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.

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Is My Spleen in Trouble? How to tell.

Greetings Dear Readers,

I’d like to help folks understand their bodies.  I’d like folks to be able to take charge and make dietary choices that fit their bodies’ individual needs. The Spleen governs digestion and is one of the most commonly afflicted systems in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The key indications of a Spleen pattern are:

–       fatigue

–       tendency to obesity

–       dull-yellow facial complexion

–       abdominal bloating

–       depression

–       digestive problems

Below I will explain some commonly seen Spleen patterns.  Please keep in mind that a person does not need to have all the symptoms listed to have these patterns.  Some symptoms may also belong to other organ patterns.  When in doubt please check with your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner.

Spleen Qi Deficiency

This is by far the most common Spleen issue.  It is the root of many other Spleen patterns.  Look for:

–       pale face

–       loose stools

–       wanting to lie down

–       weak limbs

–       putting on weight easily

–       weak appetite

–       bloating after eating

–       fatigue

With these symptoms a person needs to eat more warm foods (temperature warm and energetically warm), eat regularly and moderately.  Certain emotions such as pensiveness (excess thinking, studying, concentration or obsessing) weaken the Spleen.  A cold, wet climate (think England) is also a factor in Spleen Qi deficiency.  “Spleen Yang deficiency” and “Spleen Qi Sinking” are further progressions from Spleen Qi Deficiency and have many of the same symptoms.

Cold Dampness Invading the Spleen

–       feeling of fullness in the abdomen

–       feeling of heaviness

–       poor appetite

–       cold feeling in upper abdomen that feels better when heat it applied

–       sweet taste in the mouth

–       poor sense of taste

–       absence of thirst

–       fatigue

–       loose stools

–       water retention

–       nausea

–       dull-white complexion

–       vaginal discharge that is white and excessive

This pattern normally develops after being exposed to a cold rainy environment.  It’s helpful to seek out warmer environments, turn up the heat, do more exercise, put on a sweater and try using a dry sauna to knock out some of the Cold, Damp energy out of the body.   Use of moxabustion is also indicated.

Damp-Heat Invading the Spleen

–       full feeling in the upper or lower abdomen

–       heavy feeling in head or body

–       thirst but no wish to drink

–       loose stools with strong odour

–       nausea

–       feeling hot

–       burning sensation in anus

–       vomiting

–       itchy skin or skin outbreaks

–       dull heavy headache

–       dull yellow complexion

–       yellow-tinged sclera of eyes

–       sweating that does not relieve feeling of heat

This pattern is often seen when a person lives or works in a hot humid environment.  This pattern can be helped by clearing the Heat and resolving the Dampness.  Use more energetically cooling foods (see the food chart in “TCM Does Support a Raw Food Lifestyle”).  Dampness can be cleared using bitter foods and teas such as dandelion, bitter gourd (tea or soup), and green vegetables.  Your acupuncturist can also use acupoints to clear Heat and Damp.

Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency

–       dry hair

–       brittle nails

–       scanty periods

–       fatigue

–       weak appetite

–       pale lips

–       pale dull complexion

–       blurred vision or floaters

–       insomnia

–       dizziness

–       depression

–       numb or cramping limbs

–       abdominal bloating

–       loose bowels

The Spleen is responsible for the formation of blood coming from the Qi of food.  If the Spleen is weak for whatever reason (dietary, climactic, mental strain or otherwise) then the blood formed from food intake will be weak and not nourishing to the body.  One important thing here is to avoid eating too many high fat or chemically-laden foods which burden or “stagnate” the Liver system causing the Liver to “attack” the Spleen making the Spleen weak.   Green juices can help relieve the Liver Qi stagnation allowing more harmony between the Liver and Spleen.  Spleen Qi can be boosted by increasing energetically warming foods and relaxing the busy mind.

How’s your Spleen these days? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Whole Foods to Heal Adrenals and Spark Your Energy

Greetings Dear Readers,

We’re nearing the end of winter in the northern hemisphere and many of you are experiencing fatigue or depression (sometimes depression in TCM can be about Qi or energy deficiency –  there’s not enough energy for the body and the energy debt can bring the mind down with it).  Just understand that this fatigue is seasonally normal.  The winter months are a time of rest and retreat (hibernation). hibernation Many of us keep working too hard and staying up late over the winter causing exhaustion in early spring.  If we’ve pushed ourselves too hard for too long we may experience adrenal fatigue also known as adrenal burn-out.  In TCM adrenal burn-out is Kidney deficiency (the adrenals sit on top of the kidneys).  Please do yourself a favour and listen to your body.  If it’s asking for rest, please try to prioritize rest and sleep when you need it.  Your body works miracles during rest and sleep time, detoxifying your liver, cleaning your blood, clearing your mind, rejuvenating your glands.

coffee-addiction-cartoonMany people become addicted to caffeine because caffeine stimulates the adrenals to release cortisol which activates the sympathetic nervous system.  When the adrenals are healthy they will produce cortisol naturally and release it at the right time, mainly first thing in the morning.  Healthy adrenals gets us leaping out of bed in the morning and starting the day with a bang. Remember that from childhood? When we’ve been working too much and under too much stress, the adrenals can get weak.  So may reach for caffeine to stimulate the gland chemically.  The addiction to caffeine, even the desire for caffeine in the first place indicates that the adrenals (Kidney yang) is weak.  People try to force themselves off of caffeine, kicking the habit through will power alone.  This is a good start but often the person will continue to crave the caffeine because the adrenals are crying out for nourishment.  The following list of foods and supplements gets to the root of the problem by giving the adrenals the nutritional boost they need.

1. Royal Jelly – a powerful longevity tonic in TCM, try to buy fresh, refrigerated

2. Acerola Cherry concentrate – contains extremely high levels of Vitamin C, 1/2 Tablespoon=500% of the daily recommended requirement, vitamin C is important to adrenal health

3. Salty foods  – naturally occurring sodium is found in high doses in celery, seaweed, Himalayan or Celtic sea salt.  Use in moderation.

4. Bee Pollen – contains high amounts of B vitamins to heal your nerves and reduce perception of stress

5. Maca – supports and heals the adrenals, an adaptogen

Happy Healing!

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.