Treating Lupus with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you or someone you know is living with Lupus there is hope.  Oriental medicine has had a lot of success with many types of auto-immune diseases such as Lupus.

oriental medicineSystemic Lupus Erythmatosus (SLE) is an auto-immune disorder  in which the immune system attacks its’ own tissues leading to chronic inflammation. Several orlupus-symptomsgan systems may be affected such as kidneys, heart, skin, blood cells, joints, brain and skin.  Western medicine explains the cause of lupus as essentially unknown but beyond that is believed to be a combination of genetics and environment where some people have a genetic predisposition to developing lupus and then various environmental factors such as sunlight, medications (anti-biotics, anti-seizure meds, blood pressure medications) can be the triggers that set off the lupus symptoms. Commonly used Western drugs such as  NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), corticosteroids, anti-malarial drugs and immuno-suppressants are used to manage symptoms.  Although these drugs may be able to control flare-ups to some extent, there are often side-effects with long-term use.
Natural therapies such as acupuncture that can achieve suppression of flare-ups as well as get to the root of the disease itself.

Oriental medicine describes Lupus as a situation of too much Yang (heat)  and not enough Yin (yin=coolness, moisture) which also creates “Empty Heat” or Heat resulting from Deficient Yin.   I will publish a post about Yin Deficiency soon.

With Excess Heat, often the person has Heat signs such as the red butterfly rash on their face (red=heat)butterfly rash, constipation, excess thirst, a feeling of heat in the body or fever, and dark-coloured urine that may be scanty.  The tongue is often red with a yellow coat, and the pulse is often rapid, and full.  Heat symptoms tend to show up in the upper part of the body such as the face because heat rises.  Lupus also shows up more often in younger people between the ages of 15 – 40 because young people are relatively more Yang than older people.

When the Heat is intense it becomes Fire.  Fire rises upwards towards the heart and brain which can result in mental-emotional symptoms such as irritability or anxiety.  Fire also dries up the body fluids which is why there can be constipation and scanty urine.

With Yin Deficiency, there is a lack of the moistening, cooling body fluids in the body which result in dryness as well as Blood Deficiency symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and hair loss..  With prolonged Yin Deficiency there can be “Empty Heat” which means a relatred cracked tongueive increase in Heat caused by a lack of Yin which shows up as low-grade fever and night sweats.  Yin involves all the body fluids including blood and sinovial fluids.  A Yin deficient tongue may be peeled (geographic, or cracked) and the pulse may be superficial, thin and fast.  Since women are considered more Yin, and require a greater amount of blood and body fluids for healthy body functions (think of how women’s bodies must replace menstrual blood lost each month) , this helps explain why SLE tends to affect women more than men.

Photophobia often stems from Yin deficiency of the Liver system (the Liver liver blood def.“opens” to the eyes) causing a lack of moistening fluids (Liver Blood) to the eyes resulting in light sensitivity  and dry eyes.  Hair loss is also indicated because in TCM hair is considered a surplus of Liver Blood.  Discoid (small round) rashes are another symptom of Blood Deficiency as it is the function of Blood to moisten the skin so the lack of Blood causes red flaky rashes.

The joint pain in lupus may be the result of the lack of body fluids (Yin) resulting in less sinovial fluids in the joints.  It can also be from Liver Blood Deficiency as the Liver Blood’s role is to moisten the tendons and resulting in arthritic pain.

Without treatment  Lupus can progress into kidney damage and failure.  This can be a life-threatening illness so it’s important to chose your treatment strategy wisely.  Where there are more severe and acute symptoms such as breathing difficulty and acute kidney issues it’s important to see a Western doctor quickly to prevent serious complications.  Once things have stabilized, TCM acupuncture can focus on the other symptoms as well as addressing the root of the disorder.

treatmentThe goals of acupuncture treatment with Lupus will depend on how the individual presents.  In general, points will be used to clear the Heat/Fire and strengthen Yin and Blood of the affected channels and organ systems.  This is achieved by selecting the correct acupuncture points that will do those jobs.  Each acupuncture point has its own functions and indications so the treatment will be tailored to the patient’s unique presentation. The treatment for Lupus tends to be longer than other conditions because Yin Deficiency takes a long time to develop and so a longer time to remove.  With persistent treatment as well as the guidance I offer in self-care including diet there should be a lessening of flare-ups as well as better energy and quality of life.

Yours in health,

Cynthia McGilvray, R.Ac.

References:

1.Weil, Andrew, M.D., (August 2016). Lupus. Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/autoimmune-disorders/lupus/

2. Mayo Clinic Staff, (November 2014). Lupus. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus/basics/definition/con-20019676

3. Maciocia, Giovanni. ( 2005). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. 2nd Ed. Churchill & Livingstone.

Activating Feminine Yin Energy


Greetings Dear Readers,

Finding balance between the masculine and feminine energies is something many people are wanting in their lives.  It seems many people find that in this modern age there is a lot of fast-paced, aggressive Yang energy.  This creates a craving for the slower paced, quieter Yin energy.  Some of the ways we add more Yin energy such as sugar, and recreational drugs are unhealthy in the long run.  Luckily, there are also many healthy ways to bring in more Yin energy such as working with the energy systems of the body.

Each acupuncture channel of the body has various properties and functions which are activated when the area is stimulated by acupuncture, massage or moxibustion.  The main channel that works with the feminine energy is the Conception Vessel (CV) channel.  The CV channel runs up the front of the body along the mid-line from the perineum to the chin.  It is balanced by the masculine energy of the Governing Vessel channel which runs along the back of the body near the spine, from the perineum up to the head and face.  The Conception Vessel channel, also called the “Sea of the Yin channels” is often used for the purpose of nourishing the Yin  or the feminine energy in the body.

 Yin and Yang energies need to stay in balance for health and harmony.  Sometimes people have too much Yang or heat/inflammation caused by a relative lack of Yin.  In these cases, activating this channel helps them overcome symptoms of Yin deficiency such as anxiety, dry mouth at night, insomnia, dizziness, tinnitus, sweating at night, hot flashes, menopausal symptoms or restless mind.

It’s also very interesting to me that acupoint Lung 7 is used to open the Conception Vessel because it affirms what we already know, that using our lungs to take deep breathes helps us to feel more calm and Yin.

The Conception Vessel belongs to a set of eight “extra-ordinary vessels” which contain some of the most powerful energy reserves in the body, which we can tap into for extra support.  These channels are also used when there are chronic conditions that are often complicated by issues in many organ systems.  If you are interested in exploring how to increase your Yin energy and find more balance in your body, acupuncture as well as non-needling technologies can be used to bring relief.

I look forward to hearing your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Ear Acupuncture for Yin Deficiency

Greetings Dear Readers,

Today I’d like to share with you some of the benefits of the 5-point ear acupuncture protocol called “NADA”.

NADA, which stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, works by increasing the Yin energy of the body thus promoting an internal sense of peace which improves concentration and sleep, and reducing the need to find “peace” through external substances such as cigarettes, drugs, and other behaviours that may become addictive such as over-eating, gambling, etc.

The ears are associated with the Kidney/Water element in TCM which is Yin.  Similar to foot reflexology, the ear is a micro-system of the entire body so for every body part there is a corresponding ear point to stimulate it.  Below you will find a description of how each acupuncture point addresses Yin deficiency to calm the system physically, mentally and spiritually.   You will also find a recipe for Sleepmix tea, the herbal formula developed by Michael O. Smith to support this treatment.  Also, please note that acupuncture treatment can be used concurrently with prescription medications.

In modern times, our nervous system and mind tend to get too Yang due to our fast-paced living, busy schedules, mental distractions, lacking connection to Yin things such as the Earth, silence).  Too much Yang “burns up” the Yin and so Yin deficiencies are extremely common.   NADA is now being successfully used for various Yin-deficiency conditions such as insomnia, improving concentration for students and those suffering from ADD, stress reduction, night tremors, various behavioural disorders including suicidal ideation as well as recovery from traumatic events such as war and crises.

Sympathetic point:

Body – regulates the sympathetic nervous system, controls pain, relaxes tension in internal organs, dilates blood vessels.

Mind  – lowers epinephrine/norepinephrine causing relaxation

Spirit – quiets the spirit, promotes feelings of serenity

Shen Men:

Body  – pain relief, tension reduction, lowers hypertension

Mind –  quiets the mind and brings relief from anxiety, depression, restlessness, insomnia

Spirit – improves spiritual connection, opens the Heart to loving self and others

Kidney point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions

Mind – promotes courage and will to overcome fear, improves mental state

Spirit – helps strengthen intentions, seeing the positive in situations

Liver Point:

Body – activates hormonal and physiological functions, reduces tension in muscles

Mind – improves mental clarity and decision making, helps to clear away anger, frustration, depression

Spirit  – helps one connect to one’s creativity, dreams, intuitions and life goals

Lung Point:

Body  – used for expelling toxins from the lungs, regulates defensive qi (immunity)

Mind – helps relieve sadness and grief, restores sense of integrity and self-esteem/ self-respect

Spirit – for Heavenly inspiration, stronger connection with one’s Higher power

Recipe for Sleepmix Tea

This tea is a Western herbal formula used to reduce insomnia, improve digestion, lower stress, aid in detoxification, and increase feelings of relaxation.

3 parts chamomile

1 part peppermint

1 part yarrow

1 part hops

1 part skullcap

1 part catnip

Use 1 Tablespoon of herbs per cup of boiling water.  Let steep for 5 minutes.  Can be used long-term and won’t cause morning drowsiness.  It contains no caffeine.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Acupuncture Relieves Anxiety

Greetings Dear Readers,

Maybe it’s an interview for that job you’re really hoping to land – your heart is racing, palms sweating, feeling jittery, over-heated, butterflies in the stomach. Most people understand a little anxiousness as part of the adventure called life but everyday anxiety is another story. Luckily Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has had great success with getting to the root of this matter.

Rather than just popping a few pills with questionable side-effects, what acupuncture does is effectively re-wire the energy circuits of the body. So instead of all the firey energy from your heart rushing upwards causing dizziness, sweating, ungroundedness, and facial flushing, acupuncture needles in the right places can stop the cascade of neuro-chemicals such as cortisol (released as part of the flight-or-flight stress response) and instead activate opium and serotonin receptors thereby increasing feelings of well-being and relaxation.1 If that’s not enough, the effects can last up to several days with no negative side-effects.

So how did those quirky TCM people figure this out? The ancient wisdom of TCM breaks down symptoms according to patterns relating to the organ systems. In plain English, most people with anxiety will likely have one of the following commonly seen patterns: “Heart-Fire”, “Kidney-Yin Deficiency Heat” or “Blood or Yin Deficiency”.2

People with “Heart-Fire” anxiety often have heart palpitations, ulcers (canker sores) on the tongue, trouble falling asleep and a bitter taste in the mouth when they wake up after a fitful dream-disturbed sleep. This person will benefit from avoiding “hot” foods such as chili peppers, onions, alcohol, caffeine and chocolate and do better with eating cooler foods such as leafy greens, kale, celery or cucumber. In addition it is helpful for them to increase their Earth element (this comes from a Five Element acupuncture protocol called “Turn Fire Into Ash” meaning that the excess Fire in the Heart is calmed by pushing this energy towards the next element in the Creation cycle which is Earth (Fire-Earth- Metal-Water-Wood). The Earth element is increased by such things as letting go of too much worry and over-thinking, eating mindfully, wearing Earthy colours such as brown and eating foods that grow underground such as carrots, beets and potatoes.

The Kidney-Yin Deficiency Heat person will have anxiety along with night sweating, dizziness, ringing in the ears, flushed cheeks, dry mouth and low back ache. This person will benefit from getting more sleep, avoiding overwork, eating Kidney Yin foods such as black beans, seaweed, butter and sesame, slowing down (Yin=slow whereas Yang=fast) and doing meditation or qi gong.

Blood deficiency is very common in women because of monthly blood loss through menstruation.  The person will feel tired and want to lie down, have numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, blurred vision or floaters in the visual field, a pale complexion and scanty menstruation. They do well with dietary changes mainly such as including blood-building foods such as beets, dark green vegetables, egg yolks, bee pollen and the herb “dong quai” (also called angelica).  With diligent daily use of blood-building foods symptoms should clear up in about three months.

The Yin deficient anxious person is essentially lacking essential fluids (Yin is liquid in nature) and experiences afternoon fever, night sweating, dry mouth, and scanty dark urine. This is often seen when a person has been working too hard, staying up late, eating fast food on the run, essentially “life in the fast lane”. This person does well with resting from overworking, going to bed by 10pm, eating slow, home-cooked meals and eating Yin foods such as seaweed, dairy, beans, berries, foods that are black, blue or purple in colour such as eggplant or black sesame seeds and taking a more slow, mindful approach to life.

You do not need to live with chronic anxiety. There is a lot your acupuncturist can do to relieve these symptoms and I have only scratched the surface here. Your acupuncturist will diagnose the pattern by examining your tongue and wrist pulse, observation and a few short questions. You should feel effects during the first treatment.  For those with needle anxiety, (oddly enough I’m one of them), acupuncture needles are very thin (infinitely smaller than the hypodermic needles used to inject vaccine in hospitals) and are often not felt when inserted.  You can also ask for Japanese needles which are as thin as a hair.

Do your symptoms fit any of these descriptions? If so, let’s set up an appointment and get you on the road to better health and peace of mind.

Yours in health,
Cynthia

References:
1. Jaung-Geng Lin, Yuan-Yu Chan, and Yi-Hung Chen. February 22, 2012. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Opiate Addiction. National Institutes of Health.
2. Maciocia, Giovanni. Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide. 2004. Elsevier Ltd.