Monday, October 31, 2011

Can Acupuncture Fight The Flu?

Once again, flu season is upon us. According to The World Health Organization, acupuncture is effective in preventing cold and flu as well as shortening the duration of a flu/cold if it is contracted.
But why? 
Germs are everywhere. Viruses are everywhere. But most of us are not perpetually sick from them. The reason is because our bodies successfully fight the bacteria and viruses in order to keep us well. Problem occur when the body’s systems become too weak to kill the invading ailments.  
Your body can be weakened by all sorts of factors; bad nutrition, lack of the nutrients, stress, smoking, sleep deprivation … the list can go on, and on. But, let’s look at stress. Every time you get stressed (in a traffic jam, over a project, at work, when your boss looks over your shoulder, when the kids are fighting, etc) your body produces hormones and chemicals that, in ages past, were used for a fight/flight response. In our culture, many people are constantly producing these chemicals, as our stressors are endless and constant. Sometimes, even what we use to de-stress causes production of these chemicals (TV, video games, etc).
As these chemicals are produced, some of the body’s elimination mechanisms are redirected from the fight against viruses and bacteria to deal with elimination of the stress chemicals. We produce so many of these chemicals that many are actually not eliminated and are taken to various points in the body’s muscle tissue for storage.
Your body is similar to your house, in many ways. You put books on a shelf, dirty clothes in a laundry basket, and underwear in a drawer. You have a place to hold the wine, a drawer for the silverware, and a fridge for the food. Your body also has storage spots where chemicals from various types of stress are placed if they’re not taken out with the trash (sweat, urine, fecal matter).
When those storage spots get full, they become ‘toxic’.  Blood flow is slowed in the area, and toxin traffic jams begin. All of this weakens our body’s natural ability to fight invasions such as cold and flu viruses. 
That’s where acupuncture/acupressure comes in. These practices assist the body in clearing out the traffic jams. As the toxic build-up of a spot is lessened or eliminated,through needles or pressure, the body’s energy flows (circulatory, nervous, and lymphatic systems) are stronger, and thus the person’s resistance to bacteria and virus is restored and strengthened. 
Acupuncture/pressure is primarily about prevention. But it can also be used as treatment. As with any herbal remedy or pharmaceutical drug, the sooner you begin treatment of an ailment, the better. When you take a medication “at the first sign” of symptoms, you’ll get through it faster because you get it while it’s small. Likewise, if you get an acupuncture appointment when you first start to feel symptoms or feel run down, it will be more beneficial. 
To get more information about acupuncture, the Iowa City/Coralville community doesn't have to go too far. Now through November 15th, Health On Point Acupuncture will be offering discounts on herbal remedies, neti pot and at home care items for flu season.  People can learn first-hand from Rachel about more ways you can strengthen your immune system naturally to prevent cold/flu and ways to fight cold/flu naturally if you do contract it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New MRI Acupuncture Research Shows Mind-Body Connection

New research concludes that “acupuncture may function as a somatosensory-guided mind-body therapy.” The research compared MRI readings of real acupuncture with sham acupuncture (needle stimulation at non-acupuncture point locations) at acupuncture point P-6 (Neiguan, Inner Pass). The MRI imaging showed that true acupuncture yielded greater activity over sham acupuncture in the dorsomedial prefontal cortex of the brain. Real acupuncture produced significantly “greater activity in both cognitive/evaluative (posterior dmPFC) and emotional/interoceptive (anterior dmPFC) cortical regions” and the MRI results showed that true acupuncture “increased cognitive load.”

Recent criticisms concerning the effectiveness of acupuncture have focused on the ability of sham acupuncture to produce clinical results. However, MRI studies show that true acupuncture produces clinical results by different cortical mechanisms than sham acupuncture.

NIH researchers question the validity of sham acupuncture control groups. Dr. R. E. Harris’s (NIH researcher, Ann Arbor, Michigan) research was able to prove that although sham acupuncture and true acupuncture reduce pain in fibromyalgia patients, they “do it by different mechanisms.” Dr. Harris’s research showed that differing mechanisms by which the pain relief was achieved was measured at the molecular level. This suggests that sham acupuncture may superficially cause pain reduction but that it is not scientifically achieved by the same mechanisms as true acupuncture. Dr. Richard L. Nahin of the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states, “If you look at some of the data, what you find is that sham acupuncture and true acupuncture both produce some pain relief in whatever condition they’re looking at. But while both treatments turn on areas of the brain, they turn on different areas of the brain.”

Brain encoding of acupuncture sensation – coupling on-line rating with fMRI. V. Napadow, R.P. Dhond, J. Kim, L. LaCount, M. Vangel, R.E. Harris, N. Kettner, K. Park, F. Pfab. Neuroimage (2009) 47: 1055–65.

Florian Pfab, MD, PhD, Visiting Associate Professor, Dept. of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Deutsche Zeitschrift für Akupunktur. Volume 54, Issue 3, 2011, Pages 32-33.

Contie, Defibaugh, Ewsichek, Latham and Wein. Understanding Acupuncture Time To Try It? NIH News in Health. February 2011.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More women including acupuncture to boost chances of pregnancy

Courtesy: WINK-TV
Stacey Adams is expecting her first child in February. She credits fertility acupuncture.

After suffering through the pain and sadness of three miscarriages and spending around $20,000 on fertility treatments, WINK-TV news anchor Stacey Adams, 40, felt she had run out of options for ever having a child.
Then Adams turned to acupuncture. The research is mixed on whether and how acupuncture can improve fertility, but Adams said she saw results almost immediately after nearly giving up hope.
“I really had to readjust my life and my life story, thinking having a family just wasn’t going to happen for us,” Adams said tearfully.
The popular Florida journalist didn’t meet her husband, Tony Schall, until she was in her 30s and, after they married, they weren’t ready for a family right away. She was 37 when they started trying, with no luck. Both were tested, but doctors couldn’t find the source of the problem. 
The couple decided to use an assisted reproductive technology called Intrauterine Insemination, or IUI. In all, they tried five IUI treatments. Adams got pregnant twice, but miscarried both times. She miscarried once prior to treatment.
“I was drained and out of hope,” Adams said.
That’s when Adams came across Huffman Wellness, an acupuncture and herbal center in Tampa, Fla. She read the story of a Tampa news anchor who had used acupuncture to help become pregnant, and decided she had nothing to lose. She contacted owner and practitioner Carolyn Huffman.
“I think the world of Stacey and she and I instantly connected,” Huffman said. “This was her last straw and her heart was fully on board.”
Huffman asked Adams to fill out an extensive questionnaire, trying to find out as much as she could about her fertility treatment history, health and eating habits. Huffman suggested Adams give up coffee, alcohol and processed foods and also limit dairy. She decided Adams would benefit from two acupuncture treatments a week while taking a variety of herbal and nutritional supplements such as Vitamin D and prenatal vitamins.
Acupuncture involves having small needles placed into specific parts of the body to trigger and activate the body’s “Qi,” or life energy. Adams had needles placed in her stomach, head, ears, calves, forearms and back. Huffman tailors the placement based on where a woman is in her monthly cycle and on patterns associated with traditional Chinese medicine. Huffman studied at the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in St. Petersburg.
Adams said she instantly saw results. “I could see the physical manifestation of it. My periods, which had always been short in duration were longer and healthier looking,” she said.
For the next two months, Adams drove two hours to Tampa, underwent two hours of treatment followed by relaxation sessions and then started the two-hour drive home so she could go to work.
“Stacey was so committed, which helps tremendously. She gave it her best,” Huffman says.
Adams started the process in late March and, by May, she was pregnant. She got the news just two days after celebrating her 40th birthday. She’s now five months pregnant, expecting a little boy in February.
“I’m so excited, overwhelmed. I still have to pinch myself,” Adams said.

So how could acupuncture be related to fertility?
Huffman said it helps improve blood flow, reduce stress, regulate hormones and open up the pathway from the brain to the reproductive organs such as the ovaries. She said the acupuncture can be done alone or in combination with fertility treatments, such as IUI’s or in vitro fertilization and also aids in preparing the body for such treatments.
Alice Domar, a Ph.D. in health psychology, is the executive director of the Domar Center, a mind/body/ fertility program near Boston, Mass. The Domar Center focuses on combining relaxation with health programs by offering acupuncture, couples and nutrition counseling and yoga.
Domar, who herself studies infertility as part of her work as an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, said the jury is still out when it comes to linking fertility success with acupuncture.
“So why, you may ask, do I have six acupuncturists on staff? No one can prove it doesn’t work. In my opinion, it’s worth trying because it’s inexpensive, relatively non-invasive and it helps women relax and know they’re doing everything they can to help" have a baby, Domar said.
Domar said research on fertility acupuncture offers mixed reports. But she said she knows personally that acupuncture has worked for her in other ways. In December, she had back pain so intense she wanted to cry, she said. She turned to acupuncture and said she felt better after one 90-minute session.
“There’s something there,” she says.
Domar warns that people shouldn’t just use acupuncture, they should also go to a doctor to make sure nothing is wrong, such as blocked fallopian tubes. She said she discourages women from taking Chinese herbs. She said there hasn’t been enough research to make sure they’re safe.
Huffman said she asks women to choose whether or not they want to take herbs. 
Women are routinely advised to consult with their obstetricians about taking vitamins, supplements, prescription and over-the-counter medications during pregnancy. 
The cost of acupuncture treatments varies, but usually ranges from $80-$150. Adams says it was much cheaper than the IUI treatments she received which cost around $5,000 each.
In terms of how many babies have resulted from her work, Huffman said she hasn’t been able to keep track, but said success also comes in other forms, such as women having more regular or less painful periods.  
“I’m so overjoyed for Stacey,” Huffman said. “This is exactly why I do this, to help women. It’s so rewarding.”

(The article above is a reprint from Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cancer patients turn to acupuncture to cope with symptoms, side effects

Acupuncture is increasingly being used with cancer patients. Dr. Ting Bao, an assistant professor at the University of MarylandSchool of Medicine and faculty at Maryland's Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center and Center for Integrative Medicine, regularly used acupuncture to alleviate pain and treat side effects. Recently the Baltimore Sun published an interview in their Health & Wellness section. Below is an excerpt from that article. Note that I am the only acupuncturist in Iowa with formal training in oncology care and support for both cancer patients and their loved ones. My profound interest in this field led to my completion of Acupuncture Oncology training by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. If you think you or a loved one would benefit from acupuncture, please call or email us today.

Q: Are there studies on effectiveness of treating breast cancerpatients with acupuncture or any in the works? What symptoms of breast cancer and treatment could it help alleviate?
A: Yes, there have been several studies on the effect of acupuncture in helping breast cancer patients. The conditions that acupuncture was shown to help are chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, tamoxifen-induced hot flashes, and aromatase inhibitor-induced joint pain and stiffness. A number of clinical trials have shown that acupuncture helped reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. So far, there have been three randomized, controlled clinical trials showing that acupuncture significantly alleviates tamoxifen-induced hot flashes in breast cancer patients with minimal side effects. We recently finished a multi-center randomized, controlled trial assessing the effect of acupuncture in reducing aromatase inhibitor induced musculoskeletal symptoms. We are analyzing the data and will present the results soon.

Q: When should a patient expect relief and how long should it last?
A: It depends on the condition the patient is being treated for and the patient's state of health and stage of disease. Some conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting may only require one or two treatments, whereas chronic conditions such as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain) may take 4-8 treatments to see relief. Again, the duration of the treatment response, which may last from hours to weeks, depends on the condition being treated and on the patients themselves. In my acupuncture clinic, depending on the condition being treated, I usually start with once- or twice-weekly acupuncture treatments and then gradually adjust the frequency.
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