Stress & Anxiety

How To Treat ED With Acupuncture and TCM

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

man smoking
Smoking can contribute to ED in men.

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

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

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

Top 10 Causes of ED

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

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

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

What Is the Treatment for ED?

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

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

How Can Acupuncture Help ED?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Top 5 Tips for ED Men’s Fitness

man lifting weights
Building muscle can help boost testosterone levels.

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

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

Acupuncture Near Me for ED

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

 

 

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

 

 

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How to Treat 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 Depression With Acupuncture and TCM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signs of Depression

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

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

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

Top 10 Types of Depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treatment for Depression

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

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

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

headache, dizziness
Sometimes antidepressants can cause headaches and dizziness.

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

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

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

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

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

How Acupuncture Treats Depression

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

sleep
Acupuncture can help relieve sleep problems related to depression.

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

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

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

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

Can Acupuncture Help Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression?

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

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

Acupuncture Near Me for Depression

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

 

 

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

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How to Help Stroke Recovery With Acupuncture and TCM

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

man with walker
Stroke victims often need rehabilitation to regain motor skills.

Can acupuncture help stroke recovery? After even a mild stroke, people will often have many problems: weakness in parts of the body, pain or tingling in hands, arms or legs, lack of awareness (or neglect) of parts of the body, memory loss, and slurred speech. There can also be emotional and mental health issues after a stroke, like depression, anxiety, or anger. Stroke recovery acupuncture can have a positive impact on balance, coordination, and overall sense of wellbeing.

A stroke is a medical emergency event that occurs when the flow of blood to some part of the brain is blocked, starving that part of the brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function. Sometimes this happens because of a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke), or a blood clot (ischemic stroke) creating the blockage. A “mini stroke,” or transient ischemic attack, is when blood flow is only compromised for a few minutes, and then the situation improves. Without adequate blood flow, brain cells deteriorate and die very quickly. Any type of stroke is very dangerous to a person’s health and requires immediate medical care. Even in the case of a mini stroke, or mild stroke, a person must seek care to check for damage and to help prevent a stroke from occurring again.

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Many people who suffer a stroke end up losing some of their physical and mental faculties. How a person goes through the recovery process after a stroke can make a huge difference in the ultimate outcome. Typical post-stroke treatment includes physical therapy to help people regain motor function. 

The human brain is actually amazingly able to regenerate itself, given the appropriate nourishment and circumstances. With good nutrition and the right exercise, blood vessels will rebuild themselves, and new neurons (specialized brain cells) will be created. It is vital, though, that the flow of nutrient-rich blood to the brain is maximized, and that a person is motivated and able to work through the difficulties of retraining the brain and body to function. 

This is where TCM and acupuncture come in. Acupuncture treatment works to enhance the flow of Qi and blood to blocked areas of the body, while TCM herbs are carefully chosen to provide nutrients people may not be able to get from foods. Acupuncture helps reestablish connections in the nervous system, and stimulates muscle and organ tissues to aid in healing after stroke.

How To Tell If You’re Having a Stroke

“Am I having a stroke?” It’s important to review the signs of a stroke, so that if you or someone close to you could be having a stroke, you can act quickly to get help. If you are having a stroke, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. A stroke causes damage to brain cells, so every moment is critical when it comes to surviving a stroke and maintaining functional abilities.

“FAST stroke” is the first way to tell if someone is having a stroke; start by remembering the acronym FAST for stroke test:

  • F – Face drooping, often on one side, mouth especially looks lopsided
  • A – Arm weakness, usually on one side, person cannot lift arm, or it feels numb
  • S – Speech difficulty – speech is slurred, or the person is unable to speak or has trouble forming thoughts into words (aphasia)
  • T – Time to call 911. If a person shows the signs of stroke, they need medical attention right away. Get them to the emergency room as quickly as possible.
brain model
Brain cells can sustain damage quickly when starved of oxygen.

Depending on where in the brain the stroke has occurred, symptoms will vary somewhat. A stroke that occurs in the right hemisphere in the brain will cause weakness and numbness on the left side of the body. It may also affect a person’s ability to recognize what is going on with the weakened parts of the body; this is what we call “neglect.” Visual and/or spatial impairment are common signs of right side stroke; it may be hard to see or find things. 

Strokes on the left side of the brain cause weakness on the right side of the body, and may also impair vision and/or the ability to orient oneself in space. The ability to reason, read, and perform mathematical calculations may be impaired. Left side stroke is more likely to cause feelings of depression and change a person’s personality so that they become more anxious and hesitant.

Once a person has been gotten to medical help, health care providers use the NIH stroke scale to assess how severe the stroke is. In some cases the use of anti-clotting medications will restore blood flow to the affected area. This works best if the patient can be given this medication within three hours of the beginning of the stroke. Other times, a procedure called a thrombectomy may need to be performed, in which a surgeon will remove the clot with a thin catheter instrument. In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, patients may require surgery or a blood transfusion to manage bleeding in the brain. 

Can Acupuncture Help Prevent Stroke?

old man
A stroke can lead to problems with memory, vision, speech, and cognition.

A stroke occurs in the brain, but from the TCM perspective, the problem doesn’t begin or end in the head. A stroke is the result of disruption of the normal flow of blood and Qi in the body, and some type of inciting event causing the blood to rush suddenly upwards into the head. A stroke is often the result of conditions in the body that have developed over time, but then too much stress or an emotional upheaval causes the immediate emergency event of a stroke.

Western medicine views high blood pressure as one of the main factors that can lead to stroke. So, while an acupuncturist also views stroke as being related to problems with the movement of blood, we have concepts that explain what problems within the body are causing the impeding of proper flow. According to TCM, stroke happens due to internal factors of deficiency, stagnation, fire/heat, phlegm and wind:

  • Yin Deficiency – especially affecting the liver and kidney systems. This happens often due to behaviors like staying up late, not getting enough sleep, and eating more heat-producing foods.
  • Heat – strong emotions of anger and frustration, due to stress and conflict, can contribute to a build up of too much hot energy in the body, especially impacting the heart and liver.
  • Phlegm – another internal factor, the formation of phlegm in the body can happen due to unhealthy eating habits. The build up of phlegm particularly affects the spleen and contributes to post-stroke problems with speech, numbness in the limbs, and mental fog.
  • Stagnation – this refers to blood and/or Qi being stuck, unable to flow freely through the vessels and meridians. Acupuncture treatment and exercise can help get Qi and blood moving again.
  • Wind – In TCM, Wind is a pathogenic factor that can enter the body from the outside environment (external), or wind can be an internal factor, generated within the body. In the case of stroke, internal wind is considered to be the cause of a person losing their conscious awareness of their body and becoming mentally disconnected and/or physically paralysed. 

Cupping may be used in addition to acupuncture to aid stroke recovery. Cupping increases blood flow and may be helpful in particular for one of the lesser known symptoms following a stroke: persistent hiccups.

Stroke Rehabilitation Acupuncture Near Me

Your acupuncture and TCM provider has lots of tools at his or her disposal to help you manage your health and longevity. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of heart problems, your risk for having a stroke is higher. Your acupuncturist can help you manage these conditions and provide counseling so that you can make the optimal lifestyle changes to prevent stroke. If you have suffered a stroke, you will need lots of support and may need a fairly rigorous course of therapy to help you regain your strength and ability. Patients who are recovering from a stroke should ideally receive 2-3 acupuncture treatments per week in order to get the most benefit. Integrative care may be the key to making the fullest recovery possible after a stroke.

 

 

*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 Manage IBS Diet With Acupuncture and TCM

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

IBS abdominal pain
Pain in the abdomen that moves around may be a sign of IBS

What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal problem that causes uncomfortable changes in the body’s elimination process. One day you’re constipated, then a day or two later, you may have diarrhea. Pains move around the whole abdominal area, and your belly feels full and tight with excess gas. IBS treatment typically involves taking medications and following a special IBS diet, but many people continue suffering with no IBS cure. In this article, we’ll talk about how to get rid of IBS naturally with acupuncture and TCM.

IBS is a common digestive problem that can cause a lot of pain and anxiety around your daily bathroom habits. IBS can cause stress and even depression, compromising your ability to live life without worrying about when you’re going to have to go to the bathroom. Conversely, stress and anxiety function as triggers for bouts of IBS, so the problem becomes cyclical.

This gastrointestinal problem is called Irritable Bowel Syndrome because people who suffer from this disorder seem to have a more sensitive intestinal tract that is highly reactive to IBS triggers. Sometimes this condition is referred to as “spastic colon.” People who have primarily loose stools as a result of this condition are said to have “IBS-D” (diarrhea-predominant IBS), while people who suffer more from sluggish bowels have “IBS-C” (constipation-predominant IBS). 

Many people never seek help from their medical providers for IBS treatment, perhaps because they think their discomfort is normal. The ever-changing nature of IBS means it’s hard to get a handle on what is actually happening. The pain in the gut seems to move around all the time, and bathroom habits can feel totally unpredictable.

IBS Causes

According to conventional medicine, there is no one specific cause for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Having a more highly reactive intestinal tract may be due to many factors, some more clearly mechanical in nature, others more having to do with psychological factors. Inflammation in the gut, gastroenteritis, stressful or traumatic situations, heightened sensitivity to movements and sensations within the abdomen, and miscommunications of the autonomic nervous system between the digestive organs and brain may all play a role in IBS.

We usually think of serotonin as being a hormone in the brain that affects mood and the ability to fall asleep. But serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also plays a key role in the function of the gut, affecting how the intestines move and secrete gastric juices, as well as how we viscerally perceive these functions. Changes or abnormalities in serotonin release or uptake seem to be one of the issues related to IBS.

Top 5 IBS Triggers are:

  1. Stress
  2. Abnormal levels of serotonin in the digestive tract
  3. An infection or abnormal level of bacteria in the digestive tract
  4. Strong reactions to certain foods/Celiac disease
  5. Weak colon muscle action

IBS involves, on some level, problems with both the motor function of the bowel itself and the extent to which a person is physically aware of “stuff going on” in their intestines and colon. Inflammation from infections or hormone changes caused by the menstrual cycle can also directly affect bowel motility. Those same things can cause a person to be hypersensitive to every little movement of the intestines, making them feel like painful cramps.

IBS and Gut Health

The balance of gut bacteria, or “flora” in the intestines, has been more recently shown to play a vital role in overall health. Gut bacteria are instrumental in the proper functioning of the immune system and the assimilation of nutrients from our food. The balance of the gut flora can be disturbed by taking antibiotics or a gastric infection, such as norovirus or other flu-type illnesses. Medical science is still making strides in learning how the health of the gut is very closely connected with the brain. It is becoming clear that gut health is inextricably related to mental health. 

abdominal pain
IBS can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and cramping

We know that stress, both chronic and acute, can cause all kinds of health issues. The mind-body connection is particularly apparent when it comes to IBS triggers. Feelings of anxiety create a ripple effect through the middle of the body, affecting the whole digestive system, causing pain and volatile action. Fear, shame, and even feelings of panic about having to run to the bathroom keep the whole process in a repeating loop. 

IBS treatment often involves antibiotics or probiotics, but this has not been shown to be effective long-term. Many times doctors will prescribe medicines for anxiety (like Valium or Atavan) or depression to help provide IBS relief. However, these pharmacological treatments do not really address the root causes of the syndrome, and they may cause negative side effects, and sometimes create a dependency on the medication.

Top 5 Signs of IBS

A syndrome is a collection of symptoms that often appear together for which there is no clear medical explanation. According to conventional medicine, irritable bowel syndrome is evident when a person has frequent abdominal discomfort, which could mean a “stomach ache” or cramping, and bouts of constipation or diarrhea, or sometimes both, in alternation. In other words, IBS is signified by changes in the frequency or consistency of bowel movements, accompanied by marked discomfort before having them. 

Top 5 Symptoms of IBS are:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Bloating and excess gas
  3. Constipation and/or diarrhea
  4. Mucus in the stool or other irregularities
  5. Nausea

IBS is more common among women than men. This may be due to fluctuations in hormones that affect the chemical balance and muscle action of the intestines. Women may experience more IBS symptoms in conjunction with their menstrual periods.

Conventional treatment for IBS typically involves the offering of various medications to deal with these symptoms. Anti-spasmodics may be used to help reduce cramping and contractions in the bowel, and anti-diarrheal medications such as Imodium may slow down the movements of the bowel, but these IBS medications do not help to restore true balance to the digestive system.

How to Treat IBS With Acupuncture

TCM and acupuncture work according to holistic principles, meaning that we are careful to look at the whole picture of what is going on with a person: emotionally, spiritually, physically, nutritionally, and energetically. According to TCM philosophy, the spleen is the organ responsible for processing our food and turning it into energy. IBS treatment with acupuncture is a matter of aligning the communications between the Shen (the mind) and the Spleen. Deficiency of the spleen is the primary TCM diagnosis for most patients with IBS symptoms. It is equally important to address problems of the Shen at the same time. 

The most common TCM differentiations of IBS patterns are:

  • Spleen Deficiency with Liver Qi stagnation: symptoms of this condition include diarrhea, mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, cramping, gassiness, bloating, irritability, and depression with lots of heavy sighing.
  • Spleen Deficiency with Stomach deficiency: shows symptoms like watery stools, feeling of fullness and distension after eating, poor appetite, a pale complexion and fatigue.
  • Spleen Deficiency with Kidney Deficiency: symptoms include diarrhea, especially in the morning, partially digested food in the stool, aches and pain in the abdomen, lower back, and knees, with a sense of coldness.

Moxibustion is a TCM treatment used in addition to acupuncture to treat IBS. One study showed that acupuncture treatment combined with moxibustion to get rid of IBS was extremely effective for reducing both the discomfort and frequency of bowel movements.

Another study that tested both herbal formulations and acupuncture treatment on patients with IBS showed that both methods were effective at reducing symptoms.

Acupuncture treatment will also focus on reducing stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Acupuncture has been shown to help restore the balance of serotonin levels, as well.

IBS Diet According to TCM

Stomach 37 acupressure point
Stomach 37 acupressure point

Chinese herbs, as always, are also integral to the successful treatment of IBS. In the TCM philosophy of healthcare, nutrition is considered to be just as important as acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal formulae, and other forms of therapeutic treatment. Herbs are a way to get nutrients into the body that are not necessarily present in the foods we commonly eat. TCM practitioners are trained extensively in the energetic and nutritional values of food and will spend time working with patients to modify eating habits and focus on a special IBS diet. Apart from reducing common problems like excessive coffee and alcohol intake, your acupuncturist will work with you to discover which foods act as IBS triggers for you and help you to make the most beneficial modifications to your IBS diet plan.

Top 5 Acupressure Points to Help IBS

Acupressure can be a very effective means how to treat IBS naturally yourself. Acupressure uses the same collection of points located along the meridians of the body as acupuncture to help eliminate blockages and encourage blood and Qi to move freely through the body. These points located along the spleen, bladder, stomach and “conception vessel” meridians can help provide IBS relief. The conception vessel meridian runs up the front and center of the torso, from the pubic area to the mouth. Also known as the “Sea of Yin,” this channel is instrumental in directing all the yin energy in the body. As it is very exposed, this energy center can feel vulnerable, and may be where we tighten up, hunch over, and try to hide and protect ourselves. Tension along this channel can be a major energetic factor in the cramping and spasming actions of IBS.

Try these top 5 acupressure point for IBS relief:

  1. CV6 – located two finger-widths beneath the navel, gently rubbing this point with circular motions helps to relieve belly pain, cramping,
    Spleen 4 acupressure point
    Spleen 4 acupressure point

    and constipation.

  2. CV12 – located at the midpoint between the lower end of the sternum and the navel, rubbing this point in a circular motion can help relieve gas pain, bloating and acid reflux.
  3. SP4 – located on the inner edge of the foot, right above where the arch begins, stimulating this spleen point can help relieve gastric spasms and diarrhea.
  4. UB25 – these two points in the lower back, right beneath LV-4, can help relieve abdominal distension, constipation, and lower back pain.
  5. ST37 – also known as the “Upper Great Hollow,” these points are located along the outside edges of the shin bones, a few inches below the knees. Pressing firmly here can help relieve abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea.

Acupuncture Near Me for How to Solve IBS 

If the IBS signs described here sound familiar because you or someone you know has been suffering from frequent abdominal discomfort and constipation or diarrhea, or both, it is important to seek help and advice from your healthcare providers. When conventional IBS treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, acupuncture and TCM may help you find IBS relief. Call us at Art of Wellness to get started with an IBS diet plan and course of acupuncture treatment.

 

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

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