Many people are currently on cholesterol-lowering medications, such as Lipitor, Vytorin, Zetia, and Crestor. There are many side effects to these medications including muscle pain, elevated liver enzymes, and digestive complaints. Often, high cholesterol can be treated effectively through diet modification and lifestyle adjustments.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that sugar intake is associated with raised lipid levels, (specifically for women in this study). Sugars increases the amount of inflammation in the body, and according to Chinese Medical theory, increase the amount of "dampness" (or cholesterol) in the body. Examples of other foods that promote dampness include dairy products and fried foods.
Many supplements are available that may have cholesterol-lowering properties. Because supplements are not approved by the FDA for treating or preventing high cholesterol, I can't specifically tout their cholesterol-lowering virtues here. There are Chinese herbs that can help reduce dampness in the body (see this study). It is best to consult a health care professional or herbalist before taking any supplements, and also to consult your doctor before discontinuing any medication.
With a combination of Chinese Medicine and lifestyle adjustments, people with high cholesterol levels can see great results.
Whether its migraines or the occasional tension headache, acupuncture can help treat and prevent the occurrence of headaches.
In Chinese Medical theory, pain is viewed as a blockage of energy and blood to the head, or a deficiency of energy and blood reaching the head.
Poor diet and an underpowered digestive system can cause a layer of "fog" in the brain, causing a heavy headache that feels full and like a tight band around the head. Excessive emotions such as stress can cause tight muscles, leading to tension headaches, and headaches that occur with the menstrual cycle. Emotions such as anger can cause an upsurging of energy (and usually raised blood pressure) to the head. A trauma to the head such as a concussion or car accident can cause blood to get "stuck" in the head and neck, causing painful sharp pain in the head.
On the other hand, an underpowered blood flow to the head can cause a dull, empty headache, because the needed nutrients, blood, and energy cannot reach the head. People with these types of headaches may get dizzy when standing up and have lower blood pressure and fatigue.
While ibuprofen and certain migraine prescriptions may offer relief for a current headache, it is often a "band-aid" fix that is used indefinitely. Acupuncture can help to decrease the severity of a headache, and more importantly, prevent them from occurring in the future. Whether it's the occasional tension headache, or severe and persist ant migraines, acupuncture can help to bring you to a more pain-free life. And even better, the side effects are often better sleep, more energy, and improvement in overall health.
A question I get asked a lot is: “Can acupuncture help me lose weight?” The answer is – yes! Whether you are obese or just trying to lose a few pounds, acupuncture is very effective at controlling cravings for sugar and high fat foods that contribute to weight gain. In Chinese medicine, a craving for sugar or other flavors such as salty chips or pizza is a sign of imbalance. When these imbalances are corrected, you no longer have that intense craving for that food or flavor. Acupuncture can curb addictive cravings for sugar using some of the same points used for smoking cessation and drug addiction.
When overweight, many people can feel fatigue, depression, and loss of motivation. This can prevent one from taking the steps needed to lose weight such as exercise and make better food choices. Acupuncture can help with increasing energy levels, lifting depression, and regaining motivation to be more active. If your weight gain is due to a medical problem and hormonal imbalance, Chinese medical diagnosis will be made for your particular pattern to address the imbalance
Acupuncture is not, however, a “magic pill”. It involves a lot of commitment and hard work on your part to break through old habits. It is a great tool to help you gain energy, motivation, and curb cravings that will help you get on the road to better health, as well as have guidance and support during that process.
Most people don’t think about acupuncture when trying to fix problems of the digestive system, including acid reflux, nausea, diarrhea, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic gastritis, and constipation. However, acupuncture can be very effective in helping resolve these problems. For stress-induced symptoms, acupuncture relaxes the sympathetic nervous system to allow your digestion to function normally. Acupuncture also can stimulate your body to resume secreting the proper amount of digestive juices and hormones, so that your food is broken down and absorbed properly. The symptoms (pain, nausea, diarrhea) can be alleviated, while simultaneously targeting the cause of those symptoms so they do not return. In Chinese Medicine, if the digestive system is not functioning well, good health cannot be attained. A typical treatment for digestion usually involves acupuncture and moxibustion. The length of treatment varies based on your specific condition, but most people notice improvements by the third acupuncture treatment.
Over the last 2000+ years, the Chinese have carefully observed what foods and practices lead to good digestive and overall health. Here are a few tips in addition to an acupuncture treatment:
- Do not overeat sweet, spicy, or greasy foods.
Cold foods (ice water, ice cream, frozen drinks) sap energy from the body. Room temperature foods and drinks are best.
- Steam or cook your vegetables and go easy on the salads – raw vegetables are difficult to digest, and will sap energy from your body over time. Eat meals at the same time everyday.
- Eating late at night (especially after 9 or 10pm) will weaken your digestion (and make for a bad night’s sleep!)
- Dairy can exacerbate sinus and chest congestion, as well as asthma
- A variety of flavors helps to balance the body. Some examples:
sweet: carrots, apples
sour: vinegar, lemon juice, plums
spicy: Black pepper, garlic, onion, cloves
salty: salt, seaweed
bitter: bok choy, kale, coffee
- Eat in moderation: stop before you are painfully full, and drink alcohol in moderation.
As someone with chronic back pain myself, I often get relief through acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage. However, usually the results only last me around a day or so, then my low grade back pain returns.
Like me, many patients will not get lasting relief without strengthening and lengthening these chronically weak and spasmed muscles. I was happy to get some relief through the Egoscue Pain Free DVD series. The theory behind the Egoscue center and their exercises are to strengthen weak muscles, and lengthen spasmed ones. This gives you good posture and bone alignment, which keeps back pain from returning. The Egoscue method clinic also has a location in San Francisco where they give you an individualized treatment plan.
The DVDs are not “workout” videos but are exercises focused realigning muscles. Making a habit of doing the exercises can help to prevent back, hip, and neck pain from returning. Other methods of realigning the muscles in the body include yoga classes, tai chi, physical therapy, personal training (including weight lifting and stretching). Many people may be surprised to learn that Chinese herbs, when prescribed by a licensed herbalist, can also help to ease chronic back pain.
I had an interesting tidbit to share about wine. At a recent educational seminar, the instructor was talking about the heavy metal content in wine. He claimed that he could tell if the patient was a regular wine drinker by signature levels of certain heavy metals present in a blood test. After looking into it I found a study from late 2008 that tested heavy metal levels in wines from 15 nations. You can read the full article here.
The results showed that, of all 15 nations tested, only 3 countries had wine with safe levels of heavy metals: Argentina, Italy, and Brazil. All the other wines tested levels 50-300 times what was considered safe. The highest contaminations were from vanadium, copper, and manganese. Manganese accumulation in the brain is apparently linked to a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Unfortunately, US and Californian wines were not included in the study. It would be interesting to see the results of further testing, and also to find out the source of the measured heavy metals.
The big buzz word in nutrition is Antioxidants. I'm sure you've heard about foods that are high in antioxidants such as chocolate, red wine, and pomegranates. This study, published in Nutrition Journal, measured the antioxidant content in 3100 foods and herbs.
Antioxidants are related to prevention of DNA damage, cell repair, prevention of cancer, etc. Most of the findings in food are already common knowledge, but some were surprising, such as: espresso, pecans, walnuts. The berry category also had high levels but included some strange foods - wild dog rose and Indian gooseberry....good luck finding those.
Spices in order of antioxidant content: cloves, peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron. ALL spices had very high levels of antioxidants.
The MOST antioxidant-rich category of foods was....herbal/plant medicine!! They studied traditional medicinal herbs from Peru, Japan, India, and Mexico. A formula called Goshuyu-tou (or I think Goshuyuto as it is more commonly referred?) made it on the Best Of list - which is a formula we prescribe in Chinese medicine.
The authors go on to say that foods like the fruits, nuts, chocolate, and berries have 5-33 more antioxidants than meat. Chinese herbs, like the spices and other plant-based foods we eat, can have beneficial effects far beyond their basic nutritional value. Like the life-nourishing effects of a good diet, Chinese herbs can be another avenue to achieve a balanced healthy lifestyle.
Welcome to the Sound Health Acupuncture Blog!
I hope to provide you with useful information about acupuncture, herbs, health, and lifestyle. Basically, I'll be posting stuff I find interesting, useful, and hopefully you will too.
Feel free to post any questions you may have, or contact me if you'd like any specific topic addressed. I'm new to blogging world, and am excited about sharing information and ideas about health and everything Chinese Medicine.
Cheryl House, L. Ac., DACM, FABORM