Chinese Medicine considers preventative care as important as treating the disease itself. If we cultivate our health we can prevent illness and injury from occurring and minimize their consequences when 'disease evils' do attack us. Join Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc as she shares thoughts, news articles, recipes & tips derived from a wide variety of source material, as it relates to Chinese medicine and cultivating optimal health for the body, mind and spirit.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Anxiety, Depression & Fear Allow Us to Avoid Dealing With Life

Everyone experiences anger, depression, anxiety/fear, some more so than others. Some get overwhelmed and blocked by these emotions.

Did you ever consider how these emotions are coping devices, allowing you to avoid dealing with life's difficulties? When one is caught up in any of these negative emotions we are so consumed by feelings that we avoid dealing with the circumstances causing them. Buddhist's refer to
kleshas, mental states which temporarily cloud the mind and manifest in unskillful actions.

Anger allows us to feel self-righteous in our view. This burning hot emotion keeps us stuck in seeking vengeance and retribution so that we don't move forward or feel compassion. No progress is made. This emotion allows our wounded pride to dominate so that we stay where we are and avoid dealing with the circumstances in a meaningful, productive manner.

Anger often hides hurt, which can lead to depression. We don't want to feel the hurt, so we stay in our self-righteous anger as avoidance behavior.

In acknowledging the hurt,we must admit that trust was broken, and the other party did not protect our best interests. Either we showed poor judgement in trusting this person/entity, or we must acknowledge their flaws and feelings towards us, which may not be as loving as we would like. Anger allows us to avoid looking at these circumstances and feeling the hurt.

The hurt can lead to depression. Depression is a sinking emotion which slows down all movement, creating inertia. Those suffering with chronic depression are not able to generate the momentum to get out of their situation. This inertia allows us to avoid dealing with the circumstances causing the depression. Life isn't working out as planned. Toxic relationships, dead end or unfulfilling jobs often top the list. Changing our lives requires dealing with all of the circumstances, and that's not easy or pretty. So the inertia of depression is a coping strategy that allows us to stay where we are rather than digging ourselves out.

Likewise fear/anxiety is similarly paralyzing. Fear causes us to freeze. Another coping strategy that allows us to skip out on dealing with the future we find so terrifying. Paradoxically, if we get started working on finding a solution to the problem causing the fear, we would find we are too busy to have time to feel the fear. Anxiety is due to uncertainty. If we work on finding solutions, we eliminate the uncertainty, and therefore the source of anxiety.

Chinese medicine can help support you in dealing with these emotions. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) recognizes 7 emotions (anger, grief, sorrow, joy/happiness, worry, fear, fright). TCM organizes disease processes into organ systems (different that the western physiological organ systems). Each of these organ systems has an emotion, taste, sound, color, body part & season associated with it.

Anger is the emotion of the Liver, it's color is green (spring, jealousy), its season is spring, its energy is upward (spring growth) it's sound is shouting. The Liver system in Chinese medicine is responsible for circulating the qi (energy) throughout the body and organs. When we get anger we tighten up, so the qi doesn't move, and we don't move forward in dealing with the situation, other than to seek retribution. In Chinese medicine we use acupuncture and herbs to move the Liver qi, to eliminate the constraint and calm the mind. In this way we support you so that you are able to move forward and deal with the situation.

Sadness can affect many organ systems: the Liver, as a continuum of anger (hurt) causing Liver Qi depression (qi stops moving due to the tightening). Sadness affects the Lungs when associated with grief, the emotion of the Lung. And the Heart, as it affects the Shen, or mind/spirit, which is housed in the Heart. Chinese medicine uses herbs to help calm the mind and tonify the depleted Heart and Liver Blood and Yin
. An effective herbal formula, called Happy Tea has 3 herbs to tonify the heart and liver: licorice, dates and wheat. It's a sweet tea. These herbs are often added to other shen calming formulas for people who cry often, maybe after an emotionally traumatic experience, such as death or divorce, or for perimenopausal women. Acupuncture moves the Liver qi and also calms the mind to support you in moving out of this inertia.

Fear is the emotion of the Kidneys in Chinese medicine, associated with the color black, winter, ears, salty flavor and water (ocean). TCM uses herbs and acupuncture to build depleted Kidney qi, resulting in fear, lack of will, drive and motivation.

Acu/herbal therapy is effective in treating depression, anxiety & insomnia, giving you strength to deal with the life circumstances. KB

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Duke Univ Study Says Acupuncture Beats Pills for Headache

At last! When acupuncture first publicly arrived on the scene in the US in the 70's, the medical establishment's first concern was to be certain that the 'new' therapy was safe and wouldn't harm the public. After the millennium the safety concerns began to be put aside
following a landmark NIH study in 1997 that confirmed acupuncture is safe & effective and encouraged researchers to turn to efficacy.

Most of the researchers seem reluctant to verify that acupuncture is highly efficacious, consequently the studies' highest accolades seem to be acknowledging that acupuncture can match western medicine in terms of effectiveness.

Duke University has a integrative medical department that is in the forefront of the field. It has recently released a study showing acupuncture is more effective than drugs for headaches. This is the first of its kind that i have seen. the study documented 62% relief in acupuncture patients compared to 45% effectiveness for those using drug therapy. Here's a 3min video from Duke University talking about the findings and interviewing an acupuncture migraine headache patient.

This is an article I have written discussing how acupuncture treats headaches. A few older studies are included. KB

Photo: RambergMediaImages , Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Study Shows 2.5+ oz of Sugar/Day Doubles Risk of Hypertension over 160

In the Science Times Tuesday, the NYTimes reported about a study correlating those consuming over 2 1/2 oz of sugar or corn syrup per day with a 2x risk of developing systolic blood pressure (the higher number) over 160. 120/80 is normal blood pressure. A systolic number of 140 triggers a prescription for anti-hypertension drugs in the doctors' office.

I would extrapolate that those on a high sugar diet are also overweight or clinically obese, a condition positively associated with hypertension.

Acupuncture & Chinese herbal therapy are effective in treating hypertension. This is a condition that takes some time to treat. Usually lifestyle factors, such as stress or over eating play a role in the development of the condition, and these things take time to reverse. But I have seen favorable results in weaning patients off anti-hypertensive drugs and normalizing blood pressure with acu/herbal therapy.

Acupuncture is also effective in treating sugar cravings. We have an auricular (ear) protocol (NADA: National Auricular Detoxification Association) that is effectively used for all types of additions: sugar, caffeine, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. I have found sugar cravings reduce quickly and tremendously using the ear points.

So for someone with a sugar addiction and hypertension, acupuncture is an appropriate treatment option. KB

Friday, July 2, 2010

Study Shows Acupuncture More Effective for TMJ Than Physical Therapy or Drugs

The spring, 2010, issue of the Journal of Orofacial Pain included a review of studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating TMJ. The study concluded that acupuncture is more effective than physical therapy and medication in treating this disorder, and recommends more larger trials. The review also noted the absence of serious side effects in the acupuncture patients.

Here's a video showing a normal
temporomandibular joint (hence TMJ)

Here's a video of a displaced TMJ that is clicking when it's opening.

This video shows a TMJ disc with a thin attatchment.

I seen pleasing results with acupuncture in treating TMJ and other facial pain. I've used both standard TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) style of acupuncture, which is most commonly taught in the colleges and being used today, and Dr. Tan's Balance Method of acupuncture. I've had satisfying results with both methods, but I see more immediate results using the Balance Method, with a more dramatic reduction in symptoms. Using the Balance Method, I expect to reduce pain on the first treatment.

For example, I recently treated a 25y woman (let's call her Michelle) with TMJ pain for 3-4 yrs. Pain was in her jaw, radiating to the temples, neck & spine, causing lockjaw and ear-ringing. Pain could be excruciating in the evenings, and was worse with stress. At the time of treatment her pain level was a 4-5 (1-10 scale) i inserted 3 needles in Michelle's wrist. Pain immediately disappeared in all areas. She no longer had ear congestion or ringing.

Acupuncture is a therapy, and a series of treatments is required. The number of treatments needed to eliminate the pain and symptoms varies, depending on the individual, and whether the condition is acute or chronic. For chronic pain a course of treatment (10-12) visits is usually required, acute pain responds faster and usually fewer treatments are needed to resolve the condition. I generally recommend weekly treatments. If pain is severe, or to see quicker results, twice a week is optimal in the beginning, for 2-3 weeks, until the pain level decreases and symptoms appear less frequently. When symptoms become intermittent, no longer on a daily basis I begin reducing the frequency to 10 days and later 2 weeks, then 3 week intervals to consolidate the treatment before discontinuing acupuncture when the condition is resolved. KB

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Duke University Says Acupuncture Better than Asprin for Headaches

Duke University reviewed 31 studies to access the effects of acupuncture compared to drugs for the treatment of headache. The researchers found acupuncture is more effective (62%) than medications (45%). Findings were published in Anesthesia & Analgesia.

I practice Dr. Tan's Balance Method of acupuncture. Using this method, I expect to dramatically reduce pain on the first visit. Acupuncture is a therapy and a series of treatments is required. The number of treatments needed varies, depending on the individual, and whether the condition is acute or chronic. A course of treatment is 10-12 visits, and generally that is needed to treat a sub-acute condition. Chronic conditions take longer to treat.

All types of pain, including headache respond remarkably well to acupuncture. It is a shame more people are not using Chinese medicine for relief of their symptoms.

As an herbalist, i generally include an herbal formula to enhance treatment. Especially for chronic headaches, herbs give an extra edge to increase results of treatment. I compound individualized formulas for my patients which they drink as a tea.

Here's an article i wrote explaining how Chinese medicine treats headaches. KB