Herbal Tonics for Allergies

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen.  This could be anything from something you inhale to something you touch to something you eat.  An allergic reaction may cause sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, a running nose, a sore throat and rashes. In severe cases, allergic reactions can induce something known as anaphylactic shock, which can actually be deadly. continue reading »

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Spring Cleaning: Restoring Liver Health

Liver Qi  Stagnation

Who really considers their liver? Is it just a wedge-shaped spongy organ that somehow soaks up alcohol and squeezes out blood and digestive biochemicals? An imperfect champion of modern life, buffering us from the burden of late-night fries and whiskey, only to be guiltily appeased with salads and fresh juices the next morning? What is this beingwith whom we have such a tumultuous relationship? It is time to get to know the value of the liver according to Chinese medical theory.

Chinese medicine has a long history of placing the functions of the body into analogical frameworks that help make light the complex ideas of functional relationships between organ systems.

Physiologically, the liver embodies the decisive aspect of a military general, in setting up the preconditions for the correct functioning of nearly every organ system. For example, the liver is related to blood pressure via its synthesis of albumin, the blood plasma protein that helps balance oncotic pressure, which ultimately influences systemic blood pressure. The liver stores and releases important vitamins, minerals and glucose; metabolizes hormones; synthesizes proteins; detoxifies various metabolites; and secretes biochemicals vital to digestion such as bile.

These functions allow the entire body to function correctly, and in a broad Chinese medicine sense this can be understood as governing the directional movement of Qi (pronounced “ch-ee”) through the organ systems- to allow Qi to enter and exit the organs, stop and start metabolic processes, raise or lower pressure.

By allowing the correct movement of Qi through the body, the liver consequently governs the movement of blood, in a similar way to an army getting supplies and forces to the right people at the right time. The basic momentum of the blood is managed by the heart, but the usage of blood by any organ system is controlled by the liver.

So when you digest that heavy meal, blood gets shunted to the digestive organs; when you run, blood is made more available in the legs and lungs; when you sleep, blood retreats back to the liver for processing, allowing the liver to perform over 500 functions in the body.

According to Chinese medical theory, the liver Qi can become “bound up” by strong emotions, which physically inhibit its smooth functioning. Conversely, if the liver is physically injured or obstructed (say with fatty liver or even the blockage of the diaphragm), this causes a tendency toward angry outbursts, in the body’s attempt at removing obstruction with a forceful outpouring of energy.

Although this may sound like a stretch, consider the act of sighing. The liver sits just under the diaphragm physically. When the liver is obstructed by emotional tension, one begins to heave a heavy sigh to move the diaphragm and hence force the liver to move as well. It is no coincidence that a heavy sigh indicates a release of emotional tension. In this way we move our livers so our livers can “move” us, move our Qi and move our blood.

Liver Qi stagnation affects a large number of body processes, and it makes all of them less efficient. When the liver system is constantly challenged and bound up with stress, what follows are more severe imbalances of digestion, blood pressure, hormonal expression, blood sugar regulation and mood. This can cause muscle tension and pain, anxiety and/or depression, accumulation of fat, insomnia, menstrual cramps, low libido and more.

The correct movements of the body based on the “planning” action of the liver ultimately create a harmony of action of the body that nourishes a positive sense of self that allows stressful situations to be dealt with and not “held on to.” When one holds onto stress after the moment has passed, the smooth coordination of the planning process is interrupted; but as we all know, when one part of a carefully organized plan goes awry, it throws off the timing of the rest of the plan.

The modern condition of “decision fatigue” contributes directly to the binding up of activity of the liver system in a similar way to the “decision paralysis” that occurs when we have too many options or cannot decide. We go into fight or flight mode, release a bunch of stress hormones, and then stew in them because the organ system responsible for clearing out and metabolizing these stress hormones, the liver, is the one being most strongly impacted by our emotional response.

Another catch-22 of the liver system is that things like alcohol and fatty foods do tend to relax our minds and do technically ‘soothe’ the liver in small amounts. The prescription of medicinal wines are a perfect example of this; as is eating liver pâté to support liver health. However, these same substances in too large of quantities will injure the liver itself, disallowing their further use as a liver-supporting substance.

Ultimately, a little liver Qi stagnation is to be expected in modern life, and we all enjoy a bit of challenge to keep things interesting.

But, the higher the daily stress level, the more important it is to unwind this ‘bound’ Liver Qi. Allow the conscious or subconscious expression of emotion via playing sports, artistic pursuit, meditation, taking an extra long time to enjoy a healthy meal with friends, or in the most medically immediate way- seeing your acupuncturist for acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, cupping, and massage.

 

MY FAVORITE ACUPUNCTURE LIVER POINTS

LI 4

LI 3

 

Contact Integral Alternative Medicine LLC to make your appointment today!
www.integral-clinic.com
(312)-631-3095

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Five Reasons to Get Acupuncture for Allergies

Allergies, seasonal or otherwise, is one of the biggest health issues people deal with in the United States. And the numbers are rising every year. Part of this is because our agricultural practices have changed drastically in the past 40 years and our bodies are not accustomed to dealing with genetically modified foods or the excessive amounts of pesticides now being put in and on our food. We are also being over-medicated with antibiotics used in livestock we eat and that we are prescribed by our own doctors. This has created superbugs like MRSA that no longer responding to antibiotics. Our immune systems just can’t keep up. So every year, the number of people experiencing allergies is increasing. continue reading »

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Meno-Pause or Meno-Start? Life After 50

 

According to statistics at World Health Rankings, women’s life expectancy is 81.6 years (ranges between 74 and 84 depending on the state you live in). Menopause typically onsets at about 50. Theoretically, this means that the average woman should have more than 30 years of living after menopause!.

Women stress about these changes and are constantly looking for ways to beat the biological clock. It is time to shift our way of thinking and gracefully accept that menopause is a natural physiological process.

The first step is to educate ourselves about what to expect so we can be prepared to handle these changes. The climacteric phase or perimenopausal stage marks the beginning of the transition from reproductive years to non-reproductive years.  Women are born with a fixed number of eggs stored within ovaries and are shed during each menstrual period.The hormones used to maintain this cycle are mainly estrogen and progesterone. Subsequently, as women age, the number of eggs and these hormones steadily decline. The severity of menopause symptoms can be attributed to the fluctuating hormone levels but can also be affected by lifestyle and dietary habits throughout a woman’s life prior to 50. Furthermore, it is important to note that 45-85% of women may experience any of these symptoms up to 5-10 years after hormone levels have decreased.

 

Eastern vs. Western Medicine

Western medicine practitioners contribute symptoms to be directly related to hormone imbalances. In addition to that, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  practitioners believe these symptoms to be a result of systemic imbalances in combination with the body’s way of dealing with the natural aging process of menopause. Therefore, each woman’s experience is different depending on the systems affected.

 

Common symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Night Sweats
  • Vaginal dryness

TCM considers the menopausal symptoms as indications that the Kidney energy is waning, termed as  Kidney Yin Deficiency. Additional symptoms can include presentations of Kidney Yin Deficiency such as soreness and weakness of the lumbar regions and knees, dizziness, ringing in the ears, hearing problems, a dry mouth and throat, a hot sensation in the palms, soles of the feet, and chest and spontaneous sweating. We address both Kidney Yin Deficiency (the “root”) and the symptoms with acupuncture and Chinese herbs to tonify Kidney and clear heat.

Kidney deficiency is recognized in the clinic when the above-mentioned heat symptoms appear, which is characterized as “Empty heat” or “Heat from Deficiency”  Empty heat can lead to insomnia, hot flashes, menopausal syndrome and anxiety disorders.

Symptom Relief
Current Western medicine treatments for menopause symptoms include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which reduces vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes by 20-30%. However, HRT comes with concerning side effects such as increased rates of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer (1).

As a result, there have been several studies supporting alternative modalities in the treatment of the menopausal symptoms. Randomized control trials in the U.S., Norway, and parts of China have proven Traditional Chinese Medicine methods such acupuncture to result in as much as a 50% reduction in some of these symptoms with an average of 10-12 treatments over a 3-month period. (1,2,4)

The acupuncture points I use in my treatments target the Kidney and Heart meridians to alleviate these common distressing symptoms.

Fig 1                                    Fig 2                                               Fig 3                                         Fig 4

 

Fig. 1: Lung 7 and Kidney 6 combined to regulate the Conception Vessel (Ren), regulates the uterus and nourish Kidney yin, supports sleep.
Fig. 2: SP 6 benefits Kidney, reduces night sweats and helps sleep.
To clear heat and support sleep, I may use other points such as:
Fig. 3: Large Intestine 11 or 4

Fig: 4: Liver 3  – spreads Liver Qi,  helps with moodiness, headaches and blood pressure (in combination with other points)
Heart acupoints – if insomnia is the main problem

 

Therefore, fear not. Approaching the age of 50 does not have to be a dreaded process. We don’t have to fit the stereotype of a woman with raging hormones, having no control of her emotions or internal temperature gauge. The comprehensive components of TCM include lifestyle advice, acupuncture, and Chinese herbs. Each patient’s treatment is unique and personalized based on the systemic imbalances. Given this information, we now have the knowledge and the tools to take the appropriate steps to ease into this transition and let this milestone be an exciting new phase of life!

 

Stay tuned for future posts…..

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” —Charles Schulz

 

 

 

Discussion Question:  What are some of your fears for approaching menopause?

 

 

 

Bibliography

  1.     Borud EK, Alraek T, White A, Fonnebo V, Grimsgaard S. The effect of TCM acupuncture on hot flushes among menopausal women (ACUFLASH) study: a study protocol of an ongoing multi-centre randomised controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Feb 26;7:6. PubMed PMID: 17324253; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1819392.
  2.     Fu C, Zhao N, Liu Z, Yuan LH, Xie C, Yang WJ, Yu XT, Yu H, Chen YF. Acupuncture Improves Peri-menopausal Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sleep. 2017 Nov 1;40(11). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx153. PubMed PMID: 29029258.
  3.     Maciocia, Giovanni. “Obstetrics and Gynecology in CM.” (2011): 740-741.
  4.     Venzke L, Calvert JF Jr, Gilbertson B. A randomized trial of acupuncture for vasomotor symptoms in post-menopausal women.Complement Ther Med. 2010 Apr;18(2):59-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.02.002. Epub 2010 Mar 23. PubMed PMID: 20430288.
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Eating According to TCM: Five Foods for Spring

Spring is a time of renewal, regeneration, growth, and energy. The plants and animals awaken from the slumber of the cold winter months. The vital nutrients that have been stored in the roots of the plants and the bodies of the animals, come to the surface and life becomes more vibrant and fluid. Human beings are no different. Humans tend to stay indoors more during the winter months and sometimes pack on a little extra weight in the process. As the weather warms, humans become more gregarious and spend more time outside enjoying nature. This is just a natural process. continue reading »

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