Stop Smoking with Acupuncture

I see many people suffering from physical and mental pain when they can’t quit smoking easily even though they obviously know that smoking is harmful to both themselves and the people around them. For long-time smokers, quitting becomes even more difficult without help from other people because nicotine addiction physiologically affects your body regardless your will.

In Eastern medicine we usually use ear acupuncture to help people quit. To the acupuncturist, the ear is a miniature representation of our body, and every organ in the body is reflected on the ears. We insert needles into the areas of the ear pertaining to the organs affected by smoking, such as the throat, bronchi, lungs, liver, endocrine glands, brain, etc. Later, we attach tiny needle-like tacks or small seeds to those points using a bandage which can remain on the ear for more than a week, thus prolonging the period of effectiveness. This makes auricular acupuncture most effective. Acupuncture on the body itself is actually better than ear acupuncture, but the needles have to be removed within the treatment session creating a greater economic burden for people who need to be treated often. The ideal is to use both ear and body acupuncture at the same time.

Acupuncture doesn’t directly cause a person to quit smoking. Instead, it helps indirectly by increasing the body’s effectiveness in nicotine detoxification, reducing withdrawal symptoms, and tonifying the overall energy of the body. One of the main reasons many people fail to quit smoking is due to the accompanying withdrawal symptoms, which may be experienced physically and/or mentally in the form of headaches, heart palpitations, vomiting, insomnia, indigestion, fatigue, low energy, itchiness, phlegm, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, irritability, sensitivity, vexation, etc. Weight gain in particular is the result of snacking often because one feels an emptiness in the body and mind. If a person starts smoking again without fully getting through the withdrawal period, these withdrawal symptoms disappear, which may further encourage the failure to quit.

While a person is quitting smoking, acupuncture effectively promotes detoxification when needles are inserted on the acupoints pertaining to the lungs, liver, and kidneys, and simultaneously on the special point for detoxification. We also need to promote detoxification during this period by drinking clean water often, exercising, and making ourselves sweat. Through repetitive needle stimulation, acupuncture may make smoking taste worse and/or decrease the desire to smoke, signifying that the brain is starting to recover the body’s memory of before one ever started smoking.

Smoking often starts from a feeling of emptiness or of something lacking. If you are happy enough, you may not need to smoke and it may not be able to addict you any more even if you do smoke. If you can maintain the belief that it is possible for you to quit, exercise regularly along with treatment, and have the courage to change your lifestyle, success will surely be yours. As the cool autumn approaches, let’s do this together. It’s a good time to quit smoking.

Why Do You Put the Needle on My Foot in Bottle for My Headache in Top?

One single woman of her age 40′ who has suffered from severe headache for over 10 years came to see me few years ago. Her complaints her HA with stabbing pains in left side and irregular pinching pain behind eyeball. She has gone to many clinics and took many kinds of medicine for her HA. Those medicines helped her HA in the temporary, but her pains returned soon. She had once doubts of brain tumor, which turned to be normal in the exam. She felt more pains especially under stresses; even she couldn’t sleep whole night in severe attacks.

When I asked her illness history, she said to me that she had once the shock at a certain moment when her parents fought each other when she was young. Her pulse of both hands was so weak and wiry especially on left ‘Guan’ area. I saw her tongue was pale and red on the tip and had big blue vessels underneath tongue. She screamed loudly with light spasm on the right leg when I put first needle on the right dorsal foot area between first and second toe. She grumbled at me “why do you put the needle on my foot in bottle for my headache in top?” But, it changed to be so cool immediately

There are many reasons of HA in oriental medicine’s point of view as well. That is, wind cold, damp heat etc from external factor, qi deficiency, qi stagnation(close relationship with stress, depression), blood deficiency, blood stagnation(especially in head), damp and phlegm accumulation, heat accumulation, food accumulation, etc from metabolism disorder of qi, blood, water and food inside of our body, hyperactivity of liver, kidney deficiency, etc from abnormal function of internal organ. Each case has their own symptoms, pattern and treating way. But they often show many combinations in practice. In case of her above it was typically the mixture of qi deficiency, qi stagnation and blood stasis based on her stress accumulated for long time. We used to focus on liver meridian passing through the dorsal foot first in the case like this. She got at last recovered after almost one month treatment.

Metabolic Syndrome in Eastern Medicine

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders which, when occurring together, increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Studies have shown it to be found in an estimated 25% of the U.S. population, with its frequency increasing with age. It is also called insulin resistance syndrome because with this condition the body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin, thus making it unable to regulate blood sugar levels and increasing insulin density in the blood.

It is common for abdominal obesity to be seen in people with metabolic syndrome, and in some cases there may be no other obvious symptoms. However, there can also be symptoms relating to metabolic complications such as: diabetes, an increase in triglycerides, high cholesterol, hypertension, gout, and more. These diseases cause whole-body symptoms and are difficult to cure. They increase the rate of death from cardiovascular disease 4-fold. And in people with metabolic syndrome the risk of developing diabetes is 3-5 times higher than that of people without metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome can be called a lifestyle disease. Risk factors include a low level of physical activity, excess caloric intake, and high stress. Changing one’s lifestyle to proper eating, exercise and avoiding stress are, of course, very important for the treatment of metabolic syndrome and for the prevention of adult diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. However, if the key factors involved in metabolic syndrome cannot be improved through lifestyle changes alone, they need to be treated by a professional.

 

In Eastern medicine, metabolic syndrome is known as a disease resulting from blood deterioration due to reduced function of the internal organs, and its treatment focuses on the cause. It is necessary to activate the circulation of qi and blood through acupuncture and herbal medicine, to elevate the natural healing power of the body, and then to make the blood pure and clear.

Actually, there is no specific word for metabolic syndrome in Eastern medicine. It is viewed as more of a potential disease which may then lead to an obvious disease. It is important to pay attention to what lies below the surface of its symptoms. The lifestyle disorders involved, like diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, are just the tip of the iceberg, with the greater issue hidden underneath. So treating metabolic disease is useless if the underlying problem is not dealt with at the same time, namely the accumulation of fat around the organs in the abdomen. Fortunately, research has proven Fang Feng Tong Sheng San and other such Chinese herbal formulas to be fairly effective at reducing this visceral fat.

To prevent metabolic syndrome, and for greater overall health, it is beneficial to consider treatment with Eastern medicine.

Meditation and Health

These days as the temperature drops below zero, everyone is getting busy with many winter preparations such as clearing the garden, and changing to winter tires. All the trees and plants are also preparing for winter. They are making seeds or gathering the nutrients and energy from their leaves back down into their roots so they can burst into new leaves and flowers next year. The human body actually does something similar. When a person is young he or she grows and develops quickly, and their energy moves outward. But as they get into middle and old age they have to gather and store their qi in their roots so they can continue to be healthy. In a human being, where is the “root of the body”?

The wise men of ancient East Asia said that it was in something called the Dan Tien. This is usually categorized into 3 parts: the lower, middle, and upper Dan Tien, which could be compared to the 2nd, 4th, and 6th chakras in traditional yoga. Above all, those wise men thought most highly of the lower Dan Tien.

It is said that disease and the dross of the body and mind can be melted down to nothing in the Dan Tien. At the same time, pure, original energy and “fresh mind” stream out from it. To use an astronomy comparison, this is like both a black hole and a white hole within our own body. If we maintain a practice of concentrating our breathing and consciousness on this Dan Tien, we can restore the health of our body and the wisdom of our mind, and achieve a long life.

Modern people live with so many diseases because they don’t truly understand the order of nature and the root of the body. We aren’t able to just stop and easily make our thinking and energy converge down into the Dan Tien, so our energy always tends to rise up and create heat in the head, while our lower parts tend to always be cold and weak. Typical upper region symptoms include stress, insomnia, headaches, dry eyes, poor memory, ringing ear, high blood pressure, blurry vision, irritability, anxiety, depression, and dementia, etc., while typical lower region symptoms include edema, obesity, cold hands and feet, lower back pain, knee pain, prostate, impotence, etc. These symptoms are called floating Yang syndrome. Yang floats up and can’t go down to create balance with Yin, and Yin also becomes scorched to weakness by Yang.

One of the best ways to sink this “floating” down is meditation. If a person would like to try meditation, first it is necessary to be taught by someone who is experienced. But I’d like to say that physically the key is to sit comfortably with the spine naturally erect and breathe deeply and naturally. Another key is spiritually to release everything, let it all go.

This winter, when the energy in nature is going down into the roots, let’s go back to our own roots.

Manic-Depressive Disorder in Eastern Medicine

Manic-depressive disorder, also known as bipolar disorder, is a mental illness classified by psychiatry as a mood disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of a very high mood known as mania alternating with episodes of depression. Some experience a mixed state in which features of both mania and depression are present simultaneously with one side prevailing over the other.

During mania, patients show abnormal agitation, exultance, expansive delusion, talkativeness, distraction and over sensitiveness. They are often extremely enthusiastic, optimistic, confident, show lots of gesture and move continuously.

On the other hand, during depression, patients show sadness, disappointment and desperate to listlessness, lethargy, indifference about one’s circumstance and loss of pleasure. Some complain of poor appetite with shallow or short sleeping. They also show slow movements, lowered mood, despondence, retardation with tendency to self-reproof and self-depreciation.

About 4% of people suffer from bipolar disorder. Genetic factors contribute substantially to the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder, but environmental factors are also implicated. Manic and depressive episodes last from a few days to several months and is often treated with mood stabilizing medications and psychotherapy in Western Medicine.

In Eastern Medicine, it is regarded that body and mind is of the same origin. They affect each other. Firstly, in the case that mental problem affects the physical body; it is typical that manic-depressive disorder is symptomatic in 7 excessive emotions such as joy, anger, worry, anxiety, sorrow, fear and astonishment. If we have these emotions for long time, these can change into stress(Qi stagnation) and harm our body and bring malfunctioning or unbalance primarily between the heart, liver and spleen which can lead to the production of blood stasis, phlegm fluid and deficient heat. These bad products in turn affect the brain. Secondly, in the case that bodily problems affect the mind, stagnation of Qi and blood, or phlegm fluid generated by malfunction of spleen and heart may obstruct collaterals in the brain and consequently bring Yang Syndrome(mania) and Yin Syndrome(depressive).

People differ in the responsiveness when dealing with their mental difficulties. Yang, or mania, type people tend to be explosive while Yin, or depressive, type people tend to be withered. Possible treatment could be to apply a method where the dominating type is suppressed and the less dominant is invigorated

Modern research shows that acupuncture is highly effective in controlling cranial nerves without side effects.

If the cause of manic-depressive disorder is mainly related with psychological problems, psychotherapy or meditation or Qi practice like Qi Gong are needed for treatment. These help people to see and be aware of their own flow of mind and emotion, and relax and stabilize the brain and neuro-system and strengthen vital energy. It is especially important to improve fundamental vitality through practicing breathing to focus low Dan Tien(we call Dan Tien breathing). Of course, combination of these methods; acupuncture and herb, psychotherapy, meditation and Qi practice is best.

Let’s Practice Two Things for Health in the New Year

We are all destined to die eventually, for it is a certainty that all living things die. But everyone wants to live a long and healthy life in the meantime. Nowadays, economic prosperity and scientific and technological progress in medicine have lengthened the average lifespan to more than 80 years, yet on average in Canada women live with sickness for 11.8 of those years, and men for 9.4 of them. Merely increasing longevity, without health, leads to a decrease in the quality of life and an increase in social costs.

With this in mind, let’s practice just two simple things in the New Year: “Keep the head cool and the feet warm, and keep the stomach open”. This is not my own saying; it comes from a legendary doctor in China named Bian Que (407—310 BC), and they were his last words to his family before he died.  This man was reputed to be an excellent diagnostician, excelling in pulse-taking and acupuncture therapy. He visited many states and kingdoms in China, and when giving treatments he never differentiated between influential lords and commoners. He lived a humble and noble life, and is admired today as “a deity doctor.”

There is another doctor, one in the western world, who gave notably similar advice. Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738) was one of the most influential clinicians and teachers of the 18th century. He was skilled as a physician, botanist, chemist and anatomist, and his fame was enormous, extending far beyond Europe to China. It is said that he kept a book in which he had set out all the secrets of medicine. After he died it was opened and all the pages were blank except one on which was written, “Keep the head cool, the feet warm, and the intestines open.”

Knowing that these esteemed doctors had similar beliefs about the main principle for health, despite living two thousand years and half a world apart, makes this wisdom all the more important to pay attention to. Keeping the head cool and the feet warm optimizes circulation in the body because the coolness in the head is willing to move downward while the warmth in the feet is willing to move upward. This causes the body’s circulation to work well automatically. In the opposite situation, if fire energy from the upper body moves upward and water energy from the lower body moves down, a person’s energy will be separating and then dying.

Keep the stomach open” or “keep the intestines open” means do not make the stomach/ intestines full or, in other words, “Less eating!” This in itself can prevent most adult diseases, including obesity, constipation, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, etc. Modern people tend to have excessive heat in the head because of too much thinking, greed for material things, lack of exercise, overeating, smoking, alcohol, and drugs.

So let’s do less eating and more stretching, quit smoking and alcohol, and do less thinking and more meditation in this coming New Year!!

Infertility Treatment & Eastern Medicine

Few years ago, a mid 30’aged couple came to see me for treatment of infertility. Man looked so strong physically and outgoing, but woman looked graceful but weak with little dark face. They were so depressed with failure of IVF(in-vitro fertilization) twice for two years. They told me that they were all no problems by exam, but they couldn’t be pregnant any more and this was the last attempt for it. I murmured in my mind that’s right, and then took pulses of women first. Her pulses were deep and moderate and she always felt cold in her 4 limbs. I noticed that her uterus was long time attacked by coldness. So we promised and started to take treatment by me with acupuncture, moxibustion and herbs twice or once a week. After about two months later, she didn’t show herself at my clinic. I thought she was so exhausted with long treatment including IVF, so she might be almost given up. I was so sorry for that then I forgot. 4 month later I heard by chance from other patient that they had already succeeded in getting pregnant.

 

Infertility is common disease of woman that woman has never had pregnancy when she has normal sexual life with her spouse without contraception more than 2 years. 60% of infertility is statistically caused by woman, 30% by man, and 10% by both. The first organs relating to infertility are of course reproductive system including uterus, ovary etc. But, which organ affects these reproductive systems? We think that is kidney, liver, spleen; especially kidney which directly affects menstruation and uterus is most important organ relating to fertility in eastern medicine.

 

Now let’s think about fertility as germination of grain. The condition of farm should be suitable; appropriate temperature, appropriate moisture, appropriate nutrition, and appropriate sunlight. It is impossible for grain to germinate normally under condition with excess or deficiency of these ones. Fertility is same as germination of grain above. If uterus is so cold or hot, with too much moisture or so dry, full of dirty thing transformed from superabundance of nutrition or with weakness from malnutrition, too much stressful with emotional, seed of baby may be difficult to grow.

 

In my experience, most case of infertility is due to cold-damp retention in uterus like example above in the beginning of this writing, next is due to phlegm-damp retention from obesity; the last is due to blood stasis from poor circulation in lower abdomen. Sometimes the cases that dry uterus with heat caused by taking birth control pills long time can be seen.

 

Lots of experiences for infertility treatment have been accumulated in Eastern Medicine. We mainly use acupuncture, moxibustion and herb medicine, which almost has no side effect. What is more, we also have many treatment methods for disorders during pregnancy including uterine bleeding and unstable fetus, habitual miscarriage, morning sickness, difficult labor, etc. It takes about 3 to 9 months.

Health Care Issues in Summer

The warm and dry summers that we are currently experiencing in Merritt are characteristic of the semi-desert climate of BC’s interior plateaus. It is sad to hear of the extreme heat alerts for back East, of children who have died from being left alone in hot cars, and of the great number of people who have died of heatstroke in England this summer.

According to Eastern medicine, heat is one of the six energies in nature:  wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness, and fire. It is naturally occurring, just like the changes of season. In fact, all beings need this source of heat to maintain life. With more hours of strong daylight, plants grow much faster and animals are warmed both externally and internally, making them more metabolically active. And humans are no exception. All our summer activities contribute to better, more active health and thus we find fewer people at health clinics during the summer as compared to the winter months.

However, we all know that too much of some things can actually be harmful, and this includes summer heat. One of the most common health concerns in the summer is heatstroke. Being exposed to long periods of sunlight can lead to dehydration and a build-up of internal heat in our bodies. This internal heat eventually accumulates in our brains which can cause the weak, such as seniors and children, to faint. One of the simplest solutions is to stay hydrated by drinking water and, if outside, keep cool by taking breaks in the shade.

If someone is unavoidably exposed to excessive heat and then feels overly hot and experiences blurry vision, cooling down is vital. Since heat is generated from within the body, we need to cool it down from the inside. Drinking cool water is good for this, though too much of it may increase dampness which then actually blocks heat from being discharged. It is also helpful to eat fruits and vegetables which are “cool” in nature, such as cucumber, melon, watermelon, strawberries, lettuce, buckwheat, and mung beans.

If body heat increases unaccompanied by sweating, this constitutes a real emergency. Drink cucumber juice immediately and take a fever-reducing remedy once. You can eat certain herbs found around you, such as plantain, the root of water plantain, the leaf or root of bamboo, the root of reeds, and the inside stem of common rushes. These herbs cool the body without increasing dampness.

On the other hand, staying in air conditioning or in front of a fan all day long, even if it is very hot outside, is also not good for health. These can cause the body to cool down but may also cause the dampness in our body to stagnate, possibly aggravating symptoms of old complaints, hindering blood circulation (even to the point of darkening skin colour), or causing headaches which may not respond to painkillers in severe cases.

In summertime the body should be warmer than in other seasons and proper sweating is the best “medication”.

Eastern Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disease

Recently, I read a funny article about differences in Eastern vs. Western medical diagnosis. It showed that patients who had all been given the same diagnosis of gastric ulcers by Western doctors were given one of 5 separate diagnoses under Eastern medical care. Here are those 5 different diagnoses from the Eastern medicine perspective…

 

  1. Damp Heat in Spleen and Stomach: Pain worsens with application of pressure to the stomach area and improves with application of ice. Typical characteristics are: a strong-looking constitution, reddish complexion, constipation, dark yellow urine, a red tongue with a yellowish, greasy coating, and a wiry pulse (actually pulses, according to Eastern practice). For this group, these symptoms are considered to be gastrointestinal disturbances due to damp heat in the body.

 

  1. Stomach Yin Deficiency: These patients tend to be emaciated, with gray faces and red cheeks. They complain of thirst and sweaty palms. Their tongues are dry and red with no coating, and their pulses are thready and quite rapid. Symptoms also include constipation, insomnia, night sweats, nervousness and anxiety. These patients are considered to have deficient heat due to lack of body fluid.

 

  1. Deficient Coldness in Stomach: Pain is not severe but is persistent. It improves with the direct application of pressure or warmth to the affected area, and patients also feel better after eating. Typical symptoms include chills, pallor, cold sweats (mostly during daytime); wanting more sleep, frequent urination (both day and night), a pale, wet tongue, and weak pulses. These symptoms suggest a deficiency of Yang qi which then leads to gastrointestinal problems.

 

  1. Cold Damp in Spleen and Stomach: Pain is very spasmodic. It improves on drinking warm water and worsens with the application of pressure on the painful area. Typical symptoms include slow and heavy body movements, a bright white complexion, loose stools, a thick, white, watery coating on the tongue, and slippery, wiry pulses. These symptoms tell of cold damp in the spleen and stomach leading to a lowering of water metabolism and then damp stagnation.

 

  1. Disharmony between Liver and Spleen: Symptoms include sour belching accompanied by headache. Pain improves with massage but does not improve with the application of ice or heat. Patients tend to be erratic and get stressed easily, worsening when depressed or angry. Their tongues look normal, but their pulses are very wiry. In terms of the underlying problem, the gastrointestinal disturbances are secondary to the loss of the liver’s function to keep qi flowing freely due to the failure to control emotions.

 

Faced with the same patient and the same symptoms, Eastern and Western medicine may make different diagnoses. This stems from some basic dissimilarity between the two traditions, involving not only the names of diseases but also how they are classified, how physiology and pathology are understood, and more. Varying perspectives on disease lead to varying diagnoses and different methods of healing, and having access to such diverse approaches can be beneficial to patients.

Fighting off Allergies with Eastern Medicine

It is now full spring. Trees begin to bud and flowers bloom. To some, this means the end of long, cold winter days. But for others spring can be dreadful, as many face allergic rhinitis – an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways caused mostly by various pollens released by surrounding trees, weeds and grasses. The most common symptoms include sneezing, a clear runny nose, nasal congestion and itchiness. Merritt’s dry, dusty spring climate along with these pollens can worsen these symptoms with eye redness and dryness, hives and other mild skin reactions.

 

Many often mistakenly believe that allergies only occur in the spring, but they are also common when there are significant differences between day-time and night-time temperatures, and with any change of season. In fact, allergic symptoms can persist year-round. In severe cases, additional symptoms can include light sensitivity, excessive tears and chronic headaches.

 

Allergic rhinitis is a typical allergic disease affecting the nose, but it is not strictly a nasal problem. It is related to the immune function of the whole body. Deterioration and weakness of immune function can cause a hypersensitivity to allergens. The hypersensitivity to environmental exposures – including pollen, dust, animal dander, mold, smoke, and certain foods – contributes to nasal inflammation and also appears to have an effect on the eyes, skin and/or bronchia in the form of conjunctivitis, atopic dermatitis, and asthma. Susceptibility to allergies can run in the family.

 

In Eastern medicine there is a concept called Wei Qi which corresponds to the concept of immune function in Western medicine. Wei Qi wraps the surface of our body and protects it from external “evils”.  What causes Wei Qi to weaken? It can be explained internally by the weakening of lung, spleen, and kidney function predominantly, or by the idea of our body being attacked externally by wind-heat or wind-cold, for example. Other factors are exertion and emotional “congestion” due to stress, both of which disturb the circulation of qi and blood.

 

Within Eastern medicine there are different approaches to allergy treatment, but there are always two target goals. Treating “the branches” focuses on symptoms and treating “the roots” focuses on the internal organs and/or original qi of our body. In acupuncture, the special acupoints Ying Xiang and Feng Fu on the face and head are commonly used for treatment, and certain acupuncture points are massaged so that blood flows more smoothly and evenly. In herbal medicine, differentiating and diagnosing the individual’s constitution and deficiency/fullness, and cold/heat of each organ related (especially with lung-centered symptoms) should, of course, precede treatment.  The lungs are treated so that the excess heat or coldness within is first released. This moistens the lungs again and gets rid of the phlegm, which eventually clears up the nasal cavity. Treatment should be individualized according to the patient’s symptomatology. Doing so will lead to rapid recovery with no side-effects, unlike treatment using antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.