Currently viewing the tag: "Acupuncture"

One would have thought that anatomist would have discovered everything there was to discover in the human body. Au Contraire!  Hidden in plain sight researchers discovered the “Interstitium”; a mesh network of fluid filled spaces that lies along the web of collagen and elastin tissues throughout the body. It is estimated to be 20% of the total body volume. In the past it was simply labelled as dense connective tissue. Dr Neil Theise (co-senior study author) describes it as an “open, fluid-filled highway”. This was an accidental finding during studies on the bile duct. These spaces were never identified because the fluid filled spaces are only visible in living tissue, in dead tissue the fluid is lost and the compartments collapse and flatten losing their structure. Researchers used probing techniques on living tissue to see them in their full form. The spaces appear to be pre-lymphatic and appear to drain into lymph nodes.

In the human body around 70% of the water is found in cells. This finding helps to answer questions about where the remaining extracelluar fluid resides. Various theories for the function of the Interstitium have been put forward including being a source of lymphatic fluid. Consequently, it has a role in the body’s immune system and could be involved is the process of spread of cancer cells.

Researchers have speculated that in Acupuncture the tip of the needle goes into these spaces and may explain how it works. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners (including acupuncturists) learn about how the healthy and balanced movement of qi is vital to maintaining health and that blockages or stagnation results in health problems. Results from this study support this understanding. Past articles have discussed the existence of interstitial fluid network along fascia lines. These fluid-filled matrix correspond very closely to the acupuncture meridian channels where Qi (vital energy) flows. We can therefore postulate that the flow of interstitial fluid is crucial and any impediment would compromise the interstitium’s ability to fully function.

The use of cupping in acupuncture, where the skin is sucked up has the effect of raising tissue and loosening these spaces therefore allowing the flow of interstitial fluid. The Interstitium spaces are supported and organised by collagen lattice and thus described as a dynamic compression and distension shock absorber to protect tissue during daily functions. Data on keloid scars shows that they appear on skin under high tension, and so the effects of forceful mechanical forces of these spaces and the fluid flow within can be considerable. Similarly massage and acupressure techniques include compression and lifting actions that would act on these spaces and therefore the interstitial flow. Further, the process of wet cupping where through a small incision blood is sucked into cups is understood to remove toxins or ‘stagnant blood’ can be directly linked to clearing these interstitium spaces and encourage the flow.

Future studies on the Interstitium could give much more detailed answers on how acupuncture works and finally confirm ancient TCM theories around 5,000 yrs old.

 

References:

Benias, P.C., Wells, R.G., Sackey-Aboagye, B., Klavan, H., Reidy, J., Buonocore, D., Miranda, M., Kornacki, S., Wayne, M., Carr-Locke, D.L., Theise, N.D. Structure and distribution of an unrecognized interstitium in human tissues. Sci Rep. 2018;8:4947. Link

 

Stress and Anxiety is a very common presentation, ranging from everyday life stress of crossing the road safely, or more serious worries like a life threatening illness, divorce or loss of a loved one. However for some even in the absence of notable stressful event there is still anxiety. There is no logical reason for the anxiety but every little event weighs them down physically and emotionally. Social events are an uphill struggle and going to work is equally challenging.

No matter the cause of the stress, instinctively the body reacts by initiating a “stress response” and your body is flooded with stress hormones. Your muscles tenses up, there is rapid breathing, and adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol increases blood sugar (glucose) levels and increases its availability to the brain.

Challenging situations are part of daily life, and so there is a need to have the necessary capacity and ability to manage stress. Therefore developing more positive, healthier ways to respond to stress becomes paramount.

Invoking a “relaxation response” is a good way to counter act stress. There are many different ways of doing this, and you will need to find the one technique (or a few) that work best for you. Initially, it will feel strange, but with regular practice you will gain confidence and create a source of relaxation and calm that is free to use and available day or night. Practicing relaxation has many benefits including;

  • Slows down breathing rate
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves digestion, maintains normal blood sugar levels
  • Reduces production of stress hormones
  • Reduces muscle tension and improves blood flow to the muscles
  • Enhances confidence and calm, reduces anger and frustration,
  • Improves sleep and energy levels

Here are five relaxation techniques that help initiate a relaxation response.

1.  Conscious breathing. Breathing is a simple but very powerful tool. Research has confirmed a link between breathing to relaxation. Specialised brain cells constantly monitor our breathing sending signals to other parts of the brain. It can differentiate between sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing and crying.

The 4-7-8 Breath technique is the perfect antidote to stress that can bring on relaxation in a very short period of time. It does not require any equipment and can be done anywhere and in any position, but start practicing by sitting with your back straight. This technique may not be suitable for people with breathing problems.

During the exercise the tip of your tongue should lie and just touch the upper front teeth. Then, before starting exhale completely through your mouth.

  1. Inhale quietly through your nose (closed mouth) to a mental count of four.
  2. Pause and hold your breath for a count of seven.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.

Now repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. The time spent on each breath cycle is not important, but the ratios of 4:7:8 is key to good practice. With practice the breaths can be slowed down with deeper inhalation and exhalation breaths.

 

2. Body scan.  Together with the breathing technique you start to become aware of your physical body. Starting from the top of your head you start to ‘feel’ each part of our body, becoming more aware of it thus enhancing your mind-body connection. Gradually you work all the way down the body. Becoming aware of the body helps to release muscle tension and enable relaxation. This technique may not be suitable for people who have difficulties with their own body image.

3. Visualization.  In this relaxation technique, you close your eyes sitting or lying down in a quite spot and create mental images of calming or peaceful places or experiences to focus on and take a visual journey there. You can be in the forest or at the seaside, imagining the sounds, touch and smell e.g. feeling the warmth of the sun or smelling the fresh countryside air.

4. Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation can help with anxiety, depression and pain control. It focuses on being in the present moment reminding us of its importance, rather than dwelling on past or future concerns. You will need to find a quite space, sitting comfortably focus on your breathing whilst concentrating in the ‘here and now’.

5. Prayer. If you are religious or spiritual repeating a silent short prayer or phrase along with focused breathing will help relaxation and calm.

Other relaxation techniques include; tai chi, qigong, yoga, music and art therapy, walking, biofeedback and sports. There are a number of home remedies you can also try. For additional help complementary therapies like; massage, acupuncture, and reiki may be helpful.

Learning relaxation techniques takes practice, but is an extremely useful skill. Be patient, practice daily for 10-15 min. If you are really short on time than even 5 (full) minutes every day will make a difference. Try different ones. Start with the breathing technique and once you are comfortable with it then expand into the other techniques.

 

Smoking is a significant risk factor for many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular, chronic lung diseases and gastric ulcers. According to The WHO  smoking kills nearly 6 million people each year i.e. approximately one death every six seconds. 5 million of these results directly from smoking, while more than 600,000 are due to passive smoking. Due to the lag of many years, smoking is a slow gradual killer and people don’t realise its impact on their health until much later.  By then they have already developed an addiction.  A survey in China revealed that only 38% were aware it caused coronary heart disease.  Amongst smokers who are aware of its dangers, most want to quit however worldwide national smoking cessation services are only available in 21 countries. Smokers wanting to give up have tried, but most attempts are unsuccessful. E-cigarettes have become the new alternative to smoking but its safety is yet to be evidenced, and in my opinion there is a need to be cautious before giving it the green light. Getting help through cessation advice services using nicotine replacement therapy and counselling may be helpful but don’t always work for everyone. Complementary therapy studies have been done on acupuncture, hypnotherapy, yoga, mindfulness meditation herbal remedies and dietary supplements with some encouraging preliminary results.

Acupuncture is an ancient traditional Chinese therapy involving the insertion of fine needles at specific points in the body. It aims to affect symptoms of withdrawal, and studies show that it reduces the taste of tobacco and the intensity of the desire to smoke. A review of of 38 acupuncture and related randomised studies found inconsistent evidence of benefit, however there is enough to support the possibility of a positive effect that is greater than placebo. When used in combination with education it is found to have greater benefit. Studies on  smoking longer term effects show that it helps to keep smokers motivated to reduce or even quit smoking, with the effects lasting up to 5 yrs.

Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic tool used to affect patterns of behaviour. A Cochrane review found the evidence to be unclear, and not more successful than other therapist contact interventions. Any encouraging results were attributed to the individual’s strong motivation.

Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation-based therapies demonstrate some positive results to stop smoking in a small number of studies. Yoga compared to a psychologist led wellness group showed greater rates of abstinence in the longer term, but also improvements in anxiety levels and perceived health and well-being.

Dietary supplements and herbal remedies, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SaMe), silver acetate, lobeline (Lobelia inflate) and St. John’s Wort have not shown to be effective, and should only be tried with the advice and guidance of an appropriately qualified health professional.

There has been an ongoing interest in the use of complementary therapies to stop smoking. Regularly, I get smokers who express a need (for all the right health and economic reasons) to give up smoking and inquire about the effectiveness of complementary therapies.  My answer has always been the importance of a <b>strong inner desire (rather than just need) to give up, without which nothing works completely. Therapies like acupuncture can help to alleviate stress, aid relaxation, reduce withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke thus easing the journey to becoming smoke free somewhat soother, but in my experience the reason for smoking is the key influencing factor which needs to be addressed. Issues of life style choices, work, family, relationships and childhood can all form part of the picture. Finally, what determines which way it swings is a willingness to make real life changes, which is the ultimate ‘Crunch Factor’.

 

Finally, spring may have just sprung. The long, cold and damp winter has not been kind to our bodies with exacerbations of arthritic and rheumatic pains and nasty cold and flu viruses in the air. Dark and cloudy days and staying mostly indoors have deprived us of sunlight and vitamin D. Your body may need just a gentle nudge to get it back into the seasonal flow.

 

Here are 12 signs to look out for, and the reason for you to spend a little bit of effort getting your health back on-line.

  1. Weight gain, a few extra pounds gained over the winter overeating indulgence.
  2. Tired and sluggish, can’t think properly, ‘brain fog’ and poor concentration.
  3. Emotionally feeling stressed, low and lethargic.
  4. Tired eyes, dark circles around the eyes or puffiness around the face.
  5. Digestive discomfort or bloating and heartburn.
  6. Poor sleep. Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up tired and unrefreshed.
  7. Drinking alcohol in the evenings to unwind or relax.
  8. Stopped attending the usual exercise, sport, yoga, and dance or meditation class.
  9. Eating more processed food or ready meals, and less fresh fruit and vegetable.
  10. Appearance of spots, dry skin patches or exacerbation of allergies and eczema.
  11. Headaches
  12. Body aches and pains.

To get yourself back on track, here are some things you can do.

  • Shift that body: It is a known fact that physical activity promotes the release of ‘endorphins’ also know as feel good chemicals. It relaxes the muscle and joints and invigorates the mind, thus preventing low mood and depression. Movement also improves the body’s blood circulation but also lymphatic flow which is important for our immune system. When we move our muscles act as a natural pump, helping blood to return to the heart, whilst the lymph flow is increased by 15-30 times. Our bone density responds to high impact movements (like jumping), making them stronger. Exercise also helps with weight management.
  • Good sleep regimen allows the body to rest and recuperate. The body has a natural circadian rhythm which is linked to the release of hormones and regulation of body functions. Research has shown that when we are awake the brain is in a state of inflammation, and sleep helps to reduce that inflammation.
  • Hydration, the body is 70% water and the blood and lymph circulation is dependent on it. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Clean up the diet by minimising processed and high carb foods especially bread, cakes, biscuits and fatty and fried foods. Avoid sugary foods.  Freshly cooked foods are much preferred. Regularise your eating and increase fruit and vegetables and essential fats found in fish, seeds and nuts.
  • Mindfulness is an excellent practice to manage stress and emotional distress. It calms and relaxes the mind and body.
  • Friends and Family is important for our well-being. Enjoy some relaxing or playful time with them.
  • Supplements can help to make up for loss due to increased stress, but also normalise existing body levels. Stress increases cortisol levels, which makes you eat more thus contributing to weight gain. In particular it also uses up B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals magnesium and zinc. It also affects the digestive microbiome of good bacteria which is extremely important for our immune system, so increasing pre or probiotic intake through food or supplement can help.
  • Therapies like massage, acupuncture, yoga is extremely beneficial for well being. They give an extra boost to health. Their importance is even more so when the usual self-management or health changes may not be sufficient. They are an added dimension to the overall treatment to facilitate and focus on health improvement to get added benefits to getting better.

 

If you are experiencing abnormal tiredness and general weakness which does not seem to remedy with added rest; you become breathless and/or dizzy; People say you look unusually pale; there may be palpitations, headaches, brittle nails, poor appetite, swollen feet and leg pains. Then you may be Anaemic.

Anaemia is most common (but not exclusive) in adolescent girls, women in their reproductive years and pregnant women. Toddlers on milk-based diets are also at risk.  Anaemia is diagnosed when red blood cell levels fall below normal. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues. As a result of anaemia the amount of oxygen supplied to the tissues is reduced. The most common type of anaemia is Iron deficiency. Iron is needed for the production of red blood cells. The main causes of iron deficiency anaemia are;

  • Poor diet: Your body needs iron regularly. Over a period of time a diet lacking in iron will result in iron deficiency.
  • Blood loss: Loss of blood during menstruation puts women at risk of anaemia, particularly if the periods are heavy. Slow, chronic blood loss can be through peptic ulcer bleeding, a colon polyp, colorectal cancer.
  • Inability to absorb iron: Conditions like celiac disease and pancreatic disease affects intestinal absorption and can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Hypochlorhydria is associated with low levels of hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices of the stomach which affects the absorption of iron present in the diet.
  • Pregnancy: In pregnancy it is normal for the total blood volume to increase. Without iron supplementation there may be a risk of developing anaemia. However since iron blocks the absorption of zinc, it must not be prescribed without first checking serum ferritin levels.
  • Drugs that block iron absorption: Prolonged use of antacids and ulcer medication will lower the levels of hydrochloric acid thus reduce the absorption of iron.
  • Dietary blockers: Some foods if eaten in larger amounts and frequently can hinders iron absorption e.g. calcium (milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, almonds), eggs contains a phosphoprotein which binds with iron, Oxalates (spinach, kale, beets, nuts chocolates, tea) bind with iron, Polyphenols found in tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, walnuts, apples, blackberries have the ability to inhibit iron absorption. Similarly tannins are naturally occurring plant-based substances can interfere with non-haem iron absorption from some plants such as beans, legumes, spinach and other dark-green leafy vegetables. Phytates (soy protein, fibre, almonds sesame, dried beans lentils, pea and whole grains) also have strong inhibitory affect on iron absorption.

Prevention

  1. Improving iron intake

Iron deficiency anaemia can be corrected by introducing plentiful of iron rich foods. These include;

  • Meat, poultry and liver
  • Seafood
  • Dark fresh green leafy vegetables, beans, peas
  • Dried fruits (raisins, apricots)
  • Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pasta
  1. Enhancing Absorption

As a general rule always take multivitamins alongside any iron supplements that may have been prescribed to you. This will enable the various chemical processes that take place when iron is being absorbed. This can further be enhanced by taking probiotics, which will be of particular benefit if there are any digestive symptoms. Drinking plentiful of fluids and water is also a must. Other things to consider include;

  • Increasing foods with high vitamin C content such as; broccoli, citrus fruits, kiwi, leafy greens, melons, peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.
  • Avoid foods containing tannins e.g. black, green and rooibos tea, coffee, grapes, wine,  sorghum and corn.
  • Avoid gluten, particularly if there is a diagnosis of celiac disease or other food allergies or intolerances. Gluten is damaging to the intestinal wall.
  • Avoid foods containing phytates (see examples above).
  • Avoid antacids and ulcer medication.
  • Long term alcohol intake can damage the gut and inhibit folate absorption and functioning of iron.

 

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Fibromyalgia  is a chronic conditions that causes widespread pain in the body. It is accompanied by increased pain sensitivity, extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, sleep difficulties, headaches, functional impairment e.g. memory and concentration (known as “fibro-fog”) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The cause of fibromyalgia is not well understood, but genetic, automimmune factors,  traumatic events and stress are contributory. Treatment is limited to improving function using pain medication, antidepressants and antiepileptic, supported by physical and talk therapy.

Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, acupuncture can provide respite from symptoms.  One study found that 1 in 5 people suffering with fibromyalgia use acupuncture within a period of 2 years after diagnosis. The WHO recommend acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia but conclude that more research is needed.

Pain intensity was noticeably reduced after 10 weeks using tailored acupuncture treatments at weekly intervals in a multicentre trial conducted in three primary care centres. Participants were randomly assigned to real acupuncture or placebo, whilst continuing their medical management.  A total of 153 participants completed the study. The acupuncture group reported a 41% reduction in pain, compared to 27% in the placebo group. The effects were still apparent at the end of 12 months, reporting 20% and 6% reduction respectively. Other measures of anxiety, fatigue and depression were also significantly reduced at 10 weeks.

A review of multiple small studies concluded that acupuncture was safe to use for fibromylgia. Electro acupuncture was more effective than manual acupuncture for pain and stiffness, well-being, sleep and fatigue. Effects lasted up to one month.

Acupuncture is well knows to be effective in reducing many types of chronic pain, including arthritic, rheumatic, headaches. It releases feel-good natural pain killers in our body called endorphins. These same chemicals are also released after orgasm, thus leave us with a relaxed warm afterglow.  Its ability to modify pain, reduce stress and enhance well being is ideal to tackle these fibromyalgia symptoms.  The insertion and twisting needle action also release adenosine, an anti-inflammatory chemical that lingers for up to an hour after the treatment.

It is unsurprising therefore that many people with fibromyalgia would be interested in trying acupuncture.  A  Personal story  from  one sufferer shows how acupuncture  can help change lives.  Despite the mixed results from studies, most suggest that it may have a beneficial role in treating fibromyalgia, which can be used without anxiety about its safety. It can be used on its own for symptom management, but often advocated in addition to other exercise or physical program.

 

Puffy eyes, Runny nose, Sneezing and headaches…..  ?

Slowly but surely we are moving into the allergy season. The combination of sun, fresh flowers and grass and warm air could be the end of a good spring or summer.

Good News! although the seasons are unavoidable, the need for antihistamines and a constant supply of tissues can be avoided with a few simple steps.

Hydration: Make sure you are well hydrated. On average drinking 2 –2.5 litres of fluids (includes drinks and soups) daily will ensure that your body functions can be optimised.

Supplements:  Start taking supplements now so that your body is fully protected when the allergy season starts. These are called ‘essential’ because the body is unable to synthesize them and they have to be obtained directly from food sources.  Supplements  are to be taken not necessarily as a treatment, but to support general health. They will top-up any existing nutrient deficiencies. To get the most benefit choose a formula that is right for your health needs. Here are some recommendations;

  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – strengthens the immune system
  • Acidophilus/probiotics-  support the gut, and helps the immune system
  • Multivitamin/mineral – supports vitamin and mineral deficiency or  added requirements
  • EPA/DHA fish oils –  provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are not normally produced in the body
  • Quercetin – anti-oxidant and anti- histamine action

Honey: Honey is one of the best natural allergy treatments. In particular if you can find honey that has been produced locally. Take a teaspoon full of honey daily for at least 6 wks before the allergy season starts.

Acupuncture & Acupressure: Effective both as a treatment and prevention for allergies and headaches, acupuncture regulates the body functions thus reducing the allergy response. The best part is that you can do it YOURSELF, but can prolong the effects of acupuncture treatments therefore requiring less frequent treatments. A great time to start is 4-6 weeks before the allergy season, but if you miss this preventative window you can still use it. It is not usual for people to experience immediate clearing of sinuses and heaviness of the head.

Face allergy

Specifically, there are 7 acupuncture points that can work wonders. All it takes is a little concentration and your fingers. Stimulating the points is not a substitute for real acupuncture but is excellent as a preventative measure and for treatment of sudden allergy attacks.

 

So, where to press?

Six points on the face. Three on each side, Bladder 2, Stomach 2 and Large Intestine 20.  All three points are pressed with firm circular pressure symmetrically on each side moving in the direction shown on the picture.

 

Spleen 5The seventh point is Spleen 5, located just below and distal to the medial malleolus (prominent bone on the inner ankle). In Chinese medicine allergies are linked to ‘dampness’ and this point acts on it. Dampness in the body is not healthy and acts like heavy sludge causing obstruction. You need only hold and press this point on one leg and massage it gently with tiny circular movements. The easiest position is to sit cross legged.

Seasonal allergy sufferers no longer need to stay indoors or suffer its effects. No more, thanks to acupuncture !

 

Note: This is a revised version of an previous post published 13/6/2016.

If there is one New Year’s resolution that we should all make is, drastically reduce the amount of sugar we have in our diet. Why ?…. because it is strongly linked with causing cancer. Shockingly this was discovered in a study nearly 50 years ago – but since the research was funded by the sugar industry the results were never published.

Most of us enjoy a sweet treat, but many are addicted to the taste of sugar.  Sugar has been linked to the development of diabetes and heart disease. In 2016 a study on mice linked high sugar intake with an increased risk of breast cancer. Previous studies have highlighted an increased risk of endometrial cancer in women and colon cancer in men, although clear cut evidence is still forthcoming.

Sugar is everywhere!. Increasingly hidden sugars are a problem. From dried fruits to fruit juice. Clearly, too much sugar is not good for our health but the challenge is how to avoid it. This is especially difficult for those who have a ‘sweet tooth’ and find it hard to abstain. It is essential that the body maintains blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. When it falls too low the energy supply to the tissues is compromised.

Sucrose and fructose, both constituents of table sugar are thought to change cell metabolism and increase cancer activity. Researchers  from VIB and Vrije University in Brussels most recently discovered that a compound found in sugar stimulates aggressive cancer cells helping them to grow faster. This research reaffirms the Warburg hypothesis based on the Warburg effect. The Warburg effect explains that sugar is rapidly broken down by cancer cells as fuel for growth. The reason for the rapid breakdown is because cancer cells are fast growing and therefore greater energy needs. Levels of sugar intake is much higher than healthy cells, and results in the production of lactic acid During the sugar breakdown reaction an intermediate compound is produced which directly activates Ras (a cancer causing protein). The researchers identified a vicious cycle where the Ras protein in turn stimulates sugar breakdown.

This direct link between sugar and the aggressiveness of cancer should not be ignored. However, it does not mean that eliminating dietary sugar will make you cancer free but it will improve chances of a more successful cancer treatment.

Reducing the consumption of sugar as a New Year resolution can be a turning point for improving your health. You cannot control sugars already contained in fruits and vegetables, but you can choose to reduce how much sugar you put in your tea or coffee. Most processed foods will contain sugar. There is more sugar in pre-packaged foods than you think. Always read the label !

 

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Christmas is one of the most testing periods of the year. It can be stressful but also challenging for our digestive system. We are excited but also anxious about organising the festivities and celebrations, whilst at the same time agonise about what presents to get for our friends and family. Being the end of the year we are also preparing to ‘wind down’ and regenerate for the New Year.

 

‘Tis the season for Flu and Colds’

Changes from autumn to winter means that the period prior to Christmas is full of flu and colds. This can carry on well into the spring. Frequent travel both local and distant exposes us to different cold viruses. Minimise your risks by maintaining a healthy immune system so you are more able to fight off any viruses. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help. More about flu supplements.

 

 ‘All I want for Christmas is Food’ 

Food and drink is a large part of Christmas. We must remember to stuff the turkey, but not ourselves. Food is always plenty at Christmas, turkey, nuts, chocolates, cheese, pudding, mince pies and cheese straws.  One Christmas dinner can add up to 3000 calories, between 500 -1200 calories more than the average adult requirement.  This does not include what we eat the rest of the day. Slowing down the speed of eating and savouring each bite will help to make the meal more satisfying. Remember that it takes our brain 20 min to register that the stomach is full.  A huge meal will give us indigestion and make us tired, thus contributing to weight gain. Be mindful about what you eat, and decide if it is something you really want before popping it into your mouth. Don’t eat it just because it is there.

 

‘Keep calm and say Ho, Ho, Ho……’                                                         

Don’t stress about making sure Christmas is Stress-Free. Most of us will be working through long lists of shopping, cooking and cleaning and visitors, so try to keep things manageable. Plan ahead and try to be organised. Shopping online can make things easier and if you are terrible at wrapping presents use gift bags.  It’s not a disaster if everything is not perfect and the mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, or that the top of the Christmas tree you bought is not perfect – it’s what makes Christmas memorable. You could think ahead and consider organising some therapeutic treatments in the New year. Complementary therapies work really well for stress relief.

 

Peace, love and Joy’ 

Catching up with family and friends is a big part of the Christmas spirit. Instead of the usual salutatory wishes in a festive card, consider instead a photo card or a few sentences updating them about you and the family.   We have little choice in who we are related to, so there will always be a critical mother-in-law or a disapproving relative.  Prepare yourself for what is to come, but remember it is only for one day and you still have the rest of the year without them.

 

‘Silent night’

Make sure you rest and renew with plenty of restful sleep. Despite the time off work, late night celebrations from Christmas to the New Year will disturb our normal sleep pattern. Sleep hugely influences our physical and mental wellbeing. It is when our body heals and recovers from our waking activities. Try to return to your normal sleep pattern as soon as possible. Further about the benefits of sleep here.

 

‘Don’t get Ho, Ho, Hammered!’ 

During Christmas, alcohol is free flowing, mulled wine, bucks fizz, brandy, wine and even alcoholic punch. Don’t just indulge, decide what your limits are and then keep tabs on how much you are drinking. Mix non-alcoholic drinks in between and it will make it much more enjoyable. Excess alcohol can affect others. Be aware that although it can lift your mood initially, it is also a depressant and in some people can bring out unsociable and aggressive behaviour.  There is a considerable rise in the number of assaults and drink driving over Christmas and New Year. Added to this is increased incidence of alcohol poisoning.

 

Happy New Year! 

Let’s be honest, most of us spend the entire year not thinking about our health. Review the past year and consider if your health needs some attention. If you have had more frequent flu and colds, developed an allergy or skin condition, tend to get tired more quickly, fatigued most of the time, bones and joints ache, have a brain fog or spend time feeling frustrated and depressed, then it is time to make a plan to do something about it. It is more important than ever to get out the vitamins and minerals, consider having some therapies or book a doctor’s appointment.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

Acupuncture has a long history of use to treat many conditions, including pain, depression, fatigue and addictions.  It is known to effect local responses as well as distal changes through neurological and endocrine systems. When used together with heat treatment it can cause multiple biological responses, seen both in animals and humans.  However, the mechanism and biochemical changes responsible for these effects are still unclear.  Chinese concepts refer to the flow of Qi, five element theory and yin and yang. Anatomical studies show that most acupoints located along the meridian lines (also known as channels) are located closely to nerve fibre distribution and blood vessels. Interestingly, there is also an increase in hair follicles and sweat glands at these points.

Nitrous Oxide (NO) is known to play an important physiological role in skin local microcirculation, neurotransmission, immunity and wound healing. It produces relaxation of blood vessels via an increase in NO synthase acitivty, but also utilizes the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway in the human skin. Studies in rats have also shown that NO content and NO synthase protein levels are in the skin tissue at acupoints and meridian lines. Repeated thermal application also increases immunoreactivity and NO synthase in hamsters. NO also mediates noradrenergic function on skin sympathetic nerve activation, which contributes to low resistance characteristics of acupoints and meridians.

One crossover study conducted on 20 volunteers who underwent a real acupuncture and then non-invasive sham acupuncture in the hand or forearm with 1 week interval between treatments. The blood plasma concentration of NO in the acupunctured arm and hand was significantly increased, which was not observed in the sham acupuncture.

A more recent published study at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center examined the effect of manual acupuncture and electrical heat to the release of nitric oxide (NO) over the human skin. Participants included 25 volunteers (men and women) aged 18-60 yrs. Participants were randomly asked to undergo manual acupuncture over the pericardium meridian, or heat treatment over the lung meridian. NO was monitored using a Biocapture device with a collecting solution taped to the skin along the meridians. Results found that manual acupuncture and electrical heat cause release of NO from the local skin, which was almost doubled at acupuncture points.

Initial pilot studies also show that the extent of NO production can vary depending on the person’s age and gender due to the differences in sympathetic acitivity, body weight, hormones, sweat rates and skin thickness. There was no noticeable difference between different ethnic groups.

The importance of a rich blood circulation is an evident necessary part of tissue healing, and suggests the rationale for subsequent pain relief or sensitising substances. These studies determined that acupuncture elevates the local level of NO in the treated areas, thus increasing blood flow and warmth. There is vasodilation accompanied neurochemical changes which may further contribute to generation of NO. Thus suggesting that acupuncture treatment using a reinforced technique and the addition of electrical heat will improve local circulation.

Clinical experience has shown that the use of acupuncture for pain relief is an excellent alternative to the use of medicinal pain killers.  However we must not ignore the benefits of increase blood circulation for other conditions, therefore improving the overall body functions.  My own clinical practice regularly incorporates the use heat in the form of direct or indirect moxa or electrical heat. We have always found that the addition of heat enhances the needle effects, thus confirming the above research findings. It should be a treatment choice for those experiencing pain but in particular where there is chronic pain.

 

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