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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

How To Get The Most Out of Your Training

May 15, 2011 4 comments

Benji Hill @ 1st Primal Power Meet in Hailey, ID, HAF April 2011

I recently read an article from mercola.com that inspired me to post on this subject.  Exercise is always supposed to be beneficial right?  Well in most cases, yes, most of us actually do need more exercise & it’s health benefits are not unlike a wonder drug.  However, it seems that the growing trend these days is marketing high intensity, all out exercise all the time.  As you’ll see as I continue, high intensity exercise is great and it serves its purpose… just not every time you exercise.

More isn’t necessarily better:

Somewhere along the way, we got it in our heads that more is better, and in order to get anywhere we have to go all out, all the time and if the results aren’t instant then we’ve failed.  You’ve heard the sayings… “go big or go home”, “no pain, no gain” or even, the latest I recently heard, “if you aren’t puking or on the verge of it, then you’re not working hard enough”… right, well not if I can help it.  I would like to think that I could actually enjoy the process and get some good results without feeling miserable the whole time or like a failure because I couldn’t quite push it hard enough to do a million plus one reps as fast as the next guy!  This is supposed to be fun right?

Recovery:

Without proper recovery, you won’t get anywhere.  You may notice that you have either experienced this before.  Either you aren’t sleeping, you are too stressed or you are simply overtraining.  You may notice that your body feels worse, you are constantly dealing with injuries and illness, you’re groggy and fatigued all the time and you may even be holding on to that abdominal weight some refer to as “the spare tire” or “muffin top” no matter how many crunches you do.  And… what do you do?  More exercise… to push through it.  And what do you get?  A stubborn extra layer of fat and adrenal fatigue.

Your recovery time is absolutely crucial, it is the period of time where your body reaps all the benefits of your exercise and training regimen.  During exercise, your muscles are strained and stressed and broken down… it’s during your recovery where you are actually maximizing on your muscle growth, fat loss and increases in strength.   Recovery accounts for a number of things, including the actual rest (sleep) you are getting; both quality and quantity, your nutrition as well as your lifestyle and relaxation levels.  Sometimes it’s really “less is more”, but it’s finding the balance that always seems to be tricky.

Total Training Load:

In order to understand how much we individually need to train to create just the right balance of training vs. rest and recovery; it is important to understand Total Training Load (TTL).  This is the amount of training “strain” on the body over time.  The beauty of TTL, is that it can be manipulated to suit your own individual needs from workout to workout & day-to-day.  Here are some of the things you can change within your workout regimen; whether you are running, spinning, swinging kettlebells or strength training with free weights.

  • Number of repetitions
  • The amount of resistance or weight
  • Length of workout sets
  • The speed
  • Length of resting intervals

Depending on what you want out of your workout for that day, you can mix it up with this short list of things and get exactly what you need.  The thing you want to remember is that if you overdo it (and you will overdo it from time to time), then you are essentially going backwards and breaking the body down, taxing the nervous system and will likely feel worse, experience more injuries, illnesses and eventually burnout.

It’s all about listening to and understanding your own body.  For most of us, this may not be as easy as it sounds.  It’s easy to say “listen to your body, and rest when you need it”, but how many of us actually know how to listen to our bodies?  If we did, then I likely wouldn’t have a job.

Cycling Intensity:

In general you should cycle the intensity of your workouts between easy, moderate & hard.  So how do you know what your intensity is and how often do you cycle through each?  How do you know when you are actually participating in an easy workout as opposed to a moderate or hard one?  The answer is relatively easy, how much can you talk during the actual workout.

  • Easy:  According to experts an easy workout is one in which you would be able to have a full conversation, speaking full sentences while working between 50 & 75% of your maximum.  This would fall into the category of low-level aerobic activity below.  In general you should be doing 2 easy workouts per each 1 hard workout.
  • Moderate:  This falls right around the 75% mark.  This is where most people camp out.  You are able to speak words but not engage in a full conversation or speak in full sentences.  Your moderate workouts basically fill in the blanks as far as timing and scheduling workouts go.
  • Hard:  This is where you can no longer talk at all, you’re likely reaching your VO2 max.  These workouts are great to supercharge.  For a good balance and to achieve gains in whatever your goals are, 1-2 hard workouts a week, separated by 2 days (at least) is a good baseline to go off.

Types of training:

There are tons and tons of different training styles out there today… one could never get bored researching them… trust me, I’ve spent hours on the computer getting lost in blogs, YouTube videos and research studies on exercise and training.  Your body is adaptable, it’s one of the things that makes us so resilient.  As you can adapt to different climates, situations and even people, you will adapt to exercise if it’s not varied.   Your body will figure out the most efficient way to preserve energy and nutritional stores, it’s a survival mechanism rooted in our DNA; this is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is that we are able to adapt to our surroundings and the curse; your body will hold onto fat like your life depends on it, because at one point, it did.  Hence, the plateau.  I know you’ve all experienced this at some point, you’ve gotten great gains at the beginning (built muscle mass, lost some body fat, gotten stronger and felt better) but then it just stops and no matter what you do… nothing changes and you may even notice you do go backwards.  One of the worst things you could do is continue doing exactly what you’re doing, exactly how you’re doing it.  Mostly people will exercise at about 75% of their max all the time, doing the exact same exercise (a good example is runners).  Switch it up people!  Go harder, go easier… refer to the list above and change-up your workout routine.  What you need is to recharge your system (nervous and cardiovascular) in a different way and shock the body into having to recalibrate and adapt to a new set of criteria.  Otherwise, you may just be stuck on that plateau whether you like it or not.  In addition to the different ways in which you can change-up your intensity and total training load above, the following is just a quick and short list of options to add in to your training regimen.

  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – Just like it sounds, HIIT is a high intensity short burst of exercise.  Much like sprinting, and sometimes referred to as sprint interval training.  In other words if you are feeling pretty confident with your fitness level and try doing some HIIT, prepare to be humbled.  Sprinting would definitely fall into the category of HARD workouts.  HIIT is not limited to sprinting however, you can use this concept with anything else… jumping, bounding, push ups, weights, spinning… you name it.  The key with these, is they are usually short in duration, lasting anywhere from 9-20 minutes for your entire workout.  The original protocol for HIIT training follows a 2:1 ratio; meaning for every 2 (units) of exercise, you recover for 1.  This may sound familiar…
    • Tabata – HIIT that is measured by doing intense bouts of exercise for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  This is great for sprinting and we use it a lot at the Gym with Kettlebells, ropes, boxes and other functional training modalities.
  • Neural Charging –  Still following a similar concept but is based on the idea that you can train more frequently without overtraining.  In general, neural charging uses explosive movements for short amounts of time (stopping before you experience any muscle fatigue, a concept many of us are not used to).  An example of this is doing explosive push ups.  Pushing up off the ground or a box as fast and as explosively as you can for 1 – 5 reps (until you feel you may lose power) and taking out the eccentric part of the movement (the slow lowering of your body back to the floor).  For a more in-depth description, check out Christian Thibadeau’s articles on Neural charging here.
  • The benefits of all the above have been shown to increase your body’s ability to burn fat, improve insulin sensitivity, as well as increase your speed, agility and athleticism.
  • Low-Level Aerobic Activity – Basically anything you do where you can talk with a friend at the same time.  For some workouts, you may even count these as a gym workout, there are plenty of times I’ve been taking it easy at the gym, able to have a full conversation with somebody while I’m lightly swinging a kettlebell.  However, more commonly these workouts are walks, hikes, biking into town, other daily activities outdoors or even indoors.  You could probably count vacuuming as a low-level aerobic activity if you wanted.

Stress and your body:

Stress is a huge part of our lives, some experts say it’s the cause of 90% of disease, (though one could argue it may be high fructose corn syrup and stress causes about 99% of disease)!  Your body can’t differentiate between physical stress and all the other mental and emotional stressors that you experience in a day.  When we work out, our physical bodies are stressed in that we are putting strain on the muscles, the cardiovascular system & the nervous system.  When we are emotionally stressed, our bodies are dealing with the windfall of adrenaline and cortisol spikes and valleys elicited by work, family responsibilities, finances, traffic, deadlines, not getting enough sleep etc… the list goes on and on (you are probably feeling a little bit of this stress right now, just after reading that short list).

For the most part, exercise reduces stress, increases the amount of endorphins your body produces, helps you lose weight, increase focus & improves sleep just to name a few.  However, there is always a balance to be found.  It depends on who you are, how you live and what you deem priority in life.  For example, for some people it’s like pulling teeth just to get them to commit to going for a walk 20 minutes a day 3 days a week… then for others it’s more is always better.  Pain is the name of the game right?  “No pain, no gain”… well to some degree this is true, but in general not to the extreme that we American’s are used to.

First and foremost it is important to find your balance and as far as exercise is concerned.  Here are a couple of notes from Dr. Jeff Spencer, named Sports Chiropractor of the Year, author, olympian and recent author of the article “Fail To Do This After a Workout and Your Whole Effort is Wasted” on Mercola.com. 

  • Should have quick and full recovery after each workout – After a workout you should rebound quickly from the effort and feel almost back to normal within 30-minutes. A prolonged rebound is a sign the workout was too difficult and you need to go easy for a couple of days.
  • Ideal to feel better at end of workout than the beginning – Successful workouts will leave you feeling better at the end of your workout than the beginning. This is a sign of well-trained body.
  • Slight soreness on occasion is OK, but regular soreness isn’t – Slight muscle soreness is normal after starting to exercise, when new exercises are implemented into your workouts or when an increase in exercise intensity is done.
  • Should be able to raise heart rate – A cardinal sign of having the right training balance of effort to recovery is when your heart rate moves up and down nicely during a workout. If your heart rate fails to elevate during a workout you’re over-trained from training too hard too often, and you need time off.
    • Also keep an eye on your resting heart rate first thing in the morning.  If your heart rate is elevated while you are still lying in bed, then you are likely not recovery properly &/or overtrained.  Take this as another indicator that you’ve pushed your threshold and just back off.
  • Heart rate should drop immediately when workout completed – Fitness buffs having ideal intensity variety in their workouts have heart rates that drop down to slightly above normal within 5-minutes of finishing a workout then drop back to normal levels shortly thereafter.
  • Perspiration should stop shortly after training complete– As a rule sweating associated with workouts should stop within a few minutes after exercise is stopped when workout intensity and overall fitness is within ideal range.  If sweating continues 20-30 minutes after exercise it is the sign the workout was too hard, and requires a few easy days to recover from.  If you feel sore then put two or more easy day’s into your program to let your body catch up with itself (Spencer, 2011).

As for the rest of your life, it’s up to you to start decreasing the amount of stressors in your life.  There are many ways to do this and that could be a much longer post… so stay tuned we’ll get there.  Diet is going to play a big part in your total stress too, in short you are better off eating as clean as possible, lots of vegetables, fruits and good clean proteins.  But for now, get some acupuncture, do some yoga or meditation and get a massage!

There are a number of nutritional supplements that you can add to your regimen in order to better deal with stress (both physical and mental emotional), many of them are referred to as ‘adaptogens’ and I regularly cycle through them.  A quick and short list includes:  Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Maca, & Ginseng.  Add to that B-vitamins (complex), Vitamin C (for tissue repair) and a daily multi-vitamin and you should be well on your way.  (If you are currently on a list of a number of other medications please consult your physician before beginning any new supplements, this article is not intended to diagnose or cure & is for informational purposes only).

As an Acupuncturist & Master of OM, chinese herbal formulas can also do wonders to help with stress management and recovery.  In addition to acupuncture treatments, a trained herbalist can put together a mixture of herbs (including some of those listed above) personalized just for you in order to help your body adapt to stressors and strains.

Overtraining & Cortisol Response:

It’s actually an easy thing to do.  Life stressors are always changing and our ability and strength to stay resilient has its own personal ups and downs.  I still struggle with keeping a good balance of how much is just enough in order to get the benefits without the break down.  So what happens to our bodies when we overdo it?  Your body is running on adrenaline all the time, and much like the insulin de-sensitivity that happens with Type II Diabetics, we become a little less sensitive to the constant influx of adrenaline-like substances coursing through our bodies and literally get sick and tired.

Just like we need to exercise, but not too much, we also need Cortisol… just not too much.  It is a necessary hormone and in moderate amounts will regulate glucose, insulin, blood pressure, the immune system and our inflammatory response.  Aptly referred to as the ‘stress hormone’ it is released as a means to improve mental acuity, kickstart your immune system and shuttle glucose to where it may be needed during acute episodes of stress.  However, our bodies were never meant to experience stress all the time, especially at the levels we are accustomed to today.  The fallout of having elevated levels of cortisol in the bloodstream for prolonged periods of time makes up a very long list of maladies including (and not limited to):

  • a decrease in muscle tissue and bone
  • decreased immunity
  • increased blood pressure and likelihood of experiencing a cardiovascular accident
  • blood sugar imbalances
  • lowered thyroid function and
  • an increase in abdominal fat (that stubborn muffin top that never seems to disappear no matter what you do).

Just like Goldilocks, you’ve got to find the right fit for you in order to achieve the maximal benefits from your exercise whether you are looking to gain size, increase strength and muscle, lose fat or just to reduce your stress level.

So… go on, get out there and enjoy your training regimen, switch it up and cycle your TTL’s & don’t forget how important your recovery time is.  Get the benefits that exercise was meant to give you without the frustrations of never getting it right!  Have fun and I’ll see you in the gym… or at the office.

Till next time ~ be well,

Erin (soon to be LAc., MAOM)

Sources:

High Intensity Interval Training. (2011). Wikipedia. Retrieved May 14, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-intensity_interval_training

Scott, E. (2008, February 5). Cortisol and stress: how to stay healthy. Stress Management, Retrieved from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm

Spencer, J. (2011, May 13). Fail to do this after a workout and your whole effort is wasted. Mercola.com, Retrieved from     http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2011/05/13/getting-fit-doesnt-mean-killing-yourself.aspx

Thibadeau, C. (2010, December 16). Neural charge training. T-Nation, Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_neural_charge/neural_charge_training

Kettlebells & The Skogg System!

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

on the set...

It’s official! The DVD is complete and it’s shipping out as we speak!  If you are new to my blog and me; I am currently a full-time graduate student at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine as well as a Kettlebell coach at Skogg Gym in downtown Portland.

Now, add to that list; kettlebell fitness ‘talent’ in the new DVD series by Michael Skogg; former Navy Seal and face of Weider PowerBells:

The Skogg System!

This project has been in the works for some time now and is finally complete and ready to buy.  We’ve gotten it out there via the web; either on…

  • Skogg Gym’s website:  SKOGG Gym
  • Amazon
  • Or if you are in the Portland, OR area at our Gym (10th and Everett)!

Check it out and let me know what you think!  It’s been a crazy past 3 years for me with school and work but good things come to those who work hard and I’ve been workin’ hard!  Here’s a little teaser for you…

 

Need more proof?  Burn more calories in less time and get the best workout of your life 🙂 Check out this article by ACE Fitness:  Study Reveals Kettlebells Provide Powerful Workout in Short Amount of Time

Also, keep updated on the Skogg System DVD series, the gym and all things Kettlebell here on Sue Skogg’s (Michael’s other half; co-owner of the Skogg gym, and Executive Producer of the DVD) Blog:  Skogg Sytem: Sue’s Journey

Till next time, keep swingin!

Erin

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

Just Be

July 23, 2010 2 comments

By, hwinther @flickr

I recently just had the most wonderful 3 week vacation ever!  It was filled with Idaho outdoors, sunshine, relaxation, weddings, bbq’s, mtn. biking, road riding, friends & family… just to name a few!  I’m clearly still in denial that we started our summer term this Monday and have been daydreaming about riding my bike and running the trails back home in Ketchum, Idaho ever since I got back to Portland. 

It’s funny how you don’t think you are stressed at times until you realize what it’s like to feel completely at ease and in full relax mode.  That being said, I’m working on prolonging my Zen attitude from the break and bringing it with me through this term and next year as well as in work and all aspects of my life.  I just feel so much better!  Everything seems to align; my health, my diet, my energy, mood and emotional well-being all seem to be on the ups when I’m relaxed and stress-free.  So, I just wanted to share this blog post that I just read since it says exactly what I would have said had I put the time into making a list of ways to be Zen in your whole life as well as productive with your personal, work and social life.  After all, stress accounts for something like 90% of ALL disease!  That statistic is crazy and yet so easy to change…

“How to be insanely productive and still keep smiling” – Zen Habits Blog

Also, on this same note of living well and ultimately finding a passion that makes you happy and healthy in your life; one of my summer fun reads at the moment is Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman.  I’m not quite done with it, but I’m loving it & don’t want it to end.  I’m a total sucker for these inspirational books and this one has a little bit of the Star Wars/Karate Kid feel to it… I’ll have to post a good quote from there sometime soon… it’s just full of them!  And while I’m on the subject new favorite book that you’ll have to read whether you are a runner or not, is Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall.  I just about read the whole thing in one sitting!

Till next time,

~be well~

Erin

Making Soup As Medicine

March 9, 2010 Leave a comment

By, Sebastian Mary on Flickr

Turns out medicinal soup can be good tasting as well as good for you!  I am missing school again today… thought I’d kicked my little stomach bug over the weekend, but it’s back again.  It might seem like I’m trying to miss as much school as I can right before finals start…. but lets just hope I kick this thing in the next day, or it’s gonna be a tough next two weeks!  At first I thought I was just over-exhausted; which is highly possible and probably the reason that I got this thing in the first place, but I’ve managed to stay right on the cusp of giving fulling in to this fun little virus… let’s hope it stays that way, it doesn’t sound fun otherwise. 

As I am sure you really want to hear me rant about my sickness, the real reason for my post is that I just concocted a delicious soup with Chinese and Western herbs to calm my stomach and it’s actually quite delicious as well as easy to get down and keep down.

Here are my ingredients:

  • Chicken Stock
  • Homemade elk sausage, which was harvested with a bow and arrow by my boyfriend:  Just a little for the protein
  • Cauliflower:  Just another cruciferous vegetable & has been shown to reduce the severity of prostate cancers… though this doesn’t help me out much today in terms of the prostate or the cancer, but I figure if it works for that, its got to do something good for my body so why not!
  • Sweet Potato:  Just for some sustenance, plus they have a low glycemic index
  • Chard:  Is packed with Vitamin K, which promotes healthy bone re-mineralization; which from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) viewpoint, is directly associated with the Kidney energy and therefore any boost to that system will essentially help kick the body into gear.  From another point of view, promoting bone re-mineralization directly relates to the bone marrow and thus by improving marrow development; immune cell growth and function benefits as well!
  • Mushrooms:  An immune system boosting vegetable in more ways than one!
  • Lot’s of Garlic:  Stimulates the immune function via macrophage & lymphocyte activity.
  • Chunks of Ginger Sheng Jiang:  For nausea and vomiting
  • Elderberry:  For its anti-viral properties and has been researched and proven to be effective in the treatment of the flu virus.
  • Orange Peel Chen Pi: To calm my upset stomach
  • Olive Leaf Extract:  Anti-viral & has been shown to increase the number of white blood cells, macrophages and lymphocytes.
  • Astragalus Huang Qi:  To boost immunity, & build the Wei Qi (basically the chinese way of saying boost immunity), also has some anti-cancer effects and good for general fatigue as well as stress management.

So far so good, it was absolutely delicious and I found all the ingredients at Limbo in the “aisle of herbs” (my favorite!)

Now along with some rest and relaxation, lots of teas and water & some Acupuncture I will (hopefully) be back on my feet in no time!

~till next time, be well~

Erin

Sources: 

Bruno, G. (2004). Building immunity & promoting wellness with botanicals and antioxidants. Literature Education Series on Dietary Supplements, Retrieved from http://www.hchs.edu/literature/Immunity%20Wellness.pdf

Lamm, D.L., & Riggs, D.R. (2001). Enhanced immunocompetence by garlic: role in bladder cancer and other malignancies. Journal of Nutrition, 131. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/131/3/1067S

Overview of the Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption for the Dietetics Professional Selected Literature
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 100, Issue 12, Pages 1511-1521

Sisson, M. (2009). Smart Fuel: Swiss Chard. Marks daily apple. Retrieved (2010, March 8) from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/smart-fuel-swiss-chard/

 

Toxic babies?!

February 8, 2010 Leave a comment

 I just got this email from the President of the Environmental Working Group and wanted to share.  In this day and age, it is almost impossible to avoid environmental toxins; it’s in the air we breathe, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the water we drink & the house we live in to name a few… you’d pretty much have to live in a bubble to be sure you weren’t being affected by anything; & then you’d probably be worried about plastic off-gassing, BPA and CO2 emissions anyway!  The real, unfortunate thing these days however, is that we can’t even catch a break from the moment we are conceived!  Even in what seems like a very sterile, nourishing & protected environment like the placenta, free from (what we assume) outside contact; we are directly influenced by whatever the mother is exposed to, be it any of the afore-mentioned toxins.   With this in mind, get informed, be smart about your health and the environment you live in.  

Here are a few quick tips: 

By, Daniel Hurst Photography on Flickr.com

1.  Find healthy, local and/or organic foods 

  • Sometimes local is just as important as organic!
  • Learn to sustain yourself; grow a garden (see Tip #4 below), get some chickens & goats, & if you really want to get primal, hunt for your own meat!

2.  Think about getting an air filter/sanitizer *especially if you have asthma &/or allergies*  

  • I like to use Dr. Mercola’s Website for a lot of these, mostly because I know he’s done his research on marketing only the best products and it gets a little overwhelming when searching for these things on your own, there are so many products out there all claiming the same thing and it’s nice to know you are getting a good product for your money!  Dr. Mercola.com

3.  Get a water purifier for both your tap (drinking) & shower *your skin is the largest organ on your body and we absorb almost everything through our skin, without the added benefit of detoxing it through out Livers before it’s absorbed straight into our blood*; and if you really want to get into it, look into getting a water ionizer, to both filter and alkalize your water, giving you the benefit of a more hydrating water molecule as well as creating a more alkaline environment inside your body

4.  If you have a garden, check your soil for heavy metals and previous pesticide/herbicide use.  

  • Use oats to check for herbicide/pesiticides:  Clean Air Gardening Blog 
  • To test your soil, call your local Health Department and send in a sample.  You should be able to look up areas of concern through the local Health Department as well.  Some areas are more prone to lead or other heavy metal accumulations than others and this is all tracked and recorded.  
  • Or you can order soil tests as well to get a whole plethora of information about your soil:  Dr. Good Earth.com

The Environmental Working Group is a great resource as well as Dr. Mercola’s website.   EWG has great info about farming, children, chemicals, water, food and even cosmetics and skin products; they have been very active these days in changing the way our government controls these things in our daily lives!  So finally onto my initial purpose for writing up this blog post… please read below to see their most recent agenda:  

Dear Erin,
On Thursday, I testified in a U.S. Senate hearing, and I want to tell you what I told the Senators.  Babies are coming into this world pre-polluted with toxic chemicals.  When EWG tested the umbilical cord blood of 10 Americans, we found nearly 300 chemicals, including BPA, perchlorate, fire retardants, lead, mercury, and PCBs.  The best way to stop this pre-pollution is to enact the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act, which would require that chemicals be proven safe for children before they can be sold.  Click here to sign our petition.
  

By, Paul D'Andrea

Now is the time for Congress to introduce the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act.  The chemicals are in us. The risk of disease and illness is serious.  The chemicals we found are increasingly linked to serious long-term health effects, from childhood cancer and autism to ADHD, learning deficits, infertility, and heart disease. We need a system for assessing chemicals so our children get the healthy start they deserve. The longer Congress waits, the more babies are exposed.  

Sign EWG Action Fund’s petition to Congress
Join the 1000’s of other Americans who are telling Congress it’s time for a real federal toxics law that will make chemicals in consumer products safe for kids.
Click here to add your name to our petition. Congress needs to hear from you right now. We’ve waited long enough.
Thank you for speaking up for a new national chemical policy that places human health front and center — right where it should be.
Sincerely,
  

Ken Cook, President
Environmental Working Group
and EWG Action Fund
  

Don’t just take my word for it, be informed about these things, they affect your health and well-being as well as those you love and lets face it, without these essential things, we miss out on living the life we dream of!  Our health is the basic building block of our lives! 

~be well~  

ErinSources:  Cook, Ken. “Thursday.”  Email to the author. 6 Feb 2010;  www.ewg.orgwww.marksdailyapple.comwww.mercola.com

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