Archive for the ‘Oriental Medicine’ Category

Li Dong-Yuan and the Earth School in Chinese Medicine

Friday, June 20th, 2014

lidongyuanAs Chinese medicine evolved, practitioners began to realize that patients did not live in a vacuum and they could not be treated as such. Every patient affected by an ailment needed to be treated individually because many factors beyond just physical disease were playing a role and required attention. For Master Li Dong-Yuan, lifestyle was a major factor in the preservation of a patient’s well being. He felt that patients’ emotions could heavily influence the qi’s integrity and that physical illness could be eroded by the socio-economics of a war-torn society plagued with famine, epidemics and poverty.

Li Dong-Yuan, also known as Li Gao (1180 – 1251 c.e.), began his medical studies under one of the most famous physicians in the Hubei Province: Zhang Yuan-Su. Li Dong-Yuan’s family was wealthy, so he was afforded a great opportunity to apprentice closely with Zhang Yuan-Su and the teachings of the Yi Shui School. It was from this direct influence that he formulated his own school of thought that became known as the Earth School.

Once he completed his studies with Zhang Yuan-Su, Li Dong-Yuan became involved in managing his family’s property. After the decades of harsh Mongol conquests, he left home in Hubei to utilize his medical knowledge and training to treat the masses that were adversely affected by the unrest and upheaval of being a conquered region.

It was then that he began to deeply develop his thesis that the etiology of most diseases was a result of injury to the digestive system. The principle organs of the digestive system from a Chinese medical model are the Stomach and the Spleen, which are responsible for taking food and drink and transforming the raw material into energy (qi) for the body’s core functions. Li Dong-Yuan believed that the cause of damage to the stomach and spleen occurred as a result of three main factors: intemperance in eating and drinking (especially consumption of excess amounts of cold, raw, fatty or unclean foods), overwork which leads to exhaustion, and from the effects of excessive and habituated emotional expression — excessive emotions agitate the body and consequently weaken digestion.

When the conquered people were left powerless, poor and unable to access proper nutrition, opportunistic disease processes were able to also overcome and vanquish health physically, mentally and spiritually. This becomes the basis of the Earth School’s doctrine.

Weak digestion on a physical level leads to exhaustion and listlessness with loss of appetite, loose stools and visceral prolapse. On a mental level the organs of the stomach and spleen when distressed have lost the ability to problem solve and use intellect. There becomes a tendency to over-ruminate on the same subject without the ability to act on a resolution. This creates the concept of yin fire. Yin fire is the pathological state of habituated unresolved emotions that are unable to be expressed and manifested, which leads to a noxious feedback cycle culminating in repression and suppression of negative emotions.

Because these feelings have no outlet for expulsion from the mind or body, they become lodged internally. Over time, this leads to the generation of heat trapped in the body which further exhausts resources and causes further debility. We may recognize these states from a Western lens as syndromes of chronic inflammation or autoimmune responses.

Two of Li Dong-Yuan’s most important Chinese herbal formulas to treat digestive qi’s lack of strength and integrity along with the discharge of the injurious heat were Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang (Yang Ascending and Stomach Nourishing Decoction) and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Center and Regulate the Qi Decoction). Both formulas include ginseng (Ren Shen), astragalus (Huang Qi), and white atractylodes (Bai Zhu) to strengthen the weakened person.

Another common feature is the use of bupleurum (chai hu) to ease emotional tension, allow unencumbered flow and to lift – holding the body’s structures in place. Historically, we are now at a turning point in the crafting of Chinese herbal formulas. Li Dong-Yuan is using a bi-directional strategy of both uplifting and rehabilitating the body’s resources while simultaneously draining out of the body injurious heat and dampness. He is also revolutionary in assigning directionality of herbs to ascend or descend when ingested and also creating a mapping of an herb’s proclivity to affect change certain organs and channels.

He also credited for the herbal formula Sheng Mai San (Pulse Generating Powder), which is still widely used in modern Chinese hospitals for cardiovascular cases, as well as Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang, which is a combination of astragalus (Huang Qi) and Dang Gui (in a ratio of 5:1), used to quickly and deeply nourish the qi and blood following extensive blood loss.

The addition of the Earth School’s ideas to Chinese Medicine helped to further incorporate the concept that exogenous pestilent factors were not the only etiology of disease – and that it was necessary to self cultivate to nurture and build health in order to maintain well-being. Li Dong-Yuan taught a way to live a proactively healthy life as well as a path to reclaim health when afflicted.

 

Chinese Medicine’s Zhang Zi-He and The School of Attacking and Purging

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

zhang Zi-heLike modern practitioners, the great masters of Chinese medicine learned from and were influenced by each other’s work. They were not only coming up with original conclusions but were building and refining the work of previous practitioners to form expanded ideas.

Zhang Zi-He, also known as Zhang Cong Zheng, was a military physician who lived from 1156-1228 of the common era. He shared Liu Wan-Su’s belief that medicine needed to be tailored to patients and that medicines and strategies of the Han Dynasty canon were ill equipped to combat present-day illness. After serving in the military, he left to return to his home town in Henan Province to work as a doctor.

His best known theories incorporated some of Liu Wan-Su’s most important contributions to the Chinese Medical canon and are known as the “Gong Xia Pai,” or “The School of Attacking and Purging.” Specifically, Zi-He’s theory of the “Six Doors and Three Methods” referred directly to climatic influences (wind, summer heat, dampness, fire, dryness and cold) that Liu Wan-Su observed. The three methods refer to Zhang’s favored therapeutic regimens: sweating, vomiting and purging. These were not new strategies; Zhang Zhong-Jing, one of the most eminent Chinese physicians during the later years of the Han Dynasty, recorded the use of these approaches in the most studied book of Chinese medicine, the Shang Han Lun. The practice of diaphoresis, emesis and purgation are also documented by Sun Si-Miao, the patriarch and innovator of Tang Dynasty Chinese medicine.

Zhang Zi-He’s treatment strategies are very telling of his seasoned military strategist background. He believed that both life and disease should be treated like battle. Similar to a small fortress, you want to keep the external terrain strong so that disease cannot enter. In Chinese medicine this is the concept of strong Wei Qi. When our interface is strong, pathogens cannot penetrate.

Zhang was a neoconfucianist and a firm believer that pernicious influences entered the body from the heavens, the earth and through man’s actions. The evils of the heavens included the climate—wind, cold, heat, dryness and fire. Insults from the earth came as damp influences that included fog, dew, rain, hail, ice and mud. Man’s abuses centered on dietary intemperance and vices such as lack of discipline. He believed that these insults were responsible for causing disease and in order to effectively cure an ailment, the responsible influence needed to be eradicated – thus the induction of sweating, vomiting and purging.

He believed if you have problems in your life, you need to take charge to destroy the negative influence. Sweating eliminated the harmful evils on the body’s surface. Zhang Zi-He listed approximately forty herbs, many which are still used today such as Schizonepeta known as Jing Jie and Angelica Dahurica Bai Zhi. In addition to herbs, he advocated the use of hygienic practices that included moxabustion, acupuncture, massage, steaming, washing and exercising.

The category of emesis (induced vomiting) was prescribed for digestive illness in the upper gastric abdominal regions with therapies that in addition to vomiting increased salivation, lacrimation and sneezing. The most popular Chinese herbal emetics he recommended were Dichroa Root, also known as Chang Shan, and stalk of Cucumis Melo, known as Gua Di. His use of acupuncture included the activation of points which would mirror his herbal strategies. He used the upward ascension of the spleen to encourage vomiting. An acupuncture point like Spleen 8 “Di Ji,” which translates to mean “Earth Pivot,” was chosen because it could be activated to encourage vomiting. He believed that employing this strategy would quickly release an evil and restore health by purifying the patient.

He also used other acupuncture channels and points to encourage peristalsis through the bowels. Purging methods (laxative effect) treated climatic and emotional evils that when lodged in the chest or abdomen cause intense discomfort. This phenomenon is known in Chinese medicine as heat clumping. By breaking down and pushing the obstruction down and out, the pain is eliminated and healthy function is restored. Of the many purgatives he employed, several are still popular in the TCM Materia Medica such as Rhubarb, known as the Chinese herb Da Huang and the herb Croton Ba Dou.

Zhang Zi-He was a student of Liu Wan-Su’s Cooling School philosophical doctrine and expanded the use of sweating, purgation and vomiting to include more symptoms and clinical scenarios. Zhang Zi-He believed that there are a myriad of influences that can cause disease. He understood that to move difficult obstructions and obstacles in the body, one needed to initiate a treatment strategy of equal force and measure. He believed these treatment strategies to be hygienic and their use encouraged the refinement of the body, mind and spirit.

Liu Wan-Su and the Cooling School in Chinese Medicine

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
one of the four great masters of chinese medicine

one of the four great masters of chinese medicine

So, we’ve established that the practice of Chinese medicine has a long and dynamic history—that’s why it’s still around and used actively today. Why and how Chinese medicine has such longevity has a lot to do with when and who brought about innovation and change. We’ve recognized that the when was during the Jin-Yuan period in 13th and 14th century China and the who—the Four Masters of Chinese medicine that lived and worked during this time. But who were they, what did they do and why were they so important?

Amongst the great political unrest of the Mongol Dynasty in the 13th century, where over nine rulers came to power in a short period of time, Chinese medicine improved. The Mongol rulers imposed restrictions on medical practices and began banning certain therapeutics. These changes instigated practitioners to innovate and find new methods. Seeking this progress in medicine was a personal mission for one of the Four Masters, Liu Wan-Su, who lived from 1120-1200. Liu Wan-Su, it is said, decided to immerse himself in medicine when his mother fell ill and later died after multiple failed attempts to secure treatment for her due to his family’s impoverished status.

Liu Wan-Su was a Neo-Confucianist– meaning he was influenced by the both the teachings of Daoism and Buddhism. His Daoist name was Xuan Tong, which translates to “Penetrate Mystery,” was very fitting given his zeal to deeply understand and demystify Chinese medicine. His commentaries and interest were primarily in discovering deeper meaning of the Nei Jing’s Su Wen. The Nei Jing is also commonly known as the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon. It is a Chinese medical text that has been treated as one of the fundamental doctrinal sources for Chinese medicine for more than two thousand years. The work is composed of two texts each containing eighty-one chapters in a question-and-answer format between the mythical Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) and a physician Qi-Bo.

The first of the two texts, the Su Wen (also known as Basic Questions) covers the theory and philosophical constructs of Chinese medicine in relation to causation, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Liu Wan-Su was trying to find and decipher the hidden messages in its teachings. Eventually, Liu Wan-Su developed his own style based on his rigorous studies. This has become known as “The Cooling School.”

His treatment strategies are based on the Five Elements and the Six Influences. Meaning, his system is based on how the predominate climatic factors of each season tend to generate certain types of pathogens that flourish during that particular time of the year. His focus was based on the belief that all pathogens whether they originally were caused by wind, dampness, summer heat, fire, dryness or cold would turn into heat when trapped inside the body. So his herbal focus was geared toward the eradication of hot and feverish, febrile diseases.

The Cooling School utilized cool and cold natured herbs in addition to spicy and sweet herbs to comprise most of his heat reducing formulas. Many of his formulas also included the use of talc, known in pin yin as hua shi. Hua shi is useful in promoting urination. This works as a strategy in removing excessive heat from the body by increasing urinary output. His most popular Chinese herbal formulas include Liu Yi San (Six to One Powder), Yi Yuan San (Powder to Benefit Vitality), Bi Yu San, and Gui Ling Gan Lu Yin (Cinnamon, Hoelen, and Licorice Combination)

While keeping the idea of the pathogenic fire in mind, Liu Wan-Su tailored his treatments – so if a weaker patient couldn’t handle a strong heat clearing medicinals, the herbs were modified carefully to ensure good results.

He believed that acupuncture should be gentle with very shallow needling. He emphasized using jing-well points which are acupuncture points located near the nail bed on both the fingers and toes. Liu Wan-Su’s use of jing-well points facilitated multiple strategies to include opening the sensory portals on the head, resuscitation of the yang, expulsion of pathogenic wind, and the removal of irritability and unsteadiness.

Liu Wan-Su was also a great proponent of self-cultivation. Through his teachings, he encouraged patents to seek personal enlightenment, enrichment and education to help lift one’s self but also to benefit society as a whole. He believed that in order to help a person to see the world differently and to be able to act differently was the manifestation and discipline of a steadfast practice.

Witness and observe to become a sage.

Be in a place of looking out while also looking inward.

Liu Wan-Su’s teachings still influence the way modern practitioners diagnose and treat disease. Although many modern diseases present as chronic and very complex, Li Wan-Su’s basic tenants around lifestyle counseling seem tailored to a modern hectic existence. His philosophy included an approach that centered on slowing down to appreciate the things around you, to open yourself to seeing things differently and to empower people to change themselves in order to change and eliminate disease. Sounds like sensible medical advice to me!

The Four Masters of Chinese Medicine: Architects of Change

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

4 great mastersIn the mad world of newer-better-faster-stronger, it’s important to take a minute and remember that all of the advances that we have—from iPhones and micro-computers to laser treatments and super drugs—evolved from earlier innovation. The foundations of modern medicine are no exception.  Often the basics that new techniques are built upon trace back to systems laid out centuries ago and are still formidable in shaping new ideas and thoughts on disease treatment and prevention. Chinese medicine is arguably the oldest, continually practiced form of medicine in the world. There definitely is a reason these strategies have survived the test of time.

It’s become a pretty common practice to spend time on the internet diagnosing ourselves and thinking about treatment options. As more practitioners and patients move towards collaborative medicine and incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into Western treatment plans, it’s not a bad idea to have a better understanding about the theories developed, the physiology around why it works, and the historical context that shaped the paradigm shift. Exploring the important contributions made by masters of Chinese medicine helps provide a better understanding of how medicine has evolved to where it is today. Never a bad thing to know where and why things started.

So, what and who shaped Traditional Chinese Medicine? Much and rightful attention is paid to the Han Dynasty (220 B.C. to 220 A.D.). The masters of Chinese medicine of this era included Hua T’o and Zhang Zhong Jing. This is when the most famous texts of Chinese medicine were published; these seminal texts include the Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders) and the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescription from the Golden Cabinet). Chinese medical knowledge during the Han dynasty is expansive. Hua T’o is credited for self cultivation practices known as daoyin exercises as well as surgical and anesthesia protocols. Zhang Zhong Jing is recognized for the development of the Six Stages Theory. This theory is a model for the diagnosis and treatment of disease based on the progression of pathogens once they enter the body. This becomes a foundation for the practice of herbal internal medicine.

The historical time known as the Jin-Yuan period will be the focus of our of next four blog articles. The Jin-Yuan period covers the 13th and 14th centuries and is a catalyst for the development of great innovation in Chinese medicine.

From the Jin-Yuan era came the development of four distinct schools of thought, created by men who came to be known as the Four Great Masters of Chinese Medicine – Li Wan Su, Zhang Zi He, Li Dong Yuan, and Zhu Dan Xi. Their mastery of Chinese medicine coupled with their personal circumstances during the times they lived helped shape four distinct philosophies in the causation, prevention and elimination of disease. Their critiques of the classical canons and doctrine create new developments and ways of thinking thus expanding the medicine for more modern times and conditions. Their novel new approaches helped usher in a renaissance in Chinese medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Treatment of Raynaud’s Disease

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Raynaud's Disease

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can be helpful for Raynaud’s Disease

Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease and, perhaps not surprisingly, it’s more common in people who live in colder climates.

“Treatment” for Raynaud’s disease often consists of activities like layering clothing, wearing gloves and donning extra thick socks. Some patients take medications deigned to open up or widen their blood vessels and promote circulation.

Increasingly, I am seeing patients who are interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches to easing Raynaud’s disease. These treatment regimens are often focused on herbal formulas that warm, increase peripheral circulation and work on improving the integrity of qi and blood in the superficial channels. Depending on the Patient’s presentation we  evaluate and use herbs such as astragulus (huang qi), aconite (fu zi), ginger (gan jiang), ligusticum (chuan xiong) and cinnamon (gui zhi) to ease the chill, move blood and reduce pain in their extremities.

Patients are also finding relief with acupuncture as it can increase blood flow and decrease pain. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine showed that acupuncture treatment decreased the symptoms or “attacks” of Raynaud’s disease by 63%.

Finally, avoiding too much caffeine, getting a good amount of exercise and eating a balanced diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can also help your body successfully combat Raynaud’s disease.

More information and helpful resources for Raynaud’s disease can be found here:

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/raynauds-phenomenon

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00402/Raynauds-Disease.html

http://www.raynauds.org/2011/05/08/my-journey-with-acupuncture/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/533017-acupuncture-for-raynauds/

Keeping Up Your Health in a Time of Wearing Down

Thursday, November 7th, 2013
personal investment in health

personal investment in health

The mind-set, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has become an ingrained attitude of embracing decay in America. It is played out in our current political arenas, our values and in matters of personal growth and self care. As a result of our quest to tighten fiscal belts, our infrastructure is also experiencing malnourishment and neglect. This has been highlighted in numerous articles and recent studies, and has been the source of outrage and, often, despair once something finally surrenders in a cataclysmic manner (think bridge collapses, levy failures, government shutdowns).

This was discussed in an interesting and thought-provoking 2012 article from The Economist, “A Question of Trust”:

For decades America has underinvested in infrastructure—even though poor roads, delayed flights, crumbling bridges and inefficient buildings are an expensive burden. Deficiencies in roads, bridges and transport systems alone cost households and businesses nearly $130 billion in 2010, mostly because of higher running costs and travel delays. This filters through to all parts of the economy and increases costs at the point of use of many raw materials, and thereby reduces the productivity and competitiveness of American firms and their goods. Overall the American Society of Civil Engineers reckons that this underinvestment will end up costing each family in the country about $10,600 between 2010 and 2020.

I believe that – unfortunately – this attitude of neglect and purposeful ignorance is affecting the state of our country’s personal health. We live in a time where most of us are connected to the web, texting and email 24/7. We are also over-connected to information that really is inane, unnecessary and just a diversion. Our personal infrastructure is overburdened and overly taxed! We tend to devalue expenditure on our personal infrastructure. We prefer spending on the novelty and status of newer and faster stuff that binds us more intimately to the accelerated disintegration of our body’s finite resources, our emotional stability and our potential for spiritual fulfillment.

Further, we tend to only pay heed when symptoms have gone from intermittent to fixed, subtle to untenable. This is a level of minimal engagement that is truly very costly, filters through all parts of the economy, reduces productivity and aides and abets the breakdown of community. If we were to become just an iota more introspective, and listen to the internal inspection reports that are constantly emitting as “the state of our infrastructure” we could CHOOSE to engage our efforts and modest financial resources to rebuild and recover our true innate personhood.

The potential net gain is infinite, but how do we engage in this process?

No it doesn’t require a new type of sporting gear, a faster processor or more mega pixels. It isn’t achieved through V8 German horsepower or a mani and pedi.

It is far more exclusive, but accessible by all.

To quote Elmer Fudd, “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet” and then check inside.

What is the state of your personal infrastructure?

If you are listening you might hear:

“I’m tired.”

“I am anxious.”

“I am unhappy.”

“I am scared.”

“I am in pain.”

The next step is to disengage our familiar response toward the cry.

Challenge your automatic responses and habituations toward the predicament.

If you are tired, rather than reach for more caffeine, get more rest.

If you are discontented, rather than mindlessly eating more “comfort food,” sit and think about involving yourself in things that engender happiness and freedom of expression.

If something is hurting, stop ignoring it. Seek nurturing and expertise to understand and work toward corrective measures.

Most of the challenges we experience with our infrastructure come from the chronicity of ignoring our body’s own reports and cries for help.

Yes, there will come the day that our infrastructure can no longer withstand the neglect just like the day that the levees no longer could hold, despite the decades of countless warning. It’s the broken aspects of our situation that provide the richest opportunities for innovation and growth.

It isn’t necessary to suffer so intensely or be so outraged with the state of our infrastructure.

How can I be so certain of this? We all struggle with our mortality and the ebb and flow of emotional discontent, feeling powerless and pain. I think they call it “the human condition”. Try something new put yourself in the zone of reaching beyond your own resistance, if this doesn’t work for you, you can always go back to what you are doing now, no questions asked.

If we pay attention and give town-hall time to the inner self and it’s innate mission to survive, we can go way beyond the fundamental preservation skills of our lizard brain and really begin to have a symbiotic relationship with ourselves, our responsibilities and our commitments, This is how we tap into our infinite potential.

Dedicate yourself to a small amount of structured time and resources for the communion, I guarantee it WILL pay off.

 

 

 

 


Getting Back into the Swing After Summer…

Monday, October 7th, 2013
seasonal acupuncture for wellness

Finding wellness and balance with acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine to Reduce your Stress and Find your Rhythm

Those long, lazy days of summer are waning and crisper fall days are just around the corner. For many of us – parents, students, professionals – this means a return to our “normal” schedules of school, work and daily routines. This can also mean a return to stress and anxiety. So, how can you keep the relaxed vibe of the summer going into the fall?

Many of my patients make the conscious choice to really focus on reducing their stress this time of year. They try to be mindful of the anxiety that back-to-school and back-from-vacation can bring and they carve out time to rest, exercise and use Traditional Chinese Medicine to help.

For example, a recent Georgetown University study showed that acupuncture can help reduce the levels of proteins associated with chronic stress in rats and shed light on exactly how acupuncture works to reduce stress.

There are also numerous herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to promote balance and reduce stress:

  • Chrysanthemum tea – this has been used for 1000s of years in Chinese medicine as a daily soothing tea; it also helps maintain a healthy liver.
  • Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube seeds) – in TCM, these seeds are used to reduce irritability, stress and to help treat insomnia.
  • Xiao Yao Wan – is a very popular Chinese herbal formula, Xiao Yao Wan promotes free flow, smooth emotions and overall balance.

There are other ways to help reduce your stress this time of year that are also key to the tenets of TCM and in promoting body balance:

Get outside – even if it’s just for a short walk after dinner, getting out into nature can revitalize your mind and body and help de-stress after a long day in the office, classroom or car.

Sleep – your body can’t function at its best without proper rest; make sure to get your 8 hours!

Appreciation and Gratitude – while this may be a busy time of year, it’s always a good time to take a moment to appreciate what you have, be mindful about your health and be cognizant of your loved ones and family.

 

Enjoy the fall!

Acupuncture to Treat Hot Flashes (and NOT the Kind Caused by Summer!)

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

As women age – gracefully and with awe-inspiring beauty, of course! – two-out-of-three will experience sudden momentary sensations of heat, red, flushed faces and sweating. This is known as the “hot flash” that comes with menopause and it can also bring with it mood swings, rapid heart rate, chills and insomnia. The cause of hot flashes is not known, but they may be related to changes in circulation that occur when a women is experiencing menopause.

While there are hormone replacement therapies and over-the-counter treatments used for menopausal symptoms, there is a growing body of evidence that Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, can be extremely effective.

ABC News recently highlighted a medical study that concluded that acupuncture curbed the severity of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, largely related to mood. The authors of the study based their findings on the experience of 53 post menopausal women whose symptoms were measured on a 5-point scale before and after treatment. One group of 27 women received acupuncture for 20 minutes, twice a week for 10 weeks. The other group thought they were given acupuncture treatment, but the needles didn’t actually penetrate the skin. The women who received real acupuncture showed significant drops in the severity of their hot flashes. You can watch news video of the study here.

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort to educate Americans about the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) also outlines the ways that CAM could help treat the symptoms of menopause. This helpful NIH Fact Sheet talks about how mind and body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong and acupuncture may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms.

So, yes, while it’s summer and everyone is a bit warmer these days, you don’t have to suffer through the hot flashes associated with menopause. Think about Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture as a potential treatment and speak to a licensed acupuncturist to see if it may be an option for you.

If you live in the Philadelphia, PA area, contact Empirical Point Acupuncture to learn more about the conditions acupuncture can treat including hot flash relief.

Cancer: Can We Prevent or Pre-Empt It? If Yes, How?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

On a daily basis, you may not think about your chances of getting cancer – and that’s probably a good thing for your mood. But, statistically speaking more than one million people get cancer in the U.S. every year and 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime. Those odds are staggering and can seem overwhelming. I’ve worked with men and women battling a range of different cancers and have seen acupuncture positively support a broad spectrum of treatment regimens, including pharmaceutical intervention, chemotherapy, reconstruction and preventative surgery. Along those lines, these cancer statistics are leading more and more people to take preventative measures to beat cancer before they even get it.

You probably recently read about Angelina Jolie getting a preventative double mastectomy because she carried the BRCA1 gene, which increased her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer, which claimed the life of her mother at age 56. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Jolie wrote that her doctors estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Jolie took the risk seriously and decided that the choice for her – and her family – was preventative surgery. She opted for this path long before cancer became a reality for her and joined a growing number of Americans that are doing so.

Some recent studies have found that an increased awareness of cancer risks, understanding of the disease and insurance coverage for the preventative surgery if the patient carries a gene identified with cancer are leading more and more patients to take the route that Jolie did. This NPR blog looked specifically at the preventative mastectomy trend earlier this month.

But what about those of us that don’t carry a gene like BRCA1? Our lifetime chances of getting cancer are still frighteningly high. So, what can we do to prevent or preempt the disease? Anything? Thankfully, the answer is yes.

The Mayo Clinic recently issued “Cancer Prevention: 7 Tips to Prevent the Disease” and offers some sage advice, including:

  1. Don’t use tobacco
  2. Eat a healthy diet
  3. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
  4. Protect yourself from the sun
  5. Get immunized
  6. Avoid risky behaviors
  7. Get regular medical care

We can’t prevent all ailments or preempt all disease, but we can take responsibility for our health, our exercise habits and our commitment to mental focus…and, in extreme cases, we can take preventative measures if they could minimize our cancer risk. Like Jolie said in her New York Times piece:

“Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”

Author Sharon Sherman practices acupuncture and chinese medicine in the Philadelphia, PA area. 

 

Battling Eating Disorders: How Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture Can Help

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Did you know that in ancient China, eating disorders were considered to be the result of a ghost or demon invading the body? While modern science and medicine have ruled out that root cause, treating an eating disorder is still very much a battle for each patient…one that can be long, arduous and require several different treatment approaches to ultimately triumph.

There are two eating disorders that are most common here in the U.S. – anorexia nervosa (when a patient severely limits food intake) and bulimia nervosa (when a patient binge eats and then purges by inducing vomiting).  Both are serious medical conditions that are best treated by psychological counseling and conventional medical treatment and supervision.

Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can also play a role in supporting eating disorder patients and accelerating their recovery. Specifically, there are three types of symptoms or conditions associated with eating disorders for which Chinese Medicine has been shown to be effective:

Stress

While an eating disorder has outward physical signs, symptoms and hallmarks, the root of the disease is psychological and driven by the patient’s desire to be thin. This unending quest takes a toll on the body, but also on the patient’s stress levels and emotional well-being. A recent study showed that eating disorder patients receiving acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment felt less stress and anxiety.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Eating disorder patients that are not on a regular diet or are struggling to return to a healthier eating regimen may be experiencing GI issues associated with their eating habits. This can result in abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. A review article in the Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that acupuncture was effective in helping treat GI issues and that “in the future, it is anticipated that acupuncture will be used to treat these [GI] patients in addition to the current therapy. This would also significantly reduce the cost of medical treatment.”

Infertility

Because diet and nutrition are literally the fuel for your body’s engine, eating disorders negatively impact your overall health by weakening all of the body’s systems – cardiac, GI, immune and reproductive. Studies have shown that patients with eating disorders can struggle with infertility later in life.  Studies have also shown that Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can be used to effectively treat infertility, as highlighted in this recent WebMD article about “The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment.”

Eating disorders are devastating to the patient, as well as his/her family and loved ones. Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing body of research and conventional and alternative treatments available to help patients conquer this disease.