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Inflammation

How to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) With Acupuncture and TCM

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

hand pain pain in hands
Arthritis joint pain in fingers and hands can be an early sign of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Do you have joint pain, swelling or stiffness in the joints, especially finger joint pain or a swollen knee? Maybe you feel that the joint pain is moving to other parts of your body, or flares up sometimes, and then seems to go away. Joint pain accompanied by fever and fatigue may be a sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an auto immune disease that causes inflammation and can lead to serious physical disability. Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to help people who suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other types of arthritis and autoimmune disorders.

Arthritis is a general term that refers to all kinds of joint pain. Most types of arthritis begin to occur due to aging and the repeated “wear and tear” on the joints of the body that happens as we move through life. Any place in the body where two bones meet is considered a joint, so arthritis pain and inflammation can occur in the large joints of the limbs, causing shoulder pain or hip pain, in the spine, causing back pain, or in the extremities: arthritis in hands and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly shows up first as arthritis in fingers, hands, and knees.

Rheumatoid arthritis used to be commonly known as “rheumatism,” and now may be referred to as “RA.” It is different from other types of arthritis because the joint pain is caused by immune system problems, not injury or overuse of the joint.

When a person develops an autoimmune disorder, their immune system is mistakenly attacking normal tissues in the body. In the case of RA, an immune response attacks the lining of the joints, a soft tissue membrane called synovium. This creates inflammation and can ultimately begin to cause damage to the bones themselves (osteoporosis). Affected parts of the body can begin to change shape, become weak, and eventually lose their ability to function properly.

In later stages of RA, other body systems can be affected, as well. The joint lining contains blood vessels and nerves, so damage to the synovium can also impact the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. People with RA are at greater risk for developing nerve damage, heart disease, lung disease, and problems with the eyes. People with Rheumatoid arthritis can also be more prone to getting infections like the flu or pneumonia, and certain types of cancers, like lymphoma. 

RA can affect your body composition, leading to obesity. Some people may lose weight initially, but it is usually muscle mass that is lost, as RA makes exercise difficult. This means that people can end up with an unhealthy ratio of fat to muscle.

RA is different from osteoarthritis in that it can show up at any time in life. Sometime children develop Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (also known as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis). Like RA in adults, this is an autoimmune disorder, and can cause other symptoms like fever and rashes. Some children will grow out of their RA symptoms; others may carry this disorder with them into adulthood.

Most people with RA begin to show signs in their middle age. Women are more likely to have RA than men. As with other autoimmune diseases, medical science has not determined the exact Rheumatoid arthritis causes, but they may be partly genetic, and partly having to do with hormones. Environmental factors may contribute to RA, as can stress and strong emotions.

TCM and acupuncture treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis works on multiple levels. Acupuncture can help to reduce inflammation and stiffness in the joints. TCM treatment with herbs helps to improve and balance immune function. Acupuncture can also relieve emotional symptoms related to stress, fatigue, and depression.

Top 10 Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

rheumatoid arthritis joint pain
Pain in the fingers and hands is one of the most common symptoms of RA.

For some people the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis may develop slowly over many years; for others, they may start suddenly. People will experience RA symptoms as different sensations, in different parts of the body, which is part of what makes it difficult to diagnose. The most common symptoms of RA include:

  1. Joint pain that starts in the smaller joints: pain in hands, pain in knees, pain in toes
  2. Redness and swelling in joints: swollen fingers, swollen knee, hands swollen, ankle swollen
  3. A sensation of heat or warmth in the joints
  4. Stiffness first thing in the morning that gets better as the day goes on
  5. Fatigue, feeling exhausted, tired all the time
  6. Pain in same joint on both sides, for example, pain in both knees
  7. Hard lumps under the skin near the painful joints (Rheumatoid nodules)
  8. Eye pain, dry eyes,  blurry vision
  9. Low grade fever
  10. Depression, feelings of frustration or hopelessness

People with RA that affects their hips, knees, or ankles may begin to walk with a limp. Diminished function of the joints may cause a person to lose their grip strength and coordination. Over time, the hands and fingers or feet and toes may begin to become disfigured, as loss of soft tissue and bone changes their shape. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

At this time, treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are mainly directed towards relieving pain, reducing chronic inflammation, and slowing down the progression of this inflammatory disease.

 A primary care physician will probably refer patients to a rheumatologist for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and treatment. Rheumatologists specialize in joint diseases and all types of arthritis, so they treat joint pain related to conditions like osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, musculoskeletal pain related to fibromyalgia, tendonitis, and autoimmune diseases like lupus.

Typical medical options for RA include NSAIDs and corticosteroids, to quickly reduce pain inflammation. Anti-rheumatic drugs, known as DMARDS, have both anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. They work more slowly, but if started soon after diagnosis, they can help to prevent more damage to joint tissues, and relieve RA symptoms.

Unfortunately, all of these medications carry side effects. In the case of DMARDS, some patients experience gastric upset, headaches, and fatigue. They can also increase chances of infections, which is already a problem for people with RA.

Biologics are another type of injectable medication used to help relieve chronic inflammation by suppressing certain immune responses. These can also put people at higher risk for infections and certain cancers.

Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to reduce inflammation and pain without side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Acupuncture Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture can relieve pain and swelling due to Rheumatoid arthritis.

TCM has its own way of categorizing diseases. According to TCM theory, Rheumatoid arthritis falls under the category of “Bi” disorders. In TCM, environmental factors like cold, wind, heat, and dampness can invade the body and affect the organs, ultimately causing organ systems to malfunction. When they manifest in the body, pathogenic factors like cold and dampness can slow down or block the flow of blood and Qi (life force energy) through the body. 

“Bi” conditions involve obstructions of Qi and blood that then lead to stiffness, swelling, soreness, redness, and heat in the joints. The famous TCM medical text known as “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine,” which was written a few centuries B.C., recorded identification of Bi syndromes. Bi syndromes can certainly be in part related to outside environmental conditions, such as living in a cold, wet, windy place. They can also be related to a weakness of protective Qi that would translate into conventional terms as being a weakened immune system. Thus, Bi syndromes include rheumatoid arthritis, other types of arthritis, and other painful joint conditions like gout, lupus, and neuralgia.

A review of studies conducted on patients who received acupuncture treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis concluded that TCM is a good method for helping patients with this type of condition. TCM acknowledges that within one disease, different people may have very different symptoms, due to their genetics, or what we sometimes call “constitution.” One person will show hot symptoms like redness, swelling, and fever. Another person may find that their joint pain is particularly affected by cold, wet weather. An acupuncturist near me will look and listen to see what sort of pattern has developed, and will treat each individual accordingly with acupuncture points for joint pain.

Acupuncture Near Me for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Greater Los Angeles

TCM offers a framework in which we are able to see autoimmune disease as a collection of issues that can all be addressed in concert. With acupuncture and herbs, we can help relieve pain and inflammation, while also building back up of the systems of the body that have become weak. At Art of Wellness in West LA, we have many years of experience helping people manage autoimmune disorders and get relief from joint pain.

 

 

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

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How to Treat Celiac Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

gluten free celiac disease
Bread and many other foods contain gluten.

Do you have digestive problems like a bloated stomach, diarrhea, and abdominal pain? Unintentional weight loss, fatigue, skin rashes? These can all be signs of Celiac disease. Different from food allergies, Celiac is a serious autoimmune disorder that can lead to malnutrition and other debilitating health problems. TCM herbs and acupuncture treatment offer a good alternative way of managing Celiac disease and gluten intolerance symptoms.

In recent years, you have probably heard a lot of people saying they are switching to a gluten free diet because they have a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance. Sometimes people may just be trying to see if they feel better when they cut out wheat products, or they are going on a low carb diet to help them lose weight. Other people may be experiencing symptoms like diarrhea and nausea and hope that going on an IBS diet will help.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is present in some grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. When a person has Celiac disease, gluten is perceived by the immune system as a dangerous foreign substance, triggering an immune response. Antibodies (white blood cells) are produced as a reaction to gluten entering the body, and the antibodies end up causing inflammation and damage to the inside of the intestinal tract.

This damage to the small intestine is called villous atrophy, and this is what causes inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients, leading to the myriad symptoms of Celiac. Celiac symptoms vary widely, and can include both digestive problems, and other conditions, like anemia, that stem from the lack of proper nourishment to the body.

wheat allergy food allergies
Some people are allergic to wheat; others have gluten intolerance.

There is such a thing as a true wheat allergy, which for some people causes respiratory problems like difficulty breathing and nasal congestion, and other allergy symptoms like swelling and itching around the mouth and throat, hives or other itchy skin rashes, and headaches. Wheat allergies are a response to chemical compounds in wheat, which is found in a wide variety of food products. In some cases, exposure to wheat can cause anaphylaxis, which requires emergency medical attention because it can involve trouble breathing and swallowing, chest tightening, throat swelling, dizziness, and fainting.

Some doctors now recognize gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a separate condition from Celiac disease. For some people, gluten causes an immune response and symptoms, but not the same kind of damage to the intestines that Celiac does. If gluten intolerance is suspected, then following a gluten free diet for a period of time and noticing if symptoms clear up is usually the recommended course of action.

Celiac disease tends to run in families, and so is considered to be passed genetically. People can begin to show signs of Celiac at any age. It is estimated that at least 1% of the population has Celiac disease, but that number may be significantly higher, as it is still not a very well understood condition. Many people who have Celiac disease are unaware of it, or have been misdiagnosed with other conditions. Researchers believe that the incidence of Celiac disease is increasing worldwide, probably due to some environmental factors.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs provide a holistic way to treat Celiac disease, relieving the painful symptoms and providing detailed guidance for lifestyle and dietary changes that can help people manage Celiac and gluten intolerance. Nutrition is considered to be one of the primary branches of TCM, along with acupuncture and herbs. A TCM practitioner will be able to give you dietary recommendations far beyond just telling you to eat gluten free foods.

Top 10 Celiac Disease Symptoms

People can experience a variety of gluten intolerance symptoms, including digestive problems, allergy symptoms like skin rash, and other symptoms related to nutritional deficiency, like anemia and weight loss. Signs of gluten intolerance may be different in children, who are more susceptible to malnourishment that can lead to a failure to thrive.

headache stomach pain fatigue celiac
Fatigue, headaches, and stomach pain can all be signs of Celiac disease.

Celiac symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Weight loss
  3. Diarrhea, pale colored stools, foul-smelling, fatty, greasy stool
  4. Abdominal bloating, bloated stomach, gas, stomach pain, abdominal pain
  5. Nausea, vomiting
  6. Constipation
  7. Headache, headaches, migraines, migraine headaches
  8. Skin rash, mouth ulcers, mouth sores, canker sores
  9. Neuropathy, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, problems with balance, joint pain
  10. Cognitive problems, foggy head, difficulty concentrating

Celiac can lead to anemia, iron deficiency, loss of bone density (osteoporosis), weak bones, soft bones, bone loss (osteopenia), joint pain, or arthritis. People can also have liver problems, including fatty liver.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a specific type of skin rash that causes itching and blisters to appear, primarily on the knees, elbows, torso, top of the head, and buttocks.

Women may find that celiac disease affects their hormones, menstrual periods, and can have an impact on fertility, even causing recurrent miscarriages

Celiac disease can also contribute to infertility and low sperm count in men.

When a child develops celiac disease, the inability to absorb nutrients from food can cause problems with normal growth, such as short stature, delayed puberty, and damage to tooth enamel. Developmental disorders and behavioral issues can also be related to celiac, like ADD/ADHD and irritability. 

In extreme cases, Celiac can cause seizures.

Celiac Disease Diagnosis and Treatment 

stomach pain abdominal pain
Abdominal pain and bloating can be symptoms of Celiac or gluten intolerance.

Going through the process of being diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance is quite complicated and involves multiple tests. From the medical standpoint, it is best that you do not eliminate gluten or change your diet before the testing, so that it can accurately show how gluten is affecting your immune system and your intestines.

First, you will probably have a blood test that looks for certain antibodies that would indicate an autoimmune reaction to gluten. Some people may test negative for antibodies, and yet still have Celiac, though, so this blood testing is not enough to be conclusive. Genetic testing may be done, which looks for specific antigens to rule out Celiac. If testing shows that a person has antibodies, and they also have a specific type of skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis), that is usually enough for a doctor to give an official diagnosis of Celiac disease.

Endoscopy is an imaging test which uses a little camera to see if there is damage to the intestinal lining. They will also take some tissue samples from the lining of the intestine to check for inflammation and damage. The results of these tests may lead to a formal Celiac diagnosis. People will often need to have an endoscopy to find out if they have Celiac disease, and then possibly repeated endoscopies to see if the inflammation is getting better or worse.

Sometimes people will try figuring out what is going on themselves with a food sensitivity test or food intolerance test kit that you can do at home and send in for results. Food allergy testing may give you some information as to whether you have a reaction to a specific allergen (egg allergy, milk allergy, peanut allergy, shellfish allergy) or have a food sensitivity, but they cannot tell you if you really have Celiac disease or gut inflammation.

Going through the diagnostic process for autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease can be exhausting in and of itself. Meanwhile, you aren’t yet getting treatment for your symptoms. The only treatment available in conventional medicine for Celiac disease really is to follow a gluten free diet. Most doctors are not able to do much beyond give you a list of foods you shouldn’t eat, or refer you to a dietitian.

TCM has the ability to provide more comprehensive care for people with Celiac disease, and many other autoimmune conditions. Acupuncturists are highly trained professionals when it comes to offering patients detailed guidance for following an effective Celiac disease diet.

Can Acupuncture Help Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?

gluten free foods
Your acupuncturist will help you follow a gluten free diet.

TCM has more to offer than just acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine. Nutrition is one of core competencies every TCM practitioner must master. 

Acupuncture treatment can help relieve digestive symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, and also have a positive impact on the system malfunctioning that leads to autoimmune reactions. With Chinese herbs, we are able to get very potent nutrients into the body that wouldn’t normally come from food. For people with Celiac, or other problems like food allergies or sensitivities, malnutrition due to malabsorption is a real problem. 

A TCM nutrition approach can help restore the body’s health with foods and herbs better than a simple elimination diet for Celiac disease can. An acupuncturist listens carefully to the particular symptoms and sensations you describe. These provide important clues as to which organ systems are involved, and where yin and yang are out of balance. Then TCM provides a framework for tailoring the treatment and food plan for Celiac disease to each individual’s needs.

According to TCM theory, the stomach and spleen are responsible for digesting food. Celiac disease symptoms are, according to a typical TCM diagnosis, related to a spleen deficiency. When Qi in the spleen is weak, the body is not getting the nutrients it needs. Building up the strength of the spleen will often be the focus of the acupuncture portion of the treatment. Herbs and specific nourishing foods will be recommended, which will help anemia and soothe the digestive tract.

Acupuncture Near Me For Celiac Disease, West Los Angeles

Autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease can be especially frustrating because they seem to take over your whole life. Not only physical health, but mental health is compromised. Treatment options are limited. Fortunately, TCM offers a complementary form of medicine that is able to provide multi-faceted care for autoimmune disorders like Celiac, including: Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Acupuncture treatment can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression as you learn to manage your illness.

If you or someone you know has been suffering from digestive issues, and you suspect it may have something to do with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, be prepared to go through testing, but also give some thought to adding a TCM provider to your health care team. At Art of Wellness, we have over 35 years of providing excellent care through TCM treatments, including expert nutrition services. It is like getting an acupuncturist and dietitian in one.

 

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

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How to Treat Crohn’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Types of Crohn’s Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease stomach cramps
Crohn’s can cause stomach pain and weight loss.

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

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

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

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

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

Diagnosis and Medical Treatment of Crohn’s Disease

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

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

Can Acupuncture Help Crohn’s Disease?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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How to Treat Seizures With Acupuncture and TCM

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

staring, zoning out seizure
Staring, or zoning out, can be the sign of a type of seizure.

Sudden loss of consciousness, convulsions or jerking body parts, staring, feelings of fear, anxiety, deja vu? These are all possible signs of seizure. Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that causes different types of seizures. Research has shown that acupuncture and TCM treatment for epileptic seizures can be an effective adjunct to conventional treatment.

Epilepsy is a common disease of the central nervous system that can happen to people of all ages. Epilepsy is a term that can refer to a variety of different types of seizures; it defines a condition in which a person has recurrent seizures. Over 3 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with epilepsy; it is one of the most common neurological disorders worldwide.

What is the cause of seizures? Unusual electrical activity in brain cells can cause various types of seizures, depending on what area of the brain is affected. In some cases, people begin to have seizures due to a head injury, or a brain infection, such as meningitis. Some people seem to be born with an unusual brain structure that affects the area of the brain that causes seizures. In older people, symptoms of epilepsy may coexist with those of other neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or seizures may start occurring as an effect of having suffered a stroke or heart attack. Seizures can be caused by an allergic reaction to some food, as when a person with Celiac disease is exposed to gluten. Medical science has not yet discovered the exact meaning of seizures that occur in other cases, but it is thought to be due to genetics.

People with epilepsy need treatment to try to prevent or reduce seizures. While some seizures are mild, others can be severe, and even life-threatening. TCM has been using acupuncture treatment and herbs to help seizures for many, many years, and recent research is beginning to demonstrate how TCM as integrative care for epilepsy can be beneficial.

What Happens During a Seizure? 

The signs of seizure can vary widely from person to person, but an individual’s specific pattern of what seizures look like will usually remain consistent.

Symptoms of seizure include:

  • A range of changes in awareness: from staring and being unresponsive, up to totally losing consciousness
  • Stiffening of the limbs, limbs twitching, or part of the body shaking
  • Changes in vision: double vision, seeing flashes of light, staring, or blinking repeatedly
  • Dizziness, sudden headache
  • Sweating, nausea
  • Having trouble breathing, or stop breathing
  • Falling down for no apparent reason, sudden collapse, head nodding, muscles go limp, sometimes called “drop attacks”
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Feelings of anxiety, panic attack, fear
  • Sense of having an “out of body” experience
  • Strange taste in mouth or smelling strange smells
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth, biting tongue or inside of cheeks
  • After the seizure, a person may feel exhausted, or have amnesia, trouble remembering what happened.
epileptic seizure
If you think something is having a seizure, help them onto their side and make sure they are breathing.

Historically, there have been many misconceptions about people who suffer from seizures, or “fits disease.” When a person is not having a seizure, they are usually otherwise healthy and capable. People with epilepsy are not necessarily limited in what they can do physically or mentally–except when they are having a seizure–,unless they have other chronic health problems in addition to epilepsy.

If you see someone having a seizure, DO stay near them and make sure they are safe. If they fall or seem to be unconscious, turn them onto their side and make sure they are breathing. DO NOT try to physically restrain a person who is having a seizure or attempt to put anything in their mouth. The idea that a person might swallow their tongue while having a seizure is a myth.

Top 10 Types of Seizures

There are many types of seizures. Sometimes a person has one one seizure caused by medication, drug withdrawal, illness, or some sort of trauma to the brain. A person may have a seizure due to an allergic reaction to some kind of medication or food. Experiencing one seizure does not mean a person is epileptic. Epilepsy is only diagnosed if a person has multiple seizures over time.

Seizures are divided into two main categories: focal onset or generalized onset. “Focal” refers to a seizure that originates from a localized part of one of the hemispheres of the brain. “Generalized” means that there is seizure-causing activity happening all over, or on both sides of the brain.

Specific types of seizure include:

  1. Focal Seizure with Retained Awareness – Or, “focal onset aware seizure.” Used to be known as a “simple partial seizure” or “partial seizures.”  These are usually short in duration (less than 2 minutes) and a person remains conscious and aware while it is happening, although they may not be able to respond to people around them, or they seem “frozen.” The specific feelings vary widely: a sense of deja vu, sense of pressure or anxiety, a strange, overpowering smell, etc. 
  2. Focal Onset Impaired Awareness seizure – also used to be called “complex partial seizures,” “temporal lobe seizures,” or “psychomotor seizures.” In this type of seizure, the person loses awareness of their surroundings. They may seem to be staring, zoning out, picking at their clothing, wandering aimlessly, smacking their lips, or making grunting sounds. These, too, are short in duration, and afterwards, the person may feel confused and very sleepy.
  3. Febrile seizures – these are seizures that are caused by having a fever over 100 degrees, usually as a result of having some type of infection, like a flu. Febrile seizure happens in young children; they may have shaking all over or jerking limbs, convulsions, or lose consciousness. Occasionally children may have febrile seizures in response to having a fever after receiving a vaccination. Febrile seizures do not cause brain damage or indicate a neurological disorder; they do not mean a person has epilepsy.
  4. absence seizure
    An absence seizure can last just a few seconds.

    Absence Seizure – used to be called “petit mal seizure.” This is a type of generalized onset seizure in which a person briefly loses awareness, or “blanks out” for just a matter of seconds. They are caused by abnormal brain activity, possibly related to hyperventilation. Absence seizures are more common in children, who may outgrow this disorder.

  5. Myoclonic Seizure – this is a very short kind of seizure that causes muscles to jerk or twitch for just a few seconds. “Myo” means muscle, and “clonus” means contraction and relaxation. These can happen to people with epilepsy, but myoclonic seizures can also happen to anyone. That feeling of being jerked awake and having a spasm in your legs when you are falling asleep is a kind of myoclonus.
  6. Tonic Clonic Seizure – this used to be known as “grand mal seizure.” This is the type of seizure that causes convulsions, stiff arms and legs, shaking all over, and other symptoms such as losing bladder control, crying out or making strange sounds, losing consciousness, and falling to the ground. A person who has experienced tonic clonic seizures before may notice an “aura” before the more severe symptoms of seizure begin; this might include a sense of vertigo, dizziness, nausea, feelings of anxiety, or strange smells or a weird taste in the mouth. Tonic clonic seizures may last a few minutes, and the person may be exhausted and emotional afterwards.
  7. Refractory Seizures or Uncontrolled Seizures – also called “drug-resistant” or “intractable” seizures, this is when a person has frequent and/or severe seizures that do not respond to medical therapy such as anti-epileptic medications.
  8. Lennox Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) – LGS is a rare form of epilepsy that shows up very early in life, usually when a child is still in infancy. Lennox Gastaut causes various kinds of seizures, both tonic (muscle spasms) and atonic (staring, still), or absence seizures. Children with LGS may experience multiple seizures per day, and have learning delays due to cognitive dysfunction.The cause of LGS is sometimes unknown, but it can be due to abnormal brain development, or a baby having some type of infection or loss of oxygen in utero, before they’re born.
  9. West Syndrome – also called “infantile spasms,” this is a type of epilepsy in young children that causes spasms and unusual movements for a baby, like throwing out of the arms, straightening the arms out to the sides, knees pulled up to the chest, the upper body bending forward, or head thrown back. West syndrome seizures only last a few seconds, and they usually go away by the time a child is past toddler years. 
  10. Status epilepticus – This is a neurological emergency condition in which abnormal brain activity causes a prolonged seizure that lasts longer than five minutes, or multiple seizures that occur back-to-back without recovery in between. This can happen to a person who has epilepsy, or it can happen due to trauma, such as a head injury, or a hypertensive (high blood pressure) situation, or a severe reaction to drug toxicity, or an autoimmune disease response. There could be motor symptoms of shaking and collapsing, or the person could just be staring and unresponsive, depending on where the disordered activity is happening in the brain. Status epilepticus is a true medical emergency, and a person needs immediate attention to prevent brain damage.

Medical Treatment for Epileptic Seizures

Conventional treatment for seizures usually involves medications known as anticonvulsants (anticonvulsive), or anti-seizure medications. First, it is necessary for doctors to accurately diagnose the problem: what type of seizures is a person having, and what is causing them? Some drugs help to stop seizures from happening in the short term. Tranquilizers like Valium (Diazepam), Ativan (Lorazepam), and Klonopin may help to stop a seizure while it is happening, but people build up a tolerance quickly to these medications and then have to take higher doses to get the same effect. Other medications, like Aptiom, are taken daily to prevent seizures. There are many other medications used to treat different types of epilepsy, but these medications only work to control seizures in some cases. Other people may struggle to find a medication they can tolerate. Anticonvulsants and other anti-epileptic drugs can cause side effects like weakness, dizziness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, and skin rash.

People who experience seizures do need treatment to control epileptic symptoms, but it can be challenging to find the right combination of therapies. Acupuncture and TCM treatment offer an alternative treatment that may help to control seizures without negative side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Epilepsy Symptoms?

acupuncture epileptic seizures
Acupuncture treatment may help reduce the frequency of seizures.

TCM has a long history–over 2000 years–of helping people who have epileptic seizures. The first documentation of acupuncture treatment for seizures by TCM practitioners was written at least 200 years B.C.. Specific Chinese herbs to treat epilepsy have been used for many centuries, and are now being studied through scientific research to prove their efficacy. Several studies have shown that various herbal formulations help to reduce the frequency of seizures.

Data also show that acupuncture treatment can help alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, reducing the occurrence of seizures through its positive effect on neurotransmitters in the brain.

According to TCM theory, epilepsy usually arises due to problems with the Liver system. Too much Wind affecting the Liver can cause spasms or convulsions. Liver Yang Rising can lead to muscle twitching and/or dizziness. An acupuncturist will use a combination of modalities such as acupuncture treatment, electro-acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and therapeutic massage to help seizures.

As with so many health conditions, inflammation plays a role in epileptic seizures. Auricular acupuncture (ear acupuncture) and electro-acupuncture (electro-stim) may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain that helps to reduce the frequency of seizures.

TCM theory posits that stimulation of specific acupressure points (such as “Shenmen” points on head or ear) for epilepsy can help to calm the mind and produce a positive effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.

A recent study compared patients who received the standard medication therapy for epilepsy with those who had acupuncture treatments for 12 weeks in addition to drug therapy. At a one year follow up, the patients who had received acupuncture for seizures had a statistically significant improvement of their epilepsy symptoms compared with patients who had received only the conventional medical treatment.

Acupuncture Near Me for Epileptic Seizures Los Angeles Area

It is challenging to manage seizures, but it is possible for people with epilepsy to live a long and healthy life with minimal disruptions. Living with a chronic and unpredictable health condition like epileptic seizures can cause emotional suffering in addition to physical symptoms. The holistic approach provided by TCM and acupuncture treatment can be considered as a safe form of complementary alternative medicine for epilepsy.

 

 

*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 HIV/AIDS With Acupuncture and TCM

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

HIV/AIDS
Living with HIV/AIDS can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

What does it mean to be HIV positive? HIV is a viral infection that harms the immune system over time and, if untreated, can eventually lead to AIDS, a syndrome that causes people to become weaker and get serious infections easily. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are various therapies that can slow the progression of HIV. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help to improve immune function and relieve symptoms related to the side effects of other HIV/AIDS drug therapies.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an infection that affects the immune system by destroying the white blood cells (CD4 and T-cells) that are such an important part of the body’s immune response, causing people with HIV to be much more prone to all kinds of infections. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the late stage of HIV, in which the CD4 cells have reached a critical low point and other infections are taking hold in the body.

Over a million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV. Many more people may have HIV and not know it. People can have HIV for several years without feeling any symptoms, while the illness is in its early stages.

HIV is a progressive illness, which affects the functioning of the immune system over a long period of time.

4 Stages of HIV Infection:

  1. Infection – when a person contracts the HIV virus, it spreads quickly in the body, often causing flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, rash, sore throat. If you have these types of symptoms, and you think you may have had contact with an infected person or a needle recently, it is very important to go get tested for HIV. Early testing allows people to get treatment as soon as possible, and to know if they are contagious and can spread the virus to others.
  2. Asymptomatic – the HIV virus remains in the body, causing damage to cells and weakening the immune system, while the person may have no symptoms of HIV/AIDS. This latent stage of HIV can last for quite a long time, averaging 8-10 years. This is why many people do not realize they have HIV until they are tested.
  3. Symptomatic – Eventually, a person with HIV will begin to feel the effects: fatigue, mouth sores from oral candidiasis, diarrhea, and weight loss. Other infectious diseases can easily get into the body because of the weakened immune system; these are called opportunistic infections. Common co-infections associated with HIV include:  tuberculosis (TB), cryptococcal meningitis, toxoplasmosis, hepatitis, and pneumonia.
  4. HIV progression to AIDS – In some cases, people with HIV who receive treatment to help boost their immunity are able to stave off progression into the AIDS stage of illness. However, if the CD4 cell count drops and other infections take hold, a person is considered to have progressed into the AIDS stage. 

Being diagnosed with HIV can be emotionally devastating. Knowing you have a serious illness with no cure is naturally going to cause a lot of stress, feelings of anxiety, and even depression. With good health care, it is possible these days to live a long life with HIV. Putting together a team of caring health care professionals who can provide integrative care for HIV/AIDS will help you maintain the best physical and mental health possible. TCM provides holistic care for patients living with HIV or AIDS that works on all levels: keeping your mental outlook positive, helping you sleep better, boosting immune function, and relieving symptoms that are due to side effects of medical treatment, or caused by concurrent infections.

How Do You Get HIV/AIDS?

needle syringe HIV
HIV can be passed through sharing needles or syringes.

The HIV virus is carried through certain bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breastmilk. In order for HIV to be transmitted from one person to another, one of these types of body fluids must have the infection present in it, and must get into the other person’s bloodstream through broken skin or mucous membrane. 

HIV is not transmitted through saliva, sweat, urine, or feces, and is not carried in the air in droplets. You cannot get HIV through water or air, or by touching surfaces. The way that HIV is most often passed from person to person is through sexual contact. Other ways you can get HIV are by sharing needles while using drugs, getting a tattoo with a needle that wasn’t properly sanitized, or a blood transfusion. (As a reminder: we only use single-use, disposable, sterile needles for acupuncture treatment.) A woman could also pass HIV to her baby when breastfeeding.  Using condoms during sex and only using sterilized needles are the primary ways to prevent HIV infection. 

Top 10 Symptoms of HIV

Most people with HIV will go through a long phase of having no noticeable symptoms. Eventually, after the virus has spread slowly, people with HIV will begin to show symptoms such as:

  1. Fatigue, feeling tired all the time
  2. Fever, or feeling hot even if you don’t show a fever
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Insomnia, night sweats
  5. Weakness, dizziness
  6. Weight loss, wasting, loss of appetite
  7. Nausea
  8. Skin rash, or purple spots on skin, bruise easily
  9. Shortness of breath
  10. Swollen lymph glands
coated tongue
A coated tongue may be a sign of candida.

Oral candidiasis, also known as thrush or oral candida, is also common among people living with HIV because the suppressed immune system makes it easier for the fungal infection to take hold. Burning sensation or pain in the mouth cavity and redness with white patches are the signs of oral candidiasis. Long-term use of antifungal medication (Fluconazole) to control thrush can cause side effects and eventually  cease to be effective as the body develops a resistance to it.
HIV can also lead to neurological problems, like peripheral neuropathy, in which the signals between the brain and the rest of the body are compromised, causing symptoms like: muscle twitching, loss of balance and coordination, tingling or burning sensations, or numbness.

Medical Treatment for HIV and AIDS

Advances have been made in medical treatment for HIV/AIDS. Different combinations of medications that block the replication of the virus can help to slow the progression of HIV in the body. This type of drug therapy for HIV used to be called HAART, short for “highly active antiretroviral therapy.” Now, it is usually referred to as ART or cART, which stands for “combination antiretroviral therapy.” This form of treatment for HIV can increase chances of survival and quality of life, but is not well-tolerated by all patients. Lifelong use of the medication is required, which, for some, makes HIV a manageable chronic illness. For other patients, the side effects of cART may not be tolerable. Side effects of HIV medications can involve gastric problems, headaches, fatigue, and peripheral neuropathy. Medications can cause liver dysfunction, damage to the liver, and bone marrow suppression, meaning fewer blood cells are being made by the bone marrow.

While a person is still in the asymptomatic phase of HIV, doctors may not begin using antiretroviral therapy because of concerns related to side effects and resistance. However, taking some steps to optimize immune function can potentially help stave off progression into symptomatic and AIDS stages. TCM herbs and acupuncture can be helpful during this phase to help strengthen the immune system and hopefully slow down the progression of disease.

Acupuncture and herbal treatment with TCM may also be used as an adjunct therapy during later phases in order to help people tolerate cART better by reducing nausea and other gastrointestinal effects of the medication and helping to improve appetite. For patients with HIV, TCM treatment is designed to help strengthen the body’s immune defenses in the hopes of preventing advancement to the AIDS stage of disease. For patients in the AIDS stage, TCM treatment focuses on helping to alleviate symptoms of opportunistic infections and to mitigate the side effects of other medications.

TCM for HIV/AIDS 

Chinese herbs HIV/AIDS
Chinese herbs can help slow the progression of HIV.

What is HIV from the TCM perspective? TCM puts a lot of emphasis on the prevention of disease by maintaining a balance of yin and yang energies in order to protect the body’s Vital Qi. It is Vital Qi that keeps invasive illnesses like viruses from getting into the body and taking hold there. There are no TCM historical records that point specifically to AIDS, but we do have centuries of practice treating various kinds of invasive viral infections. Modern TCM practitioners apply this knowledge when treating patients with HIV/AIDS. 

Syndrome factors of HIV according to TCM:

  • Qi deficiency
  • Blood deficiency
  • Yin deficiency
  • Yang deficiency
  • Phlegm
  • Dampness
  • Qi stagnation
  • Essence deficiency

An invasion of heat causes the early symptoms of HIV infection: fever, itching (pruritis), and fatigue. Then, later on, as the virus moves deeper into the body, toxic heat causes problems with the organ systems of the stomach, spleen, kidneys, and liver that lead to the weight loss and poor appetite indicative of later stages of HIV and AIDS. Herbal formulations can help relieve the diarrhea that is often reported by patients with AIDS/HIV. Herbs that work to help strengthen the spleen can improve fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, and skin rash.

Strengthening deficient Qi is central to TCM treatment for HIV and can help to improve immune responses in the body. Chinese herbal formulations can aid in reducing the spread of the infection with results similar to those of cART medicines, while simultaneously having a positive effect on the immune system overall. Herbs do not come with the negative side effects associated with drug therapy for HIV/AIDS.

In addition to the other immune-related problems, people living with HIV/AIDS are also likely to have systemic inflammation. HIV can cause damage and inflammation in the gut, and cause blood clotting, making people more susceptible to cardiovascular problems and heart disease. Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce systemic inflammation in HIV patients. Some studies have suggested that herbs may help AIDS patients to live longer, and improve chances of long-term survival. Treatment of HIV with acupuncture and herbs can help to relieve symptoms and reduce the side effects of other treatments.

Acupuncture Near Me for HIV/AIDS in the Los Angeles Area

If you or someone you love is living with HIV, getting the best care possible as soon as possible is vital for improving the long-term outcome. Putting together a program of complementary health care for HIV/AIDS can help offer the best chances for survival, quality of life, and peace of mind.

 

*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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