I have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) – Can acupuncture help?

Last year, a woman named Amanda (name changed) called me for an appointment.  She had been diagnosed with GERD by her doctor several years ago and had been taking Prevacid for a while. She said she wanted to address her reflux with acupuncture and did not want to be taking medications.

In 2010, the FDA warned that taking long term PPI’s (proton pump inhibitor) either as a prescription or over-the-counter,  could cause calcium loss in bones and consequently fractures – especially of hips, wrist, and spine, which are more likely. Some prescription PPI’s are Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec, Zegerid.  Some of the  over-the-counter versions are Prevacid24HR, PrilosecOTC, and Zegerid OTC.

I see quite a few people who have been taking Prevacid for a long time. They often say that they expect to take it for the rest of their lives.

It is estimated that more than 20% of the general population is affected by acid reflux or frequent “heart burn.” Personally, I think this is a rather conservative percentage. Many pregnant women tend to suffer especially during their 2nd and 3rd trimesters.  And many children with asthma also suffer from reflux.

Some symptoms associated with reflux are:

  • burning pain in the chest
  • sour taste in the mouth
  • difficult or painful swallowing
  • frequent sore throat
  • unexplained cough
  • dry, rough voice, and a
  • feeling of a lump in the throat that cannot be cleared away.

A Chinese Medicine practitioner will address the patient’s problems from several perspectives: dietary, emotional/psychological stress, herbal and acupuncture. In this case, I  did a thorough evaluation of Amanda. We worked on healthy dietary practices that affected her specifically. She received regular acupuncture treatments that addressed her reflux and stress. I also taught her some medical Qi Gong exercises that she could do on a regular basis.

She started taking some Tai Qi classes – which she found to be very beneficial. I encouraged her to walk one half hour every day (she loved to walk). After a couple of months, she started an herbal formula that she took daily for about 6 months. She gradually decreased her wine consumption from every evening with dinner to about once a week.

She just told me last week she doesn’t need to take Prevacid anymore.  She now comes in every two to three weeks for her maintenance acupuncture.


Integrative Medicine is Here – and It’s About Time!

People are discussing the Mind-Body-Connection more frequently now – without laughing. In the past, such discussions might have included a few dismissals – “Oh, the mind-body-conection  is such a woo-woo thing, “It’s kind of ‘out there.’ ”  Most people thought that the connection between Mind and Body was not scientific, or tangible.  In fact, the evidence is so strong that medical schools (approximately 60 in the US) and nursing schools are adding  courses to their curricula that incorporate an  integrative approach to health care. Indeed, many medical personnel are beginning to question the approach that nothing outside of Western Medicine or allopathic medicine can help people get healthy.

My personal experience. One time I gave a presentation at a hospital on the benefits and uses of acupuncture. During the Q & A period, I was asked this  question by an older physician, “Don’t you think that your Chinese Medicine is mostly placebo?”

I turned the question around, and asked him: “If that is so, why is it so helpful for animals?” Acupuncture has been used since the early 1970’s for helping race horses heal from injuries. Besides that, it has a long and rich history (over 5,000 years) of being the main health-care system in the East, effectively treating millions of people. Great, “natural” statistics!!.

There have been studies done, where treating all aspects of health, from emotional health, dietary concerns, environmental conditions, as well as “physical health,” that people do better. This is especially true if they feel a “connection” with their caregiver/doctor.

I see a day when TCM will be used in conjunction with Western medical treatment here in the U.S. More people are requesting the services of Chinese Medicine practitioners because they are seeking a more rounded and people-centered care. Perhaps physicians could see themselves as being “at the helm” of a health care team of people who advise their patients to also see a nutritionist/dietician, acupuncturist, chiropractor, physical therapist and/or massage therapist, etc., that would help them achieve the best results. All of these people on the health care team would communicate with each other about how the patient is improving.

Here is a scenario that is totally realistic: Betty is febrile, coughing, short of breath, weak. She goes to her clinic where she is triaged to the Western Medicine doctor who takes a history, orders blood work from the lab, and orders an Xray.  She’s diagnosed with bronchitis and is given a prescription for an antibiotic (but NO steroids as they are often given now). Betty is then sent over to the Chinese Medicine practitioner where she is  given acupuncture and perhaps some Chinese herbal medicine to help open up her lungs so she can breathe easier. She is instructed on some medical Qi Gong that will help strengthen  her lung system.  She then comes in for another acupuncture visit weekly for the next 3 weeks.

I look forward to seeing this type of overall care in the future!

Dry Needling IS Acupuncture!!

Some of my patients have reported to me that they have been offered “dry needling” by their physical therapists. And these same physical therapists told them that dry needling is not acupuncture!! I have even heard that chiropractors are “dry needling.” It’s my opinion that anyone who claims they are not doing acupuncture (using acupuncture needles for the therapy) because they don’t use traditional Chinese medicine methods is misleading the public.

There are teachers who profit from short training programs in the procedure of dry needling trigger point therapy (TPDN). It’s possible that physical therapists and chiropractors are charging acupuncture codes for insurance reimbursement or charging extra for their “dry needling.”

1. At the present time there are no externally monitored standards of training for TPDN, and hence no baseline of competency or safety for the public.
2. TPDN as it is currently being promoted drives patients to less qualified practitioners.
3. TPDN is equivalent to acupuncture under many state laws. Without careful safeguards, sloppy legislation will lead to inconsistencies in statutes and inequality in billing. This could potentially lead to law suits to correct these inequalities.
4. Eleven states have banned this practice outright including CA, FL, NJ, and NY.
5. In some instances physical therapists have learned TPDN in workshops that have provided demos with no hands on practice with only 27 hours of training.

6. Currently, there is no certification exam, registration process or required clinic hours of practice for physical therapists and chiropractors in our state. The Physical Therapy Association believes 40 hours or less is all that is needed in order to perform this invasive needling technique. This is a far cry from the 200 to 300 hours that state statute requires for physicians to take.

Contrary to their assertions, acupuncture IS intramuscular manual therapy, trigger point needling, functional dry needling, intramuscular stimulation or any other method by which a needle is inserted to effect therapeutic change. When other words are used to justify unsafe or unusual training practices, it poses distinct ethical problems when viewed from the interest of the common good.

I think the North Carolina Acupuncture licensing Board (NCALB) states it very nicely: “The insertion of an acupuncture needle into the dermis, muscular or fascia tissue with the intention of promotion, maintenance, restoration of health and the prevention of disease is indeed the practice of acupuncture.”*

*NCALB. Dry needling is Intramuscular Manual Therapy is Acupuncture. Post office Box 10686; Raleigh, NC,27605

Can you explain how acupuncture works in a way that is understandable to me?

The body has a whole network system which Chinese Medicine Practitioners use in a unique way. This internal system  is always there taking care of us. It’s part of an energy field that is inherent in all physical forms. As acupuncturists, we tap into that system and marshal it into action for us.  The  channel/meridian system I work with connects our  organs to the rest of our physical body through this interconnecting network – a network that runs up and down our bodies. The  Main Channel System has 12 organs and their associated meridians. For example, the Lung channel (the first one on the chain) connects to the Large Intestine channel which then connects to the Stomach channel, which connects to the Spleen channel, etc. They continue to join other “organ” channels in a very organized manner. The last channel on this  chain is the Liver channel.

We have 8 other channels that tap into the 12 Channel System.  Six (6) of those 8 channels borrow points from the 12 main channels. There is one meridian of the 8 which goes around the body and is referred to as the “belt” channel. The other 2 channels run up and down the midline of the body (front & back) and have their own points. These 8 channels  help make the whole network system even more complete.

Let’s take an example. If a person has a headache, we can needle a point on the foot to treat the headache because of the way the channel system flows. In addition, every organ system is associated with emotions we experience and so, there is also a psycho-emotional-spiritual component involved when we do acupuncture and  tap into this interconnecting system.

Another example involves musculo-skeletal injuries. In these types of cases, I like to use the following description of what I do to help a person feel better, get better mobility, and heal.

There is a very active stream of water that is effortlessly and smoothly flowing. Suddenly, during a storm, a tree falls across the stream and slows it down.  Over time, debris from upstream gets caught on the trunk and branches.  The stream slows down more and  more until there is just a trickle of water that gets through.

The above example illustrates what  happens to someone who has an injury from repetitive motion or even from some kind of trauma such as whiplash from a car accident. The injury is the tree falling across the stream. Eventually, the “circulation” is so decreased to the area that the network system is impaired (we call it “stagnation”) and the person can’t heal.  Loss of function, mobility, and chronic pain occur.

I see myself, a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, in a situation like this, as someone who helps release the logjam through acupuncture so that the body’s internal network can begin to flow again. This person will gradually begin to heal. Pain decreases and function and  mobility improve.

Testimonial for Acupuncture from a Mother’s Perspective

My son was born with a brain injury which was mild to moderate. His brain injury affects every aspect of his life, including digestive issues (reflux), the ability to handle sensory input from his environment and his ability to speak. At 3 1/2 he has the speech ability of a 1 1/2 year old. The injury also affects other areas, such as his balance, walking, chronic pain issues, and ability to eat food.

Recommending Acupuncture. When we met Sheryl, my son was entirely dependent on his feeding tube and hadn’t taken anything by mouth for almost a year. He would gag or vomit if we tried to feed him orally. It was our pediatrician who suggested acupuncture as a way to help address his pain and his GERD (severe reflux). I immediately started doing some research and finally stumbled upon Sheryl. I was pleased that not only does she take insurance, but she works with children as a normal part of her practice.

Getting Started. Sheryl did a long intake phone call with us. On our first visit, we talked a little more to understand my son’s needs. She was very thorough, approachable, and interested in his needs and his story.

Working with Children. She makes sessions for little ones shorter – according to what they can handle, and she uses a number of modalities in addition to needles. She worked so gently with him and was respectful and understanding of his anxiety around healthcare providers (he has seen so many). Sheryl met him where he was and proceeded very carefully. After his first session, he asked me for food! This was remarkable, because it had been so long since he had shown any interest at all in feeding. It may not sound like much, but he went home and ate nearly a whole jar’s worth of baby food!

Continuing the Process. As we have continued to work together, Sheryl has addressed many different concerns. Among these concerns have been digestion, calmness, ability to handle sensory input and speech. She’s even helped him with recovery from viruses and other infections. My son is usually pretty tense because his brain doesn’t help him to relax. But after his sessions with Sheryl, he is curious, interested in the world, and his body feels soft and moveable – his resting tension goes away for a few hours and the next few days he is happier, easier-going, and can even learn more. This changed behavior and relaxed attitude helps so much as his chronic pain gets in the way of learning and the natural curiosity of a child.

Anticipation. Acupuncture is the only one, of many appointments, that he looks forward to – and he even asks for if it has been a while. He strides into her office ready to begin and is so excited and happy. He asks for needles and vibration at certain points and really loves Sheryl.

And the rest of us. In addition to caring for my son, Sheryl also treats me and my husband to help us manage the strain and stress of caring for a child with so many extra needs. The relief and calm I feel is unbelievable, and acupuncture has also spurred me to make lifestyle changes that have improved my health and wellness. My responses to stressful situations are generally better and my marriage has even improved because of the care I have gotten.

Appreciation beyond comprehension. I am not certain that I can even properly express what a blessing it has been to be in the care of such a compassionate, competent, out-of-the-box thinker as Sheryl. Her presence in our lives has been life-changing. It may seem like I am exaggerating but I truly cannot be thankful enough. Every aspect of my and my son’s life has improved. The wonderful thing about Sheryl is that she really meets you where you are, truly, and addresses your needs with care and respect.

Can acupuncture treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Yes, it can.  There have been a number of studies conducted on treating IBS with Chinese medicine. These studies have documented that Chinese medicine can effectively treat IBS in a safe and drug-free way.  Acupuncture is also very helpful even while patients are taking medications prescribed by an allopathic doctor. Sometimes on-going medications can be decreased.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can also help relieve symptoms and avert crises with IBD, Irritable Bowel Disease, which includes crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

IBS is labeled a syndrome because it involves a group of symptoms that varies for each individual who is affected.  It is a motility disorder  ( involving abnormal movement) of the small and large intestines. Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abnormal cramping and pain; constipation and or diarrhea (often in alternating episodes); and sometimes a frequent need to defecate.  IBS may also be accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems, such as flatulence, bloating, and nausea.  Symptoms are almost always aggravated by stress.  Episodes may also be aggravated by eating, and are frequently relieved after a bowel movement.

Chinese medicine almost always considers  IBS as a disharmony between the Liver and the Spleen.

Practitioners  of acupuncture and Chinese medicine may use a variety of modalities to correct a Liver/Spleen disharmony.  They may use acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, dietary therapy, and lifestyle changes to address this condition.

Here are some things a person may be asked to do to by a Chinese medicine practitioner in order to alleviate the symptoms :

  • Get adequate exercise. Exercise helps relieve stress, moves energy (Qi), regulates the bowels, and helps to relieve constipation.
  • Practice stress relief measures. Practices such as meditation, participating in Tai Qi exercises, yoga, breathing exercises, quiet time, and of course, regular acupuncture treatments often help.
  • Consider dietary changes. Sometimes foods that trigger symptoms should be eliminated.  Adding adequate fiber to the diet is useful.  Soluble fiber is gentler on the GI tract (i.e. oatmeal, berries, legumes, quinoa).  Crude fiber such as bran and raw vegetables may be irritating. It is always better to use cooked vegetables by sautéing or steaming or cooking them slowly in stews.  Triggers that often cause problems are fatty foods, dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate , sodas (carbonated drinks). It is always better to cook your food from “scratch” rather than use boxed or prepared food where additives are added.  My experience has s shown that  people who suffer from IBS should avoid gluten and corn products.
  • Add probiotics. Generally, probiotics are useful.  I recommend Dr. Whittaker’s Pearl Biotic Spheres as the best quality (call 1-800-722-8008 to order).
  • Get adequate sleep. Getting enough sleep is  a must for people who suffer from IBS for a couple of reasons. Stress is often aggravated by inadequate sleep patterns and sleep helps the body heal.

Immune System Health

There are a couple things we can do, especially in the fall & winter when we find ourselves around people who have the flu, colds, and respiratory bacterial infections or we just want to maintain good health.

Vinegar Steam. Do this once a week during flu season or if you are around a lot of sick kids/people. Place 1/4 cup of vinegar (it can be white vinegar, does not need to be anything fancy) in a small pan of water and boil it until almost all of it has evaporated. Stay in the kitchen and breathe air the vinegar- water fumes evaporated into. DO NOT STAND OVER THE PAN! It bolsters your immune system.

Guasha. This is used by mothers in the East to help their children “shake-off” a cold in the beginning stages, the first 24 hours when you start feeling the early symptoms. Of course, it is good for both young and old! A jar lid that is not sharp around the edges will do (a baby- food lid is perfect). You can also use a large spoon but it has to have soft edges to it. Rub some oily substance over shoulders, upper back, lower neck (i.e. Vicks Vapo-Rub; Tiger Balm; Elephant Balm; coconut oil). Scrape or stroke gently downward from shoulders , upper back, lower neck, using short strokes (no longer than 8 inches). Do not stroke upward. After a few strokes, take your palm and rub downward over the area and then continue stroking with lid. Rub downward with hand intermittently. Do this until you see a light red appear on skin, about 5 minutes or so. You can guasha a couple of times the first day. It is amazing. Sometimes you can nip the cold or flu in the bud or you can lessen the symptoms dramatically. Ask me if you have questions. I will be glad to demonstrate on you or your loved one. If you know someone who has an infant, why not see if they could collect a few baby-food jar lids for you. I am always in need of them!

Acute Upper Respiratory Infections during Fall and Winter

Autumn is the season of the Lung (the Metal element) in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). It is a time when we as practitioners need to “tonify” the Lung- make it stronger. So, when a person comes in for a treatment, that is one thing we do….even if the person is there for their knee pain!

It is always good to come in for a treatment in the fall and once a month throughout the winter when you are feeling good, so we can focus on strengthening the “Lung System” and the Wei Qi (the immune system “protector”). Breathing exercises are important to do on a daily basis (see description on another blog post on how to do these).

If you become sick with achy muscles, sniffles, scratchy/sore throat, chills, go immediately to your acupuncture clinic! If you get treated within the first 12-18 hours of noticing flu-like symptoms, we can minimize or slow-down the progression of the acute illness. Sometimes we can even stop it!!!


The Wonders and Uses of Coconut Oil

www.sunwarrior.com/news/50-of-of-the- best-uses-coconut-oil/

Hi Everyone… please check out this link to see the many ways you can use coconut oil for your benefit! To find coconut oil at your grocery store, just look in the “oil section” (near olive oil). It is usually packaged in pint jars. One nice thing about storing coconut oil is that it does not turn rancid. And it has so many uses! It can be used as antibacterial ointment for the skin. It really helps moisten dry skin during a colder season. And it’s equally as wonderful to use in the summer! I put it in a smaller glass jar (like a jelly jar) by my bedside and then apply it to my skin (especially my feet and legs). Hope you enjoy the benefits of coconut oil as much as I do!