute attack of gout, and treatment to prevent a future gout attack by reducing the levels of uric acid in the blood. 

For pain and swelling, most patients with gout are recommended NSAIDS for pain relief. People who cannot take NSAIDS due to stomach ulcers or kidney problems are often given corticosteroid injections in the affected joint. Many patients are also prescribed a drug called colchicine, which works by disrupting a specific inflammatory response in the body, which can help to reduce the formation of uric acid crystals. The rate of colchicine side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain is fairly high.

To stabilize blood uric acid levels, there are medications that block the production of uric acid (Lopurin, Zyloprim, Uloric) and medications that break down and/or remove uric acid (Benemid, Zurampic, Krystexxa). These medications have to be carefully managed according to changes in uric acid formation and kidney function, as well as possible interactions with other medications. Many people who have gout also have heart problems or high blood pressure. This type of medical treatment for preventing and controlling gout often goes on for years, or even for the rest of a person’s life. Unfortunately, because it can be so difficult for both doctor and patient to keep up with monitoring, taking medication consistently, and changing dosages frequently, this sort of medical treatment often doesn’t work to prevent more gout attacks.

Can Acupuncture Help Gout?

acupuncture
acupuncture treatment can help relieve gout pain and prevent future gout attacks

TCM theory designates several internal pathogenic processes that can occur within the organ systems. TCM views gout as a problem of dampness and heat, and/or stagnation and buildup of phlegm in the joints. As we mentioned earlier, many, if not most, people who suffer from gout also have other health problems like hypertension or diabetes. So, the TCM provider is also looking at the root causes of those health issues and will treat those with acupuncture and herbs at the same time. The goal of acupuncture and herb supplementation is always to bring the all of the organ systems back into harmony. TCM herbs to help gout will work to strengthen the spleen, kidneys, and liver, clear heat and dampness, and improve blood circulation.

A systematic review of studies relating to TCM treatment of gout with acupuncture showed that patients receiving acupuncture and herbs fared better overall than those in the control group being given typical medical therapy. The studies measured the “resolution” of an attack of gout; meaning, whether or not the pain and swelling was completely reduced within a 24-hour period. They also measured the reduction of uric acid levels in the blood before and after treatment. According to both measures, patients who received TCM treatment for gout had better results than those taking western medicines like colchicine or allopurinol.

A controlled clinical trial conducted at a research hospital showed a 92.5% efficacy rate for treating an acute gout attack, versus an 82.5% efficacy rate for patients who were given NSAIDS to treat the pain.

Top 5 Home Remedies for Gout According to TCM

alcohol beer sweet sodas
beer, wine, liquor, and sugary sodas can trigger gout

First and foremost, it is necessary to plan and follow through on an appropriate gout diet: knowing what foods to avoid with gout is vital to prevent future attacks.

  1. Avoid Foods that cause Gout – foods that are high in purines include red meat, organ meats, seafood and alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and liquors. Risk for gout rises dramatically when people drink 2-4 or more alcoholic beverages per day. This may be because the body has to prioritize processing the alcohol over removing uric acid.
  2. Avoid sugar – Especially sugary drinks like sodas, and sweetened juices. Fructose appears to be particularly linked to higher incidence of gout, so read labels and avoid products sweetened with fructose or high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Avoid refined flours and yeast – the combination of yeast, white flour, and white sugar does not provide much nutritional value, and can raise uric acid levels.
  4. Emphasize whole, natural foods – all fruits, vegetables, and legumes are safe to eat with gout. Eggs and low-fat dairy products are safe sources of protein.
  5. Drink more water – this helps your body to more effectively flush out excess uric acid.

Exercising more and working on healthy, gradual weight loss will also help to prevent future gout attacks. Your acupuncturist can help you to develop a specific gout diet that will work for your constitution.

Acupuncture Near Me for Gout

While treating gout can be tricky due to the fact that it is usually not the only health issue that needs attention, the good news is that gout is one of the few types of arthritis that can be reversed. A holistic approach that takes into consideration a person’s diet, lifestyle, and other health problems is the best way to keep the intense pain of gout at bay. Acupuncture and TCM offer a solid alternative treatment method that can relieve gout and improve your overall health, all without unwanted side effects.

 

 

 

*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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