Inflammation

How to Treat Hives With Acupuncture and TCM

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

hive urticaria rash
The burning itchy rash caused by hives can move around the body.

Skin rash with itchy welts or red bumps that seem to appear suddenly, then move to another part of the body, or go away? Hives, also known as urticaria, are caused by a type of allergic reaction that creates a temporary rash or swelling of the skin. TCM and acupuncture have been used for centuries to help relieve hives caused by allergies.

Hives are fairly common, occurring in about 20% of people of all ages. An acute, or short-lived, case of hives may occur because of being exposed to some unusual, new chemical or natural irritant in a person’s environment, maybe in some product, or some pollen or bug. These usually go away quickly, and it may be fairly obvious what it was that caused the outbreak of hives. However, sometimes people develop chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), in which a person may break out in hives often on an ongoing basis and have no idea why it keeps happening.

Allergies can manifest in many ways: sometimes causing sneezing, watery eyes, or skin problems. Hives are another way that an allergic reaction can show up. Hives, or urticaria, are distinguishable from other types of skin rash, like eczema or shingles rash, because, unlike other rashes, they do not form fluid-filled bumps or cause dryness, scaliness, or cracking of the skin. Rather, hives are raised welts on the skin that appear red, but then turn white when you press on them; this is known as “blanching.” Hives can look like small, narrow lines, or big, patchy blotches.

Urticaria is related to, and sometimes confused with, angioedema, which is a similar condition, in which deep layers of skin become swollen, often around the eyes and mouth, also due to irritation by some allergen. Angioderma can coexist with hives, and can be more dangerous than hives, if it causes tissues in the throat or tongue to become so swollen that the airway is blocked.

Hives often clear up on their own within a few days or weeks without any treatment. However, some people develop chronic hives, in which the hives rash keeps recurring for weeks or months, or longer. Chronic hives can be a uniquely painful and frustrating condition; never knowing when you might break out into a burning, itchy rash. Hives worse at night or hives worse after sleeping are common experiences for people who suffer from chronic urticaria. Breaking out in hives can make a person feel panic, making it very difficult to get on with daily tasks. Acupuncture treatment can help alleviate the burning and itching of acute hives or chronic hives, and help relieve the allergies, stress, and other underlying conditions that bring them on.

Top 10 Hives Causes or Triggers

allergy pet dander hives
Pet dander can trigger hives.

In general, what causes hives most of the time is an allergic reaction to some external stimulus. Touching something, eating something, or inhaling something that you are allergic to can cause urticaria to break out on the skin, sometimes briefly, sometimes moving around from one area or the skin to another, or seeming to spread over the skin. Things that can cause hives include:

  1. Foods, especially those that are well-known allergens like nuts, shellfish, dairy, and eggs, but also fruits, especially citrus fruits
  2. Contact with certain plants
  3. Pollen in the environment
  4. Medications, including antibiotics, OTC pain relievers
  5. Latex
  6. Pet dander
  7. External stimuli from the climate – sun exposure, heat, cold
  8. Bacterial infections in the body, like strep throat or a UTI
  9. Viral infections in the body, like colds, hepatitis or mononucleosis (viral hives)
  10. Blood transfusions

Insect bites or itchy rashes that cause you to scratch at your skin can also cause hives to appear in other areas. Simple pressure on the skin, from sitting or leaning on a patch of skin for a long time, can cause hives. Some people break out in hives when they are under a lot of pressure or emotional stress, even if they are not aware of having allergies or other underlying causes for hives. Sometimes this is called a “stress rash.”

Treatment for Hives

Hives are most commonly treated with antihistamines, which can help relieve itching. Many people experience some type of side effect from taking antihistamines, including: headache, drowsiness, fatigue, and hay fever type symptoms. Some people do get relief from a temporary hives rash after taking Benadryl or something similar. But for others, it may not help, and then doctors often prescribe a corticosteroid as an anti-inflammatory. If steroid treatment for hives does not help, immunosuppressants may be recommended. Depending on the root cause of the hives, these types of pharmacological solutions may or may not work to relieve hives. Acupuncture and TCM treatment focuses on solving the deeper problems that cause hives, without any negative side effects.

How Can Acupuncture Help Hives?

hot bath hives
Hot baths and showers can damage your skin’s protective layers and trigger hives.

As we have seen, conventional western medicine mostly looks at hives in terms of allergies. But in order to resolve the hives, we have to look more closely at why a person has those allergies. Why are some people affected so strongly by certain foods or certain environmental conditions while other people are not affected at all? We have to consider a person’s constitutional health.

As we have discussed in other articles, in TCM the concept of Wei Qi refers to the body’s protective defenses, the action of which stems mainly from the lungs and the skin. Many types of illness are considered to be related to a weakness or breakdown in the Wei Qi that allows external pathogenic factors to enter the body and take hold. Wind is one such external pathogenic factor. Heat and cold are others. Viral and bacterial infections also find their way into the body when the Wei Qi energy is weakened.

6 Pathogenic Factors According to TCM:

  1. Wind
  2. Cold
  3. Summer Heat
  4. Dampness
  5. Dryness
  6. Fire

Hives come mostly from wind and heat. In TCM, urticaria is known as Feng Zhen Kuai, or “wind rash patch.” Wind describes the nature of urticaria rash in the sense that the hives welts come and go, as if blown about. 

When people get hives, it is usually because of one of a few common factors.

  1. Yin deficiency/Dryness – If the body is too dry, when any allergens get in, there is not enough moisture in the body to wash them out of the system; this causes the breakout.
  2. Fire/Heat – If there is too much heat, fire, and inflammation in the body, when there is exposure to allergens, the body can’t take any more and will break out.
  3. Liver stagnation with Heat – When a person is under stress for a long time, it can exacerbate stagnation of Qi in the liver system, which over time causes heat to build up, then the body cannot process little irritations. The liver and kidneys have to do all the work to filter toxins out of the body, but when those organs are overstressed, the body will try to get rid of excess heat through the skin.

Usually, if a person is having chronic hives, it has a lot to do with their food and their habits around their exposure to the elements. For example, in the winter time, in order to be harmonious with the season, the body is meant to experience cold. But many people keep the heater on and keep their environment very warm all the time. This leads to dry air and can cause even people without any allergies to feel itchy. People also tend to take long, hot showers, which can destroy some of the skin’s natural protective layers and cause it to be raw and easily irritated. 

In western thought, when a person has a reaction such as hives to certain foods (spicy foods, alcohol), it is thought of as an allergic reaction, but in Chinese medicine we see this as being the body’s reaction to too much heat. If a person already has a fiery constitution, or liver stagnation, and then there are external hot conditions, and hot foods coming in all at once, the internal heat can explode out, creating the burning rash on the skin.

Cupping can be very helpful for treating hives; it exfoliates the skin and helps to draw toxins out. This will help to cool down the hives outbreak. Then we go further with acupuncture and herbs to strengthen the lungs, the liver, and the Wei Qi.

A systematic review of clinical trials studying the use of TCM methods and acupuncture to treat hives, both as an alternative and an adjunct to medication treatment, concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce symptoms of hives or chronic urticaria. Chinese herbs are also well-known for helping to relieve hives.

Top 5 Tips for Hives Relief

wind hives
Wind, whether cold or hot and dry, can cause hives.

How to get rid of hives for good will mean paying attention to what triggers the rash for each individual. To avoid this kind of allergic reaction hives, protect your Wei Qi with healthy habits. Prioritize rest and good nutrition to build up your immunity and protect your lungs and skin.

  1. Avoid a cold wind blowing on you, whether outside, or from a fan or air conditioner. Dress appropriately; always bring an extra layer so you don’t catch a chill or have a bright sun shining on your skin for a long time when you didn’t expect it.
  2. Avoid very hot showers, baths, saunas, etc. 
  3. Engage in regular exercise to help boost your blood circulation; walking is always ideal. This will help to reduce stress, as will a meditation practice.
  4. Get plenty of rest. Good quality sleep is essential to help build up the Wei Qi.
  5. Avoid foods that are either too hot (spicy or fried, red meats) or too cold (raw foods). No alcohol or coffee. These triggering foods and beverages can really make the hives worse. Drink more water to eliminate the dryness in the body.

If a patient is having trouble figuring out what it is that is causing his or her hives breakouts, a TCM provider may be able to find the underlying reason behind the rash.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hives

People of all ages can receive acupuncture treatment for hives and allergies. The doctors at Art of Wellness have been helping people get relief from allergies and itchy skin conditions for over three decades. We can provide help for children with hives with herbs and acupuncture. If you or someone you love is suffering from hives, please consider giving TCM and herbs a try.

 

 

 

*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 Shingles With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Shingles rash
Shingles rash usually appears on the side of the torso.

Itchy, painful skin rash of blisters on one side of your torso? Burning rash on your face? These are the classic signs of shingles, also known as herpes zoster or varicella zoster, the same viral infection that causes chicken pox. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can calm the acute pain of the shingles rash and help it to heal more quickly, while also offsetting the nerve damage that can result from a herpes zoster infection.

Shingles most often affects older adults, but it can happen to people of all ages. Estimates suggest that one-third of all people will develop herpes zoster at some point in their lives. If you had chicken pox when you were younger, the virus still lives in your body, settling into the nerve tissue in the spinal cord near the brain. When the virus is somehow triggered, it can reactivate, creating a very painful, burning rash, usually in some small, localised area. While medical science hasn’t pinpointed exactly what causes the varicella virus to lie dormant and then reemerge, shingles is believed to be triggered in at least some cases by emotional and mental stress. Chronic stress can cause serious compromisation of the body’s immune system, allowing an old disease to take hold in the body again. People with autoimmune disease, cancer, or HIV may be at increased risk for developing shingles, as well as people who take medications, like steroids, that affect the immune system.

While shingles may go away on its own after a few to several weeks, there can be serious complications. If the rash develops on the face near the eyes, it can cause vision problems, even blindness. Some people develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which can cause the burning, itching, and painful sensations to continue even after the rash on the surface of the skin has cleared up. Neuralgia is basically synonymous with neuropathy, a condition in which nerve cells have been damaged, causing tingling and pain.

If shingles lesions appear near the ears, or affect the facial nerve that connects to the ears, it can lead to Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS), also known as herpes zoster oticus, which can cause dizziness or vertigo, earaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and even hearing loss. Other potential complications of shingles include pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling in the brain).

Acupuncture can be an effective alternative or adjunct to conventional medications for helping to relieve the intense acute pain of the shingles rash in the short term, and can also be used to help prevent and alleviate the potential long-term effects of shingles, like postherpetic neuralgia.

Top 5 Symptoms of Shingles

shingles rash face
Shingles rash can develop on one side of the face near the eye

Usually before a shingles rash is visible on the skin, the person will begin feeling a tingling or burning sensation in that area. This can last a few or several days before the rash breaks out.

The signs of herpes zoster include:

  1. A rash that develops in a stripe (sometimes called a “shingles band” or a dermatome) on one side of the torso, ribcage, or waist area, or on one side of the face near the eye or ear. The rash is red and blistered and causes a lot of pain, burning, and itching.
  2. Fever
  3. Headache
  4. Chills
  5. Stomach upset, stomachache, nausea, or vomiting

In some cases, the rash clears up on its own within a few weeks. However, because shingles can sometimes become more complicated, creating skin infections and other more serious conditions, it is advisable to seek help from your health care providers as soon as you suspect you might have it.

What Is the Treatment for Shingles?

Shingles is not a curable illness; it is the resurfacing of an old viral infection that pretty much has to run its course. Medical treatment usually involves a prescription for antiviral medication such as Acyclovir, which, if taken within the first few days, may help reduce the severity of the rash and lessen the time that it lasts. Management of shingles pain is mostly taken care of with over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, although a doctor may also recommend topical creams, possibly with corticosteroids.

While a person has an active shingles rash, he or she is contagious to other people who have not yet had a case of the chickenpox or the varicella zoster vaccine. This means that other people could contract chickenpox from exposure to the person with shingles; but another person can not get shingles from a person who has shingles. It is important to keep the rash covered, avoid touching and scratching it, wash your hands, clothes, and bedding frequently, and stay away from young children, pregnant women, and anyone who may be vulnerable to getting chickenpox.

How Can Acupuncture Help Shingles?

acupuncture treatment
acupuncture treatment can help relieve the painful shingles rash

While the scientific understanding of how viruses spread and function in the human body is clearly still very much a work in progress, acupuncture and herbs have been used to help the condition we recognize as shingles for over a thousand years. TCM philosophy views shingles as being related mainly to heat and dampness. As acupuncturists, we see shingles generally presenting in one of three ways:

  1. Liver Fire – in this case, the rash will be very red and hot, with a burning sensation. This type of herpes zoster outbreak is probably related to a long period of emotional stress or overwork, possibly combined with an unhealthy diet or too much alcohol consumption. Treatment will focus on clearing the heat from the liver-gall bladder system and reducing inflammation. The next steps of care are to reduce stress and boost immune function.
  2. Damp Heat – this rash will look more like pus or fluid-filled blisters with a very thin skin. Draining dampness and heat from the body with acupuncture and herbs is indicated.
  3. Qi and Blood stagnation – this is more the sort of long-term infection that can lead to postherpetic neuralgia, and is related to older age and an overall weakened immune system, and is more likely to be compounded by fatigue and poor sleep. Treatment will focus on getting the qi and blood moving freely through the body again.

Your TCM practitioner will also give guidance about the best foods to add or avoid to help relieve shingles inflammation and nerve pain. In general, avoiding spicy foods, seafood, sugar, and alcohol is a good way to start.

In a research study that combined TCM treatment with medication therapy, the patients who received acupuncture had an extremely low incidence of developing PHN, while 30% of the  patients who only received drug therapy ended up with some form of neuralgia and pain still present after three months. The people who had acupuncture healed more quickly and reported less need for painkillers, too.

Another study compared patients treated for shingles with a TCM protocol of acupuncture, herbs and moxibustion only, versus patients treated with antiviral pills, topical creams, and pain relievers. The patients who had acupuncture had a significantly higher overall effectiveness rate (97.7%) compared to the group taking medications (81.8%), with efficacy defined by resolution of pain and clearing of the shingles rash.

Acupuncture Near Me for Shingles 

Acupuncture and herbs can be used safely, alone or as an adjunct therapy, to hasten healing of a herpes zoster rash and to prevent long-term nerve damage and pain due to neuralgia. TCM treatment can also work on the other, subtler symptoms of shingles, like headache and stomach upset, without the need for additional medications. Building the immune system back up, helping to repair and prevent nerve damage, and reversing the effects of stress that can trigger a shingles outbreak are other benefits of seeking acupuncture near me for shingles relief and recovery.

 

 

*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 Bell’s Palsy With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Bell's palsy facial paralysis
Bell’s palsy causes paralysis, usually on one side of the face.

Help, I can’t move half my face! A drooping face is sometimes a sign of stroke, but more often facial droop is caused by Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a kind of neuropathy that affects the facial muscles, causing weakness or paralysis. Acupuncture and TCM offer a safe and effective method of treatment to help resolve Bell’s palsy.

Also known as idiopathic facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy comes on suddenly and worsens over the course of a day or two, often resulting in the face drooping on one side. Bell’s palsy is related to a lack of blood flow (ischemia) to the 7th cranial nerve, which may be caused by inflammation or compression. Conventional modern medicine has not fully explained what causes Bell’s palsy, but it is believed to be at least sometimes due to recent infections and/or immune responses that create inflammation in this area of the head.

Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 people in the U.S. each year, men and women alike. People with upper respiratory problems and diabetes have a higher risk for Bell’s palsy–both conditions which can create inflammation in the cranial nerves–but it really can happen to anyone at any age.

Bell’s palsy generally resolves itself over time, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Sometimes people are left with permanent damage, though, and may have some facial weakness for the rest of their lives. Often doctors will recommend Prednisone steroid treatment as a way to help speed recovery. The TCM approach to treating Bell’s palsy with acupuncture and herbs can be helpful as either an adjunct to conventional treatment, or an alternative for those who wish to avoid steroids.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

cranial nerve brain
Bell’s palsy is caused by damage to the 7th cranial nerve.

Bell’s palsy occurs due to a compromisation of the 7th cranial nerve, also known as “CN7” or the “facial nerve,” which originates in the center of the skull and has five branches that extend out into all of the areas of the face: around the eyes, nose, mouth, and chin. This nerve controls communications between the brain and the facial muscles, including the tongue, and therefore controls our ability to make facial expressions, as well as being involved in tasting, chewing, and breathing. When tissues surrounding CN7 become inflamed, perhaps due to a lingering infection, it may lose some or all of its functionality due to a lack of blood flow. Viral infections that can cause swelling, or edema, in the parts of the head that affect the facial nerve include:

  • Herpes zoster
  • Herpes simplex
  • Adenovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Influenza

Diabetes, Lyme Disease, and the inflammatory disorder Sarcoidosis can also cause the sort of swelling and compression that lead to facial nerve palsy. Scientists believe that Bell’s palsy is caused in part by neurodegeneration, or damage to neurons. TCM and acupuncture have been shown in clinical research to help regenerate neurons and promote the repair, growth and development of new nerve cells.

Top 10 Signs and Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy

In Bell’s Palsy, inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve causes a loss of muscle control in part of the face. If this happens to you or someone you know, first review the FAST Stroke test guidelines, to quickly assess whether or not the facial paralysis may be due to a stroke. If no other signs of stroke are present, consider whether there are signs of Bell’s palsy:

  1. Facial weakness or facial paralysis, affecting part or all of the face, most often face droops on one side, sometimes the lower half of the the face drooping
  2. Low grade fever
  3. Headache
  4. Pain behind the ear on the affected side
  5. Stiff neck
  6. Inability to close one eye
  7. Drooling
  8. Loss of sense of taste
  9. Heightened sensitivity to sounds on one side
  10. Dizziness

Occasionally, there may be pain from the swollen facial nerve. More often, though, Bell’s palsy does not cause intense pain. Pain in the face and jaw muscles is more commonly caused by Trigeminal Neuralgia, a more severe and chronic condition related to irritation or inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which communicates messages of sensation from the face to the brain.

Medical diagnosis for Bell’s palsy will first focus on ruling out other, more serious causes of facial paralysis, like stroke. Then doctors will check for viral infections or undiagnosed diabetes, and administer an EMG, CT, or MRI to assess nerve damage.

How Does Acupuncture Treat Bell’s Palsy?

wind cold
Cold wind getting in the face and head can contribute to Bell’s palsy, according to TCM.

In TCM theory, we attribute health conditions to the effects of internal and/or external pathogenic forces working on the body. Bell’s palsy is considered to be the result of an invasion of wind and cold that blocks Qi (life force energy) and blood from moving through the head and face the way they normally do. Wei Qi is a specific form of energy that protects us from external pathogens, but if Wei Qi is weak (maybe due to stress, exhaustion, cold air blows directly on face, or recent illness), it can be dispersed by a strong invasion of Wind, allowing Cold to enter the head and slow things down.

This is an instance when an acupuncturist may choose to use electro acupuncture technique. Electroacupuncture uses fine needles inserted into the skin at specific points along the meridians, which are then attached to a small machine that produces an electrical impulse, so that an electrical current passes between the needles. The current of electricity is not actually entering the body, and the patient will only feel a small pulsing sensation or vibration at the site of the needles being stimulated. The muscles affected might twitch a little. This technique is sometimes called “electro stim,” and it has really only been developed in the past century, although it is still based on the same fundamental concepts of Qi that have been used in TCM for many hundreds of years. Electro acupuncture offers the advantage of being able to stimulate a point in a way that is deeper and wider than with a needle alone. We will often use electro stim acupuncture when dealing with neurological disorders. In the case of Bell’s palsy, the goal is to bring blood flow, Qi, and healing to the cranial nerve root and branches that control the facial muscles. 

In some cases, Bell’s palsy does not completely resolve itself, and people are left with long-term effects. Weakness of the facial muscles that negatively impacts a person’s eating mechanisms or causes them to be unable to express themselves naturally with their facial muscles can have a real impact on quality of life and the ability to enjoy social interactions. 

One study sought to test the efficacy of acupuncture treatment on patients who had been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy at least six month prior, and who were still affected by it. After several weeks of acupuncture treatment, patients reported less stiffness in the face and improved symmetry of facial features.

People who have suffered from Bell’s palsy at some point are at higher risk overall for having a stroke. One retrospective study concluded that patients who received acupuncture and TCM treatment regularly were less likely to have a stroke later on than those who didn’t.

A review of controlled trials studying acupuncture treatment versus drug therapy for Bell’s palsy showed an overall higher effective rate for the groups being treated with acupuncture.

Acupuncture Near Me for Bell’s Palsy

While Bell’s palsy is a relatively mild form of neuropathy that does often resolve itself in time, it is recommended that people do seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible. Losing muscular control of the facial muscles affects your day to day life and interactions with other people, and getting treatment can help the situation improve more quickly. With Bell’s palsy, it is important to make sure that the inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve is reduced and that whatever underlying conditions that may have contributed to the facial paralysis are taken care of, too. Otherwise, people who have had Bell’s palsy once have the potential to experience it again in the future.

 

*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 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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How to Treat Allergy With Acupuncture and TCM

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seasonal allergies
seasonal allergies are caused by pollens and other substances

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

Sinus congestion, runny nose, watery eyes? Itchy skin problem or rashes? It may be seasonal allergies, or an allergic reaction to some specific food or chemical. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can not only help to relieve allergy symptoms, but help to strengthen the body’s immune defenses, so that it is less vulnerable to allergens in the environment.

An allergy is when your immune system produces an antibody response to some substance; it could be a reaction to a plant pollen, an insect venom, a chemical in the air, or some type of food. The body is perceiving the foreign substance as a threat and manufactures antibodies to fight against it. A runny nose (rhinitis), watery eyes, itches in different parts of the head and body, and sneezing are the body’s way of trying to throw off the triggering allergens. Allergies can also cause asthma, which is when the body reacts to triggers with inflammation in the lungs and bronchial tubes, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

At least 50 million Americans experience some form of allergy symptoms every year, and the number is growing. The ever-increasing amounts of food additives, chemical pollutants, and other triggers in the environment are causing more and more people of all ages to develop allergies.  TCM and Acupuncture have been recognized for a while by the WHO as helpful modalities to relieve respiratory illnesses, including seasonal allergies, rhinitis, sinusitis,  and allergy-related asthma.

Top 5 Types of Allergies

itchy eyes and runny nose
itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose are common symptoms of seasonal allergies

Different types of allergies create a variety of symptoms. Seasonal allergies only show up at certain times of the year, when a particular pollen or other natural trigger is abundant, while chronic allergies can flare up at any time.

  1. Pollen Allergies – these are often referred to as “seasonal allergies,” or “hay fever,” and are triggered by natural pollens given off by trees, weeds, grass, and flowers or mold spores, pet dander. These types of allergy cause sneezing and runny nose (rhinitis) and eye allergies, or itchy, watering eyes.
  2. Insect Allergies – these can refer to the types of acute allergic reactions people have to bug bites (mosquito bites or spider bites) or stings from bees or wasps. It can also refer to respiratory or skin reactions to exposure to dust mites or cockroaches in the home environment.
  3. Skin Allergies – these include acute skin allergies like the hives or rashes caused by poison ivy or poison oak. They also include skin reactions to latex. Eczema is a more chronic skin allergy condition, where inflammation causes itchy patches of skin that can become very dry and scaly. Eczema often starts in childhood. Flare-ups can happen due to external irritants, like certain soaps or detergents, fabrics, ingredients in topical ointments or lotions, or smoke in the air. Stress is also a contributing factor to eczema.
  4. Food Allergies – food allergies are especially common in children, with over 5% of children in the U.S. diagnosed in recent years. Certain types of nuts, dairy, soy, wheat, and shellfish are the most common food allergens. In some cases, food allergies are so severe that exposure can lead to a life-threatening reaction of anaphylaxis, an emergency situation in which blood pressure can slow down dramatically, and a person may have severe difficulty breathing. Every year, 200,000 people seek emergency medical care for a severe food allergy reaction.
  5. Drug Allergy – many people have allergic reactions to certain types of medication, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, ACE inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, and even aspirin. The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction to medication are: hives or rash, fever, stomach upset, or asthma-like wheezing. A severe drug allergy can also cause anaphylaxis.

Allergy treatment first involves finding out exactly what allergens will potentially cause a reaction. Allergy testing helps determine what, specifically, is triggering the symptoms. Then, a person is encouraged to avoid this trigger as best they can. Many people try over the counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays to help manage their allergy symptoms. For more severe allergies, doctors may prescribe corticosteroids in spray, pill, or ointment formulations. Epinephrine injections are necessary to stop severe reactions and prevent anaphylactic shock.

Immunotherapy is an option for some people with a chronic allergic condition. A small amount of the allergen is introduced into the body either via injection (allergy shots) or in a sublingual (under the tongue) form. These can help people build us a better resistance to the allergy trigger over time.

How Can Acupuncture Help Seasonal Allergies?

Modern medical science has made many recent advances in understanding of the human body’s immune system. It is highly complex, and there is still much to learn. In TCM, we have for many centuries been aware of and observed what we call “Wei Qi,” which essentially means protective energy. 

herbs for allergies
Chinese herbs can help relieve and prevent allergic reactions

TCM always acknowledges dualities and the relationship between opposing and coordinating forces. In every case, we look for internal factors and external factors that are affecting the health of the person. In TCM, the immune system has both internal and external components. The external Wei Qi is a protective force that functions as a shield, blocking external pathogens like wind, dampness, and cold, from entering into the body. The lungs provide the energy to keep Wei Qi strong and especially to keep pathogens from entering through the nose and mouth. However, when Wei Qi is weak, it becomes easy for Wind to enter the head and bring with it other external pathogens, like cold, heat, dampness, or dryness. 

According to TCM, a person who suffers from allergies generally has a deficiency of Wei Qi, making them more susceptible to invasions of Wind. Acupuncture treatment might focus, for example, on strengthening the lungs and spleen, which helps to build the Wei Qi back up. Herbal remedies can both relieve hay fever symptoms and rhinitis, and help to tonify the Wei Qi, so that allergic reactions will lessen over time. 

One trial found that people were able to reduce their use of allergy medication after an eight-week course of acupuncture treatment for allergies. Another research study found that patients in a control group who received acupuncture reported better control of allergy symptoms during pollen season, with less reliance on antihistamines.

TCM and Acupuncture for Food Allergy

Recent research supports the efficacy of TCM herbs for helping to prevent severe reactions in people who suffer from food allergies. A specific formulation of eight Chinese herbs has been shown to be helpful for reducing the incidence of anaphylaxis in people with various types of food allergies, including milk, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and fruits. Herbal creams and herb bath preparations can also help prevent severe reactions, when used consistently for a course of treatment. 

An acupuncture practitioner will also use their wide knowledge of nutrition to help patients with food sensitivities and food intolerance manage their diet. Often, when dealing with allergies and sensitivities, it can be challenging to find what needs to be eliminated, as it is not always immediately obvious to a person which foods or other environmental factors are involved in creating the uncomfortable symptoms. A TCM doctor will spend time looking carefully at all of the lifestyle behaviors involved and make appropriate recommendations to help remove hidden triggers.

Top 3 Tips to Help Allergies Naturally

Getting regular acupuncture “tune-ups” is one great, natural way to help relieve allergies. Here are some other ideas you can put into practice to help rid your home and work environment of potential allergens.

  1. Air Filter – a good-quality HEPA filter will remove particles of pollen, dust, and pet dander from the ambient air. This works best if you also make sure to keep the windows and doors closed when you suspect pollen is heavy in the air outside.
  2. Probiotics – a recent systematic review showed that taking probiotics can help reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Probiotics help balance gut flora, which we now know is vital to proper immune functioning and prevention of inflammation.
  3. Wash Your Hands – Manage allergens that come home with you by washing your hands and putting your clothes in the laundry as soon as you get home.

Acupuncture Near Me for Allergy Relief

Seasonal allergies, food allergies, and allergies to chemicals and medication are all on the rise. While people are able to get some relief from conventional medications, TCM treatment offers a viable alternative without the possible side effects of these medicines. Acupuncture can help reduce the need for emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions, and also help prevent hay fever from recurring, year after year. Partner with an acupuncturist near me for allergy treatment now to ensure that when allergy season rolls around again, you are prepared with a strong defense. 

 

 

*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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