Infertility, Wellness & Alternative Medicine
Complete Body Health Methodology
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Everyone experiences digestive upset at some time and many people experience it regularly. In America, it is easiest to point our finger at a combination of a high-sugar and high-fat diet, stress, and large portion sizes. If we eat this way repeatedly, more serious conditions develop other than just an over-full or indigestion feeling. Chronic heartburn and acid reflux, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies have become very common. These digestive symptoms can make us miserable and completely deprive us of the previous enjoyment eating provided. It exemplifies the concept that you can have too much of a good thing and reinforces the Taoist proverb, “moderation is the key to longevity.”
While we are overwhelmed with over the counter medications to treat uncomfortable digestive symptoms, there are often more serious underlying mechanisms causing the continued distress. A stomach can consistently produce too much acid, the motility of the digestive tract can become chronically hyper or lazy and pain from unidentifiable sources can be difficult to alleviate. *
These conditions can be treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Certain acupuncture points have been shown to alter acid secretion, stimulate GI muscle contraction, cause GI muscle relaxation and inhibit gastric acid secretion via the somatosympathetic pathway making acupuncture beneficial in treating GERD, functional dyspepsia, IBS and general GI symptoms. In clinical practice, digestive disorders respond very well to acupuncture and when combined with diet and lifestyle modifications most people can experience a permanent, medication-free relief of their symptoms. Chinese herbal medicine is sometimes used for a short period of time to alleviate certain conditions.
* Takahashi T. Journal of Gastroenterology. 2006 May;41(5):408-17.
Acid reflux or GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a digestive disorder where the stomach juices and bile regurgitate back up into the esophagus. The stomach has a special lining to protect itself from the harsh acidity of these juices but the esophagus does not. Heartburn is the term for the burning sensation in the esophagus when acid reflux happens. The painful burning is usually felt in the middle of the chest, just behind the breastbone.
The physical cause for acid reflux is a relaxation of the sphincter muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus. The most likely cause of this is an overly full stomach. However, acid reflux can be triggered by many things including alcoholic or carbonated beverages, eating too fast or too much, eating fatty or spicy foods, drinking too much caffeine, or eating too much high-fiber foods. Heartburn has also been shown to be worsened by anxiety and depression.
Healthy digestion also depends on overall good health habits such as moderate regular exercise and at least the minimum amount of sleep.
Acupuncture can be used to reduce acid reflux.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic gastric inflammatory diseases with unknown cause. In colitis the inflammation focuses more on the lower GI and rectal areas. The manifesting symptoms are pain and chronic diarrhea which contains pus and blood. Because there is no known cause for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, western medical treatment focuses on relief of symptoms. The causes can be constitutional deficiencies, an infection or invasion by an outside pathogen, or dietary. An accurate diagnosis relies upon the various symptoms related to digestion as well as the whole body system. The compilation of concerns will show a pattern of disharmony. Treatment is then applied accordingly, usually with great success.
An article written by John K. Chen for Medical Acupuncture, “A Journal Written For Physicians, By Physicians,” in Volume 13 Number 3 illustrates the difference between the western and eastern approach to Colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. He concludes that Oriental medicine offers an effective treatment for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. This article examined the effects of both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, finding them both safe and beneficial for resolving pain, diarrhea and dysentery symptoms.
The term constipation can mean infrequent or hard stools, or it can refer to difficulty passing stools. Constipation may involve pain during the passage of a bowel movement, the inability to have a bowel movement after straining for longer than 10 minutes, or no bowel movements at all for more than 3 days. The most common causes of constipation include a low-fiber diet, lack of physical activity, stress, travel, inadequate intake of fluid each day, or delay in going to the bathroom when you have the urge to defecate. Other causes are IBS, pregnancy, thyroid conditions, depression, neurological diseases, or certain medications. Serious causes such as colon cancer are rare but should not be ruled out until examination by your gastroenterologist.
Constipation and diarrhea, while very common, are one of the least talked about physical complaints. An Naturopathic Physicians and acupuncturists always begins their initial consultation with a whole-body review because stool consistency and frequency is a very important part of general health. The effects of irregular bowel movements are often poor food absorption and fatigue, sallow complexion or frequent break-outs, pain in the lower abdomen, upset in appetite and weight control, and more. When someone is not eliminating their waste at a regular rate and consistency, it is a clue of a deeper imbalance within the body.
Certain nutrients, botanicals, homeopathic remedies, and acupuncture points have an effect on GI motility. The treatment will either be used to relax a more spastic colon or to stimulate peristalsis.
Within the concepts and theories of Chinese medicine, there is a more complete method of interpreting digestive disorders. When someone has very dry and difficult to pass stool, herbs will be given to moisten the intestines and long-term treatment will focus on re-establishing a less dry digestive environment. When someone has chronic, explosive diarrhea that burns and causes pain, acupuncture will help calm the large intestine and herbs will be given to remove toxins such as bacteria or virus and to clear heat from the digestive system. Likewise, when someone experiences chronic watery painless diarrhea, acupuncture will be used to tonify the digestive system and herbs will be given to warm the digestion so that food is transformed into usable energy more efficiently.
All of these treatment scenarios have a side-component of diet and lifestyle modification. Often bowel movements can be improved with different food choices and better eating habits such as chewing thoroughly, taking time to eat, etc. Your acupuncturist will listen to your diet habits and discuss with you changes that will benefit your specific intestinal issues.
Today, many people are familiar with the symptoms and risks associated with diabetes, as well as its seemingly epidemic proportions in the United States. There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Common symptoms of diabetes include: excessive thirst, increased appetite, frequent urination, low energy, blurry vision, frustration or irritability, weight loss and tingling or numb sensations in the hands and feet. Many of these symptoms are attributed to other aspects of a person’s life and lifestyle, and are frequently ignored as “minor things.” If left untreated, however, diabetes can result in very serious complications such as: poor circulation, slow wound healing, heart attack, stroke, blindness, nerve damage and kidney failure.
When blood sugar levels begin to go out of balance, people encounter the problems of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar levels, and its symptoms include: shakiness, dizziness, sweating, hunger, headache, pale complexion, clumsiness, difficulty paying attention, mood change or sudden irritability. This should be treated promptly (either with glucose tablets or a small cup of fruit juice) to avoid passing out. Hyperglycemia means blood sugar levels are too high. Occasional high blood sugar levels can be due to a change in diet or the amount of food eaten, stress, illness or catching cold. Blood sugar levels that are too high for an extended period of time means a person’s diabetes is not under control and needs to be addressed.
The key to Western Medicine’s effective treatment of diabetes is early diagnosis and consistent attention to diet, exercise and prescription compliance. Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a holistic approach to the treatment of Diabetes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which encompasses acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, provides a safe and effective alternative for people with diabetes. TCM provides good results for diabetes because it has a diagnostic framework based on specific symptom pictures, which lead to individualized treatment regimens. All Western medications focus on reducing blood sugar levels, but different drugs do so through different physiological mechanisms. TCM success with diabetes is measured by a decrease in blood sugar levels as well, but is achieved by reconciling all the imbalances a person presents with. This means that there is no single acupuncture point or herb that lowers blood sugar levels, but rather, several acupuncture points and Chinese herbs are combined to treat each individual manifestation of diabetes.
Most people use acupuncture and Chinese Medicine as an adjunct in their overall diabetes treatment because they are already using Western medications, but are still unable to control their blood sugar levels. TCM works well with Western treatments and patients are never asked to choose one over the other. The primary goal is to get someone’s diabetes under control. This usually involves concurrent use of Western medications, Chinese herbal formulas, nutritional supplements, and acupuncture. Each person’s individual goals and circumstances are taken into consideration so that treatment reflects his/her needs and desires. Combining TCM, and Western treatments produces better results and does not conflict. Chinese herbal formulas and nutritional supplements are created not to interfere with medications, instead producing enhanced synergistic effects. This approach often helps those people that are otherwise unable to control their diabetes.