Acupuncture Offers Natural Relief for PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common endocrine disorder affecting as many as ten percent of women of childbearing age. I frequently treat PCOS in my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinic.

With PCOS the ovaries create many follicles each month without producing an egg. This lack of ovulation makes PCOS one of the most common causes of infertility among women. Other common symptoms of PCOS include missed periods (often for months at a time) or very heavy bleeding. PCOS can also lead to acne and high blood pressure. In some women PCOS can produce elevated androgen hormones levels--including testosterone, resulting in abnormal facial and body hair growth. Some women may develop ovarian cysts and may experience excessive weight gain--despite diet measures and exercise.

The severity of the condition can range from slightly irregular periods to having most or all of the symptoms listed above. Many women discover they have PCOS when trying to become pregnant and discovering they are not ovulating. Western treatment for PCOS can include birth control pills to regulate the cycle, Metformin for insulin resistance, statins for cholesterol and blood pressure medication.

The good news is that acupuncture is an effective treatment for PCOS. Recent research has found acupuncture effective for normalizing hormone levels leading to menstrual regularity, ovulation pattern regularity, and improved overall health. With regard to fertility, research as found that acupuncture with patients who have PCOS resulted in increased pregnancy rates, regulated hormonal secretions, normalized basal body temperature patterns, and increased embryo survival rates.

There are many things that you can do to manage symptoms of PCOS naturally:

  • If you are overweight a 5-10% reduction in weight can dramatically help regulate cycles.
  • My patients receive a unique acupuncture protocol designed specifically to address their specific symptoms and health history.
  • Many women with PCOS have some degree of insulin resistance so it is important to adopt a low glycemic index diet that is based on plenty of vegetables, protein and healthy fats. You must reduce, and ideally eliminate, your intake of refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta; juices and soda; and sugar. Yes sugar.

Do you have PCOS? Are you ready to restore your hormonal balance? Are you trying to get pregnant and want to ovulate naturally? Call today to schedule your first appointment!

Acupuncture and fertility: When should I start receiving acupuncture?

I get this question a lot at my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinic. The answer depends on several factors. I will break it down for women going through natural cycles, for women going through IVF cycles and for male partners.

For women trying to get pregnant naturally the timeline is influenced by any underlying conditions that may be impacting fertility such as endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, blockage of the fallopian tubes, PCOS and other ovulatory disorders, diminished ovarian reserves, etc. The amount of time it may take to resolve these conditions varies on the nature of the condition. The minimum amount of time will likely be 3 months of regular acupuncture and herbal therapy. For women with no known underlying conditions I still recommend at least 3 months of regular acupuncture to regulate the menstrual cycle (and therefore the hormones).

If you are considering IUI or IVF I recommend women start receiving acupuncture at least 6 weeks prior to starting the IUI/IVF process to regulate hormones and address any underlying issues. Sometimes women become pregnant naturally during this time! There are many research articles showing benefit to acupuncture with IVF. You can read more about acupuncture and IVF here.

Approximately 40% of infertility will have a male factor diagnosis. Low sperm counts can be due to environmental pollutants, certain pharmaceuticals, age, chronic disease, constriction and heat. Unlike women who are born with all of their eggs men are continually creating new sperm. It take about 3 months for sperm to fully mature so having acupuncture during this time can help improve sperm counts.

Wondering what to expect in your case? Call 404-695-0905 to schedule a free phone consultation!

3 Important Tips to Improve Your Digestion

Ditch the ice water! Ice water constricts the blood vessels in your stomach slowing down the digestive process and impact absorption of nutrients. This is one thing just about every patient hears from me…whether they have digestive issues or not. Your stomach likes to be warm. It’s like a nice little campfire to cook your meal. When you drink ice water you put out your campfire and it takes a lot of energy to get it going again to cook your meal. Solution: drink room temperature water or hot water with lemon and notice how much better your feel during and after your meal.

Sip, don’t chug, water when eating. Here I go with the water again. Americans tend to drink a lot of liquid with our meals but drowning your meal with multiple classes of water (or other liquids) will just lead to bloating or indigestion. When food enters your stomach hydrochloric acid (HCL) is secreted to help begin the process of digestion. HCL is very acidic in order to break big chunks of food into tiny, absorbable nutrients. So if you gulp a lot of water with your meal, you’re going to dilute the hydrochloric acid leaving your food partially digested. Solution: Take small sips of [room temperature] water to help food along the digestive track.

Drink your food and chew your water. What? Along with sipping small amounts of [room temperature] water take time to chew your food thoroughly. I am as guilty of this as anyone. Having a lively conversation at dinner or rushing to eat between patients I chew a few times and swallow…leading to bloating and indigestion. Digestion starts in the mouth and chewing breaks your food down from large particles into smaller particles that are more easily digested. This also makes it easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from the food particles as they pass through. When larger particles of incompletely chewed food enter your stomach it may remain undigested when it enters your intestines. There, bacteria will have to work to break it down potentially leading to gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems. Solution: chew until your mouthful of food is liquefied…hence drinking your food!

Lifestyle changes along with acupuncture and herbs can resolve many different digestive issues. Give us a call at 404-695-0905 to see if acupuncture is right for you!

What does acupuncture treat? Here is a snapshot of last week in my practice!

I frequently have people ask what sort of conditions acupuncture can treat.  I realize that many people may not know how effective acupuncture is for a wide range of conditions so I was inspired to share with you a short list of some of the conditions that I treated last week in my Decatur office. It’s not meant to be comprehensive and many people come in with more than one issue.  These are their chief complaints.  If you’re wondering if acupuncture can help you, give me a call at 404-695-0905 or book an appointment online to find out!

  1. Several IVF support patients
  2. Hip and low back pain
  3. Chronic diarrhea
  4. Several patients with chemotherapy induced neuropathy of the hands and feet
  5. Congestion in the ear
  6. Idiopathic neuropathy of the feet
  7. Several patients experiencing chronic anxiety
  8. Bronchitis
  9. Several patients experiencing depression
  10. Menopause symptoms and bloating
  11. Low back and groin pain
  12. Painful menstrual cycle
  13. Nerve damage sequela
  14. Seasonal allergies
  15. Insomnia
  16. Hand pain
  17. Colitis
  18. Sinus headache
  19. Fatigue and general well-being
  20. Psosas constriction with hip pain
  21. Fatigue and lowered immune system
  22. Fertility support
  23. Cancer treatment support

As you can see, acupuncture effectively treats a wide range of conditions and this was just a snapshot of one week!  I would love to help you bring your health back into balance and feel like your best self yet.

Acupuncture Increases the Success Rate of IVF

For some women and couples in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the answer to their dream of having a child.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that acupuncture improves IVF success rate.  One large study found a 50% increase in success rate when acupuncture is done alongside IVF.  IVF can take a significant emotional and financial toll so why not do everything possible to increase the chances of success? 

Ideally I like to start treating women at least three months prior to starting IVF in order to regulate their hormones and address any underlying issues that are contributing to the infertility.  It is not uncommon for women to become pregnant naturally during this time.  If IVF is being done solely due to male fertility factors then one month of acupuncture prior to IVF would be ideal. 

During the stimulation phase of IVF I like to see women twice a week.  Acupuncture works by increasing the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, reducing stress and anxiety (which can impact fertility) and addressing any side effects of the medications.  Following stimulation, one acupuncture treatment prior to egg retrieval and one between retrieval and transfer is the standard of care.

Acupuncture before and after transfer of the embryo is essential.  Acupuncture can take place 24-48 hours before and after transfer.  Pre and post transfer acupuncture works to relax the uterus and calm any uterine spasms from the transfer process as well as reduce anxiety and calm stress.  An acupuncture treatment one week following transfer supports implantation. In cases of sub-fertility it is ideal to continue with acupuncture once a week for the first trimester to protect the pregnancy.

Many women undergo IUI prior to IVF and acupuncture works in a similar fashion to improve the chances of success.  I generally see women once a week throughout the IUI process.

Planning an IVF cycle?  Give me a call today to get started with acupuncture in Decatur!  Know someone considering IVF?  Please share this information with them! 

Resolve Tendonitis with Acupuncture

Musicians, athletes and computer users often experience a repetitive strain injury known as tendonitis.  Commonly called tennis elbow or golfers elbow (depending on which side of the elbow is experiencing pain), the pain can become debilitating if left untreated.  Often people start to feel like there is no hope of ever being pain free again.  The good news is that acupuncture is extremely effective at resolving tendonitis!

When we repeatedly do the same motion, such as using a computer mouse/touchpad or swinging a golf club, muscles and tendons can fatigue and local inflammation and pain result.  Acupuncture works by reducing inflammation and swelling while calming irritated nerves.  I typically combine acupuncture with gua sha for maximum effectiveness. 

For at-home care I recommend that patients use gentle heat, NOT ICE, for pain relief.  New research has shown that ice slows down healing.  Massaging topical ointments like arnica cream or Tiger Balm (both available on-line or at your local health food store) into the painful area is also helpful.  To promote faster healing internally reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods such as alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.  You can increase tendon nourishing foods such as beef, beef broth, black beans and root vegetables. 

My last bit of advice: don’t wait.  The sooner you come in for treatment the fewer treatments you will need to fully resolve the pain.  If you or someone you know is suffering from tendonitis book your appointment today and be on your way to a pain-free life!

4 Natural Ways to Boost your Immune System This Winter

You hear the ads about the “flu season” and various over the counter remedies for runny noses, coughs and fevers.  But how can you boost your immunity so you don’t get sick in the first place?  I treat sick people all the time but it is very rare for me to come down with something (knock on wood).  These are the things I use to stay healthy in my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinic.  

1. Take Probiotics.  Eighty percent of our immune system is in our gut.  Healthy gut flora contributes to a healthy innate immune system.  This is especially important if you have taken antibiotics – it can take years to restore a high level of gut flora diversity after even one round of antibiotics.  You can take a good quality probiotic or get them from fermented or cultured foods like kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, sour pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt.

2. Wear a scarf.  Yup, Mom was right! From an acupuncture perspective it is all about wind.  In Chinese medicine, wind is the cause of 10,000 diseases.  When our immune system is compromised due to stress, poor diet or lack of sleep we are more vulnerable and wind finds a way in through vulnerable spots like the back of the neck, which is known as the “Wind gate” in Chinese medicine.  Think about how you feel when you first start to come down with a cold…stiff neck, watery eyes, headache…all symptoms treated by the Wind gate points.  While you are at it wear some warm socks too. 

3.  Eat seasonal whole food nutrition.  We live in a time and place where we can eat out of season produce all year long.  But nature is smart.  Foods that grow in the warm months, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are cooling to the body.  Foods that grow in the winter are warming and build our immune system.  So skip those anemic tomatoes and focus on eating root vegetables.  While you are at it include some bone broth.  Bone broth has major immune building properties and has been used for centuries to stay healthy and recover quickly.  I drink a cup a day and use it in soups and stews as well. Read more about the benefits of bone broth here.

4. Get regular acupuncture.  Acupuncture is best used preventatively. Research shows that acupuncture assists the body by stimulating the immune system. It increases white blood cells, which help fight bacteria, infections and viruses. If you are starting to feel a little “off” like you are coming down with something try to get in ASAP for a treatment.  It will likely knock it right out saving you from days curled up on the couch with a tissue box. 

A bonus tip: for my patients at Dogwood Healing Arts that spend a lot of time around germ factories, a.k.a children, I recommend they take a high quality Echinacea combines the roots of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea.  I carry one from Mediherb.  It is a great immune system booster. 

Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture for Radiant, Youthful Skin

Has your skin lost its vitality and elasticity?  Do you want to reduce lines and wrinkles without the worry of dangerous side effects?  The Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture System is a safe, natural, anti-aging medicine based on Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Mei Zen addresses both the internal causes of aging and strengthens the collagen-elastin matrix resulting in firmer, more radiant and youthful skin.  I am thrilled to start offering Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture at my Decatur, GA clinic!

A basic tenet of Chinese Medicine is that your external appearance is a reflection of your internal state of health.  One aspect of internal health is your digestion.  Healthy digestion results in healthy skin.  People with constipation often have dull skin and people with acid reflux often have red skin. Mei Zen works by correcting these imbalances AND directly affecting the dermis of the face.   

How does Mei Zen work? 

Tiny needles created specifically for sensitive areas like the hands and face are placed in acupuncture points on the face.  These needles stimulate specific acupuncture points as well as create micro-traumas in the dermis.  The micro-traumas stimulates the body to strengthen the collagen-elastin matrix resulting in firmer, less saggy skin, filling in small lines and softening deeper wrinkles. 

Other needles are placed on the head and body to address imbalances in your energy systems.  For example, if you are experiencing perimenopause or menopause symptoms I would be addressing that imbalance so along with the cosmetic effect you would experience a reduction in things like hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping and mood swings.  What a fantastic two for one!

What cosmetic results are commonly seen with Mei Zen?

Along with improved overall health, I typically these types of cosmetic changes:

·      More radiant and youthful-looking skin

·      Reduction and/or elimination of fine lines

·      Softening of deeper lines

·      Firming of the jaw line

·      Lifting of droopy eyelids

·      Overall skin tone becomes more consistent

·      Improvement of acne and rosacea conditions

·      Faded age spots.

Not everyone is a good candidate for Mei Zen.  Schedule your FREE 30 minute Mei Zen consultation today to find out if Mei Zen is right for you!

Find out more about the treatment proceedure here

Top 5 Reasons to Make Bone Broth!

Bone broth has been a staple in many cultures for eons.  In Chinese Medicine bone broth is used to improve energy, fertility, metabolism, the nervous system and support the adrenals.  Bone marrow specifically is considered a brain tonic, meaning that it improves the functioning of our brains. 

My top 5 reasons for making and drinking bone broth are….drum roll please!

1.  It’s great for your bones.  As the bones are cooked they release calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other trace minerals into the broth.   These minerals are what we need to build new bone cells.  If you have a broken bone or have osteoporosis bone broth should be part of your daily routine.

2.  It repairs joints.  Gelatin and chondroitin sulfate are the building blocks of joints, tendons and ligaments.  These are readily available in bone broth, especially when you use bones that have a good amount of joint tissue on them.  Sure you can buy expensive osteoarthritis supplements but why not save some cash and get the additional benefits from making your own bone broth!

3. It heals the digestive tract.  Bone broth is a great natural source of collagen.  Collagen protects and soothes the lining of the digestive tract making it an important component in healing conditions like leaky gut, IBS, colitis, etc.  Gelatin in bone broth also promotes probiotic growth. 

4. Maintains healthy skin.  Collagen helps to form elastin and other compounds that are essential for the tone and texture of our skin.  As we age our collagen-elastin matrix breaks down resulting in fine lines and wrinkles as well as a loss of tone and firmness.  Bone broth can strengthen are sin, hair and nails!

5.  Builds a stronger immune system.  The bone marrow in bone broth help our bodies build new white cells which are responsible for our immune system and handling infections.  Additionally, since much of our immune system comes from our gut having good gut health leads to a strong immune system. 

Bone broth seems to be having a modern day resurgence.  I hear that folks in New York City stand in line to purchase cups of bone broth just like they do for coffee.  The good news is that if you don’t live in New York City you can make it at home!  Sweet Beet and Green Bean is a blog by an acupuncturist in Los Angeles.  I just love her blog and she has a great write up on how to make your own bone broth.  Why recreate the wheel when she has done it so beautifully?  Check it out here.

One super important note for making your own bone broth: you MUST use bone from animals that had no antibiotics, growth hormones or GMO feed.  Animals should be pasture raised and not be grain fed, especially cows which should graze on grass. You can read more about this at the link above.

Once you get in the routine bone broth is super easy to make.  I freeze the extra in mason jars so I always have some on hand.  Warm up a cup in the morning and start your day off right! 

Acupuncture Brings Hope for Healing Depression

Depression is the thief of joy.  It can make formerly happy people feel like nothing is good in their world and they have no energy to do anything about that.  I have had patients tell me they are too depressed to cry, that they just feel empty.  If you feel this way you are far from alone. 

In 2014 15.7 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode (1). The good news is that acupuncture can relieve depression.  In fact several studies have showed that acupuncture was as effective as anti-depressant medication (2). 

Depression is something I commonly treat in my clinic.  With a background in clinical social work it is a ‘language’ that I speak and understand.  Some people want to get off of anti-depressants because of the side-effects, some don’t want to go on medication, and some just want to feel better while taking the medication.  The bottom line is they all want to feel better: more joyful, lighter and happier. 

Sometimes depression is not even the reason why people come in for acupuncture.  They may come in for physical pain not knowing that acupuncture can relieve their feelings of hopelessness and grief stemming from the chronic pain. 

In Chinese Medicine there is not one “kind” of depression.  One person may be experiencing a lack of drive and enthusiasm in life.  In essence they have lost their joie de vivre, or joy of life, and they just don’t have the momentum to make lasting changes.  Another person may present with a lack of ideas, life dreams, hopes, inspiration or direction.  And another person is filled with angst, despair and an overwhelming sadness.  And still another broods and get stuck in their thinking…of the same thing over and over.  Lastly, some people who have a lot of anger or frustration have an underlying depression.  In psychiatry these would all be treated as depression with one anti-depressant drug or another.  While there can certainly be overlap I find that many people fall into one pattern or another.  Chinese Medicine treats each person’s unique presentation to resolve the root cause of depression, not just put a band-aid on the symptoms.  

If someone you know is experiencing depression and longing to return to joy please share this post with them.  If YOU are experiencing depression book an appointment today and rediscover your lightness of being. 

 

 

1.     Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/

2.     Wei Bo, Xu Yi, Clinical observations on acupuncture treatment for depression, Journal of Jinan University (Natural Science & Medicine Edition), 2013, 34(6).

Pain Relief Without Pills

A new review of evidence from clinical trials published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, found acupuncture was helpful in managing chronic back and knee pain (1).  This is a very important finding in the midst of the current epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 40 Americans die each day of prescription opioid overdoses (2).  Many doctors are at a loss for how to help their patients experiencing chronic pain now that the full extent of the problem with opioids is known.  

Fortunately, acupuncture can reduce and in some cases even eliminate the need for opioid and non-opioid drugs in cases of acute and chronic pain.  Pain is the most common ailment I treatment in my Dunwoody, Georgia acupuncture clinic.  Each day I treat people with low back pain, neck pain, knee pain, hip pain and headaches.  Most patients leave in less pain then when they arrived and most complete their course of care and get back to living the life they love. 

You can read my blog post about back pain here.

This ancient medicine brings profound healing for the body and addresses the emotional weariness that comes with chronic pain.  So many of my patients arrived depressed and exhausted…emotionally worn out from months or years of pain.  Acupuncture lightens their mood, gives them hope and brings them relief from pain.  

If you or someone you know is dealing with chronic pain call 404-695-0905 today to schedule and appointment and get your life back. 

 

1.     Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. September 2016;91(9):1292-1306.

2.     The Daily Press, March 15, 2016.http://www.dailypress.com/news/hc-cdc-opiate-guidelines-0315-20160315-story.html

Cupping is Not Only for Olympians

While cupping has been practiced for centuries it certainly is getting a lot of play at the 2016 Olympics!  The first documented use of cupping dates back to 1550 BC but most Americans have learned about cupping after seeing the signature round cupping marks on athletes and celebrities in the last few years.  As cupping has increased in popularity I get more requests for it at my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinc. 

Cupping is one tool in my Chinese Medicine toolbox.  The idea behind cupping is quite simple: a specially made glass, bamboo or plastic cup is suctioned onto the skin.  The vacuum pulls the tissue up into the cup that increases the circulation of blood and lymph thus relieving muscle tension and soreness.  In traditional fire cupping, the kind I generally practice, a flame creates the vacuum in the cup before it is placed on the body.   Once the cups are applied they can be gently moved over the body or sit stationary depending on the goal of the treatment. 

I like to use cupping for back and shoulder pain and find that it works best in conjunction with acupuncture.  For example, I have a lot of people come in with tight upper back, shoulders and neck due to stress and too much time sitting at a computer.  Cupping works to relieve the muscle tension but acupuncture works on the nervous system to induce a state of deep relaxation.  Over time this relaxation extends into a shift in how your body actually responds to stress. 

Cupping is not only used for muscle tension.  I frequently use cupping for respiratory conditions as it works to clear congestion from the lungs.  And, because cupping works to increase circulation, it can also provide relief for people who suffer from chronic fatigue. 

So, what are those marks that cupping leaves?  First off, they are not bruises.   The marks are not tender and there is no trauma to the skin, which is the hallmark of a bruise.  The discoloration is simply old, deoxygenated blood that has been pulled out of the muscle to help the body recover faster.   The color of the marks and how long they last is actually diagnostic.  If practiced by a skilled acupuncturist cupping should not hurt and should not create any blisters.  You may feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup but that often feels good and relaxes sore muscles.  Most people say how relaxed and loose they feel after receiving cupping. 

Ready to try cupping?  Schedule your appointment today!

Are you addicted to stress?

In my acupuncture practice I treat a lot of people who are busy.  Acupuncture makes them feel better so they make time for treatments but they are busy busy busy.  Their jobs keep them very busy.  9 to 5?  Try 9 to midnight.  They are answering emails, texts and calls at all hours.  “Off work” never happens.  They are passionate about what they do, very driven and very accomplished.  I love working with these smart, purpose-driven folks. 

Work is just one component of their busy lives.  They may be raising kids, taking care of grandkids, taking care of aging parents…or all three!  They may work until 5, have family time until 10 and then work another few hours.  Weekends are a juggling act trying to meet multiple needs and commitments. 

Sound familiar?  It is normative in our society and I often hear people voice guilt if they don’t maintain this level of busyness.  It’s not ‘wrong’ to be fully committed to your career and to your family.  However I do think they we can become addicted to stress. 

I used to do this.  I thought that I could only be creative or productive under deadline so I would wait until the last minute to write a paper or report, review a proposal, etc.  Under the threat of deadline the stress kicked in and I got it done…along with missed sleep, irritability and digestive issues. 

When we are stressed cortisol and adrenaline flood our body giving our brains and muscles and added boost.  We feel focused and purposeful.  This is great when we are getting up to give a speech or are racing to catch a train to the airport.  Things to awry when this never gets turned off and chronic stress has cortisol and adrenaline dripping into our systems constantly.  Chronic stress causes an array of physical and emotional problems such as depression, weight gain, heart disease, muscle aches and insomnia.  We are exhausted and can become addicted to the rush of stress induced cortisol and adrenaline. 

You can ditch the cycle of stress response and you’ll be more productive, healthy and balanced.  Acupuncture can reset your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (e.g. the flight or fight response) giving you space to cultivate new, healthier, habits.  You’ll feel better, look better and perform better.  Ready for a new stress-free you? 

Amp Up Your Well-Being With Gratitude

This blog post has nothing to do with acupuncture...but it does cover something that I talk with my patients about and that I practice daily.  Gratitude.  It is part of a holistic approach to great well-being.  Many of my patients come in because they are stressed out, anxious, depressed, irritable or have just lost their zest for life.  Acupuncture gets them back on the road to more peace and joy.  Practicing gratitude amplifies and sustains the effects of the acupuncture treatments. 

Did you know there is a science behind gratitude as an essential part of happiness?  Researchers have discovered that gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that the antidepressant Wellbutrin increases.  Prozac works on the neurotransmitter serotonin…so does gratitude!  According to neuroscience researcher Alex Korb (author of The Upward Spiral) you don’t even have to find something to be grateful for, the process of searching for it is sufficient!  Take in a daily dose of gratitude and watch the inner shift take place.    

So, how can you cultivate gratitude on a daily basis?  Here are a few ideas to try out.  Add your own ideas in the comment section!

Some ways to practice gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily or weekly lists.  Daily is better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

So don’t wait for Thanksgiving, start giving thanks today.  For gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time. That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a gift. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture...Part 1

In my Decatur acupuncture clinic I get asked these questions all of the time.  Since they crop up frequently I think it means that they are great questions!  So, if you are new to acupuncture and have wondered about these things then this post is for you!  Or perhaps you have been seeing me and just have not asked your burning question…then this post is for you too! 

1. Does it hurt?  This has to be the top question and for good reason!  Who wants to do something that hurts?   Acupuncture should not be painful (and this goes for cupping and gua sha as well).  You may feel a momentary sharpness, a zing or some achiness with some points but that should be gone before you can even tell me about it.  I have many patients that don’t feel any of the needles and a few that are more sensitive but still don’t find the process painful.  I have had people come see me after receiving “dry needling” from a physical therapist because it was so painful. I can make their pain go away without actually causing them pain in the process.  A win-win. 

2. Are the needles sterile?  Yes, acupuncture needles are sterile, single-use, medical devices.  After one use they are placed in a sharps container and disposed of as medical waste.  All acupuncturists are required to have certification in clean needle technique.   

3. What should I do or not do after an acupuncture treatment?  In general you want to take it easy for a few hours after a treatment.  You don’t have to go home and curl up on the couch (but by all means do so if you want!) but just go easy for a few hours.  Give your body what it wants.  Drink water, move gently, eat lightly.  Don’t do a big workout or hop in a sauna or hit the bar.  Just let your body integrate the treatment and go for a run or do that ashtanga yoga class tomorrow. 

4.  How many treatments will I need?  The number of acupuncture treatments depends upon you and how long your have been experiencing your problem.  If it is something that has been going on for years it will likely take more treatments than something that happened last weekend.  For example, if you wrenched your back last weekend we can probably get your back to pain-free and fully functioning in a couple of treatments.  If you have been experiencing back pain for the last year that will take more then a couple of treatments to resolve.  You will likely feel relief in the first one to two sessions but to fully resolve any long standing issue you will need to correct the underlying problem.  Think of it like taking antibiotics.  You start to feel better in the first couple of days but you need to complete the course of medication or your risk a relapse. 

5.  What conditions does acupuncture treat?  Just about anything!  In the era of super specialized medicine this sounds crazy to some people.  Because acupuncture focuses on re-establishing health rather than chasing symptoms it can resolve a wide range of issues.  Check out this page for a list of conditions I commonly treat: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/conditions/

6.  How can acupuncture treat issues like anxiety and depression?  Many people think acupuncture is just for physical pain.  While it is fantastic at resolving physical pain it is equally powerful for resolving emotional pain.  Chinese Medicine is holistic, meaning it treats the mind, body and spirit.  The mind, body and spirit are inseparable and emotions can impact the health of the physical body and visa versa.  Think about the last time you experienced a loss or heartbreak, it probably took a physical toll as well as an emotional toll.  With the heaviness in your chest you may have felt like your heart was physically breaking.  The emotions are just a more ethereal aspect of our body.  My background is in social work and I bring a particular expertise in treating psychological issues.  Here are some related blog posts you might enjoy: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/brokenopen and http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/relieveanxietytwithacupuncture .

Have a burning question I missed?  Please write it the comment section and I’ll do a part 2 blog post!

Acupuncture Helps Perimenopausal Hot Flashes and Other Symptoms

Everyone knows what menopause is but did you know that perimenopause can occur in your 40s, 30s or even earlier?  Indications of perimenopause include hot flashes, fatigue, increased premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular menstrual cycles, insomnia, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, mood swings, anxiety, and breast tenderness. Perimenopause typically lasts about four years.  That means that before you officially even enter menopause (as defined by the cessation of your menstrual cycle for one year) you can start having many of the hallmark symptoms of menopause.  Yikes! 

Women experience perimenopause differently.  Some women will have no to mild symptoms and some women will experience symptoms that negatively impact their quality of life.  If you fall into the latter category acupuncture can help!

What I find in my acupuncture clinic is that women experience dramatically fewer and less intense hot flashes, they sleep better, are less fatigued and more emotionally stable.  All with no negative side effects! Why not regulate your hormones now, get relief from any perimenopausal symptoms you are experiencing, and set yourself up for an easier transition into menopause? 

From a western medical perspective perimenopause is marked by changing levels of hormones produced by the ovaries, mainly estrogen but also progesterone.  Western medical treatments consist of hormone therapy, antidepressants and vaginal lubricants.  Long-term use of systemic hormone therapy, including “bioidentical hormones”, has many risks including breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. 

A recent meta-analysis reviewed a large body of research and found that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of perimenopause “by improving clinical symptoms such as menstrual disorders, hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, and mood disorders.” The authors add that acupuncture benefits perimenopausal women by increasing estrogen levels and decreasing levels of FSH and LH along with other hormone regulation.  Additionally, one study included in the meta-analysis compared acupuncture with Premarin oral intake. Premarin is a brand name for conjugated estrogens. The acupuncture group demonstrated superior patient outcomes over the group taking oral conjugated estrogens.

You might be interested in reading my blog post on menopause and embracing your second spring: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/2015/11/2/the-7-dwarfs-of-menopause-and-what-to-do-about-them

 

Acupuncture Helps Allergy Sufferers

Ah, spring has sprung.  It is beautiful here in Decatur!  Our daffodils are blooming and the tulip magnolia is a riot of pink petals.  I am just starting to see the yellow pine pollen dusting my car.  For many of us this is the harbinger of runny noses, scratchy throats, watery eyes and sinus headaches.  Acupuncture can help all of that.

My first experience of acupuncture felt like a miracle.  I had moved to Atlanta from Michigan and my allergies went crazy.  From March to November I had daily horrendous sinus headaches.  I wanted to rip out my teeth from the pressure.  I tried everything: medication, allergy shots, visualization.  I had my sinus cavities scoped.  Nothing helped. The side effects of the allergy medications were almost as bad as the sinus pressure; I walked around like a zombie or felt like a squirrel on speed depending on which one I was taking.  Finally a friend suggested that I try acupuncture.  It sounded weird but I was desperate (sound familiar?).  The relief was not immediate but once it arrived it was lasting and oh so sweet.  These days my symptoms are pretty mild and I manage them with some herbs and occasional treatments. 

If you suffer from spring (or anytime!) allergies acupuncture can make a big difference in your life.  This is my second spring in practice and my regular patients that I treat for other issues have been commenting that their usual spring allergy response is not happening.   In Chinese Medicine we address the root cause of the condition, not just the symptoms.   It is like a tree: the roots are the cause and the symptoms are the branches.  You can have many symptoms that have the same root cause.  By addressing the root cause in these patients I have automatically taken care of their symptoms so the spring allergies are either not cropping up or are very mild.  Score one for acupuncture! 

If you have the scratchy throat-runny nose-watery eyes-sinus congestion blues give yourself the gift of allergy relief and schedule an appointment today! 

 

 

Heal Low Back Pain with Acupuncture

I have been using acupuncture to treat a lot of low back pain lately.  Acute “threw my back out” type of pain, chronic daily achiness type of pain, sciatic pain shooting down my legs and “when I move this way I get stuck” type of pain. 

Low back pain affects millions of people each year and is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.  The most common Western Medicine treatment for low back pain is to prescribe pain medication and perhaps a course of physical therapy.  Many of my patients went this route and found that they still had pain and their physical activity was still limited.  They came in for acupuncture because they wanted to live a pain-free, medication-free life.  Who doesn’t? 

Acupuncture is effective for back pain due to disk herniation, sprained/strained muscles, arthritis, failed back surgery and other causes.  Research has shown acupuncture to be more effective than NSAIDs in relieving pain.  A meta-analysis (fancy word for systematic review of high quality research trials) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found acupuncture was found effective for reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis, chronic headache, shoulder pain, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and back pain (Vickers AJ, Linde K. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain. JAMA. 2014;311(9):955-956. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285478).

What I find in my clinic is that acupuncture provides lasting results.  Patients typically leave in much less pain than when they arrived.  For the first time they feel hope.  Hope that they can get back to doing what they love, hope that they can sleep through the night without pain, hope that they can crawl around on the floor with their kids/grandkids, hope that they can just get back to feeling like themselves again. That pain relief?  It’s real.  However acupuncture is not magic; it is medicine.  Just like antibiotics or physical therapy there is a course of treatment that should be followed.  Acupuncture gently moves your body back into a state of balance.  With treatment, I find that patients’ hopes become reality. 

Want to get back to living the life you love?  Call and schedule your first appointment today. 

Broken or Broken Open?

We all have had or will have experiences that break us, at least a little.  Heartbreak.  The loss of a loved one.  Illness.  We can allow these experiences to be a stopping point and get stuck there or be a learning point and a catalyst for growth. 

When we are deep in the pain it can be hard to see the learning, the opportunity for growth and change.  Sometimes we get stuck there for years.  We may yearn for the past or spend our time fantasizing about the future.  Either way we are not able to fully live in the present.  We may allow ourselves to get so bound up by heartbreak we cannot open to new love.  Or maybe we are paralyzed by the fear that what killed our mother/father will befall us as well. 

What on earth does all of this have to do with acupuncture?  Acupuncture can have a powerful effect on an emotional and spiritual level.  According to Daoist traditions different acupuncture points and channel systems influence the psyche on a deep level.  If you are stuck in emotional pain acupuncture can help open you up to a new way of seeing, instigating a shift in perspective that allows you to become unstuck.  A shift from being broken to be broken open.  As the great Sufi mystic Rumi said “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”  When you are broken open you can heal, you can grow, you can gain a level of insight that may have previously been unavailable. 

If you are ready to move from feeling broken to the experience of being broken open give me a call today!

P.S. Thanks to Reverend David Ault (www.davidault.com) for the inspiration for this blog post!

Eliminating PMS Naturally With Acupuncture

I think we women have been sold a bill of goods.  We have been taught that PMS is inevitable and unavoidable.  Told that at least some degree of cramping or breast tenderness or mood swings (or all of the above and more!) just comes with the territory of having a menstrual cycle.  Not true. 

In Chinese Medicine PMS is a sign that something is out of balance in our bodies…which means that PMS is not a natural state of being.  It also means that we can find our own natural state of being that is pain-free. 

PMS symptoms range from mild to severe.  Cramping can feel like some downward pulling or pressure all the way to stabbing pain that has you doubled over.  PMS can also include breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, appetite changes, fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, mood swings (from crying to anger and back again), anxiety and depression.  For some women, the few days before, during and/or after their menstrual cycle border on disabling.

The good news is this is not inevitable and you can experience pain free menstrual cycles without resorting to painkillers or birth control pills.  Chinese Medicine views PMS, or dysmenorrhea, through two general lenses: excess or deficiency and I tailor acupuncture treatments and dietary recommendations accordingly.  In general, I find that I can greatly reduce or completely eliminate PMS within a few menstrual cycles with regular acupuncture and dietary changes. 

Some things you can try at home to relieve PMS:

·      Exercise.  Many women who experience PMS have some degree of Liver Qi Stagnation.  Going for a walk, doing yoga, lifting weights or some other exercise that you enjoy gets your Liver Qi moving and reduces PMS. 

·      Eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine, alcohol and sugar.  Sorry.  I know.  But these things exacerbate PMS (among other things).   You’ll feel better all month long by reducing or eliminating your intake of these.  

·      Castor Oil packs.  Castor Oil is a wonderful pain reliever!  It is excellent for many gynecological issues, including fibroids and menstrual cramps.  Take a piece of flannel cloth folded three times, saturate one layer of the flannel with the castor oil and put that layer against your skin on your lower abdomen, cover with plastic wrap, place a heating pad on top and relax for 30-60 minutes.  Just be aware that Castor Oil can be messy and stain.  Use it when you have cramps or try doing this a one or two days before your period begins, it may relieve the intensity or duration at the outset. 

Tired of dreading the “time of the month”?  Give me a call to get started on making your entire month feel great.