Treating Painful Periods with Chinese Medicine

While chocolate cravings and moderate abdominal cramps on a the first day of bleeding are a minor annoyance, many of us know women who really suffer during their periods, with various combinations of abdominal, low back and leg cramps; headaches; mood swings; bloating; heavy bleeding; diarrhea; constipation and even nausea, vomiting and light-headedness.

Thankfully, Chinese Medicine provides natural and effective relief that addresses the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms.

What Causes Painful Periods?

Menstrual cramps are often caused by muscle contractions in the uterus. However, they can also be caused by other reproductive organ issues such as endometriosis, fibroids, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, or uterine polyps. While Chinese Medicine can help with all of these, it is important to see your gynecologist if you experience unusually severe pain or cramps, heavy bleeding or frequent spotting. Occasionally these symptoms can point to more serious problems and it is always good to rule things out so you know how to proceed forward.

How Does Chinese Medicine Help?

Chinese medicine relieves the symptoms of difficult periods by strengthening and rebalancing your body’s energy to relieve pain and discomfort. For example, the Liver system is very closely related to the menses in Chinese medicine. The Liver system is responsible for the smooth flow of energy in the body; it stores the blood, and the Liver’s acupuncture channel travels through the pelvic region and the breasts. When the Liver system is out of balance, the result can be uterine cramping, “blood stagnation” (which can cause sharp or gripping pain and menstrual blood clots), moodiness, breast distension and headaches. An imbalanced Liver system can also affect the Spleen and Stomach systems, leading to abdominal bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or nausea and vomiting.

Treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, along with some possible lifestyle and dietary changes help to smooth the Liver qi/energy so that the menses can flow smoothly again and the digestion and emotions can calm down.

What You Can Do Now

Diet, exercise and stress levels can all have a big impact on your menses. Eating a balanced diet with a lot of veggies, some fruit, and healthy fats, such as those found in coconuts, avocados, olive, flaxseed and fatty fish such as salmon or sardines, can help. Cutting back on carbs, sweets, caffeine, alcohol, dairy and gluten can also be very helpful for some women. Regular exercise, plenty of sleep and relaxation techniques such as meditation, tai chi or qi gong are beneficial as well.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.


Natural Treatments for IBS

About IBS

Do you suffer from abdominal pain or cramps, gas, bloating, and bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation? If this unpleasant combination sounds familiar to you, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.

IBS is a very common disorder. It is estimated in the US that 10-15% of the population suffers from it, with 2/3 of that being women. The good news is that while IBS is uncomfortable and inconvenient, intestinal and other exams show no intestinal pathologies or abnormalities in people with IBS as well as no significant changes in nutrient absorption. The other good news is acupuncture and herbs can often provide great relief!

What Makes IBS so Uncomfortable?

The pain and urgency from IBS is caused by muscle spasms in the colon. IBS sufferers can also go through periods of constipation, which can be caused by several factors, including a tonic colon (which is in constant contraction, and thus does not perform the normal peristalsis or muscular contractions that allow a bowel movement to happen).

Possible Causes

While the cause of IBS is unknown, emotional stress often seems to play a role. Other possible triggers include certain foods – chocolate, milk, alcohol, fatty foods, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, and beans are common food triggers. FODMAPS, which are a type of carbohydrate found in certain vegetables, fruits and dairy products, can also cause IBS symptoms. Hormones and intestinal bacteria may also be triggers.

Chinese Medicine View of IBS

According to Chinese medicine IBS is often a symptom of Liver qi constraint overacting on deficient, damp Spleen qi. But what does that mean? Well, in Chinese medicine, the Liver system is responsible for the smooth flow of qi or energy in our bodies, while the Spleen system is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients. The Chinese Liver and Spleen systems work very closely together to maintain digestive function. When the Liver qi is compromised, as it is by stress, it stagnates and typically “overacts” on the Spleen. This action weakens the Spleen system, which may already be compromised by other factors, such as diet and worry (the emotion of the Spleen system, in Chinese medicine), and digestion pays the price. Gas, bloating, abdominal pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation are all symptoms of Stagnant Liver qi overacting on the Spleen.

How Does Chinese Medicine Treat IBS

Acupuncture and herbs are great for treating IBS. Together they help soothe the Liver qi and strengthen the Spleen. Soothing the Liver qi calms stress and allows your body and mind to relax. Strengthening the Spleen boosts your digestive function so that your body can both assimilate and eliminate properly. Avoiding trigger foods and incorporating relaxation also aid in healing.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.

Acupuncture for Natural Allergy Relief

Do You Suffer From Springtime Allergies?

Springtime is glorious, unless you suffer from allergies.  The sneezing; itchy, watery eyes; foggy head and low energy of allergy season is miserable, especially when you want to be outdoors digging in your garden or just enjoying the longer days.  Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can provide good allergy relief.

What is Hay fever?

Hay fever, or “allergic rhinitis” is an immune system response to pollens.  In the spring, tree pollens are the culprit; in the summer, grasses; in the fall, ragweed is the problem.  Symptoms range from mild runny nose to allergy-induced asthma.  If you suffer with allergy symptoms year round, you have “perennial rhinitis”, which is often caused by animal dander, dust, molds and/or environmental pollution.  Whatever the cause of your allergy symptoms, you just want relief.  While allergy medications can relieve your symptoms, they can have unwanted side-effects and just mask your symptoms rather than alleviate the root of the problem.

Chinese Medical View on Allergies

According to Chinese Medicine, hay fever is often related to deficiency of the Lung and Spleen functions.  In lay terms, that means that your immune and digestive functions may not be operating as optimally as they could.  When the Lung and Spleen functions are inhibited, it is easier for your body to accumulate “dampness” and toxins, as there isn’t enough energy to circulate these accumulations out of your body.  This can show up as excess mucus and phlegm; gas, bloating, and excess weight; or fatigue and foggy headedness.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help clear the accumulated dampness and toxins and strengthen your Lung and Spleen to reduce your allergy symptoms and strengthen your body’s resistance to allergens.

How to get Allergy Relief

Avoid processed sugar, wheat and dairy during allergy season.  Wheat and dairy are common allergens that can put an extra strain on your already-taxed immune system.  They also tend to produce extra mucus in the body, which is the last thing you need right now.  Sugar tends to lower immune-resistance, which may make you more prone to allergies.

Eat a good variety of richly colored vegetables and fruits.  Fruits and veggies contain bioflavonoids, a type of nutrient which helps your body reduce its production of histamines (the chemical responsible for your allergic reaction when you’re exposed to an allergen).  You can increase the effectiveness of bioflavonoids by taking extra vitamin C or eating foods which are rich in C.

Drink Chrysanthemum tea.  Ask for it in bulk at your local health food store or at an Asian Food Market.  In Portland, OR, you can go to Wing Ming Herbs at 2738 SE 82ndAve, between SE Division and SE Powell.  Put enough of the flowers in to fill a tea ball 2/3 full and steep for 5 min in your favorite mug.  Drink a cup or two of the tea daily to cool itchy, watery eyes.

Make an acupuncture appointment.  Acupuncture works with your body’s energy to rebalance and strengthen it at a deep level so that your body can heal itself more easily and efficiently.  Along with Chinese herbs, acupuncture can help clear your sinuses, relieve your coughing and itchy eyes and make you feel better so you can get back to doing what you like to do.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.


Natural Treatments for Menopause

Have you been experiencing hot flashes? Night sweats? Insomnia? Anxiety or mood swings? These and other symptoms may be due to hormonal imbalances and can occur during menopause or peri-menopause, which is the ten to fifteen year period that leads up to menopause. These symptoms can make you feel desperate, or at least annoyed. Know that you are not alone with your symptoms and that relief is possible.

Chinese Medicine and Menopause

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer wonderful natural treatments for menopause.  One common herbal remedy for hot flashes and night sweats, for example, is Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (ZBDHW). This formula tonifies kidney yin and cools the body. It often helps with insomnia, dry skin, irritability and other problems as well.  However, since sweating, insomnia and the other symptoms discussed above are not always caused by kidney yin deficiency, ZBDHW is not the right formula for everyone, and shouldn't be self-prescribed.

What is Yin Deficiency?

Yin, in Chinese Medicine, is the cooling and moistening element in the body.  It helps make our skin supple, lubricates our joints and keeps our mucous membranes moist.  The kidneys, and in particular, kidney yin, strongly influences birth, growth and reproduction. As we age, the yin of the kidneys declines, and so does it's ability to support a woman’s reproductive cycle.  Yin deficiency makes women more prone to dry skin, hair, eyes; day and night sweats; bone loss; stress; and other symptoms that arise during the peri-menopausal and post-menopausal years. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help support our bodies as we go through these changes by smoothing our energy or qi, building our yin, and strengthening our bodies.

During menopause, and ideally before, women can also ease this transition by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados, fish oil and flaxseeds. Getting regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, qi gong or tai chi can also be very beneficial.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.


Natural Treatments for Jaw Pain


What is TMD/TMJ?

Do you have jaw pain or stiffness?  Does your jaw make popping sounds when you open your mouth?  You may have TMD (tempero-mandibular joint disorder), also known as TMJ, which refers to a variety of disorders or symptoms affecting the region around the tempero-mandibular joints which connect the lower jaw to the skull.  Symptoms of TMD range in number and severity and include jaw pain or stiffness; inability to fully open the mouth; popping or clicking sounds when opening the mouth; head, neck or shoulder tension; headaches; earaches; toothaches and other types of facial pain.

What Causes TMD/TMJ?

TMD can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, injury, an improper bite, arthritis, or a combination of factors. For example, stress might cause you to grind or clench your teeth during the day or at night while you sleep. This can tire and constrict the jaw muscles and cause pain, and may eventually lead to problems with the joint capsule itself. Whiplash or other trauma can strain the muscles and ligaments in the neck and face. Poor posture, lack of sleep, inability to relax and poor diet may also aggravate TMD symptoms. The contracted muscles and pinched nerves that result from these stresses can refer pain to other areas, causing headaches, earaches or toothaches.

How can Acupuncture Help?

Dental appliances, pain medication, lifestyle changes and occasionally surgery are the common methods of treatment for TMD. Acupuncture offers a wonderful alternative. It relaxes both body and mind and relieves pain without the side effects of medications. It is relatively non-invasive and relatively inexpensive, compared to other therapies. It also benefits overall health and well-being. Within 6-8 weekly treatments, the patient’s pain is generally reduced, range of motion of the jaw is generally increased and the need for pain medication is generally diminished or non-existent.

To treat TMD problems, acupuncturists insert needles around the jaw, neck and shoulders and often employ distal points in the arms, hands, legs and feet to further enhance the treatment. Such treatments help to release constricted muscles and restore proper circulation to the affected areas. Acupuncture also releases endorphins and most patients feel very calm and relaxed during and after an acupuncture treatment. Sometimes an herbal formula will be prescribed if the acupuncturist feels it will enhance the healing process.

So consider acupuncture to treat your TMD. It can help relieve your pain, relax your stress, decrease your need for pain medications and improve your overall health and well-being.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.


Stress Relief with Acupuncture

I think this guy needs some acupuncture...

I think this guy needs some acupuncture...

Some time ago, a patient came in with a headache, shoulder pain, nausea, stomach pain, and no appetite. She had been suffering from these problems for the previous three months, and was hoping for some relief.   As we talked it seemed that she felt a lot of stress, both from work as well as family responsibilities.  

After talking with the patient and doing the Chinese diagnostics of looking at the tongue and palpating the pulse, I diagnosed her with “Liver qi constraint”, a very common syndrome, and one closely related to stress.  The headaches, shoulder tension and digestive problems, which she also experienced, are also commonly seen with “Liver qi constraint”.  The acupuncture treatment focused on moving and soothing her "Liver qi".

When she returned for her second treatment, she was about 90% symptom-free!  I gave her another acupuncture treatment, focusing on the same principles, and had her come back the following week.  When she returned, she said she had felt great all week.  No headaches, good appetite and no digestive problems. Needless to say, I was was she.

We all know that stress has an effect on our health.  Based on my years of experience as a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I would say, without reservation, that stress is a factor in almost every ailment a person presents with.   Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are wonderful modalities for helping to manage stress and strengthen the body’s ability to deal with it.  

While it is rare to see such a quick turn around, as in the patient above, it is always rewarding for a practitioner and, of course, wonderful for the patient.  In this case, all of this patient’s problems were caused by stress; hers was a classic case of "Liver qi constraint".  Acupuncture helped to regulate and smooth the qi in her channels, thereby relieving the stress and the effects it had had on her body.  As all health starts at an energetic level, once her Liver qi was flowing properly again, her symptoms went away.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.


Asthma Relief with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Asthma viewed through the Chinese Lens

In Chinese, asthma is described as “xiao-chuan“, which translates as wheezing (xiao) and breathlessness (chuan). According to Traditional Chinese Medical theory, an asthma attack reflects the stirring up of excess Wind.

Just as in nature, Wind is inherently changeable and can appear in gusts or breezes; in asthma, for example, it manifests in coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and changeable body temperature. This excess Wind has such a strong effect because it is paired with an underlying deficiency of the Lung and Kidney qi or energies. Among other functions, the Lung and Kidney qi work in tandem to protect the body from Wind, which is also a harbinger of colds, flus, and other upper respiratory ailments. According to Chinese medical theory, when the Lungs are working properly, their energy descends and disperses. The descending breath is then grasped by the Kidneys, and the person is able to inhale and exhale with ease. In the case of asthma, the weakened Lung qi does not properly descend or disperse, and the Kidneys are too compromised to grasp the Lung qi. Breathing becomes difficult, and coughing and wheezing ensue.

How does Chinese Medicine Treat Asthma?

Chinese medicine can treat asthma very effectively. Treatment consists of the application of very thin needles into points along specific channels along the body that relate to the person’s condition. An herbal formula is usually also prescribed. If warranted, dietary and lifestyle counseling is given as well, in order to fully support the client’s healing process. Initially, treatment focuses on clearing out the pathogenic Wind in order to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. After the asthma is more under control, further treatment addresses the underlying deficiencies of the Lung and Kidney energies as well as other factors that may be involved. As the body becomes stronger, Wind is less likely to invade, and asthmatic symptoms subside.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.


Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

....for when you're feeling under the weather...

....for when you're feeling under the weather...

Cold and Flu from a Chinese Medical Perspective

From a Chinese medical perspective, a cold or flu generally begins as an External Wind Invasion, entering the external channels of the body. These Wind Invasions primarily enter through the back of the head, neck and shoulder regions of the body; this is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to keep your neck and head protected with a warm scarf and hat during cool or windy weather.

After the External Wind penetrates the channels, the body’s Wei Qi (or Defensive Energy), which is our first line of defense against invading pathogens, works hard to fight off the Wind Invasion. It is this fight that we experience as a cold or flu, as we sneeze, cough or burn with fever, in our body’s effort to rid itself of the pathogenic invaders.

There are different types of Wind Invasions, Wind-Heat; Wind-Cold; Wind-Damp and Wind-Dryness. All of these have different symptoms and can affect different people in different ways. The type of Wind Invasion, as well as your constitutional strengths and weaknesses, determines whether you are more inclined to one or more of the following: sneezing, coughing, fever, chills, headache, nausea or any other symptoms. Fortunately, Chinese Medicine has something to treat all of these symptoms and more, as well as to boost your immune system so you will be less likely to get sick. In the meantime, there are preventative measures you can take to increase your resistance to illness. Many of them are common sense.

Cold and Flu Prevention

Regular exercise; a balanced, healthy diet; rest and relaxation and good hygiene all can go a long way toward preventing illness. Walking briskly for 30 minutes per day is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only will it benefit your immune system, it will increase your stamina, energy level and help to decrease stress. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes a good variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. These contain anti-oxidants and beta-carotene, which are believed to help boost your immune system - beta-carotene, in particular, benefits respiratory health. Raw garlic is also an excellent immune booster.  Allicin, the chemical that gives garlic its strong odor, is the primary inhibitor of invasive cold and flu germs.  Reduce your refined carbohydrate and sugar intake, especially when you are sick.  Simple carbs, especially sugar, greatly reduce the strength of your immune system. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and your system flushed.

Get plenty of rest, especially during times of stress, as stress and fatigue together bring your immune function down. Eight hours of sleep per night is optimal, get more if you need it at least two to three times per week. Also, building in a relaxation practice of meditation, yoga, tai chi or qi gong is important, even if only for 10 minutes a day. Take that time for yourself.

Wash your hands frequently and try to keep your hands away from your face.  One of the most common ways germs find their way into our bodies is via our mucus membranes.  When you shake hands with someone, touch a doorknob, a handrail, or any other germy surface, wash your hands before you touch your face.

When You Get Sick

If you do find yourself getting sick, it is best to treat the cold or flu right when you feel it coming on, rather than waiting until it becomes full-blown. Get plenty of rest and fluids, avoid sugars and listen to your body's needs.  

Consider getting some acupuncture.  I’ve seen acupuncture and Chinese herbs nip a very early-stage cold or flu in the bud many times. However, even if it does become full-blown, Chinese herbs and acupuncture can still help move the illness through your system more quickly and help you feel more comfortable during that process.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.