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How Does Moxibustion Work Really?

October 18, 2011 2 comments

Using a form of direct moxa for a chronic shoulder injury

One of the most useful modalities in Chinese Medicine is the herb known as Moxibustion.  Otherwise known as Mugwort, Artemisia Vulgaris, or Ai Ye (chinese pinyin); it can be used in a number of different ways.  It can be taken internally, decocted as a tea, applied as a tincture, burned directly on the skin or indirectly just off the skin.

For the purposes of this article we will primarily be discussing the use of Moxibustion directly on or indirectly above the skin.  Generally moxibustion and Acupuncture go hand in hand, it is an extremely useful modality for a wide range of disorders, stages of trauma and disease as well as all ages, constitutional types and individual persons, all of which add to its intrigue.  How can one simple herb be so beneficial to just about everyone?

Mugwort (the type that we ‘burn’) is cultivated from the underside of the mugwort leaf and is packaged up looking like a spongy cotton ball-like material.  This type is generally used ‘directly’; i.e. on the skin, or placed upon the end of an acupuncture needle.  Indirect moxibustion looks more like a large black piece of chalk.  This type is much more functional in the sense that it is ‘smokeless’ and is held just off the skin to create heat and healing, and lowers the risk of getting burned.

So how does it work, and what can you expect from a Moxa treatment?  I have been using moxa a lot lately, 1) because the weather is transitioning toward winter and moxa is a warming modality and 2) because it is extremely useful in reducing inflammation, promoting healthy tissue regeneration and lately I have been surrounded by chronic unhealed injuries lately.

Many people ask how it works, and my tried and true answer is that it’s like using infra-red radiation to mellow out inflammation.  Unlike using heat just on the surface, Moxibustion, like infra-red, penetrates deep into the tissue, muscle or joint affected and though it’s warm to the feel, has the ability to flush out inflammation and essentially cool off the area.  In addition to just treating inflammatory disorders, Moxa is used to:

  • Reduce pain:  acting somewhat like an analgesic
  • Promotes healthy Immunity: when used at specific acupuncture points
  • Promotes kidney Function
  • Treat ulcers & other gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Fertility and menstrual disorders

Following is a great article, written in Acupuncture Today describing in more detail the how’s, why’s & what’s of using Moxibustion.  This article is especially great because there is some really good research to back it all up which is nice for all of us scientific brains out there who like to know how things work!

Article taken directly from Acupuncture Today:

How Does Moxibustion Work Scientifically?

By Yin Lo, PhD

Moxibustion and acupuncture have always gone together as one compound name in the Chinese classics on treatment of illness. We have explained in previous articles in Acupuncture Today how acupuncture works in terms of modern science.

 How does moxibustion work in terms of modern science? The simple answer is that meridians are like optical fibers that transmit infrared radiation.

Fudan University conducted an experiment on meridians and found the following: A high transparency (76 percent) at a wavelength of 2.66 microns has been measured along the axis direction of the collagenous fiber at the Gallbladder meridian on one lower limb in a human body. Along the fiber axis of the Stomach meridian, the transparency is 62 percent at wavelengths of 9-20 microns. The transparency vertical to the axis is 0.4 percent. There is a difference in transparency of more than 240 times between infrared light along the axis and infrared light vertical to the axis of the meridians.

The most interesting thing I have found out on moxibustion is that although it uses heat, it cools down the problem area, so the healing mechanism of moxibustion is the same as needle acupuncture. It is through qi that moxibustion does the work, not the direct incoherent heat that we associate with burning.

Moxibustion can also lower hot spots in painful areas. Please see the following infrared pictures. The color code for the images is as follows: the highest temperature is in white, followed by red, yellow, green, blue, and black.

Infrared image of back, before treatment. Infrared image of back, before treatment. The validity of moxibustion has been confirmed by many recent scientific studies.* It has effects on the immune system, analgesia, the kidneys, colitis, ulcers, neurons, and gene expression. Let us briefly describe them.

The Immune System

Moxibustion at acupoints qi hai (Ren 6) and tian shu (ST 25) inhibited the expression of IL-1 (beta) and IL-a6m RNA in experiments on rats with ulcerative colitis.

Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion. Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion at BL 23, BL 25, BL 18, DU 3 and DU 4. The back warms up as shown. A. Moxibustion at acupoint guan yuan (Ren 4) on sarcoma S180 ascitic mice increases the decreased erythrocytic C3b receptor rosette-forming rate, decreases the raised immunocomplex rosette-forming rate, and increases activity of erythrocytic immunosuppressive factor in tumor-bearing mice. Hence, moxibustion strengthens erythrocytic immunity.

B. On tumor-bearing mice, there is an instant elevation of serum ACTH and beta-EP from moxibustion at guan yuan.

C. Moxibustion at guan yuan on tumor-bearing mice promotes hyperplasia of the pituitary and adrenal glands, stimulates the secretion of beta END from the pituitary and adrenal glands, and increases the level of serum beta-END significantly.

Infrared image of back, two minutes after treatment. Two minutes after treatment, the heat due to the warming effect of moxibustion has gone and the back starts to cool off. D. In arthritic rats, moxibustion at acupoint shen shu (BL 23) could lighten local inflammatory reaction, eliminate swelling, prevent or reduce polyarthritises, maintain weight and shorten the course of the disease. It could help with recovery and promote the effects of concanavalin, inducing splenic lymphocyte proliferation in rates. It could also promote interleukin-2 production, and decrease IL-1 contents.

Analgesia

A. Moxibustion-induced analgesia was studied in rats, which were urethane-anesthetized. Single-unit extracellular recordings from neurons in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis were obtained from a micropipette. Suppression was observed on both wide dynamic range and nociceptive-specific, but not on low-threshold mechanoreceptive units. Moxibustion-induced moderate suppression with a long induction time. It suggested that noxious inhibitory controls may be involved in the analgesic mechanism.

B. The analgesic effect of moxibustion was measured by the latency of tail flinch threshold (LTH) in rats. When the surface temperature was modulated within 38-390 Celsius and 43-440 Celsius, LTH increased 17.7 +/- 2.1 percent and 22.2 +/-2.5 percent, respectively, after 5 minutes (p<0.05).

Renal Function, Colitis, Ulcers, Neurons and Gene Expression

A. The effects of moxibustion at acupoints BL 15 and BL 27 were studied on spontaneously hypertensive rats. Urinary volume was increased for BL 15, but decreased for BL 27. Urinary secretion of Na+ was decreased for BL 15 and BL 27. Systolic blood pressure was decreased for BL 15, but not for BL 27. Plasma levels of aldosterone and renin activity were increased, and atrial natriuretic peptide was decreased for BL 15. Plasma levels of aldosterone and atrial naturiuretic peptide were increased for BL 27.

B. The effect of moxibustion at acupoint Ren 4 on the function of MDR gene product P-glycoprotein P-170 in mice with S-180R adriamycin-resistant tumor cells was studied. A weak inhibition was found when moxibustion was performed at Ren 4 alone, and a very significant inhibition was observed in the presence of low dosage of verapamil, but not at high dosage.

C. Moxibustion at shen shu on experimentally induced gastric ulcerated rats was found to reduce the ulcer area significantly (p<0.05), and increase the zinc content in serum significantly. Pre-treatment by moxibustion had a protective effect on the gastric mucosa.

D. Stimulating acupoint zu san li (ST 36) on rats with a moxa stick can increase the activity of cholinesterase (p<0.05), and inhibit hyperactive gastrointestinal motility (p<0.05).

E. The effect of moxibustion on primary sensory neurons in the skin of rats was studied with immunocytochemistry combined with a fluorescent retrograde tracer dye. Moxibustion was found to induce galanin expression by primary sensory neurons containing substance P.

F. Pre-treatment with moxibustion at BL 23 significantly prevented the formation of gastric ulcer in rats.

It is quite clear from the above studies that the heat, or infrared radiation, from moxibustion preferentially transmits through meridians from acupoints to internal organs. Meridians act like a light pipe. This is consistent with our hypothesis that meridians are made up of water clusters (Lo, 2005).

Ask your Acupuncturist about using Moxibustion at your next visit; it is one of the most relaxing and comfortable experiences you will have in the treatment room!

If you’ve had Moxibustion in the past, what do you think of it?  How has it helped you?  Share your stories as they are usually the most helpful for people when understanding the elusive practice of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine!

Until next time ~

Erin

Sources: 

Lo, Y. (2005). How does moxibustion work scientifically. Acupuncture Today, 06(02), Retrieved from http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30023

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What Your Gut Type Says About You

May 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently I have been reading a lot about blood types.  Ever heard of the Blood Type Diet?   Well, for some reason I have been a little infatuated with the idea of each of us following a certain blood type constitution and have been researching the idea.  Through my ‘studies’ I came to the conclusion that I must be an O type for the following reasons: I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive as a vegetarian and feel best on a high protein diet, I am quite active and do much better with intense exercise and activity.  In addition, over the past year, I have cut close to all grains out of my diet and ironically, my favorite supplement has been tyrosine (all things that go hand in hand with a Type O Blood Type from a personality and nutritional standpoint).   Well, I splurged and finally tested my blood type (yes, I know I should probably already know this), & wouldn’t you know it… I was indeed Type O+.  I am almost exactly what the blood type diet would classify me as, as far as personality, diet and lifestyle.  Coincidence or not, it makes a lot of sense.  For more information on the blood type diet, check out D’Adamo Personalized Nutrition, a website dedicated to providing nutritional support and guidance for those following a blood type diet.

On a similar note, recently a group of researchers observed that just like blood types are a defining aspect of who we are as individuals, so too are the ecosystems of our guts.  Published in the most recent version of Nature, researchers from the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) Consortium discovered that humans fall into 3 basic categories of gut flora, or Enterotypes.  Researchers took fecal samples from a diverse group of people; ranging in age, body mass index, nationality and gender and tested the makeup of their gut flora.  The results showed, that just like we all have a specific blood type, we too have a specific intestinal ecosystem; one of three observed in the study.  There is much we still do not know about this bacteria & we are only beginning to understand and observe the relationship that our bodies have with different microbiota.  As stated in the NYTimes Online, there are about 100 trillion microbes in the human body, and our bodies are made up of about 10 trillion cells (Zimmer, 2011).  I don’t know about you, but 100 trillion is a pretty crazy number!  It seems these microbes are going to tell much more of a story about our living bodies that we initially thought.  They could unlock the key to truly understanding how our bodies react to different environments, lifestyles, emotions, foods and disease.

So what does this mean?  Well, we aren’t really sure.  Of the little we do know about our symbiotic relationship with gut bacteria it seems to be beneficial and supplementing with both pre and pro-biotics has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of many disorders.  This new data opens up many new areas of research and discussion.  In the future, we may just realize that our enterotype tells a lot about our individual tendency toward disease & how we treat it, as well as form a basis for certain constitutional types in general.  Entero-typing could be the new geno-typing & hey, you never know, the next big thing may just be the ‘Enterotype Diet’… & what your gut flora says about you!

Till next time…

~be well~

Erin

Sources:

Arumugam, M., Batto, J.M., Bertalan, M., Borruel, N., & Casselas, F. (2011). Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome. Nature, 473, 174-180.

Zimmer, C. (2011, April 20). Gut bacteria divide people into 3 types, scientists report. NYTimes.com, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/science/21gut.html

Moxafrica

February 7, 2011 2 comments

'Mugwort' By, Barry Cornelius @flickr.com

While Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV are not two diseases that we consider epidemic in industrialized countries (the US); they have reached epidemic proportions in other, less developed countries.  In the US, we are fortunate enough to have access to health care, sanitary conditions, education, vaccines & nutrition; and due to our high stress lives we are much more likely to get completely preventable diseases like heart disease & type II diabetes.  So, while we get carried away dealing with the stresses and strains of our busy, overworked lives, there is a huge contingent of people suffering & dying from diseases that can be treated & possibly prevented; but don’t have the means or access to any of it.  Fortunately there are people out there using ‘new’, or in this case, very old treatment modalities to help those in impoverished areas to ease their suffering.

One modality we use in Chinese Medicine is Moxibustion; Moxa for short.  It’s an herb by the name of Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris, you may know of it or even see it growing in your yard.  It is a particularly powerful herb and can be used in a number of different ways.  You can take it internally, or topically as a plaster, salve or rub; but most commonly this herb is burned either directly on the skin, just above the skin or on an acupuncture needle.  There are many different kinds of moxa as well, they are generally processed differently; some more pure than others, some more smoky than others.  Like anything, it depends on where you get it, who you get it from and what your intention is for using the herb.  Like most things in Chinese Medicine, I find myself talking about it and think to myself, this sounds a little crazy and weird and possibly barbaric.  Yes, we do burn this herb on your skin, however, it isn’t a burning sensation you feel but a calming & very relaxing warmth over an area of the body or a specific point.  It’s really quite nice and therapeutic in more ways than one.  Some common uses include the treatment of digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders (acute trauma and chronic pain), asthma & chronic immune compromising infections to name a few.  In general it has a warming effect on the body and works very well to bring blood supply to the area, increase the healing capacity of the tissue, as well as emit a systemic improvement in your bodies natural immunity.  The power of Moxa (or mugwort ) is much more than a sensation of warmth on the skin (which in itself is nice), it goes much deeper than that and causes a plethora of positive reactions deep to the tissue effecting the whole body and not just one area.  For more information on Moxa and its different uses complete with pictures and video; check out this Facebook page:  Moxibustion:  The Power of Mugwort.

Moxa therapy has been shown to increase immune function, specifically increase white blood cell counts, anti-inflammatory cytokines & anti-body production.  In addition to just improving your immunity and helping when you are simply feeling a bit down, it has proven to be particularly helpful in treating (you guessed it) TB and HIV.  Ever wonder how we treated disease before there were vaccines and pharmaceuticals?   When TB swept the country of Japan back in the 1930’s their primary treatment method was Moxa therapy.  It proved especially helpful in improving life expectancy (of both the sick and the healthy), decreasing the symptoms associated with TB and raising the spirits of those who were afflicted by the disease as well as those who weren’t.

Presently moxa is still used in China & Japan as well as by Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine practitioners across the United States and the world.  In Japan it is so ‘popular’ that there are many who practice only Moxibustion therapy, (Moxibustionists) and there are many different levels of licensing for practicing Moxa.  In addition to its therapeutic relevance, Moxa therapy is also cost-effective and easy to access; two very important aspects that a developing country, stricken by large numbers of TB and HIV could benefit from.  One organization recognized the benefits of Moxa and is bringing this wealth of knowledge to Africa to help treat those suffering from both TB and HIV.  The organization is called Moxafrica & originated in 2008:

It arose directly from a feasability and fact finding trip last December to Lyantonde, a truck stop town four hours from Kampala on the main route connecting Rwanda and the Eastern Congo to the whole of East Africa. Lyantonde has an unfortunate reputation as a focus for prostitution and HIV/AIDS, the town being home to the first ever officially recorded case of AIDS in Africa.

Our aim was to assess how they would feel about the idea of burning something on the skin, and whether they would consider it an acceptable therapy to try out in their own work places. Additionally we wanted to assess how easy it might be to teach African health workers basic moxa skills.  We soon had them all rolling moxa, both making and burning tiny cones with impressive dexterity.

The following day we were invited to demonstrate moxa treatments on two patients, one of them a very sick man co-infected with TB and HIV. He was terribly wasted by the two diseases, cared for by his sister who was vainly trying to administer his daily medication. After we had finished treating him, using the minimum possible stimulation of moxa because of his dreadful condition, we used a trainee to help us explain to his sister how to use moxa and how to locate a treatment point, leaving her clear instructions on a simple protocol to follow every day, building up dosage if he strengthened.

What we suspect we witnessed at this moment was something we had not even considered previously – that teaching the carer of such a sick person a simple moxa protocol fundamentally offered her something meaningful to do for her brother, and was offering her something maybe even more important as well – hope.  We’re not sure yet how significant this might turn out to be.

To our knowledge this was the first time that a moxa protocol for TB from the 1930’s has ever been used to treat anyone co-infected both with TB and AIDS anywhere in the world. Two weeks after we got back we got the following extraordinary feedback:  “Frank’s response was truly fantastic. I wish you had seen the joy in his sister/attendant as she explained to us how he had improved. I think everyone was just so excited, as he seemed so ill.”

Two days after the treatment began, it transpired that Frank was out of bed, walking tentatively in the ward, and eating.

Cautiously, we found ourselves asking whether this simple treatment might really be able to make the sort of difference we hope it might (www.moxafrica.org, Feb. 6, 2011).

And thus, the project began and continues to inspire those afflicted by disease in an impoverished community.  To continue reading about the program & additional studies regarding Moxa, please check out their website and if you feel so inclined, please donate to the cause.

Link:  Moxafrica.org

In addition to this organization there are a number of others up and running in Africa as well as other countries including our own (the US) that I’ve written of in previous posts:

The Flying Needle: An organization also based in South Africa, helping those with HIV/AIDS

Acupuncturists Without Borders: An organization set up to help with traumatic events; i.e. Katrina and the 911 incidence

The Acupuncture Relief Project:  A project stationed out of Nepal which was founded by a fellow OCOM graduate

Until next time, ask your Acupuncturist about Moxa treatment & as always…

~Be well~

Erin

Sources:

Moxibustion: the power of mugwort fire. (2010, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moxibustion-The-Power-of-Mugwort-Fire/127985768455?v=wall

Moxafrica. (2010, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.moxafrica.org/index.html

Wilson, Carla, Breaking the Silence in South Africa, www.acupuncturetoday.com, Dec. 1st, 2009The Flying Needle Project, Dec. 1st 2009




Treating Eczema

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By, clevercupcakes @ flickr

As if people suffering from Eczema really want more to deal with, a study recently published in the British Journal of Dermatology claims that using emollient skin lotions that contain Sodium Laurel Sulfates (SLS) on eczematous skin might exacerbate the problem.  What’s more, people who have itchy/eczematous skin apply these lotions liberally as a means to soothe the skin & it’s one of the commonly prescribed forms of treatment regarding eczema.

“Our study has found that rubbing aqueous cream containing SLS into the skin thins this protective barrier, making the skin more susceptible to irritation by chemicals.

“So to use this cream on eczematous skin, which is already thin and vulnerable to irritation, is likely to make the condition even worse.”

Postgraduate researcher Manda Tsang worked on the project as part of her PhD CASE studentship funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council with York Pharma Plc.

Tsang said: “Eczema affects around 30 per cent of the population, an increase from around five per cent a generation ago.

“This is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as central heating and carpets that can encourage dust mites, and using more creams and cosmetics that can thin the skin if used too frequently (University of Bath, 2010).

Being a victim of skin issues (basically all my life), I suffered from eczema that got progressively worse in my early twenties and lasted up until this past year.  Thankfully, I have been lucky enough to manage it on my own through chinese medicine, chinese herbs, acupuncture, diet and lifestyle… but it took years of me trying product after product and consulting doctor after doctor  to realize that nobody actually did know how to help me.

Eczema is right up there with asthma and allergies; these three disorders actually make up what we refer to as the Atopic Triad (they are commonly found in conjunction with one another and are very obscure disorders that are affecting more and more people).  Steroid creams have their place in treatment and can be very helpful, however, research shows these are only safe to use for two weeks at a time, not a lifetime.  We can identify the things that exacerbate these conditions (sometimes) & work to avoid them; but sometimes it is so many different things causing the eczema that sifting through them can be exhausting, frustrating and time-consuming.  Not to mention the fact that it could be the very thing that we think is helping, which is making it worse… much worse.  Case in point, sodium laurel sulfate’s (SLS); commonly found in all sorts of dermatologic & cosmetic products.  It has been shown to cause a short list of health issues including organ system toxicity, skin irritation, endocrine disruption and has been linked to cancer.  If you don’t believe me, check out the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic’s database:  Skin Deep.

For me, eczema was a huge struggle, I spent years of sleepless nights, had the pleasure of feeling ‘crazy’ itchy, a sensation that still haunts me to this day, I had numerous patches of eczema pretty much covering all of my limbs and the frustration of not finding help everywhere I looked.  I found relief in steroid creams and the only information I could get from my allergist was a blood test that told us my IgE (that’s the allergy Immunoglobulin that tells you there is an allergic reaction happening in the body) levels were through the roof, but no insight as to what to do about it.  So, I sought care under an acupuncturist and herbalist, changed my diet (cut out grains and most sugars), moved out of the house I was living in and stopped using ANY and all lotions on my skin.  Knock on wood, here I am 8 years later (finally) without a spot of eczema and able to sleep.  Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox, but if there is something positive to take away from all of this, I now have a great appreciation for what I’ve learned through that process and I currently have a couple of cases in clinic who have skin disorders and I’m really enjoying the chance to work with them.  We learn the best from our own life experiences and I only hope I can use mine to help others in need.

Till next time,

~be well~

Erin

Sources:

University of Bath (2010, November 13). Creams used to treat eczema could make it worse, study      suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101018074536.htm

Placebo Or No?

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

There is much debate about Acupuncture and its effects are often compared to that of a placebo.  So what’s the word?  Well, first let’s remind ourselves, what is a placebo and how it works.  According to Wikipedia, “a placebo is a “sham” that creates a placebo effect”… which is “the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work”.

So really, this begs the question, is Acupuncture simply playing a supersensory magic trick on our nervous systems & making us believe that we are getting better when in fact the treatment is “inert”?  As a student of the medicine, I obviously “believe” that it works, however this really isn’t the point at all.  Turns out a placebo is only as effective as long as it is being administered… and research would have it, that Acupuncture does indeed work long after it’s been administered; from weeks to even years down the road in follow-up studies.   This lasting effect is one of the things I find very interesting in all this research. 

Why am I writing about this?  Well, it’s a very pertinent question that I feel is important to answer and understand.  It is a common topic of conversation that patients & friends bring up when the topic of Acupuncture is mentioned.   Also, I am of the mind that the word “belief” should not be used in the same sentence as Acupuncture; it belongs next to words like Santa Claus & The Easter Bunny.  The mounting research and the personal accounts should be enough for us to know that Acupuncture works; but being of an analytical mind myself I can see the benefit in finding the data to back up an argument.  However, like I’ve said before, Acupuncture may be beyond our capable minds to understand at the moment but that certainly doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work & can’t be used as a health modality. 

The following article was printed up in the New York Times about a month ago.  The bottom line in this article is that Acupuncture works but maybe the research is focusing on the wrong questions.  I highly recommend reading it yourself, it brings up some really great points about how the research design we use with western pharmaceutical drugs just doesn’t work quite the same for studying acupuncture.

“Rather than proving that acupuncture does not work, in other words, the study may suggest that it works even when administered poorly. But the real lesson, acupuncture supporters say, is how difficult it can be to apply Western research standards to an ancient healing art”

Articles like this also lead me to question why Acupuncture is given so much trouble & its efficacy is constantly questioned simply because we don’t have an understanding of its exact mechanism of action.  In fact,  many of the pharmaceutical drugs on the market work by… you guessed it,  “mechanisms of unknown action”; and a few of the antidepressants currently on the market work just as well as Placebo, (meaning; a sugar pill will get you the same results as that antidepressant except you get the added bonus of all the nasty side effects).  

So, you tell me…  placebo or no? 

Sources:

Parker Pope, T. (2010, August 23). Studying acupuncture one needle prick at a time. New York Times, Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/studying-acupuncture-one-needle-prick-at-a-time/?scp=3&sq=Acupuncture&st=cse

Placebo Effect. (2010). Wikipedia foundation, inc.. Retrieved (2010, September 16) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo_effect_(disambiguation)

Exercise Tolerance, Acupuncture & the Heart

July 31, 2010 1 comment

By, kyuen13 @flickr.com

Part of the purpose of this blog is to share with you all the bits of information I come across during my studies in Acupuncture & Oriental Medical School.  Personally, I love the medicine and have seen and learned its value in treating diseases of all kinds.  One of the most popular (in the news) uses of Acupuncture right now is in the treatment of pain; there are many positive studies coming out currently promoting its success in pain management & bringing to light (to you, the public) the benefits we may receive from Acupuncture treatments.  From my point of view, pain management is just touching the surface… YES, Acupuncture is wonderful for this; but it can do SO many other things especially when used as an adjunctive therapy with other modalities like chiropractic, body work, herbs, changes in lifestyle etc…. Acupuncture is used to treat a plethora of common ailments as well as rare diseases; a short list includes; allergies, asthma,  adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, auto-immune diseases including various forms of arthritis, the common cold, eczema, pain, it’s even been incredibly useful for post-trauma and drug rehab.  In addition, it can shorten post-surgery healing time, improve your immune function, lessen the amount of time you spend with a cold or flu & assist in balancing hormones…  I think I could go on and on all day, but I will get back to my point.   

I was just perusing this website while I’m finishing up work here at the gym (I work at a Kettlebell gym called Spinach, in downtown Portland as a trainer/coach), and looking up news regarding exercise etc… My initial intention was to find something about Exercise and improving our ability to adapt through movement with the help of Acupuncture as an adjunct and possible performance enhancer, which is a topic I will write about sometime soon I promise…     

So, I found this article Exercise Improves Exercise Tolerance in Heart Patients.   They point out an important idea that we can translate into our lives no matter what our condition.  In this particular study, however, the patients had Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), a disease where the heart as a muscle essentially starts to lose its ability to pump blood properly throughout the body.  This leads to a decrease in cardiac output and a general decline in oxygenation to the rest of the body as well as fluid imbalance in the peripheral body (edema), & a back-up of blood in the heart and pulmonary system (pulmonary edema, or hypertension).  Another aspect that plays a large part in the progression of the disease is the nervous system; ultimately, neurotransmitters released by the nervous system regulate the blood pumping effectiveness of the heart and patients with CHF may have an imbalance or miscommunication going on here.     

Participants in the study were broken up into two groups, one group received 10 sessions of Acupuncture and were treated on a individual basis according to a particular TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis.  The other group was given ‘placebo acupuncture’.     

They found that participants who received Acupuncture   

“could cover a greater walk distance in the time allowed than the placebo patients. They recovered more quickly and tended to feel subjectively less exhausted” (ScienceDaily, 2010).   

Well, we know that Acupuncture has the ability to release endorphins, regulate inflammatory markers, neurotransmitters & balance hormones; we aren’t sure how, but really… does it matter?  When we achieve the desired effect (or a positive effect that we didn’t know we needed)  do we need to understand the exact biochemical pathway from needle insertion to neurotransmitter/hormone release?  The desired effect here seems to be working for these patients!    

Furthermore, the scientists in this study theorize that Acupuncture had an effect on the skeletal muscle, and not necessarily on the cardiac output of the patient; either way, it seems the body became more effective at utilizes the blood that was pumped from the heart.  So, what does this tell us?  Well, good news,  Acupuncture could definitely be helpful with CHF patients, it could help shorten the length of time spent recovering post-surgery (particularly heart surgery), enabling patients to get more out of their rehab and be able to do the things they want to do more easily and in less time…   

In addition, if you wanted to think of this in terms of an otherwise healthy individual who is getting regular Acupuncture, they may be improving neurotransmitter function, regulating imbalances within the nervous system and possibly improving their ability to oxygenate the tissues (ever heard of blood doping?)… Which brings me to another good point I should make regarding Acupuncture.  As far as blood goes, it has been shown to increase white blood cell counts and therefore improve immune function, so why couldn’t it improve the function of our red blood cells, those cells that deliver oxygen to the tissues?!  Sounds good to me… I wouldn’t mind capitalizing on a few more red blood cells to help me chase my boyfriend around on a mountain bike at altitude!  It’s almost like cheating, but not!  You’re just optimizing your body in its most natural state.    

So, take what you will from this, but, Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for the sick and the healthy, and when used in addition to other modalities could increase the quality of your life exponentially!    

    

Sources:    

University Hospital Heidelberg (2010, July 1). Acupuncture improves exercise tolerance in heart patients, German study finds. ScienceDaily.   

Grossman, S., M.D, M.S., & Brown, D., M.D. (2010). Congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema.  Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/757999-overview   

 

“So Easy A Caveman Can Do It?”

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By, Bhimbetka on flickr.com

The theme of the week seems to be cholesterol; good fats and bad fats; eating a healthy diet and living a healthy life-style.  But what does that mean?  It could mean a number of things to different people.  According to the American Heart Association we should decrease the amount of Saturated Fats in our diet, eat whole grains and maintain a low-fat regimen.  Then, there’s the other perspective… decrease grains all together, increase your fat intake (good fats – no trans, hydrogenated etc.) and maintain a moderate protein intake complete with wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and wild-game. 

So which is the “right” one… well, I’ll let you choose for yourself, but hopefully I will get you thinking and give you a little information to do the right thing. 

It’s simple, if you didn’t have the daily conveniences of grocery stores, pre-packaged meals, microwaves & refrigerators, what would you eat?  Yes, our world would look a whole lot different than it does today.  Just think how much you rely on the grocery store to supply you with what you assume to be humanely harvested, healthy food choices… yes, ignorance is bliss… but is it?  I’m guessing that if we didn’t have somebody packaging our food up in pretty boxes, claiming “natural”, “heart healthy”, & “fresh”, half of us would starve and the other half would go, well crazy!  If we didn’t have these pretty boxes and shopping carts, we would have to supply for ourselves… just like the hunter, gatherer’s that are our ancestors.  Farming, hunting and seed, fruit and nut gathering were a daily routine to sustain a healthy diet.  There were no trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, highly processed, or super sugary foods in our diets… so whatever happened to these real, whole foods?  Well, it seems to me, we got sugar happy and lazy and with it; we got heart disease and obesity!

I just went to a little seminar with Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body – Primal Mind (Empower Your Total Health the Way Evolution Intended & Didn’t).  She gave a nice presentation on good fats and bad fats in the diet and what nature intended for us and what it didn’t.  She made a good analogy with the following experiment:  “Put a block of butter outside in the yard, next to a tub of margarine and see which gets eaten first”.  She then went on to say how a client of hers went ahead and tried this, and you know what happened, the butter was gone in under an hour and the margarine, remained untouched for somewhere near a month!  Interesting isn’t it, that even scavenging animals that pick at the trash won’t even touch something so overly processed and preserved, yet we lather it on our food everyday by the bucket-load.  Another good point she made was that the rise of Heart Disease almost exactly correlates to the addition and increase of vegetable oils into the diet.  These along with all the hydrogenation, processing and sugar-coating could just be the deadly killers we’ve been trying to ignore all along. 

Anyway, the big point here is that our bodies rely on good fats from the diet.  By cutting out fats in the diet and maintaining a low-fat diet regiment, we send a signal to the hypothalamus that tells our bodies we are starving… in turn, the body starts storing fat every chance it gets to survive (it’s an instinctual mechanism).  By increasing the glucose intake (carbohydrates from simple sugars etc.) in the diet we essentially throw more fuel on the fire, propogating more of our calories to be stored as fat in the body.  Cholesterol is a necessary part of our bodies and is essential in neurological processes and all basic cellular function.  The cells in our body are essentially made up of fats, that’s what keeps them together & functioning properly.  In addition a high amount of blood cholesterol, should be used as an indicator that there is something else going on in the body.  Western drugs (statins) are good at removing the cholesterol, and lowering your blood levels on paper, but what does that mean?  Basically, by doing so, you take away the fire-fighters @ the scene of the crime and let the fire run rampant… the downside is, that the fire in this case is silent and will subsequently keep burning until it hits the pilot light and the whole place blows up. 

Enter Chinese herbs, Acupuncture, Qi-Gong or some form of Meditation, diet and lifestyle!  All together, these modalities can work wonders and support the natural processes of the body, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, decrease body weight and therefore; body mass index. 

So, just to add the convenience of this topic, I went on the computer this evening to order myself some more Krill Oil from Dr. Mercola.com and the first article on his home page read:  Saturated Fat is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease… coincidence?  I think not! 

I could keep going on and on about the benefits of good fats in the body and why they should be a major part of our diet, but you have to remember that everything in moderation is a key component as well as the way in which foods are harvested and processed (but hopefully not).   Make sure you read the labels, eat as many whole foods as you can; meaning vegetables, fruits and healthy proteins.  No matter what diet you decide to eat, make sure you always buy “wild” salmon & “grass-fed” beef.  Try to eat local and organic, sustainable foods; farmer’s markets are a great source and alternative to store-packaged goods.  For more information on the “Primal Living”, check out Nora’s website and her awesome book:

Since I mentioned it, this brings me to a good point!  I am currently also a trainer/coach at Elite Kettle-Bell Gym in Tigard OR, as well as Spinach in Portland, OR and it has been one of the best things I could have brought into my life.  As you may know I used to be a competitive Freestyle skier back in the day, and love athletic ventures of all kinds.  Kettlebells have definitely made it to the top of my list as far as awesome workouts that get great results without a lot of time and if you are in the Portland/Tigard, OR area, I highly recommend you check it out!  It’s great for all people of ALL athletic abilities, it’s fun and there is always a great group of people with smiling faces around!  The new gym in downtown is amazing, they just opened it up and classes are running Monday through Saturday pretty much all day.  You can check out the schedule on Elite Kettlebell Gym’s website (the link is above) for more information.   Plus it is a great addition to “Primal Living” and any kind of exercise regimen in that case!

Another good source of information on “eating primal” as well as “living primal” is Mark Sisson’s Webpage and Blog:

  • Mark’s Daily Apple – He’s got easy to access information on diet, nutrition exercise and all sorts of primal living details!  Check it out!

Well, that’s enough out of me, I hope you read, listen and link to these sites! 

Happy living and be well,

Erin

Sources:  

Gedgaudas, N. (2009). Primal body-primal mind: empower your total health the way evolution intended (…and didn. Portland OR: Primal Body – Primal Mind Publishing.

Mercola, . (2010, February 25). Saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/02/25/saturated-fat-is-not-the-cause-of-heart-disease.aspx

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