Nov 7, 2013
Acupuncture is very effective at treating depression without medications or side effects. Recently, a new study shows that acupuncture treatment for depression not only works quickly but also has long lasting results.
In this study, 755 patients were given acupuncture, psychological counseling, or standard care which is depression medications. After only 3 months with an average of 10 visits, the depression levels in the acupuncture group were significantly less than in the group that took medications. This reduction in depression was not only fast but it remained constant at a 1 year follow up from the acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture for Depression
Acupuncture treatment for depression does not just focus on relieving the symptoms but also improving the health of your body overall. This is because acupuncture does not focus on one single symptom but takes the whole person into consideration, both mentally and physically. Each treatment plan is individualized to your particularly health concerns.
Interestingly, in this study the acupuncture patients also had a reduction in pain. In my acupuncture office many people who come in with physical complaints like back pain find their anxiety and depression are also improved after the treatment.
There are strong neurological and hormonal effects of acupuncture. We know a lot about how acupuncture works to reduce pain. Acupuncture helps to regulate the nervous system, stimulating the release of the body’s natural pain relievers, as well as regulating pain relieving receptors. Acupuncture also has an anti-inflammatory effect reducing the circulating inflammatory hormones. It is probably that these same pathways help to reduce depression. This is particularly important now that we have a much more clear understanding of the connection between inflammation and depression.
Oct 30, 2013
Most people think that Chinese medicine is used only for chronic health problems, but it can be very effective for acute problems, like relieving and preventing colds. In fact, Chinese medicine has been relieving and preventing colds for thousands of years.
Herbs can help relieve your sore throat, coughing, headaches, fatigue, chills and fever. The key is using the right formula at the right stage of your cold. Before taking Chinese herbs, ask your acupuncturist or Chinese medicine doctor which one is right for you.
Gan Mao Ling- Gan Mao Ling translates to the common cold pills. This herbal formula helps to fight minor colds as well as prevent you from getting a cold if something is going around. It is best to take this formula in the very early stages of a cold, as soon as you feel run down or a little tickle in your throat. You can also take it when travelling or if someone in your office is sick. the herbs in this formula are known to have anti-viral capabilities particularly within the respiratory tract.
Yin Qiao San- Yin Qiao San is the main formula for a cold with a sore throat. In Chinese medicine, the common cold often manifests as a condition we call wind heat. The idea is that the virus or bacteria comes in through the wind and attacks the respiratory system. The main herbs in the formula, Honeysuckle and Forsythia fruit, are release the wind heat and have shown to be powerful anti-viral herbs.
Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Tang- This is a primary formula to help with stomach bugs. It can be effective for a strong stomach bug or for minor food poisoning. The aromatic herbs in this formula address the viruses of digestive system. The aromatic herbs also help the digestive system to return to healthy state after you’ve gotten the bug. You can also take this formula when you are travelling if eat something you should not have.
Ling zhi- in English it is known as Hen of the Woods or Rei Shi. Ling zhi has many positive health benefits such as reducing allergies, treating insomnia, and hypertension. In order to prevent colds, it is a great immune booster. While it is good for boosting your energy, it can also be used for insomnia. I recommend to some patients that get frequent colds to take a small dose of ling zhi daily to prevent a cold that is going around.
Oct 23, 2013
Nobody debates that a healthy diet includes a lot of vegetables. But how to eat them is another story.
Chinese medicine has long been an advocate of eating cooked vegetables over raw. This is because cooked vegetables are easier to digest, allowing the body to more easily absorb the nutrients. And cooked vegetables are easier on the digestive system preventing unwanted symptoms like bloating (more on this below).
In this week’s Times, an article examines how cooking vegetables can improve their vitamin absorbability. As one can expect, not all vegetables or vitamins in the vegetables act alike. For example, boiling and steaming vegetables can help with the release of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K as well as the antioxidants. And in tomatoes, cooking helps to release releases lycopene. But boiling does degrade some of the water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C.
This research is difficult to be comprehensive. But it is important to note that many vegetables become more healthy when cooking them.
In the end, it is best to eat vegetables in a way that you enjoy them. Steaming, boiling, in soups can all be delicious. Particularly for fibrous vegetables like broccoli. Of course some of the crunchy vegetables like peppers, lettuce, and arugula taste great in a salad.
Protect the Digestive Qi
Qi, the body’s energy, is actually a very practical concept. We use qi to work, exercise, stay healthy, and digest food. At the same time, digestion is the primary method for creating qi. Simply put, the body uses digestive qi to digest food and make more qi.
Eating vegetables that are cooked helps the digestive qi extract the qi of the food. Raw vegetables that are hard to digest can injure the digestive qi functioning. This sometimes happens when you too many raw veggies that are difficult to digest vegetables.
Photo: Enric Archivell
Aug 19, 2013
By Hannah & Joe
Plans are made to be broken. Knowing this, when anybody asked us if we had a birth plan, one of the staples of contemporary childbirth, we always said we just want him to be healthy. But the truth is we had more plans than we were willing to admit.
It was assumed that we would have a natural childbirth following the traditions of Hannah’s family. When Hannah was six months pregnant, we started a Bradley childbirth classes, which reinforced our assumptions and underlying suspicions of medicalized birth in the United States. These assumptions shaped our decision to give birth with a midwife at a birth center.
Our birth class challenged many of the ideas and images of pregnancy and childbirth that circulate in popular culture. One of the things we learned in birth class is that most pregnancies are not forty weeks long and that it’s perfectly normal to go a week or two past your due date. Our due date was July 9. Joe had predicted a July 4 baby and was planning the taxi route to the hospital around the holiday traffic. We ended up going to the fireworks on the Hudson River, but no signs of a patriotic labor. July 9 came and went without a whimper or a Braxton Hicks.
On Thursday, July 11, Hannah went to the midwife and was told she was zero percent effaced and no dilation. We knew she could go into labor at any moment, but we also began to wonder whether she would. And to worry that we would not make it into the birth center, which only takes women up to 40 weeks and 6 days.
Trying to speed the process along, we continued our eight-mile morning bike rides—with Joe spotting Hannah along the way in what we called the tour de prego. We had been cycling together throughout most of the pregnancy. These were wonderful moments, with the occasional joke and half-worry that Hannah’s uterus would fall out or the baby’s head would be shmushed due to the bumpy roads. We called them uterine bumps. After week 40, we welcomed the bumps, hoping they might induce labor.
On Saturday, July 13, we went for a three-hour urban hike from Fort Tyron Park at 190th street through Inwood Park to 218th street. It was 90 plus degrees, hot, and humid. Hannah was cranky and hardly took notice of the dramatic views until we reached Inwood Hill Park and its old growth forest—the last remaining in Manhattan. The forest was a calming presence as we walked through the hills. By the time we got home, Hannah was exhausted and went to take a nap. When she woke up, she could feel her belly tightening fairly frequently. Joe kept saying these were Braxton Hicks and perhaps a sign that labor was on its way shortly, but Hannah remained skeptical. We watched a movie and went to sleep. On Sunday morning, Hannah woke up at 6AM with bloody show followed by a few contractions. Finally, she thought, this was it.
Figuring we would be home as labor intensified, we decided to get out in the morning. We went to breakfast at a café near our apartment and read the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder. At this moment we could still occupy the mental space of worldly concerns and injustices all around us.
After breakfast, we continued to our regular Sunday farmers market run. Joe shopped while Hannah hung out on Columbia’s campus and labored through a few mild contractions spaced more than ten minutes apart. At this point, no one else could tell she was in labor. When we got home, we ate lunch. Hannah retired to the bedroom and watched David Attenboro Nature documentaries of whales and their babies while Joe nervously cleaned and made sure there were plenty of electrolyte-rich fluids in the house.
The contractions grew closer together over the course of the afternoon. By three o’clock, they were regular and about ten minutes apart. At four o’clock, we called the midwife to let her know that labor had started. Throughout this early stage, we practiced labor techniques to figure out which ones might work best for us.
At five o’clock, knowing we would be inside for a long time, Hannah decided she wanted some fresh air, so we walked up Morningside Drive and sat down on a bench overlooking Morningside Park. Things were getting more serious, but still very calm. We came home after half an hour. We were able to eat a normal dinner, but by this time Hannah was becoming less conversational. Contractions continued to grow closer together and were seven minutes apart by eight o’clock.
During this time, Hannah was trying to acclimate to the feeling of a contraction. Throughout pregnancy, she had been more curious than afraid of labor pain. Women compare the feeling to various other sensations. Some compare it to abdominal menstrual cramps, others to severe back ache, and still others to a six-hour marathon or uphill bike ride. Hannah promised herself she would try to articulate the feeling after she experienced it but as the days go by she too is finding it harder and harder to put the experience to words. When a contraction came on, she felt a throbbing sensation in the bottom of her belly. She welcomed the onset of each one and almost looked forward to the powerful surge that came with it. But by the middle she sometimes regretted the prior welcome just happy to ride out the pulsing feeling as it mellowed. Each contraction was slightly different, some stronger than others and some quite mild. She drew a mental picture of what her body was doing, imagining it opening and opening and then giving way to rest.
She was lying on her side in the classic Bradley pose while Joe coached her through contractions. Contrary to what she had expected, the lower belly ache didn’t go away between contractions. As the hours passed we noticed that the forward leaning poses only made the pain worse. Rising from the bed, going to the toilet (which became increasingly necessary as Joe dutifully kept Hannah hydrated), or any forward leaning position was particularly harrowing.
By Monday morning at 3am, Hannah’s contractions were 5 minutes apart or less. We called the midwife with an update. She asked to speak to Hannah who could not respond during her contraction due to their intensity. The midwife told us to call again at 5:30 and plan to meet her at the Birth Center soon after in order to beat the morning rush hour.
After the call, Hannah’s contractions began to slow down. In the meantime, we went to the living room to try a different environment and get things going again. Hannah tried different positions for sitting and standing. She bounced on the birth ball and Joe gave her acupuncture. The contractions came but not as rigorous as before.
At 5:30 the midwife called again and told us that contractions slowing down signaled a long labor and that Hannah’s body was telling her to rest. So we went back to bed and slept. Before long, the contractions began regularly again and by 7:15 they were 3 minutes apart and very strong.
We called the midwife who said that she would come by our apartment to check out the situation. She arrived about a half hour later. The examination showed that Hannah was now fully effaced but only 1 cm dilated. She encouraged us to see this as progress and again prepared us for a long labor, advising us to rest when cued.
We went back to bed and tried to get some more sleep. Hannah’s contractions came and went over the course of the morning. Sometimes the contractions were 10 minutes apart, sometimes less. Around noon we woke up and tried to eat in order to sustain Hannah’s energy through the long labor. But the contractions were erratic. One surged in mid-bite causing Hannah to spit out her pasta primavera on the coffee table and floor.
The lower abdominal pain worsened. Not sure what to do, we consulted our books and binders from the natural childbirth class. We found a discussion of round ligament pain in the uterus. It sounded very much like what Hannah was experiencing. The book said one way to work with this pain is to lie inclined on your back with knees elevated. This gave Hannah significant relief. One big remaining challenge was the toilet. Eventually, Joe figured out how to support her back while she walked to the bathroom, and when she sat on the toilet, he stood in the shower and held her weight as she leaned back.
Hannah labored throughout the afternoon quietly, lying back on the pillows, while we watched BBC costume dramas based on novels by Anthony Trollope. Joe would stop the video when Hannah’s contractions came on and coached Hannah: “Relax your face, relax your shoulders, relax your belly, breathe into your belly, open up the peanut.” The contractions grew closer together, coming once every three minutes and lasting for a minute. By this point, around 4PM, Hannah had reached a zen-like state, laboring quietly through the contractions, signaling their start by tapping Joe with one finger.
We called the midwife who said she would come by at the end of the office day to check our status. She arrived at 7:15. We were excited and sure that all the work we’d been doing had paid off. Hannah imagined she was at seven centimeters by now. She lay back in bed for the exam. The midwife didn’t speak as she felt Hannah’s cervix. With a serious look on her face, she sighed and gently but soberly informed us that Hannah was only two centimeters dilated. This was not the kind of progress one likes to see by this point, and she was concerned that the baby’s head had still not fully engaged. We could wait to intervene, but there was now worry that something—such as a short cord or a wrapped cord—was barring progress and perhaps stressing the baby. She asked if the baby had moved recently, and Hannah recalled some movement within the last hour. The midwife then recommended going to the hospital to get us on a fetal monitor and to start pitocin, which might coordinate the contractions and engage the baby’s head to speed up dilation. We promptly agreed and headed outside together to hail a taxi. A giddy neighbor saw us in the hallway, but we only said we were heading to the hospital.
Before labor, Hannah had expected that the cab ride to the hospital would be very uncomfortable. And during labor, she worried about the pain of having to lean forward during parts of the ride. But she was surprised at the physical relief she got while leaning backwards in the back seat, with Joe at her side and the midwife in the front. The physical relief, however, was accompanied by a heart heaviness—the fear that the baby she had carried all these months might not be well. All she cared about now was the baby’s health and she even began to wish for an immediate c-section—not to ease the pain but to have the baby born safely.
We arrived at the hospital. The midwife rushed us through triage and we were in a delivery room within a few minutes. There were about five minutes of paperwork done by Joe, the midwife, and the nurses, during which time Hannah was alone in the room wondering what would happen. It felt like an eternity. When the nurse returned, she started an IV and the fetal monitors were hooked up. We heard the sound of the baby’s steady heartbeat and breathed a sigh of relief. The nurse explained that they were going to administer some pitocin shortly and that Hannah could tell her if she wanted an epidural at any time. By this point, Hannah had resolved to get the epidural—hoping, as the midwife had explained, that it would give her time to rest and relax, supporting dilation and giving her the energy to push the baby out.
The anesthesiologist arrived shortly after to administer the epidural. He was jovial and chatty, assuming we had planned an epidural all along without any knowledge that we had been in labor already for over 30 hours. “It’s a beautiful day, and it will be even more beautiful when you have your baby in your arms without a hint of labor pain.” On any other day, Hannah would have considered this man naïve to the problem that his profession poses for pregnant women. But at this moment, his presence was a source of comfort. As he walked her through the procedure and prepared her for the series of sensations, she became increasingly calm, hardly noticing the tube being inserted near her spine—something she would have recoiled at not more than thirty hours ago. With the pleasant tingling moving first down her leg and then through her body, she softened and started to talk—something she hadn’t really done in hours. The senior anesthesiologist was now in the room, and Hannah pleasantly chatted with him about how they had taken childbirth classes and been taught all about the cascade of medical interventions as well as the negative effects on the baby associated with epidurals.
The anesthesiologist responded with the charmed assurance of one whose authority in society is beyond question by those who really matter. “No, this is bogus. The epidural does not have an effect on the baby. The medication does not enter the blood stream and if it would it would be digested within seconds so it could never reach the umbilical cord.”
Hannah responded, “I guess it’s just a clash of cultures.” Silently she reflected on the video about epidurals they had watched in class. In the video, an animated reindeer gives birth with an epidural. She is shown on her back looking rather comatose with a sea of wires coming out of her. The video stresses that the coach does not relax and abandon the birthing mother, but rather continues to support her throughout the epidural and subsequent medical procedures. But it also shows the mother reindeer itching from the medication and calmly warns the parents-to-be that their baby may seem drugged for the first six weeks of his life.
Soon after the epidural was in place and working, at about 9pm, the nurse administered a small dose of pitocin. Hannah lay on her side while everyone watched the monitors. At one point the heartbeat seemed to decelerate so they stopped the pitocin. But upon further observation the nurse noticed that the monitor had moved and the heartbeat was probably fine.
They continued at a low dose of pitocin for about a half an hour and gradually increased it once or twice. As time passed, Hannah could feel a crescendo of pressure and release in her belly. The midwife advised both Joe and Hannah to rest for now and she would check the dilation at 11pm. We sat quietly while Joe tried to calm Hannah who heard variations on the monitor that she interpreted for the worse, although Joe, who could see the numbers, reassured her that everything was fine. Still, Hannah tried to make peace with the real possibility that this labor would end in a c-section.
At 11pm, the midwife returned. She placed her hands near the cervix, smiled, and gently said, “She’s nine centimeters.” This was the best news we could have hoped for and unusually fast progress for a first time mother. The midwife and everyone else concurred that all those hours of labor were indeed doing work and prepared Hannah’s body to respond quickly to the pitocin and maybe even the epidural. Typically, women who go directly on the epidural do not have this experience. “I’ll come back at 11:30 and see if you’re ready to push.” So much time had passed, it was almost hard to believe that the end might be near.
At 11:30, sure enough, Hannah was fully dilated. The midwife flattened the bed to prepare for delivery. Hannah laid on her back with her legs bent. The midwife and Joe stood opposite each other, flanking the left and right side of Hannah’s legs. One foot was supported by Joe’s hip, the other by the midwife’s. We were ready to push.
When the contractions came, Hannah held her legs under her knees and, following the midwife’s directions, took a deep breath, bared down, counted to ten and exhaled, repeating this two more times with the same breath. The baby descended down the birth canal very fast. Hannah felt no pain but could feel the baby’s limbs wiggling way down low and tickling her insides. As the baby’s head came close to crowning, Joe could see his brown hair. The midwife told Hannah to touch his head while still in the birth canal. At this point we could anticipate holding him.
With each push, the midwife swept the perimeter of the vagina in half circle motions gently stretching it. As the baby’s head came closer to emerging, the midwife would pull the head gently towards her, coaxing him out into the world. Twenty-nine minutes after pushing began, Hannah bared down one final time and a crying Samuel Lewis slid out with his right arm extended like the Statue of Liberty. Hannah reached down, picked him up, and laid him on her chest.
Plans are made to be broken. But sometimes broken plans teach you the importance of keeping an open mind. We still believe that birth is overly medicalized in the United States, but we have come to understand that medical interventions have a place even within a “natural birth.” These two worlds are not mutually exclusive and too often treat each other with hostility and distrust.
We were lucky to have a midwife who has the understanding, expertise, and attention that, despite what doctors say, makes midwives unique and invaluable. As medical professionals, the best midwives know when and how to use intervention and the best doctors and hospitals trust midwives to make difficult decisions when necessary. Our plans were indeed broken but we are happily surprised to say that it was a positive experience.
Samuel Lewis is a miracle baby who came to us as a welcome surprise after more than ten years together. Now we look forward to new experiences as a family, more plans, more plans that are broken, and more unexpected joys.
Jun 19, 2013
I used to have back pain and back spasms on a regular basis. Thanks to acupuncture and tai ji practice I have not had a back spasm in years.
Until last week.
A lot has been going on recently with me, moving into our new New York acupuncture office, we remodeled our apartment, and we have a little one on the way. I’ve had a lot on my mind. Also the New York weather has been humid which tightens my back muscles.
When my back seized up, the pain was mostly on the right side of my lumbar. My lower back was so tight I could not stand straight and the pain was intense in my lumbar and sacrum. I could barely get up from sitting.
Luckily, I have treated many back spasms with acupuncture, massage, and stretching. I was able to control the back spasm pain within the first day and get over the spasm entirely in 3 days.
The combination I use was effective. Here is how I did it without any pain medications.
1. Acupuncture: As an acupuncturist, I see back pain and back spasms all the time. The acupuncture helps to reduce the pain and relax the muscles. Just as I would with my patients I looked for the ashi acupuncture points (translated as “ouch” acupuncture points). These are areas that the muscle is very tender to touch. By needling them we can relax the muscles. After the first acupuncture treatment, my back started to loosen up and the pain was greatly reduced. I would give myself daily acupuncture for 3 days.
2. Stretching: Back stretches are essential to keeping a healthy back. But as I got busier I neglected my regular stretching routine. Simple stretches are invaluable for back pain. Stretches such as knees to the chest, soft back twists, and hamstring stretches help significantly. It’s also important to pay attention to your hamstrings. Tight hamstrings can often lead to back pain.
3. Go for a walk: It is important to keep moving when you have back pain. Many people want to stop exercising when you have a back spasm. Don’t. It is helpful to keep yourself moving and limber. Short walks help to loosen your back and are relaxing. Slowly extend the walk and push yourself a little bit more. As you have less pain and spasm you can return to your normal exercise routine.
4. Sleeping position: The best position to sleep in is either lying on your back with knees elevated or lying on the side with a pillow in between your knees. Both of these positions relieve pressure on the back and allows the muscles to relax and return to normal.
Jun 11, 2013
Kombucha is experiencing a revitalization as a healthy tonic beverage. While only recently gaining the popular spotlight, kombucha is believed to have first developed in China over 2000 years ago. From there it spread throughout Asia, and within the last century, to the West.
Some have said that kombucha can help with many types of illnesses, from insomnia, to poor digestion, and even reduce of gray hairs. So does it do all that? Let’s start with a little background.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a delicious fermented tea beverage. Its taste is both sweet and sour. Known as hóngchájùn (red tea fungus) in Chinese, the English word has been traced to Japanese etymology. The term “red tea fungus” can be misleading, as “red tea” is simply the Chinese equivalent for “black tea.”
In the process of brewing kombucha, tea is fermented with healthy bacteria and yeast. As a fermented food, Kombucha has many of the health benefits of fermented foods containing a plethora of lactic acid bacteria. Bacteria can play a very important role in the healthy functions of the digestive system, immune system, and even reproduction.
The fermentation process also raises the level of some B vitamins. According to Kombucha Kamp, a website with extensive information about kombucha, “Vitamins available in living form from whole foods are the easiest for the body to assimilate. By drinking small doses of Kombucha over a long period of time, you are delivering these water soluble vitamins in a bio-available form such that can be immediately utilized by the body. These microdoses over a long period of time have a far more beneficial effect than any megadose pill or synthetic supplement can provide.”
So the kombucha delivers both pro-biotic lactic acid bacteria and vitamins that can help with overall health and well being. I don’t think it is a panacea for all conditions (unfortunately not a cure for gray hair or baldness). But in my personal experience, kombucha helps with digestion and immune functioning in general. And best of all it tastes good.
How to Make Kombucha
While many opt to purchase already-made kombucha in stores, brewing at home can be delicious and much more cost effective. It’s very easy to do; all you need to do is make a batch of strong black tea with sugar, and then add your SCOBY (symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast). With proper storage in a dark, dry place, you will have your own batch of kombucha ready in 7-10 days.
Here’s a great step by step recipe on how to get started brewing kombucha at home.
Amanda Mester significantly contributed to this article.
May 29, 2013
Bacteria are everywhere. In the soil, on our skin, in our guts, in our eyes, and reproductive organs. Everywhere. In fact, our bodies have more than 10 times the amount of microbial life in us than our own cells.
In the last century, bacteria have gotten a bad wrap. Many bacteria are needed for healthy digestion, immune system function, and healthy reproduction among others.
So rather than having a war on bacteria, cohabitation with bacteria is gaining ground in the scientific world. Recently in the New York Times, the author Michael Pollan wrote a piece about our the latest information regarding the microbiome, the life of the microbes that live with us and believed help us stay healthy.
The war on bacteria
Since we’ve known about germs, they have become a target to eradicate. And of course this has been very successful and saved many lives. But it is possible we’ve gotten rid of too many microbes, the ones that helps us as well as the ones that hurt us.
Bacteria are helpful in digestion, our immune system, reproduction, and other bodily functions. People in cultures that do not use or have access to industrialized food production and industrialized chemical cleaners, and therfore a higher exposure to the plethora of bacteria, have a much lower rate of atopic eczema, asthma, allergies, IBS, and other chronic diseases (of course lack of access to modern medicine produces other medical dangers like severe infections).
So how do we live together in harmony?
A symbiotic relationship
In acupuncture and Chinese medicine we understand the need to live in harmony with the environment. Bacteria are part of this environment inside and outside our bodies. Now it is looking like we need to life in harmony with our microbes.
What can we do to cultivate a healthy relationship with our bacteria? The research is still being done, so there is no strict prescription. But using common sense, we can gain a few simple recommendations.
1. Eat whole foods. Plant based whole foods that have a lot of fiber and nutrients are not only good for you but also for your gut bacteria. These are called prebiotic foods because they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. In the long run, they are much better than taking probiotics. Different forms of fiber (soluble and insoluble) may help encourage healthy bacteria in different parts of your digestive system. You can’t go wrong with eating whole foods, its healthy in many other ways such as providing vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
2. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are foods which bacteria, yeast, and fungi have processed. Fermented foods have been a part of human culture probably as long as we have had culture. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and sour pickles contain naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria, which is what probiotics are. These foods will provide a large variety of lactic acid bacteria increasing your microbiome diversity,
They are delicious and you can make them at home!
May 16, 2013
The itch in atopic dermatitis can take over your life. It is so intense, those with atopic eczema of wake up scratching. And after your scratch, the skin becomes more inflamed, itchy, dry, and lichenified.
Most people with atopic eczema have a family history eczema, hay fever, and asthma. Allergies to foods, mold, or irritant substances may cause a flare in the condition (1). Atopic eczema is increasing rapidly in industrialized countries. Atopic eczema is treated most often with topical steroids that suppress the inflammatory response. Unfortunately, steroids also have many side effects.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help reduce eczema naturally.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine approach to Atopic Eczema
Traditionally, Chinese medicine called eczema the “wind of four crooks” referring to the eczema rashes on the inside of the elbows and knees which are the common locations of the condition (2).
Chinese medicine treats eczema not by suppressing the immune response, but rather correcting the imbalances that are causing the eczema. By correcting or removing these imbalances your body is able to heal on its own.
In eczema, the most common underlying imbalances are dry heat or dampness. To determine the imbalance, I will observe how the skin looks. If the skin is dry, cracked, and irritated, then too much dry heat may be the most significant factor in the eczema. If there is more swelling, crusting, and vesicles, then dampness may be the most significant factor.
Because Chinese medicine is holistic, we also consider how digestion, allergies, sleep, and emotional health play a role. Acupuncture points and herbs are selected specifically for their ability to correct that specific imbalance.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment of Atopic Eczema
The therapy may combine acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and topical herbal creams.
Chinese herbal medicine focuses on correcting the imbalance. If heat is the cause of the eczema, we will use herbs that traditionally are used to “clear heat” from the body, such as sheng di huang (rehmannia) and jin yin hua (honey suckle). Many of the heat reducing herbs are also potent anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties.
If dampness is causing the eczema, herbs that drain dampness such as ku shen (sophroa) can be used. There are also herbs specifically for the symptoms. For example, di fu zi (broom cypress) is very effective in reducing itch.
External herbal creams are very effective at decreasing inflammation and stopping itching. For some people, reduction in inflammation and itching happens after the first visit.
Acupuncture is very effective to control the itching in eczema. I find that auricular and body acupuncture combination to be the most effective. After the acupuncture, I often will use magnet stickers in ear acupuncture points that correspond to the specific area of the body the itch is found. It is possible that the same physiological mechanisms which acupuncture uses to reduce pain are effective for stopping itch in eczema (3).
For many patients, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine leads to long term reduction of symptoms. This is because Chinese medicine focuses on correcting the root imbalance causing the condition, not just masking the symptoms. The long term benefit of the herbs may be due to immunoregulatory mechanisms of Chinese medicine.
1. PubMed Health. Atoptic Eczema. Accessed 5/14/2013.
2. Mazin Al-Khafaji. Atopic Eczema “Wind of the four crooks.” Journal of Chinese Medicine. Number 77: p5-8. February 2005.
3. Pfab F, Huss-Marp J, Gatti A., et al. Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema – a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.Allergy. 2010 Jul;65(7):903-10. Epub 2009 Dec 11.
May 10, 2013
Acupuncture is mysterious, acupuncture is unique, but above all acupuncture is practical.
Often patients come in my New York acupuncture clinic and they are surprised how practical it is. And the main reason that acupuncture is practical is that it works. It’s not about the body’s energy or imbalances that are the root of your problem. It’s about feeling better and staying healthy.
Feel Better, Get Acupuncture
Acupuncture is about staying healthy, but the way it works is by correcting imbalances in the body. When the imbalance is removed you feel better. The acupuncture is just reminding the body how to be healthy.
When a patient comes into the our acupuncture office, we assess what the problems is, where and what imbalance is impending your health. The acupuncture treatment works to correct the imbalance. There are many imbalances that cause diseases. The key is to address the correct one with the correct approach. For example, if there is not enough Qi, the body’s energy, the acupuncture helps to boost the body’s qi.
Acupuncture is a simple idea but complicated in practice
Creating an effective therapy is where it gets more complicated, because addressing the underlying imbalance effectively depends upon the acupuncturist’s technique. This includes choosing the right acupuncture points, the most powerful combination of acupuncture points, and also how your acupuncturist stimulates the acupuncture points.
The correct acupuncture points must be chosen. Take the example I already used, if there is not enough Qi in the body, then we should use acupuncture points that stimulate production of Qi like St 36 or Kid 3.
Location of the acupuncture point is important as well. For example, when treating migraine headaches, I prefer to use acupuncture points that are not on the head, but rather on the shoulders, arms, and legs. This helps to reduce the imbalanced energy in the head causing the migraine. But for a back spasm in the lower back, I would use more acupuncture points close to the issue.
Acupuncture Technique is in the Hands
Another aspect is how acupuncture points are combined together. Sometimes it is important to put a few points close together to stimulate healing in a specific area. For example, with a muscles spasm in the lower back I may use a technique called surround the dragon. The surround the dragon technique uses four or five needles in the circle around the muscle in spasm. This communicates with the muscles to relax and return to a healthy states.
Part of the acupuncture technique is manual. How do we use the needles to stimulate the acupuncture points, nervous system, muscles, and fascia.
One technique to get a trigger point to release is twirling. The needles are twirled slightly to create a twitch in the muscle. The twitch is a signal that the body is acupuncture point is activated and it is initialing the healing process.
Apr 30, 2013
“Can I get acupuncture during my lunch break?” is a common question we get when new patients call.
The answer is Yes. Many of our patients enjoy coming to our calm, serene office for their lunch hour. An acupuncture break is wonderful way to relax and stay healthy during your workday.
One of the great qualities of acupuncture is that it can help a specific health concern and you also feel relaxed. Come in for your back pain, neck and shoulder pain, headache, acne, or eczema, and you leave feeling relaxed and balanced.
Our office is conveniently located in Midtown near Grand Central. An acupuncture treatment takes about 50 minutes and we pride ourselves on running on time. The new patient acupuncture visits are a little longer due to the examination.
Let us know when you want to come in, you can request an appointment by clicking here or giving us a call.