Lake Highlands Acupuncture Blog

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Monday 8 September 2014

Cowboys got you down? Acupuncture can help!

It's not always easy being a Dallas sports fan, and this year may prove to be tougher than most. If watching that Cowboys' game yesterday left you with some unwanted, unpleasant physical sensations, we've got some important tips for you! Or, if you couldn't care less about sports but still occasionally face headaches or nausea, keep on reading.

Headaches are common and often occur along with stressful situations, such as watching a figurative train wreck play out on Sunday night football. Acute headaches that occur suddenly are most often due to benign blockages of one sort or another, from muscular tension to more subtle blockages of blood and fluids into and out of the head. Luckily, we've got a button for that, built right into our hands and easily accessible any time of day. It's located right in the center of that fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger. Using your opposite hand, grasp this area using your thumb to apply deep pressure into this flesh. If you push deep, there will be a deep ache. Holding and rubbing on this spot for around a minute, as needed throughout the day can help take the edge off of any headache.


For nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach, such as following when the 'Boys throw three consecutive interceptions, the point is on the palmar side of the wrist. As you can see in the picture below, the point is three fingers from the wrist crease in the center of the arm. Just as with the headache point, pushing in deeply here should produce a fairly strong aching sensation. Again, pushing and rubbing this point with your opposite thumb for about a minute can help alleviate those digestive symptoms.


May next week be better for us fans, but if it's not, these handy tricks will get us all through regular season.

Friday 1 August 2014

Cool Tips for Summer Headaches

Are you feeling hot headed these days? If you’re like many of our patients at Lake Highlands Acupuncture, you may notice more headaches during these scorching Dallas summers.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has several explanations for summer headaches. (Remember, this ancient medicine is based entirely on nature!) First, heat causes symptoms that tend to flare upward (such as into the head). Think of a campfire flame. In your body, hot energy does the same thing. Heat rises and creates pressure in the head. Heat also exacerbates underlying temperature imbalances that may lead to headache. Furthermore, a variety of allergens are prevalent in the summer, which can irritate the respiratory system and lead to sinus-related headaches.

When these seasonal headaches arise, most people pop a pill. Aspirin, Tylenol, and Advil are so commonly used in our society that they’ve come to be considered absolutely safe. And, most of the time, used as directed, they are. However, over the last couple of years, more reasons to be careful have cropped up than ever before. For example, Tylenol is the nation’s leading cause of sudden liver failure, and the difference between an effective dosage amount and a dangerous dosage amount may be surprisingly small. In fact, acetaminophen (the generic name for Tylenol) overdose is one of the most common poisonings in the world! It may be time to try something different, something more natural and safer.

There are plenty of things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of most headaches. First, for almost any headache, apply cold above and heat below. The easiest way to do so is to place an ice pack on the forehead or top of the head and a heating pad on the feet, and lie comfortably for 15 minutes. You can also do this in a hot bath with an ice pack on the head. Second, rubbing a few drops of lavender essential oil into the temples and on the bony spot behind the ears is pleasant and effective. If your headache symptoms coincide with weather changes or allergy symptoms, ginger tea is a good addition to the above suggestions.

Some foods and beverages can also assist in your relief. If you are dehydrated, watermelon with a sprinkling of sea salt is a wonderful summer treat. Also, tension in the muscles of your head can be aided by foods high in magnesium like cashews, avocados, and leafy greens like spinach. Upping your intake of fish like mackerel and salmon may also help by increasing your levels of coenzyme Q10.

And, because most headaches have a muscular tension component, simple self-massage can be very effective. Concentrate on the muscular areas at the jaws and temples with firm but supple circular strokes, as well as along the back of the neck at the base of the skull.

For your more stubborn or recurrent headaches, it may be time to take the next step, and acupuncture is a very good option. Studies show that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of tension type headaches, as well as migraines. Significant relief can often be achieved in as little as one treatment.

Based upon several factors, including location, quality, duration, and accompanying symptoms, a licensed Dallas acupuncturist like Bryan Ellett at Lake Highlands Acupuncture can determine which of several causes may underlie your headaches. Most of the time, improvement in a current headache can be seen in just one treatment. Still, for ongoing and recurrent headaches, several treatments may be required to achieve maximum efficacy.

Additionally, Chinese herbal medicine is a tremendous resource for relieving the symptoms of headache and preventing their return. As with acupuncture, a licensed acupuncturist can determine what the cause of the headache is and prescribe herbs that naturally treat the symptoms and promote the body’s ability to heal the underlying issues that are at the root of the problem. Chinese herbal formulas are combined in a way to achieve maximum results with minimal side effects. Both herbs and acupuncture have over a thousand years of case histories to draw from and overall histories going back several thousand years further.

Further, since acupuncturists are trained in nutrition, Bryan can give you personalized diet and lifestyle tips, like the ones above, that don’t require a trip to Lake Highlands Acupuncture. We want to teach you to manage your health with the common sense of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Many people have come to feel that their headaches are something that must be suffered and endured. Most often, the imbalances in the body that underlie the headaches can be addressed holistically, and acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown effective in doing so. Come in to Lake Highlands Acupuncture, cool off, and experience life without the suffering.

Monday 28 April 2014

Carpal Tunnel syndrome? Acupuncture can beat that!

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is first characterized as an uncomfortable feeling in the hand, often of tingling. It becomes more frequent or even continuous as the condition progresses. CTS sensations often occur more frequently at night and during sleep and may wake people from their sleep. The classic CTS comment is, “I wake in the middle of the night with my hands tingling and have to shake them to make them stop.” Sounds like it's time to visit Lake Highlands Acupuncture!

As CTS progresses, the symptoms can progress to include the inability to manipulate objects, weakness, and wrist pain, which may migrate into the upper arm or even the shoulder region. Eventually tingling is replaced by numbness, as if one were wearing a rubber glove. Numbness and tingling affect the thumb, index, and middle fingers. As the disease progresses, lack of coordination turns into severe, debilitating weakness, especially in the motion of opposing the thumb to the rest of the hand.

CTS occurs primarily because of overuse and repetitive use injury, as with musicians, athletes, and those who work on a computer. Constriction in the wrist causes the muscles and tendons in the hands to be malnourished, and the blockage causes pain. Acupuncture and herbs combine to free the blockage, allowing blood and energy to again flow freely into the fingers and nourish the malnourished tissues, which means your hands can work and feel like normal again! Recent research has shown that acupuncture is as effective as steroid injection for CTS and carries fewer side effects!

CTS, as well as other progressive, repetitive-use injuries should be treated as soon as possible. Aside from the obvious discomforts and inconveniences of the malady, the sooner you seek help, the fewer treatments will be needed to get symptoms under control. That said, regardless of how long you've had symptoms, significant relief can occur with just one acupuncture treatment! Come on in to Lake Highlands Acupuncture and give it a try, especially before undergoing surgery.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Acupuncture for Anxiety and Stress

Life wasn’t always like this! Our ancestors could scarcely have imagined the sheer number and constancy of stressors that each of us deal with every day, and it never lets up! Work and school don’t quit, children don’t raise themselves, traffic doesn’t move fast enough, and the demands placed on us, both voluntary and involuntary, are enough to make even a strong person crumble.

All of that stress has an effect on your body. From a physiological standpoint, chronic stress keeps the sympathetic nervous system (your fight-or-flight response) active, even when it should be giving way to your parasympathetic system (your rest-and-digest response). The result is impaired digestion, difficulty focusing, increased blood pressure, headaches, and more. But acupuncture for stress and anxiety can mitigate these effects. How?

Studies show that acupuncture reestablishes the parasympathetic nervous system (Li, 2013), allowing the body to rest and reset. Even prisoners in prison psychiatric units have decreased levels of stress hormones, require fewer psychiatric medications, and report greater feelings of calmness after receiving acupuncture (Berman, 2002).

At Lake Highlands Acupuncture and Herbs, we will take careful note of how stress is affecting your body and will create a personalized treatment plan and fully customized herbal prescription to get you feeling like yourself again. Stress is everywhere, but we can help your body process it more effectively, leaving you calmer and healthier. Try acupuncture for stress and anxiety today!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

A Gut Feeling: Acupuncture for IBS, GERD, and Digestive Disorders

Eating should be a pleasure! Unfortunately, for many of us, digestive difficulties like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, gas and bloating, and constipation can make eating feel more like a chore.

We all know that food is one of life’s necessities, but few realize that many seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as poor concentration, poor sleep, and fatigue may be due to digestive problems. The body needs to process food efficiently and effectively to produce the essential elements it needs to run. If your digestion is impaired, every bodily system can be affected.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs help to relieve unfortunate digestive symptoms associated with these conditions by strengthening the digestive organs, interrupting the negative impact of stress on digestion, improving the body’s ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients, and easing the process of elimination. Studies have found that acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome provides an additional benefit over usual care alone, and the magnitude of the effect is sustained over the longer term (MacPherson, 2012). Also, acupuncture effectively inhibits the intraesophageal acid and bile reflux in GERD patients, alleviating patients’ symptoms safely (Zhang, 2010).

Of course, diet is important. Lake Highlands Acupuncture can help guide you through some of the current fads toward a simple and enjoyable common-sense diet that leaves you feeling your best.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Welcome to Lake Highlands Acupuncture

Interested in trying Dallas TX acupuncture but don't know what to expect?  Check out this short video for a quick look at what we do at Lake Highlands Acupuncture and how it's done!

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Fast Food Foraging

At Lake Highlands Acupuncture, we believe in following a common sense diet based on the way humans have eaten since the beginning of time. To understand what that means, think back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. They ate mostly plants, especially wild greens, berries, and nuts, and some meat and fats, like eggs. They didn’t have ready access to sugar, except for the occasional honey from a highly guarded beehive! Further, they didn’t binge on processed grains, which add on excess calories with little nutrition to speak of.

But eating fresh, unprocessed, low-sugar foods isn’t always an option during our fast-paced, 30-minute-lunch-break kind of lives. So we must learn to forage for real foods the way our ancestors did, except what once were lush forests and rivers are now golden arches and concrete drive-throughs. In our modern jungle, we’re looking for vegetable- and protein-heavy meals made out of real, fresh ingredients. That means no buns, no batters, and no weird oils. It also means high quality meats and organic veggies, which, let's be honest, you're not going to find in a fast food joint. But let's act like our foremothers and fathers and make do with what we can. Prepare your own high-quality food anytime you can, but in a pinch, these fast food options won’t derail the healthy patterns you’ve already set in motion.

Chick-Fil-A Grilled Market Salad

Chick-Fil-A Salad

This gorgeous salad features baby greens, cabbage, carrots, blue cheese, and berries. As with most fast food salads, this chain gets you with the dressing. We love good fats, but these dressings are riddled with soybean oils, sugar, and fake colors. Their Light Italian Dressing most resembles real food, so go with that—unless you keep your own olive oil and vinegar in your car, which these days, is not a bad idea. You’re a modern-day forager after all!

Subway Make Your Own Salad

Their marketing doesn’t lie! Subway is one of those few gems where you really can “eat fresh.” Still, forego the processed buns (your other buns will thank you), and order a plain salad loaded with veggies, and stack it high with plain chicken. Top it off with a little olive oil and vinegar. Subway does offer real oil and real vinegar, so hug your sandwich artist.

Carl’s Jr. Low Carb Six Dollar Burger

Carl's Jr Burger

Carl’s Jr. was among the first to market a bun-free burger. Made of the standard 100% black angus beef patty, two slices of cheese, tomato, red onions and dill pickles wrapped in a romaine lettuce leaf, the burger, which boasts just 6g of carbs, is a great fast food option. And as if we needed to remind you, say no to the fries and soda.

Wendy’s Chicken Caesar Salad

Wendy's Salad

The Wendy’s Chicken Caesar Salad has just 180 calories and 8 grams of carbs. As with the other salads on this list, ditch the dressing they offer and forage for your own real oil and vinegar. And those “homestyle croutons”? Throw them to the pigeons. On second thought, don’t. Pigeons shouldn’t eat them either.

KFC Oven Roasted Chicken with Green Beans

KFC Meal

Most chicken joints offer some sort of grilled option, so this tip isn’t just for your next visit with Colonel Sanders. We’re not worried about the fat in the fryer (assuming it’s real fat, not chemical soybean garbage) or the skin (yummy and healthy). It’s the floury, sugary, processedy batter. Pair your batterless chicken with some green beans, mustard greens, or other non-potato veggie, and you’ve got a delicious lunch ready to go. You don’t even have to run to your car for salad dressing!

Chipotle Burrito Bowl

Chipotle Bowl

At Lake Highlands Acupuncture, we’re often too busy (and too lazy) to make our own lunches. So we have Chipotle at least once a week. It’s the best of the fast food world hands down. The company actually cares about the quality of its food and offers hormone-free meats and cheeses, and some locally sourced vegetables. Still, the only way to go is the burrito bowl with no rice and beans. (Okay, you can have a few beans… and light on the mucus-producing cheese.) Stack the bowl high with grilled veggies, meats, fresh salsa, and guacamole. But their sugary salad dressing? Off to your car…

Boston Market Healthy Buffet

Boston Market Veggies

We know you’ll want some potatoes and gravy, but focus on what you can have at Boston Market. How does some delicious Roast Turkey Breast sound? Or some Tuscan Herb Rotisserie Chicken? Pair these forager-friendly options with fresh steamed vegetables or the broccoli with garlic butter sauce. You’ll be so satisfied, you won’t sweat the missing starch.

Panda Express Mandarin Chicken

Panda Express Mandarin Chicken

Nearly all of the entrees at Panda Express are trans-fat free, which means no chemists in the kitchen. So they’re doing something right. The Mandarin Chicken has 250 calories and just 8 grams of carbs, making it a tasty, healthier choice for Chinese take-out. (Don’t confuse this with the Orange Chicken, which is a sugar bomb with 42 grams of carbs.) A second good option for Texans is the Broccoli Beef, which gives you a nice dose of your cancer-fighting cruciforms as well.

Taco Bell’s Fresco Tacos

Fresco Tacos

Taco Bell’s Fresco or “Fresh” menu sounds promising for us fast food foragers! Well, it almost is… if you skip the two Fresco burritos. A single burrito packs a whopping 48g of carbohydrates—over one-third of what an average person needs each day. The tacos, however, are only about 13-17g per taco and feature meat and fresh salsa made in-house. While we don’t like the refined grains in the tortilla, foraging is about compromise. It’s also about moderation, so stick to only one or two tacos (or ditch the tortillas and order more). And skip those weird Styrofoam cinnamon things they call dessert. What are those anyway?

Five Guys Bunless Burgers

Five Guys Bunless Burger

We love that this beloved Northeastern chain has taken root in Texas. Null on sugar and refined carbohydrates, the bunless burgers pack a big protein punch. Still, moderation is important. The Little Hamburger has 16g of protein, whereas the regular hamburger has 32g. Adults need around 45-60g of protein per day, depending on body type and activity level, so plan your daily protein intake accordingly. Admittedly, the vegetable offerings are slim-pickings at Five Guys, but load up where you can on grilled mushrooms, green peppers, jalepenos, tomatoes, and pickles. High fives for Five Guys!

McDonald’s Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken

Do you detect a pattern? What does a healthy meal look like in the fast food world? A grilled chicken salad! No complaints here. We’ll take it, especially with 3 cups of veggies, jack and cheddar cheese, and thick cut Applewood smoked bacon, as this tasty salad boasts. As a bonus, McDonald’s does offer Newman’s Own brand dressings, which are historically health-minded (hello, pronounceable ingredients!). Use Newman’s balsamic or Italian dressing, and you really will have a happy meal!

Burger King’s Chicken Caesar Garden Fresh Salad

Burger King Salad

Second verse, same as the first… batterless chicken, veggies, use their dressing if you dare must. Word to the wise: skip the “Real Fruit Smoothie.” Poor BK’s heart is in the right place, but these sugar bombs aren’t doing us foragers any favors. Stick to your veggies and protein, and you will have earned that paper crown.

Long John Silver’s Baked Cod and Shrimp and Seafood Salad Side

The baked cod contains only 120 calories, 21 grams of protein and is carb free. All this makes for a particularly tasty meal when paired with a shrimp and seafood salad (carrots, cherry tomatoes, salad shrimp, shredded cheese, no croutons) for just 15 grams of carbs. Shiver me timbers, if you can eat healthy here, you can eat healthy anywhere!

Inspired and adapted from 10 Ways to Forage in a Fast Food Nation

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Evidence Supports Acupuncture for Pain

Pain is a natural part of life and an important communication from your body that there is something wrong. It can be the result of acute injury, organ dysfunction, repetitive action, stress and tension, or general deterioration, among other causes. But what really matters to us is that it hurts!

The most important thing in dealing with pain is finding the cause and, if possible, correcting it. With acute injuries, time does most of the work, eventually. Unfortunately, many forms of pain become chronic and are difficult to treat. Pharmaceutical pain killers are effective but also carry the risk of dependence as well as a host of unwanted side-effects. At Lake Highlands Acupuncture, we know acupuncture relieves a wide variety of pains, and the evidence backs us up.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine help effectively relieve a variety of pain conditions, speeding up both acute injury recovery and treating chronic pain. Studies have found that acupuncture can be an effective, well-tolerated therapy for chronic low-back pain with no major adverse events (Weiss, 2013). Further, acupuncture can be considered as one of the more effective physical treatments for alleviating osteoarthritis knee pain (Corbett, 2013). Also, acupuncture has been found to have efficacy for pain among the older population (Abdulla, 2013), and acupuncture can be considered as a useful way of treatment for the patients who suffer from chronic muscular-skeletal diseases (Najafi, 2013). For you headache sufferers, acupuncture could be a valuable non-pharmacological tool in patients with frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches (Linde, 2009).

What all this means is that acupuncture is effective for a wide variety of painful conditions and carries little to no risk, when performed by a trained, licensed acupuncturist, as compared to traditional treatment strategies. Give Lake Highlands Acupuncture a try! You’ll be glad you did.

Monday 10 February 2014

A New Look at Meditation

Meditation has gotten a reputation over the years as a hippie practice requiring incense and the Grateful Dead.

While we at Lake Highlands Acupuncture can sing you every lyric to "Ripple," some of the most experienced meditators I know are devout Christians (Psalms 104:34: May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.)

Others are atheists or agnostics. Meditation has no requirements, other than sitting in a chair for a little while. But why do it?

It could be your ticket to better health and reduced pain.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has always seen the body and the mind as inextricably linked. All this means is that the stuff going on in your head can affect what is going on in your body.

Your heart beats faster when someone cuts you off in traffic, or you’ve got a lot on your mind so you can’t sleep. Nothing new there.

The body-mind connection can work on a more subtle level too. For example, have you ever had a headache and then gotten wrapped up in a movie or a great conversation?

Sometimes, you forget you have a headache. In other words, intense focus altered how you experienced pain. In that same vein, modern researchers think that meditation helps retrain the brain’s perception of pain.

A 2011 study in The Journal of Neuroscience illustrated how a little over one hour of meditation instruction deactivated the pain-related brain centers in people who had never meditated before. That’s a pretty powerful finding.

When we think of the body making profound changes, we think of extreme events: “Well, of course that Olympian has a resting heart rate of 30. He’s run 20 miles a day for 5 years.”

But here we have proof that you can change the entire way your brain processes pain, just by sitting down and focusing for a few minutes each day. And it happens fast.

The benefits extend beyond pain though. According to Mayo Clinic, studies suggest that meditation may also be helpful with:

• allergies

• anxiety disorders

• asthma

• binge eating

• cancer

• depression

• fatigue

• heart disease

• high blood pressure

• irritable bowel syndrome

• sleep problems

• substance abuse

Other studies have shown promising effects on Parkinson’s, dementia, and other neurological conditions.

In our own backyard, a forthcoming study out of Texas Women’s University by Dr. Linda Csiza examines the effects of meditation on multiple sclerosis (MS) pain and fatigue, and the initial results are extremely promising.

Lake Highlands Acupuncture is glad to see modern research catching up with ancient Chinese medicine's view of an integrated mind and body.


Emerson demonstrates a calming meditation he learned from Lake Highlands Acupuncture.

Monday 6 January 2014

Cold and Flu Tips You Haven't Heard Yet

We all know the basics.

Drink plenty of water. Get plenty of sleep. Stay warm. Mom ingrained these lessons well.

Still, there’s more to do to keep those bugs at bay.

First, did you know that your stomach is one of the most powerful weapons you have against cold and flu?

Think about it: your stomach is a big sack of acid ready to break down anything that falls into it, including pathogens.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) describes the stomach as a furnace that transforms the good and burns up the bad. Further, TCM asserts that digestive upset is often due to too little fire, or stomach acid, instead of too much.

Yet, we often pop an antacid at the first sign of discomfort and “put out the fire.” Doing this too frequently can disarm one of your greatest weapons against cold and flu. A simple at-home test can tell you whether you’ve got too much or too little acid.

Next time you feel digestive discomfort like heartburn, take a small spoonful of a high quality apple cider vinegar, like Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. If it quells the pain, you’re experiencing hypochloridia, a fancy name for not enough stomach acid.

Hypochloridia is easily remedied with apple cider vinegar or other supplementation. Our neighbors at Northlake Health Food have some good options.

Second, avoid mucus-producing foods like dairy. We can devour a cheese plate as quickly as the next guy or gal, but at the peak of winter, go light on the Limburger. And this goes for everybody.

People with full-blown dairy allergies know how milk can affect them, but those without a severe allergy might not notice the more subtle mucus-producing effects. This low-grade mucus isn’t a big problem normally, but when coupled with poor digestion and an abundance of winter viruses, it can stack the cards against your immune system.

If you’re worried about keeping up your calcium during your dairy hiatus, try increasing your intake of leafy greens, an underappreciated source of calcium.

Finally, if your defenses are down and you show signs of a cold, use the home remedy we recommend to all of our patients. It’s easy, and it’s cheap.

Boil one inch of sliced ginger root, 1-2 inches of the white part of a scallion, diced, and a dash of brown sugar for 10 minutes in a mug’s worth of water. Drink. Take a hot bath or shower, then dry quickly, and immediately wrap up in a blanket. Get a moderate sweat going for 10 minutes. Dry off and put on some cozy clothes. Stay warm!

In our family, this little recipe knocks out our symptoms a majority of the time. Other times, we have to supplement with some Chinese herbs we have stocked just in case. (Lake Highlands Acupuncture has a full herbal pharmacy, so you can stock up for your family, too.)

A cornerstone of TCM is being attuned to nature. It’s winter—a time for hibernation and rest. You may notice your pets sleeping more these days. Sometimes getting sick is the body’s way of saying, “Hey, let’s take it easy.”

So listen to your body (and your dog). Take it easy! Your body will insist you do one way or another.


Gunner Broywell heeds advice from Lake Highlands Acupuncture and takes it easy during these winter months.

Monday 9 September 2013

How Not to Get Sick

Ah, the new school year, 2013. The leaves are turning brown, there is an icy note in the morning air. Check that, this is Dallas! It's still 100 degrees, and the only reasons those leaves are turning brown are heat and dryness. But even though it doesn't look like fall (or smell like it or feel like it), the season of renewed germ exposure is upon us. Come in to Lake Highlands Acupuncture to get a boost for your immune system, helping you fight off more infections or rebound more quickly when one of those pesky viruses or bacteria sneak through. How can acupuncture and herbal medicine do this?

I've spoken in previous blog posts about the precious substance of qi. Qi is the body's vital energy, that which makes all of the organs function and perform the work of being a healthy human being. But qi, like blood, is not a single thing. Just as blood is made up of (among others) white cells that perform immune functions, red cells that carry iron, and platelets that clot, there are different aspects of qi as well. Today, I'm going to focus on wei or protective qi.

The great majority of the body's qi is derived from the food and water we consume. This nourishment travels from the mouth into the digestive system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the stomach and the spleen are responsible for digestion, with the spleen's importance being paramount. This spleen is not exactly like the physiological spleen we understand in the West, but may indeed be closer in function to the pancreas. The aforementioned nourishment is separated in the stomach into two parts: the heavy and the light. The heavy is what is sent further into the intestines for the absorption of further nutrients. The light, a sort of precursor qi known as gu qi, is sent to the spleen where it is separated into ying qi, which is a nourishing form of qi that makes up part of the blood, and wei qi, the protective form of qi we are interested in here.

The spleen sends the wei qi to the lungs, which have the functions of controlling and distributing it. The wei qi has several functions, including nourishing and moistening the soft tissues of the skin and muscles, opening and closing the pores to maintain body temperature, and defending the body by preventing the invasion of external pathogens. Thus, the wei qi is an important aspect of your immune system. Because it protects the exterior of the body, it works rather as an armor against invading pathogens.

To best perform the job of immunity, the wei qi must be plentiful and must move freely. As described above, the wei qi is derived from the digestive process. So, if digestion is impaired, it is easy for wei qi to be deficient. Furthermore, the path of food and water intake is also a possible pathway for external pathogenic invasion, so peak digestive function (strong digestive fire) is directly as well as indirectly important in immunity.

Also as noted above, the lungs are responsible for dispersing the wei qi, helping it move in the spaces where it is needed. So, if lung function is impaired, wei qi's movement is impaired, and the defensive response is impaired. In TCM, the lungs are referred to as the "imperial carriage roof", meaning the organ that is above all the other vital organs and acts as a protective canopy-like barrier. This is where pathogenic invasions most commonly occur, because the lungs are the primary barrier to the exterior where the pathogens exist.

Sometimes, though, no matter what you do, some germ will sneak through and you may get a cold. You probably know the first symptom that alerts you to an upcoming sickness. It could be a scratchy throat, tingling back, bizarre fatigue. Whatever it is, you've probably had it enough to recognize it for what it presages: upcoming sickness. At this first sign, a home herbal remedy should be immediately applied! In a teapot or saucepan, add about 1 mugs-worth of good clean water, along with about a 1 inch section of ginger root cut into thin slices and a 2 inch section of the white end of a green onion. Boil for about 10 minutes. If you desire, for flavor, a bit (1/2 tsp or so) of honey may be added to the hot mixture after boiling. Let the liquid cool enough to sip, then enjoy it in a nice hot bath. The beverage will open your pores and the heat will cause sweating. The sweating is a good thing, as it releases some of the pathogen and impurities causing you to feel bad. After getting out of the bath, roll up under a heavy blanket and sweat for a few more minutes. Then, dry off and put on some warm clothes and socks. If done early enough, this simple treatment may knock out a sickness before it has a chance to take hold. Dealing with a cough? Try this recipe!

So you can see, keeping the digestive and respiratory systems functioning at their peaks is the most important way to promote immunity during cold and flu seasons. At Lake Highlands Acupuncture, we provide you with custom herbal formulations and custom acupuncture treatments that promote digestive function, keep everyday stressors from impeding digestion, promote respiratory function, and boost your wei qi. Come in early. It is much easier to boost immune qi before allergies and flus hit than after. If you know when respiratory allergies tend to hit, come in a good 6 weeks before, and we'll get your immune barrier functioning at its best.

Monday 26 August 2013

What does acupuncture do, anyway?

There are more than a couple explanations as to how acupuncture works. First, I have to say that a definitive mechanism of acupuncture has not been scientifically proven. But placing needles at precise locations on the body does something, oh yes it does. One visit to Lake Highlands Acupuncture will prove that. So, let's look at some of the things we know about it.

We'll start with the basics. The human body uses a tremendous amount of its resources and physiological responses to maintain a state of homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of balance in the body of such things as temperature, blood pressure and composition, and digestive pH. These things don't stay at exactly static levels but rather hover around a middle point. For example, your body temperature is lower first thing in the morning and changes throughout the day, but the body works to keep the temperature within a healthy, normal range of a couple degrees. There are many more examples of homeostatic changes here.

Your body uses a variety of resources to maintain this homeostasis. Energy, calories in the form of glucose or glycogen, is burned to raise your temperature. Blood pressure increases require either increased volume of blood or constriction of the blood vessels. It's pretty complex stuff. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the primary resources the body uses for its physiological functions include qi (pronounced "chee"), blood, body fluids, and essence. These are known as the four vital substances. A very basic understanding of TCM is that such interventions as acupuncture or herbal supplementation have the intended result of the most efficient use of the vital substances possible. If the vital substances are used efficiently, the body is functioning correctly.

Now, this is purpose, not action. This doesn't tell you how it works, just what it's supposed to do. How does it work? Let's start with TCM theory. TCM is a holistic medicine, seeing the body as a whole rather than as merely a collection of individual organs doing their separate things. The body is interconnected by a series of meridians, or channels, most of which connect the body top to bottom and bottom to top. Through these channels, the vital substances, and most especially qi, flow. Qi is energy, but it takes many forms. The electrical impulses traveling along your nerves are a form of qi. The muscular contractions moving food from your mouth, into your stomach and intestines, and out of the bowels are also a form of qi. When qi flows freely, there is health. When qi is blocked for some reason, there is disease, such as pain, constipation, weakness. Acupuncture is performed by placing needles at the specific locations of the body where these channels of qi flow closest to the skin, thereby affecting the flow of qi in that channel.

So that's the theory. Since neither meridians nor qi have been scientifically proven to exist, let's check out what has been proven to happen. Medscape has an interesting article on acupuncture mechanism, stating in part,

"An interesting study demonstrating the map of a meridian pathway involved the injection of Technitium99, a radioactive tracer, into both true and sham acupoints.6 The scan of the injection sites showed random diffusion of the tracer around the sham point but rapid progression of the tracer along the meridian at a rate that was inconsistent with either lymphatic/vascular flow or nerve conduction. Another study demonstrated that needling a point on the lower leg traditionally associated with the eye activated the occipital cortex of the brain as detected by functional magnetic resonance imaging.7"

Two things here are of note. First, real acupuncture points are different than sham (or fake) acupuncture points, and in fact the real points showed progression of the tracer substance along the meridian, despite the fact no physical structure corresponding to such a meridian has been found. Second, needling a point in the leg has an effect on the brain. An important feature of acupuncture is that various parts of the body can be treated by actually sticking the needles somewhere else. Why? Because the whole body is interconnected.

Another beneficial effect of acupuncture is the regulation of the autonomic nervous system. There are two main aspects to this system, the sympathetic nervous system (involved in our "fight or flight" responses to dangerous situations) and the parasympathetic nervous system (involved in resting, relaxing, healing, and digesting). Studies on acupuncture often focus on the effectiveness of treatments for specific conditions, such as headaches, PMS, or allergies. If these studies also take note of signs of autonomic nervous activity, such as temperature, pulse rate, or blood pressure, it is consistently shown that acupuncture promotes parasympathetic activity. What does this mean for you? In our busy, stressful lives with kids screaming, traffic jams, and difficult schedules, our sympathetic nervous systems are hyperactive, so our bodies are too often in the "fight or flight" state in which our blood pressure and heart rates increase, pupils dilate, and digestive function decreases. It is also the state in which resources are not directed toward healing.

Do you feel stressed? If you can feel it, there's a good chance your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. So give us a call! A treatment at Lake Highlands Acupuncture will focus on your specific health concerns, whether or not they include stress. But the happy side effect is that, regardless, your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems will be brought into greater balance, allowing your body the chance to rest, relax, heal, and enjoy life.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Acupuncture, Theory and Belief

Acupuncture is still a very novel form of medicine in the West, though archeological evidence suggests that it has been practiced in some form for close to 5,000 years. Of course, the medicine has undergone significant evolution in that time. Thank goodness! No one would want to be stabbed by the heavy stone needles that have been found dating to the Neolithic Era! Similarly, the theories on which acupuncture is based are very old but have also been modified, updated, and polished as time has gone on. In fact, the medicine continues to evolve and change to this very day.

Acupuncture is one component of traditional Chinese medicine, a group of practices that also includes herbal medicine, moxibustion, body work, energy-based forms of exercise, and dietary therapy. Moxibustion, the burning of the herb mugwort in direct or indirect contact with the skin, is such an important component that in China, the general practices are most often referred to as acupuncture and moxibustion, rather than as acupuncture alone.

The theories that form the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine are Yin-Yang Theory and Five-Element or Five-Phase Theory, both of which are foundational understandings of Daoism and may be used to describe any and all Earthly phenomena. Yin-Yang theory is the more basic, setting up a basic dualism similar to how we think in the West. Yang describes the aspects of anything that are characterized by movement, heat, dryness, power, uprising, spreading, male-ness. Yin describes the aspects of anything characterized by stasis, coolness, moisture, suppleness and nourishment, downward and inward movement, female-ness. Concerning bodily ailments, yin and yang make for easy descriptors. Heart burn is yang in nature due to the feeling of burning or heat. Chills or cold hands would be yin in nature. These are very basic examples.

What makes Yin-Yang theory different from Western dualism is the understanding that the two aspects are interdependent, unlike in the West where we tend to prefer thinking of things like life and death or sickness and health being independent, thus allowing for the possibility that sickness and death may not be necessary. With Yin-Yang, one cannot exist without the other. Furthermore, one is continually changing into the other. For example, eating a lot of cold, damp food like ice cream initially causes a yin, cold feeling in the stomach. However, because such food is difficult to process, it often leads to indigestion and heart-burn, a more yang sensation.

Five-element theory is a more nuanced outlook, dividing Earthly phenomena into five categories: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. Wood corresponds to the season of spring, when plants grow. It is a warm season, but not as warm as summer, which corresponds to fire. Therefore, fire is more yang than wood in terms of temperature. The other elements follow in kind, earth is late summer, metal is fall, water is winter. Over centuries of observation, these elements were applied to the organs of the body for diagnostic purposes. Water corresponds to the kidneys and bladder, wood to the liver and gallbladder, fire to the heart and small intestine, earth to the stomach and spleen, and metal to the lungs and large intestine.

The five elements can be viewed as occurring in a cycle. Water gives rise to wood (which needs water to grow), fire burns wood, the ashes become earth, earth begets metal (as in the metal ore deposits within the earth), and metal gives rise to water. That last one takes a little more imagination to see, but one example occurs with the condensation that easily occurs on metal. This is called the generating cycle. There is also a controlling cycle, as in water controlling fire and metal controlling wood. When the organ correspondences are used, one can see how internal pathologies can travel in the body. For example, the liver (wood) is the organ most closely associated with stress. When stress causes wood to become overactive, the next element in the sequence can be affected, in this case earth. Earth corresponds to the digestive organs of stomach and spleen. This is why stress can lead to indigestion, diarrhea, and even such things as irritable bowel syndrome.

At the basic level, both yin-yang and five-element theories are analogies or symbolic representations to represent biological phenomena in terms that ancient people understood, namely as how earthly phenomena corresponded to biological phenomena. The methods of treatment, including acupuncture, herbs, and moxibustion, based on these symbolic understandings were developed and refined over hundreds and thousands of years without the benefit of modern scientific research.

Modern Western medicine operates under the understanding, from the Age of Enlightenment, that knowledge is advanced through the use of the scientific method. Ancient Eastern medicine was built through centuries and millenia of clinical observation. Modern Western medicine now considers valid only those treatments that can be "proven" with double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. Ancient medicine most often considered a treatment valid if the patient felt better and grew less sick. Modern research with greater controls is only fairly recently being performed on acupuncture. The results have been favorable enough that the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health consider acupuncture an effective treatment for a variety of conditions.

The lack of wide-ranging scientific "proof" about the efficacy of acupuncture and other complementary medical modalities has resulted in the idea that these treatments are nothing more than elaborate placebos that work merely through coincidence or belief. Indeed, many people think that such treatments will not work if the patient does not "believe" in them. Those who have received benefit from acupuncture, many of whom began without either belief or disbelief in its validity, see things differently. For many, acupuncture works. The proof is that they feel better, and they don't need a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to tell them it worked. Indeed, I've performed hundreds of treatments and can say without reservation that acupuncture treatment does not require belief. The precise placement of acupuncture needles into the body causes physiological changes that may not be understood yet, but occur nevertheless. Acupuncture does not work for every person, every time, for every condition. Nor does any Western medical treatment. The question is, will it work for you? The treatments are very safe and all but free of side-effects. There is very little risk to giving it a try, aside from challenging your beliefs that it should not work.

Call Lake Highlands Acupuncture today for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your specific needs!