Fibromyalgia affects approximately two percent of the U.S. population or around five million people. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome with many different symptoms that can vary from patient to patient: the primary symptom all fibromyalgia patients share is widespread, diffuse pain that persists as well as sleep disturbances. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown although many people with the condition have a history of either physical or emotional trauma. Check out our downloadable HELP SHEET on Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia.
ACUPUNCTURE & THE ADRENAL GLANDS
The adrenal glands tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system in the body and they produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline and steroids like cortisol and aldosterone. These small little glands are vital to the well-being of all humans. These hormones help the body control blood sugar, burn fat, react to stressors and regulate the blood pressure. The adrenal glands produce the hormones all day, every day. But they kick into overdrive when the body is stressed. This makes the adrenals extremely important. Studies show chronic stress can severely impact the adrenal glands ability to continually produce the hormones needed to sustain life. This is where the term “adrenal fatigue” comes into play.
Adrenal fatigue is more commonly known as HPA Axis Dysregulation. HPA stands for hypothalamus pituitary adrenal, which are all part of the endocrine system. When a person experiences HPA Axis Dysregulation, the adrenal glands have a difficult time producing the required levels of stress hormones and sex hormones and various neurotransmitters. This is why people with adrenal fatigue feel tired all the time. This is also the time the body should be offered some extra support.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views things differently than Western medicine, but the adrenal glands are still an important part of the body. TCM treats the adrenal glands as part of the kidneys and the kidney energetic pathway. This means the adrenal glands are part of the water element. The kidney area is seen as a key role player that determines the quality of life in TCM. This is because the kidneys control the internal Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is considered the body’s life force.
The body is a complicated machine that has a very efficient self-regulating system. When the body is depleted of quality food or sleep, then it will not be able to function and carry out all the important functions. This is why many people experience eating binges or extreme fatigue accompanied by excessive sleep when they are under severe stress.
Everyday stress can drain the body of energy, nutritional reserves and Qi over time. When this occurs, the body may experience a breakdown, a drop in immunity or great fatigue. If this continues, adrenal fatigue may develop. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands become weak and then produce insufficient amounts of the hormones needed for everyday life. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include low libido, food cravings, general malaise, emotional problems, weight gain, low immunity, difficulty concentrating and thyroid issues.
TCM offers a couple of possible solutions to treating weakened adrenal glands. Acupuncture treatments and moxibustion can greatly help the adrenals. Regular acupuncture treatments can strengthen the kidneys. Over time, the adrenals/kidneys will regain some of their Qi, thus helping the body to fuel and heal itself. Acupuncture is so effective because it helps reduce stress and it turns on the relaxation part of the nervous system. When the relaxation side of the nervous system is turned on, the heart rate will return to normal, digestion will improve and sleep will become deeper and more restful.
In fact, in a series of studies performed and published by Georgetown University Medical Center, researchers demonstrated how acupuncture can decrease stress hormones using rats as the models. The studies were performed by Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, L.Ac. She used electroacupuncture on a specific acupuncture point, Stomach 36, which is known to reduce stress levels. What she found was electroacupuncture actually blocks chronic, stress-induced elevations of hypothalamus pituitary adrenal hormones. This series of studies provides evidence acupuncture can be very beneficial to nearly everybody through the use of just one acupressure point.
Moxibustion is another tool in the TCM toolbox that can help heal the adrenal glands. Moxibustion is the burning of a dried herb, specifically mugwort. The mugwort is placed on specific acupuncture points that are known to tonify or improve the Qi associated with the kidneys/adrenal glands. Both moxibustion and acupuncture can be performed frequently to help bring the body back into balance.
Incorporating healthy eating habits, regular exercise and restful sleep can also keep the adrenal glands performing well. But when we are stressed, many of the things we know are good for us, tend to get moved to the back burner. This is where getting regular acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial. So if excessive stress is a factor in your life, consider adding acupuncture treatments that can help you relax mentally and keep you healthy physically.
The common cold is something everybody deals with and there are a thousand different suggestions on how to avoid catching a cold. Everything from megadoses of vitamin C to increasing your sleep time. And while some of these are not bad ideas, there is not a lot of proof they can prevent a cold. Some people have stronger immune systems than others and this plays into how often they get sick. Also, there are many environmental factors to account for. And while nothing is going to work every time for every person, there are still ways a person can prepare for cold season.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for nearly 3,000 years and it utilizes many different tools to help people stay healthy. According to TCM theories, there are six causes of disease: wind, cold, summer heat, dryness, dampness and fire. The human body has to adapt to changes in these elements in order to remain healthy. The main cause of the common cold is wind and it is often associated with sudden or abnormal changes in the weather. Wind frequently combines with other forces to cause different types of illnesses. The most common are wind cold and wind heat.
Wind cold invasions cause the types of colds that are usually experienced during the snowy winter months. Wind heat invasions cause the types of colds that are commonly seen during the warmer months, when the seasons change from spring into summer and summer into fall.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been very successful in treating people who suffer from frequent colds. Every person has an immune system that usually fights off invasions of bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, when a person is under a lot of stress or doesn’t sleep well or doesn’t eat right, then that immune system can become compromised and a cold may develop. TCM emphasizes prevention through the use of acupuncture, herbal formulas and diet.
Regular acupuncture treatments can increase a person’s immunity, making it easier to fight off any foreign invaders. Herbs such as Angelica root is also frequently prescribed to rid the body of viruses. Andrographis or Chuan Xin Lian in Chinese is another herb that is frequently used because it reduces the severity of cold symptoms while strengthening the immune system. Forsythia fruit or Lian Qiao, is another herb that is used frequently to treat the common cold.
There are other things that can be done to prevent the common cold and they are not specific to TCM, but they are recommended. For instance, covering the back of the neck is very beneficial. The nape of the neck is thought to be the entry point for many viruses. Therefore, keeping this area covered up especially when it is windy, may help keep a person from getting sick. Also, it is recommended to eat according to the season. So as the weather gets colder, one should eat more warm and cooked foods.
One last thing that may be very beneficial in the prevention of colds is exercise. To keep energy flowing throughout the body, it is necessary to move. This is where incorporating a daily practice of tai chi or qi gong might be helpful. Both tai chi and qi gong are very easy to learn and the practices are low impact. Tai chi is even being used around the globe in senior homes to help the residents regain balance and keep them healthy, both mentally and physically.
Consider adding Traditional Chinese Medicine to the toolbox when a cold comes on. A licensed acupuncturist and herbalist may be very beneficial to your health and well-being.
EATING HEALTHY FOR THE WINTER!
Winter, in most places, is a time of colder, shorter days. So naturally, when there is less reason to be outdoors, the body tends to want to stay inside where it is warmer. The body’s metabolic rate will be slower, which means eating foods full of sugars can become detrimental over time. When the metabolic rate slows, the body naturally holds onto fat and we gain weight. Just as most animals hibernate throughout the colder winter months, so too should human beings take the information being given and use it accordingly.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a time of preservation and building up strength for the spring. Winter is a time when the kidneys are highly active. They have functions that help the body preserve energy. Foods loaded with salt can actually burden the kidneys and cause them to work overtime. This can lead to kidney disease or kidney failure when done for many years.
Tonics are what should be primarily eaten during the winter months according to TCM. Most tonics include warming herbs, fatty foods and meats. The human body is designed to absorb these rich foods especially well at this time of year. By tuning into nature, humans can be guided toward the proper nutrients. Since fruits are not usually abundant during the winter months, it makes sense we should not be eating large quantities of them. Foods such as fruits, salads and raw foods can deplete the immune system because it will have to work overtime to warm the body. If a person has a dislike of cold weather, joint aches and pains, sore low back or catches cold frequently, then there is too much of an imbalance and that person may be consuming too many cold foods.
It is recommended to eat warming foods during the winter months. Foods that will strengthen the kidneys, blood and Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is sometimes considered our inner form of energy. Foods that would be best include beef, lamb, root vegetables, dark leafy greens, black beans, oats, quinoa, pumpkin, kidney beans and walnuts. Fruits can be warmed by adding spices like cinnamon, so they don’t tax the system too much. Herbs such as ginseng, garlic, onion, ginger, parsley and basil all have warming properties too that can be used when cooking.
Soups and stews are particularly good to eat at this time of year. Those that utilize bone broth as a base can be very tonifying. These types of foods help warm the body’s core and keep us fully nourished. Cooking should be for longer periods over low heat using less water. This will infuse the food with heat and lasting nourishment.
TCM nutritional therapy is a very important component of the medical system. The food consumed can have profound effects on the body that affect our health and well-being. Along with paying close attention to the foods that are abundant during the seasons, it is also recommended that locally grown foods be utilized. This may help decrease the possibility of allergic reactions.
To find out more about how Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you, contact your local acupuncturist or TCM practitioner. They should be able to guide you along your wellness journey.