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Lose It: Weight Loss And Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help with weight loss by evaluating the root of the problem. Acupuncture, along with changes in diet and an exercise plan, can help curb appetite, assist the digestive system, transform and transport food throughout the body and encourage regular elimination.

Here are three main contributors to weight gain and how TCM addresses them.

Hormones: Testosterone and estrogen imbalance can be likened to yin and yang. Yin is more feminine, still, dark, quiet, inward and moistening (our fluids are yin) and is likened to estrogen. Yang is more masculine, loud, outward, moving, hot and bright. It is likened to testosterone. The body continually achieves balance between these two elements. As we age, the hormone levels of testosterone and estrogen adjust and can create changes in the body such as weight gain. For example, women with higher estrogen develop increased fat storage, and women prescribed estrogen may be prone to weight gain. Treatment would include an herbal formula designed to adjust the hormones and a diet recommendation that would include foods that nourish yin, such as yams.

Dampness: In TCM the term dampness refers to water retention combined with fat stores due to overstimulation of insulin from poor diet and overeating. If this happens chronically, it weakens the spleen system (which is in charge of transformation and transportation of food in TCM, a different definition than that of the Western-medicine spleen).

Long-term depletion causes blockage of organs and channels leading to serious health risks for the kidney, spleen, heart and lungs. This happens in stages as acute damp retention becomes chronic and leads to deficiencies in the spleen and kidney, which leads to more chronic phlegm retention. An obese person would experience health issues such as diabetes and heart disease in this case. Treatment is best in the early, acute stages where dampness is still primarily middle-heavy. Acupuncture would drain the damp and a new diet would be implemented to prevent future issues. Foods such as barley, and soups to warm the spleen are beneficial.

Eating habits and lifestyle: Overeating, eating quickly, indulging in processed foods and foods too cold, such as iced drinks and raw vegetables, impair the smooth function of the digestive system. Stress and irregular eating habits also can cause weight gain, as well as eating sugar to boost sagging energy or to calm emotions. In addition, eating heavily at night is not advisable because the body burns at a slower rate at night as it replenishes the yin cycle. Treatment in this case would include an adjustment in lifestyle and acupuncture for stress relief and appetite control.

TCM does not just see food biochemically. Food has qualities including temperature, taste, shape and color, which benefit specific organs and encourage their smooth function. For example, sour and green foods benefit the liver, bitter and red foods benefit the heart, and pungent, white foods benefit the lungs. If one has too much yang energy, there is too much heat and therefore cooling foods such as watermelon and cucumber would help achieve balance. In the case of a decline in yang, one would feel cold, so warmer foods like lamb and ginger would benefit. If one has too little yin, heat signs are present because the yang has become more exuberant. You would nourish the yin in this case with foods like yams or goji berries. Not only will the weight gain be addressed but the root of the issue as well. Ask me if you’re interested in learning more about using TCM for your weight loss goals.

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Gua Sha for Healthy Skin

There are many elements to keeping our skin healthy and vibrant. For instance, are we giving our bodies enough water each day? Are we eating healthy, organic, whole foods?  Are we getting enough sleep? Are we dealing with our daily stressors? All of these things can affect how we feel on the inside and how we look on the outside. But in today’s busy society, many rarely take the time to care for themselves. This can show on our faces in the form of wrinkles, dry lackluster skin and even discoloration.

There is hope to fix this, and it’s called Gua Sha. Gua Sha may be just what the doctor ordered for attaining healthy skin.

Gua Sha is a technique that involves the quick, repetitive scraping of a flat jade, natural horn, ceramic or metal tool across the skin to relieve tension and pain and stimulate lymphatic drainage. It can be used anywhere on the body, but is frequently used as a part of facial acupuncture treatments.

Facial Gua Sha is gentler than when it is utilized in other areas of the body. When performing Gua Sha on the face, the tool is pulled along the skin instead of the deep scraping used on other areas. Also the tools used on the face are usually made of jade, rose quartz or porcelain, which provides a cooling sensation on the skin surface. The purpose of Gua Sha on the face is to increase lymph drainage and release facial muscle tension.

The lymphatic system relies on movement. We tend to get this vital movement through exercise or massage. But if you’re not engaging in regular exercise, the lymphatic system can become sluggish and clogged. This means that it doesn’t perform optimally.  When lymph fluid is circulating and draining properly, added Gua Sha can reduce inflammation and increase the body’s ability to remove toxins and dirt that have built up in the skin. This means less facial puffiness, clearer sinuses and less acne.

Facial Gua Sha can be beneficial for reducing tension held in the face and neck areas too. This may lead to fewer headaches, less jaw tightness and decreased neck pain.  For people who clench their teeth, Gua Sha can be a game changer because it releases the tension built up in the muscles.

One more thing that facial Gua Sha provides is exfoliation. The action of gentle scraping on the face improves blood flow and allows for the dead skin cells to slough off more easily and frequently. This can even out facial skin tone, creating a radiant, healthy complexion.

If you are concerned about your skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles or you are experiencing neck and jaw pain, facial Gua Sha might be the extra tool you need.

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Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel

As the weather warms, so too does the desire to be more active and spend time outside with friends and family. If you’re someone who spends a lot of the day on the computer, or in a job that requires other repetitive motions in your wrists and hands, you might be walking into summer in pain and wary of any upcoming bocce ball tournaments.

In some cases, repetitive movements of the wrist and fingers, including typing, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Characterized by pain in the wrist and hand, carpal tunnel syndrome means the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the wrist to the hand, has been compressed. This compression causes pain, numbness, tingling and occasional weakness of the wrist, arm and hand.

Conventional medicine treats true carpal tunnel syndrome with splints, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone shots. If none of these work, then surgery is recommended. Carpal tunnel surgery is the second most common type of surgery in the United States, following back surgery.

However, many people who develop wrist pain are misdiagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and sent to surgery when it isn’t needed. This can lead to further, more serious complications. It’s important to find out if  your discomfort is being caused by true carpal tunnel syndrome or just inflamed trigger points that need attention. When trigger points are “upset,” the pain can actually mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilizes acupuncture, as well as many other modalities, to treat pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture can be extremely beneficial for those suffering from this condition.  A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated acupuncture and electroacupuncture not only decrease pain, but also remap the brain. Before and after MRIs showed the carpal tunnel-related damage to the somatosensory cortex was repaired in participants who received acupuncture. This means those subjects actually showed continued improvement over time and their ability to function improved, too. 

Acupuncture is a safer alternative to NSAIDs, cortisone shots and surgery. Studies confirm acupuncture decreases inflammation and restores function to tight muscles and tendons. Many studies show acupuncture eliminates the pain source rather than just masking the symptoms. Acupuncture is cheaper, less invasive and has a much higher probability of providing permanent relief. But in order to do this, the proper diagnosis must be made.

As mentioned before, angry trigger points can mimic carpal tunnel pain. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for those experiencing trigger-point pain. Any one of the many muscles in the arms can become angry from repetitive motion. By stimulating painful trigger points with acupuncture needles, the muscles fire and release. This allows the muscle fibers to return to a relaxed state, relieving pain.

Wrist pain can be a serious burden for those who suffer from it, but before writing off the possibility of all summer lawn games this year, consider giving acupuncture a try.

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