A 2018 study published in the World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion looked at the effect of acupuncture treatments on rectal cancer patients who were experiencing hand-foot syndrome caused by their chemotherapy treatments. Hand-foot syndrome is a known side effect of chemotherapy characterized by redness, swelling, tingling, numbness, itching and pain in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
The researchers found acupuncture significantly reduced all of the symptoms associated with hand-foot syndrome to the extent they considered 17 percent of patients completely cured and the treatments were significantly effective in 70 percent of patients.
To conduct the study, researchers from Chongqing Cancer Institute recruited 60 patients with rectal cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Half of the patients received acupuncture and half were treated simply by taking B6 vitamins. Their hand-foot syndrome was scored using two internationally recognized scales indicating symptom severity and physical disability.
The patients in the acupuncture group received 30-minute treatments every day for two weeks. The patients in the B6 vitamin group took the supplement daily for two weeks.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, hand-foot syndrome indicates poor qi and blood circulation, a deficiency in qi and blood or dampness leading to a blockage in qi that prohibits nourishment from reaching the skin and muscles, causing numbness and pain. The acupuncture treatments were directed at promoting blood and qi circulation and removing stagnation.
After the treatments, patients in both groups showed improvement, but symptoms and physical disabilities for the patients in the acupuncture group decreased significantly more than for the patients in the B6 vitamin group. Based on the analysis of the scores, in the acupuncture group, the treatments cured five patients were effective for 16 patients, meaning their symptom score was downgraded to the lowest possible number on the scale and their physical ability score increased to between 80 and 89 out of 100 possible points. The treatments were effective for 70 percent of patients compared with 36 percent of patients in the B6 vitamin group.
The report concludes, “The results demonstrate that an integrative model of patient care utilizing acupuncture as a treatment modality produces significantly less adverse effects associated with chemotherapy.”
Research consistently shows acupuncture is effective at increasing circulation throughout the body, improving the flow of blood and therefore nutrients to injured cells, muscles or tissues.
Healthy Foods for Fall
The season of fall brings cooler weather and shorter days. As with any season, the world adjusts accordingly. Plants begin to go dormant, animals begin scrounging for food to store to get them through the upcoming winter months and humans start winterizing everything.
As fall descends on the land, it reminds us we need to start cutting back on the numerous cooling foods that are consumed during the summer months. Things like raw foods, salads, juices and fruits should be decreased because they can create too much cold in the body, according to traditional Chinese medicine.
There are many facets to traditional Chinese medicine and nutrition is one of the most important. The ancient Chinese observed what took place in nature and followed those cues accordingly. So when the season changed to fall and the amount of daylight decreased and the temperatures cooled, the Chinese began to eat what was available. This is what it means to “eat for the season.” By eating according to the season, we can avoid many illnesses and diseases. If we continue to eat raw, cold foods during the cooler fall and winter months, then we set ourselves up for digestive problems, colds, sinus infections and even painful joints. When a person eats seasonally, they will inevitably notice that certain foods are no longer abundant or available. During fall, one should fill his or her cupboards with dried foods, heavy grains, seeds, roots and squashes. In TCM, these foods help move the body’s energy or qi (pronounced “chee”) inward.
Fall is also a time to slow down. This means that we should cook food for longer periods of time on lower heat. How we cook food will affect how the body tolerates it and how the energy is used. For fall, TCM suggests making soups and stews, using a crockpot or slow cooker, roasting and baking foods. These methods create a deeper warmth and supply greater energy from the food.
Foods that are nourishing to the lungs are very important during fall. Since many people get sick during these months, lung tonifying foods can be very beneficial. This includes foods like ginger, onion, garlic, pears, walnuts, miso, navy beans, almonds, asparagus, broccoli, apricots, bananas, apples, plums and grapes.
The drier weather can also cause chapped lips, a dry nose, an itchy throat, rough skin and even dry stools. To counter these issues, it is recommended to eat foods that promote the production of bodily fluids, such as nuts, seeds, pears, pumpkins, honey and a traditional Chinese porridge known as congee.
When we follow the cues given to us by nature, we can maintain a very healthy existence. Ask me to learn more about eating according to the seasons in TCM.
In 2016, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study that looking at the efficacy of acupuncture in managing acute pain for patients in the emergency room when compared to intravenous morphine. The researchers looked at 300 patients who presented to the emergency room with acute onset moderate to severe pain. Half of them were treated with acupuncture and half were given intravenous morphine. To measure their pain reduction, they asked patients to report their pain score before and after the treatments, and considered a reduction of 50 percent or greater to be a significant reduction.
The study showed the patients who received acupuncture treatments for their pain saw pain reductions of 92 percent compared to 78 percent in the morphine group. The acupuncture also seemed to work more quickly than the morphine, lowering patients’ pain scores in an average of 16 minutes compared to 28 minutes for the morphine group. Additionally, 89 patients who received morphine experienced minor adverse side effects while only four of the patients who received acupuncture did. Overall, this study showed acupuncture worked better and more quickly than intravenous morphine for reducing people’s pain in a medical setting.
This study joins a growing body of literature suggesting acupuncture is very effective at reducing pain and/or changing how our bodies experience pain. The lack of adverse side effects associated with acupuncture treatments presents a strong argument for its use, especially as synthetic medications are associated with many negative side effects and people are often allergic to the medications.
Because acupuncture affects our brains, stimulating the release of natural pain-reducing hormones, it can be used for any number of afflictions that cause pain. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins – neurotransmitters responsible for blocking the sensation of pain. The stimulation also releases other chemicals that either change how the body experiences pain or triggers the release of other chemicals that activate the body’s internal regulating system. It is thought that acupoints are more densely packed with nerves than other points on the body, so stimulating these points sends more signals along the nerve networks in our body to cause this release of chemicals.
This process has a normalizing effect on nerves and hormones. By bringing the body into better biochemical balance, acupuncture promotes physical and emotional well-being and supports the body’s natural healing abilities.
Acupuncture and TCM also address the root causes of pain rather than just masking the symptoms. We develop treatment plans that are unique to each patient because each patient comes in with a unique body, health history and root cause behind their pain. By addressing the root causes, we create more lasting healing and bring your body back to a place where it can function optimally, using its natural healing processes to help you stay well.
Acupuncture and Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases are a collective group of disorders that plague nearly 50 million people in the United States today. When a person suffers from an autoimmune disease it means their own immune system is attacking the body and altering or destroying the tissues. Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Conventional medicine can diagnose 100 different autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, the treatments available to people with these disorders is not as plentiful through conventional medicine. It typically involves the use of pharmaceuticals that can have side effects that are as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms of the disease itself. And even worse, many people are told they have no options. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine can be beneficial.
Acupuncture treatments are completely customizable. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners don’t treat based on the Western medical diagnosis. They attack the disease based on its diagnosis in Chinese medicine. This means that they not only want to treat the symptoms, but also get to the root of the problem. This is much different from Western medicine with its one-size-fits-all type of treatments. The ability to treat each person as an individual with their own unique diagnosis is why traditional Chinese medicine is so successful.
Many factors play into an autoimmune disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the body as a whole, allowing the patient to get a more complete treatment, usually with better results. Since autoimmune diseases are thought to be a deficiency in people’s immune-system responses, TCM practitioners will work to restore and rejuvenate the factors that are vital for good immunity. These things include blood and the energetic life force known as qi (pronounced “chee”). There can also be underlying genetic factors involved in autoimmune diseases, so acupuncturists may also work on building up a patients essence or jing. Research has shown that acupuncture causes responses in nerve cells, as well as in parts of the brain. By utilizing acupuncture, those suffering from an autoimmune disease can, over time, reprogram their brains and cells to perform as intended.
The use of electroacupuncture may prove useful for people suffering from autoimmune diseases too. Electroacupuncture emits mild electrical stimulation to acupuncture needles. These light shocks trigger the body to produce hormones that suppress pain and inflammation. This helps raise endorphins circulating in the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.
Chinese herbal formulas can also be very effective in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Chinese herbs have specific qualities that can help boost blood, qi and jing. When acupuncture and Chinese herbs are combined, the effects can be quite favorable. The herbs will actually compliment the acupuncture treatments by extending the effects of the needles. Many times this will shorten the number of treatments required, as the patient will start to see results sooner.
Many people dealing with autoimmune diseases also experience high levels of stress because of their disorder. It can be very stressful trying to lead a “normal” life with severe pain and other symptoms. Studies show acupuncture is very relaxing, and it helps reduce excess cortisol levels in the brain that contribute to chronic stress.
As autoimmune sufferers start to see improvements with acupuncture treatments and herbs, they may also be able to do things they couldn’t before, like exercise. Exercising not only improves blood flow, but it also increases immunity. Exercise also increases the amount of endorphins in the body. So just by receiving regular acupuncture treatments and herbal supplements, those suffering from autoimmune diseases may be able to lead a much more normal life with a lot less pain and suffering.
If you are dealing with some type of autoimmune disease, consider giving Traditional Chinese Medicine a chance. The outcomes may be life changing.
Five Self Care Tips for Fall
Fall is a favorite season for many people. The weather starts getting a little cooler, things are beginning to slow down and preparations for the holidays are in full swing. For many others, fall is not so festive. Many people get sick during the fall months, allergies can flare up for some, and many don’t like the steady decrease in hours of sunlight, sometimes leading to seasonal depression. Here are some tips on how to get through the season without incident.
1. Wear a scarf.
The large intestine channel runs up the arms, across the shoulders, up the neck, over the face and ends next to the nose. As many people now know, the health of our gastrointestinal tract plays a big part in our immunity, so keeping the large intestine channel warm and preventing exposure from the elements will help keep you healthy. Cold pathogens can enter the body through the pores or nasal cavity, but wrapping the neck and shoulders with a scarf can help ward them off. Scarves don’t have to be thick or heavy, but they should cover the neck.
2. Eat according to the season
Eating foods readily available during the autumn months and foods that boost the energy of the lung and large intestine meridians is a great way to keep the organs associated with fall - the lung and large intestine - in balance. In the fall, you should eat fewer cold and raw foods like salads and instead eat more warm and cooked foods. Foods to enjoy during the fall months include apples, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, pears, yams, bananas, cabbage, carrots, cranberries, ginger, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and wild rice. Hot herbal teas are another good addition to your daily diet, especially those containing ginger and lemon, which act as natural antibiotics.
3. Stay hydrated
The large intestine and the lungs need to stay moist to function properly, so drinking lots of water is important during the fall. Without proper hydration, the skin, which is controlled by the lung meridian, can become dry and cracked, allowing pathogens to easily enter the body. The large intestine meridian also needs proper hydration in order to expel any pathogens that do get into the system.
4. Let it go (literally and metaphorically)
Fall is the season of letting go. Just as the trees let go of brightly colored leaves, you too should let go of whatever is bogging you down. This can include physical items like clothing, as well as items that are clogging up your mental closet, like unresolved emotions. Letting go of attachments can make way for growth and regeneration to occur in the spring.
5. Get acupuncture!
As the fall months approach, it is a good idea to increase your regular acupuncture treatments. There are many acupuncture points that help boost immunity, fight off colds, help with releasing emotions and improve digestion. Why not utilize the natural power we have to offer? By doing so, you might just survive the fall without ever getting sick and be better prepared for the upcoming months and seasons that follow.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.