Currently viewing the tag: "alternative medicine"

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 !

Moringa olifera Lam is a vegetable from the Brassica order. It is a small tree native to the sub-Himalayan region commonly used as a vegetable amongst the local people. Uniquely every part of the plant is edible; leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and the immature pods. Labelled as a superfood lately the Moringa has surged in its popularity and use.  Traditionally used as an Indian medicinal herb is usually found in tropical and subtropical countries, now most commonly found in both India and the Philippines but its cultivation has spread to other countries in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

Widely known for good health it has it is referred to as ‘the miracle tree’. For centuries it has been used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumour, anti-oxidant, anti-pyretic, anti-ulcer, anti-epileptic, diuretic, cholesterol lowering, renal, anti-diabetic and liver protective actions. Due to these amazing abilities it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, such as skin infections, anaemia, anxiety, asthma, blackheads, blood impurities, bronchitis, catarrh, chest congestion, cholera and many other illnesses.

 

Densely packed with Nutrition

Moringa is claimed to be ‘the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered’. The reason for this is because it is densely packed with nutrients. Most greens constitute 90% water and 10% nutrients, in comparison moringa leaves are 80% water and 20% nutrients. This includes many essential nutrients such as, vitamins (B6, C,B2, A) , minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc), proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Leaves are most commonly used part of the plant for nutrition and traditional medicine use because they are rich in protein, mineral, beta-carotene and antioxidant compounds.

High in Antioxidants

Naturally the trees are able to withstand environmental stresses, diseases and attack from pests due to a defense mechanism gained from phytochemicals, which includes antioxidants and other defence compounds. This benefit is gained when consumed by people. The tree stores these phytochemical compounds in an inactive form. When chewed or crushed by an insect the compound is activated through enzymatic action and released, thus deterring the insect with a bitter or spicy taste.

In the human body these same compounds act a potent anti-inflammatory, useful for combating conditions like cancer, diabetes or arthritis which are associated with chronic inflammation. In addition to vitamin C and beta-carotene it also contains powerful antioxidants like, Quercetin and Chlorogenic acid. A state of constant inflammation contributes to improper functioning and processing by the body therefore reducing the body’s ability to recover and heal.

In one study participants with type 2 diabetes were given 8gms of moringa daily for two months found that their glucose levels decreased by 28%.

Health Benefits

  1.   Regulate blood sugar levels: Isocyanates present in the plant helps to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.
  2.   Lowers cholesterol levels through its anti-inflammatory effects
  3.   Improves anaemia: 100gms moringa leaf contains 28gms of iron.
  4. Water purification: moringa seed powder can be used to clarify and purify water by lowering bacterial concentration, making it safe for drinking.
  5. Enhances lactation; traditionally used to increase milk production in mothers.

Moringa can be extremely useful to improve nutritional health. In particular if there are underlying conditions with chronic inflammation. There is proven evidence on its role in benefiting diabetes, lowering cholesterol and as a water purifier.

 

Bibliography

Health benefits of Moringa oleifera. Abdull Razis AF et al. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. (2014)

Cultivation, Genetic, Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of Moringa oleifera Leaves: An Overview.Leone A et al. Int J Mol Sci. (2015)

 

Happiness can be one of the most elusive things to achieve, whilst in today’s world being stressed, anxious, depressed, confused and tired is easily done. It is almost ‘acceptable’ to be stressed, tired or have Brain Fog. If we decide, then we can be unhappy about everything, including ourselves. So much of it is a matter of choice. Do we decide to be unhappy about our……. weight, size, hair, money, job, home, weather and much more ?, or do we decide that we can be happy despite everything ?

Happiness is not a secret, it is a state of mind, and our mind is never constant but there are things we can do to help ourselves, and tilt it in our favour. Finding happiness can be quite simple; if you know where to look, but conversely is can be very elusive if you are focusing in the wrong places. People find pleasure and joy in different places, so the best way is to identify habits and things that give you satisfaction and enjoyment – and then make them a part of your everyday life. This could be restful long walks or invigorating running or swimming sessions, creative crafts, cooking or baking for pleasure, mindful meditation, relaxing music, singing or dancing, playing an instrument, or connecting with friends and family. Regular, small doses of pleasurable moments are much more fulfilling, rather than once in a life time holiday that lasts only for 2 weeks.

What do other people think about happiness?

Here are a few quotes

 “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”   Franklin D. Roosevelt

  “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best”.   Theodore Isaac Rubin

 “If you wants others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, Practice compassion.”  Dalai Lama

 “Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.”     Valerie Bertinelli

“My greatest beauty secret is being happy with myself. I don’t use special creams or treatments – I’ll use a little bit of everything. It’s a mistake to think you are what you put on yourself. I believe that a lot o how you feel about yourself and your life. Happiness is the greatest beauty secret”.    Tina Turner

Start your happiness mission today!

Today is the day you start being happy-  Now is the right time- This is the moment you change things and start being happy. Don’t wait till ‘later’ or ‘tommorow’ !

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”     Jim Rohn

Make a Happiness plan

  1. Self-awareness: Be aware of who you are and identify things that you get pleasure from regardless if it is big or small.
  2. Being physically active: Choose a regular physical activity, whether is walking or swimming Physical activity releases endorphins (feel good chemicals) and boosts your emotional wellbeing. You might feel sore or tired after but you will have a sense of satisfaction and feel good.
  3. Be Creative: Harness your creative genius and express your thoughts and emotions. You will gain a huge sense of satisfaction from your creation e.g. art, crafts, drawings, decorating colouring.
  4. Complete a challenge or a difficult task- especially something you have always wanted to do.
  5. Connect with others: make sure that you spend time talking to your loved ones, in particular with your partner and children. Communication is key to all relationships.
  6. Socialise and enjoy time with family and friends.
  7. Appreciate and be grateful for all that you have, and what others do for you. Make a list of all that you are grateful for.
  8. Expressing gratitude is beneficial for our emotional health, and studies have shown benefits for better sleep and lower risk of depression.
  9. ‘Make someone else happy’- making someone else happy will make you happy. Start volunteering or help a friend or relative.

Remember, you are in control of your own happiness.  Start your happiness plan Today !

 

Diabetes is  life-long health condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is not able to use it properly. Left untreated, the high blood glucose levels affect many different organs and tissue consequently resulting in serious health complications. Blood glucose levels are regulated by a hormone known as insulin, which is produced by the pancreas in the body. Glucose comes from food that is digested and also produced by the liver. Insulin allows glucose to enter the body’s cells where it is used as fuel for the cell functions.  In diabetes the body is not able to utilize glucose properly and so it builds up in the blood. 

There are two main types of diabetes;

Type 1 diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes in childhood accounting for around 10% of all diabetes. It usually develops at any time before the age of 40yrs, but most often in childhood. In this type the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. Treatment is regular insulin therapy.

Type 2 diabetes, is usually found in people over the age of 40 yrs, but can develop earlier. It accounts for around 85-95% of diabetics. This type is characterised by insufficient insulin production, OR the body cells may react to it poorly. In the early stages the condition can be well managed by changes to life style and diet.

There is no cure for diabetes hence developing methods that help the body to regulate blood sugar levels efficiently is the most effective strategy. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial lifestyle factors that can help to achieve this, but introducing additional supportive dietary changes can further assist in blood sugar control.

Diabetes &  Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV)  is derived from cider or freshly pressed apple juice. ACV is produced after a slow process spanning several weeks or months in which sugars are broken down. There is some evidence suggesting that consuming apple cider vinegar may be useful in helping people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. One study  on rats with or without diabetes demonstrated that ACV had a lowering effect on blood sugar levels, but also a positive impact on cholesterol.

Researchers also looked at how carbohydrates affected blood sugar levels in 3 groups of participants who had type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or neither condition. Typically, high carbohydrate foods will cause a spike in blood sugar levels immediately after eating. They gave all 3 groups less than half an ounce of ACV after a carbohydrate rich meal and compared it to consumption of a placebo drink. Results showed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels after taking ACV.  Another study  compared ACV and water in patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that drinking 2 tablespoons of  ACV along with a cheese snack before bedtime was sufficient lower blood sugar levels significantly the following morning.

It is thought that acetic acid found in ACV may play a role in slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates into sugar in the bloodstream. Thus providing more time for sugar to be removed from the bloodstream and allowing more constant blood sugar levels and limit spikes.

Diabetes & Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a well know spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum trees. For thousands of years it has been highly prized for its medicinal properties. Scientific research has confirmed  its many health benefits. It has shown a potential role in the treatment of blood sugar control, as well as some associated symptoms. Research on blood sugar control is mixed and in the early stages and most studies have been very small, therefore more research is needed.

A 2003 study compared the effects of a daily intake of 1, 3, and 6 grams (g) of cinnamon with a group that received a placebo for 40 days. All three levels reduced blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which were observed even after 20 days after stopping cinnamon intake.

In a  2016 study of 25 people gave particiapnts 1 g of cinnamon for 12 weeks. They found that there was a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels, which may be beneficial for people with poorly controlled diabetes. However an earlier study in 2013 had a different result. The study, which used a more reliable method, and 70 participants found that 1 g of cinnamon per day for 30 days and 60 days offered no improvements in blood sugar levels.

A 2016 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at 11 studies of cinnamon in the treatment of diabetes. All 11 produced some reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured HbA1C levels also achieved modest reductions, but only four studies achieved reductions in line with the American Diabetes Association’s treatment goals suggesting that cinnamon may be a useful treatment tool, but not a replacement for conventional diabetes treatments.

Summary

Despite the lack of, or mixed reports for people with type 2 diabetes it would be safe to consider consuming diluted ACV, 1-2 tablespoon in a large glass of water before bedtime to provide some benefit to blood sugar levels.

There is no research that suggests cinnamon negatively affects blood sugar, meaning that is safe to use for people who are looking for alternative diabetes treatment options. Cinnamon can be taken as a supplement to conventional diabetes medication should start small, with about 1 g per day (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon).

It is important for people to note that ACV or cinnamon should not be considered a quick fix or complete treatment for diabetes. Eating a diet low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, regular exercise, multivitamins, essential fatty acids  and complementary therapies to reduce stress and maximize body function will additionally help in diabetes control.

Electroacupuncture (EA) may be the answer to improving regulation of blood sugar levels in overweight and obese women. New research published in the FASEB Journal reported that scientists found that a single bout of (EA) activated the sympathetic and partly the parasympatheric nervous system which increased whole-body glucose uptake, an important consideration in the treatment of insulin resistance or prediabetes.

Researchers measured blood sugar levels in 21 women with and without polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) during and after 45min of EA compared to the same number in a control group. PCOS is a common hormonal disorder, but also associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The results showed improvement in both groups of women, suggesting a potential benefit for women with PCOS. In a second experiment they also investigated its effects in rats who received autonomic receptor blockers. They found EA caused muscle contractions which in turn activated the autonomic nervous system (responsible for blood sugar regulation), despite the receptor blockers. Previous studies have found that EA in rats1, 2  enhanced insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels.

EA is believed to be used as far back at the early 1800s, while others attribute it to Japanese scientists trying to improve bone fracture healing in 1940s or  pain control by the Chinese in the 1958.  As with traditional acupuncture in EA needles are inserted in the same way on specific points. Two needles are selected which are then attached to a pair of clips connected to a device that generates continuous electric pulses. The frequency and intensity of the pulses are adjusted according to the condition being treated. In this way several pairs of needles can be simultaneously stimulated for duration up to 30 min. People usually experience a light tingling sensation due to the electrical current.

Advantages of using EA are;

  • The current stimulates a larger area than the needle on its own, thus requiring less precision needling.
  • It can be used without needle insertion, commonly known as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation).

EA is considered to be particularly useful in conditions where there is stagnation or accumulation of Qi. In Chinese medicine Qi is a life energy that flows throughout the body and essential for good health.  Persistent chronic pain is associated with Qi accumulation and the effectiveness of EA has been reported to be particularly useful. This is supported by research evidence that electrical stimulation of acupuncture points activates the release of endorphins, thus lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

Research on EA in stroke has shown positive effects in cognition and quality of life.  When compared to manual acupuncture, EA is more effective in relieving spasticity in stroke. Other conditions that may benefit include; neurological conditions, fibromyalgia, nausea caused by cancer drugs and post operative pain control.

Treatment with (EA) should be avoided in those with a pacemakers as it may disrupt the electrical impulses. For similar reasons, it should not be used over the heart. Careful assessment should be carried out before treating people with a history of seizures and epilepsy.

 

 

It’s not uncommon for the proponents of conventional and of holistic systems of medicine to feel that they inhabit competing camps in the war to alleviate human suffering. In fact, Western and Eastern medicine are essential branches on the great tree of scientific knowledge.  Many of us are working towards the ideal of a continuum of care that provides the very best treatment to all patients. Western medicine has achieved remarkable triumphs.  Vaccination against many infectious diseases has greatly reduced their incidence; science has eradicated smallpox and come close to doing the same for polio.  It has saved millions of children from the scourges that once prevented so many from reaching their fifth birthday.

The specialties of surgery and emergency medicine save countless lives every day.

After decades of clinical practice I still wonder; Where does Western medicine fall short?  In the promotion of lifelong wellness; in the diagnosis and treatment of complex disorders; in the unnecessary or excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs; in safe, effective, ongoing pain management.

We’re certainly making progress in bringing these two branches of medicine closer, for example;  acupuncture has been proven to offer effective pain relief and increasingly accepted in medical pain clinics, and it doesn’t carry the risks associated with drug-based analgesia. Integration of auricular acupuncture in addiction clinics is another measure of its success. There is worldwide recognition of acupuncture for anxiety and stress particularly in cancer treatment, post traumatic stress disorder amongst veterans, and its potential value as anesthesia during surgical procedures.

I have always found that it is necessary to treat the whole person, and not just deal with an immediate crisis or what presents as their most significant symptom. I wanted to share this story (to ensure anonymity names and certain details have been changed).

Ria’s Story-  “Please… I Just Want the Pain to Stop”.

In the hospital waiting room Ria’s stomach churns and twists once again sending shooting pains throughout her body, followed by a cold sweat.  Over the past six months, she’s seen six different doctors; has endured repeated blood tests and other procedures.  No one has been able to offer her a definitive diagnosis. After each visit, she’s sent home with different prescriptions but no effective treatment for the repeated, alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes nausea too.  Pain medication doesn’t bring any relief.  Her husband Pete feels equally anxious and frustrated.

Visits to six different doctors, blood tests and investigations all have proven to be unhelpful – there is no definitive diagnosis. Each time she is sent home with new meds, pain medication doesn’t work, one tells her that she is stressed and emotionally disturbed and prescribes her antidepressants another says there is some inflammation in her spleen, but nothing else. Ria is desperate, her symptoms are worsening.

Ria is beginning to doubt herself; wondering if it really is “all in her mind.”  She’s afraid to eat because everything just makes her feel worse, and she’s now two sizes smaller.

After yet another round of tests, Ria’s new consultant is also perplexed by her symptoms.  His examination of her shows nothing significant.  He’s ruled out cancer or other serious disease; all her other results are relatively normal. But fortunately for her, this doctor takes the time to listed to her and has a positive view of complementary therapies; he understands that functional disorders often underlie a patient’s stress and anxiety.  He knows that food intolerance is increasingly common and is often very hard to properly pinpoint. He asks her if she would be willing to accept a referral to a holistic physician.  Ria has always had an interest in complementary therapies and gladly agrees. He also gives her advice on juicing and enrolls her on to a mindfulness course.

As a holistic practitioner, I see Ria’s physical and emotional distress to be strongly interrelated, but requiring individual attention, with this in mind I begin acupuncture treatments. Almost immediately, they help to ease her distressed state and bring some relief for her stomach pain.

Over a period of months I guide Ria to make changes to her diet.  Together we develop a plan to identify problem foods. She learns about carbohydrate intolerance and how the FODMAP diet can help.  Ria finds the mindfulness course very effective in relieving her anxiety.  She began to realize her physical and emotional distress began years before the manifestation of painful bowel dysfunction.

Six months after starting treatment, Ria has made great progress.  She knows it will take time to regain the good health she thought was out of her reach, but she is no longer frightened and discouraged.  She is starting to take pleasure in eating again.  She and her husband are now enjoying what they thought might never be possible again–everyday pleasures.

 

Part 9: Mechanical signaling as a mechanism for Acupuncture

To date much of the acupuncture mechanism of action has been related to the nervous system, linking it to the medical physiological concept of ‘‘Gate control theory of pain’. Based on this theory acupuncture needling or electrical stimulation is said to activate relevant neural pathways. However this theory does not explain other non-pain related effects, nor does it correlate with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture concepts.

Acupuncture involves the process of needle insertion. In TCM acupuncture, depending on the result intended the needle is inserted to a particular depth at a chosen acupoint site. This is followed by its manipulation to attain the ‘Arrival of Qi’ (De Qi). De Qi is experienced by the patient as soreness, numbness or a feeling of fullness around the needle point. Alternatively, in ancient texts for practitioners it is described as “seems a fish bites on fishing pulling the line downward” and may be felt as a needle grasp. This is an essential step in the therapeutic process. However, practitioners may not readily attain ‘De Qi’, and will therefore need to resort to needle manipulation. Basic needle manipulation techniques include; lifting and thrusting, and twirling or rotating movements. If Qi still fails to arrive then further manipulations techniques may be used. These can be;

  • Pressing, the skin along the meridian line to promote the circulation of Qi and blood.
  • Plucking (lightly), the handle of the needle to stimulate the Qi.
  • Scraping, the needle with the finger to spread needing sensation.
  • Shaking, to strengthen the needling sensation.
  • Flying, is to twirl the needle quickly three times to promote needle sensation.
  • Trembling, is a quick and small lift-thrust movements to cause vibration and promote Qi.

Lagecin et al (2001) has refuted suggestions that muscle contraction is the cause of the needle grasp (De Qi), as the same effect is also seen in areas where skeletal muscle is absent. Instead, they suggest that the cause is mechanical coupling between the needle and winding of the local tissue around it. They established this through histological examination of rat tissue explants with acupuncture needle manipulation which showed marked thickening of the connective tissue layer around the needle, while changes in the dermis or muscle were not observed. Acupuncture needle insertion and manipulation is thought to have both local and distal therapeutic effects. These effects are based on;

  • Mechanical coupling of the needle to the connective tissue due to surface tension and electrical attraction between the two.
  • Winding of the tissue around the needle during insertion and manipulation
  • Generation of a mechanical signal through pulling of the collagen fibers during the manipulation process
  • Mechanotransduction of the signals into the cells

Mechanotransduction activates changes in the fibroblasts and/or other cells, which in turn starts a variety of downstream effect including; cell secretion, modification of extracellular matrix, amplification and transmission of nerve signals travelling along the planes of the connective tissue into the spinal cord and brain. At the same time there is modulation of the sensory input due to changes in the connective tissue environment.

Finally, within the phenomenon of mechanotransduction TCM acupuncture and its effects can have some scientific validity. It can be attributed as the common mechanism through which the effects of acupuncture needling are realised. De Qi is an essential contributory process which determines the overall effectiveness of the treatment, whilst downstreaming effects resulting in cellular changes explain the longer term effects of acupuncture. This is an important clinical understanding which could have considerable implications in changing our knowledge base of biological mechanisms and the future applications within medicine.

In Part 9, our Final in this series we will look at the phenomenon of  Mechanotransduction as a mechanism for acupuncture.

Part 1: How Does Acupuncture Work?
Part 2:  Qi: Vital Energy, Life Force
Part 3: Five Elements Theory
Part 4:  Chinese Diagnosis
Part 5: Integrating Western Physiology with TCM Philosophies
Part 6: TCM Meridians
Part 7: Meridians & Fascia
Part 8: Arrival of Qi (De Qi)

References: 
  1. Stux G, Berman B, Pomeranz (2003). Basics of acupuncture, 5th  edition.  Springer Berlin Heidelberg, New York.
  2. Xinnong C (2000). Chinese acupuncture and moxibustion, 5th edition. China Books & Periodicals Inc, San Francisco.
  3. Dong J (2013). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013:153148.
  4. Eachou Chen (2008). Does qi travel on meridian like thin membrane energy transmission through the fascia? 4(2): 84-86.
  5. Teppone M, Avakian R, Karneev. “Arrival of qi” phenomenon during ehf – puncture.
    1st International Symposium on Quantum Medicine. November 17-22, 2001, Bled, Slovenia, p. 116-118.
  6. Chen CW, Tai CJ, Choy CS et al. Wave-Induced Flow in Meridians Demonstrated Using Photoluminescent Bioceramic Material on Acupuncture Points. Evi Based Complement Alternat Med (2013). 2013:739293.
  7. Langevin HM, Churchill DL, Cipolla M J (2001). Mechanical signaling through connective tissue: a mechanism for the therapeutic effect of acupuncture. FASEB J. 15:2275–2282

Part 8: Arrival of Qi (De Qi)

The phenomenon of “Arrival of Qi” (De Qi) has been described as a vital part of the effectiveness of an acupuncture treatment. It is described as a sensation of soreness, numbness or a feeling of distension around the point after the needle is inserted to a certain depth. At the same time the practitioner may feel tenseness (or ‘grasp’) around the needle. One hypothesis states that the grasp is due to a mechanical coupling between the needle and connective tissue winding during insertion. De Qi is determined by accurate needing of acupoint, depth of needle insertion and needle manipulation to promote the arrival of qi. In ancient Chinese books its importance is described as, “acupuncture therapy does not take effect until arrival of Qi”. This understanding was later revised to explain that the quick arrival of Qi suggested good effects, while slow arrival was a sign of retarded effects.

At the 1st International Symposium of Quantum Medicine the ‘De Qi’ was accepted as a broader phenomenon. Acupuncture needle manipulation giving rise to different sensations of moving along the legs, arms or trunk was described as the phenomenon of ‘propagated sensations along the channels’ (PSC). PSC can be manifest or latent, both of which can be detected by changes in the low electrical resistance, cutaneous potential, sound signals, temperature, spontaneous visible light and others.  Research shows that the arrival of PSC results in observed functional changes in certaiorgans and thus ‘De Qi’ was described as a change in Qi conditions at the acupoints, channel or organ, which can be accompanied by sensory responses, including changes in symptoms. The characteristic intensity of Qi arrival relates to the speed of changing Qi conditions and therefore effects of the treatment. The intensity of this phenomenon is subject to the;

  • Functional condition of the patient
  • Structures involved into the reaction
  • Type of Qi stimulated into the reaction

Other studies using extremely high frequency (EHF) puncture through low intensity millimetre (MM) electromagnetic radiation on an acupoint have shown to give rise to sensory reactions in the patient. These include temperature sensations (warm or cool), waves or creeps at certain areas or moving along the limbs or trunk, similar to the ‘De Qi’. Changes in emotional states and changes in functional activity of different organs were recorded via electrocardiograph, electroencephalograph, electro-gastrography, heat monitor, etc.  These sensory reactions have also been associated with temperature changes (0.2o– 0.5oC) at acupoints.  e.g. ‘fullness and heaviness in the abdomen’ was associated with a rise in temperature at Ren-12 and St-25 acupoints, and similarly ‘vertigo’ was associated with temperature changes at Liver channel points, and feeling of ‘changes of the weight’ when needling spleen channel points.  There is a collective conclusion that the key point in treatment efficacy was not the frequency of MM EMR but more importantly its application on the acupoint zone. Instead the frequency determined the range of MM EMR radiation absorbed by the water-containing structures of the skin.

EHF-Puncture research has been investigated in the Traditional Chinese Medicine conditions TCM) of Qi ‘excess’ or ‘deficiency’. Parallelling a ‘place of deficiency’, a deficient condition exhibits the quick ‘De Qi’, while in the case of excess initially there may be a short period of aggravation of the presenting symptoms (similar to the widely accepted acupuncture healing reaction). This temporary worsening of symptoms is explained as reinforcing effects during the start of the EHF treatment which later disappears.

De Qi has shown to initiate changes at acupoints locally, however it does not explain how the effects occur distally. One explanation could be the facial reach into deeper tissues and internal organs (Chen 2008), while another theory is based on the phenomenon of mechanical signally resulting from the interaction of the needle and the surrounding connective tissue.

Part 1: How Does Acupuncture Work?
Part 2:  Qi: Vital Energy, Life Force
Part 3: Five Elements Theory
Part 4:  Chinese Diagnosis
Part 5: Integrating Western Physiology with TCM Philosophies
Part 6: TCM Meridians
Part 7: Meridians & Fascia

Part 7:  Do Meridians lines lie in fascia?

Fung (2009) hypothesized that TCM meridian system upper boundaries are the skin with dense sensory receptors of various types, while the lower boundaries are another layer of connective tissue with intersititial fluid flowing through. Numerous other studies suggest the most probable location is the fascia just beneath the subcutaneous tissue.  Fascia is found throughout our body creating continuity between tissues enhancing body function and support. Classical historical text of the Yellow Emperor of Internal Medicine (Unknown Author, 1931) explanation of where meridians lie states;

“Following the course of each of the meridians there are vital points (365) for acupuncture. Meridians are deeply embedded in the muscles beneath the skin; at point 365, however, they emerge to the surface and thus present the points for needling”.

Another description says that the;

“Twelve meridians travel between white and red meats. It is deep not being

able to be visible”.

Fascia is found throughout our body. It is an active structure which is virtually inseparable from our body structures providing functional stability to organs and mobility.  In 2007 the First International Fascia Research Congress recognised its key characteristic being a continual uninterrupted, three-dimensional web-like structure. Under the umbrella of fascia was included, joints, organ capsules, muscular septa, ligaments, retinacula, aponeurosis, tendons, neurofascia and other fibrous collagenous tissue.

  • Traditionally fascia has been grouped in relation to the region it is found, while more recent literature suggests grouping it according to function; connecting and
  • Fascia is optimally designed to take up tension forces through antagonist and synergistic muscle groups in the musculoskeletal system.
  • Fascia has sensory nerve fibres which contribute to nerve function and potentially to manual, temperature and vibration stimuli. One scientific model also proposes an alternative explanation for referred pain distribution based on facial connections with various nerve units.

Microscopic examination shows that fascia is a form of connective tissue. The functional properties of fascia are reliant on the type and combination of collagen protein which determines its resistance to stretch and tension and facial integrity. Fibroblast cells within the fascia are highly adaptable and able to remodel according to mechanical stimuli, while myofibroblasts demonstrate a contractile property. In response to biomechanical tension or compression, cellular changes occur including the release of biochemicals. Similarly local tissue injury via mechano transduction stimulates the formation of fibroblasts, a mechanism that has been linked with embryonic development. There is evidence to suggest that the insertion and manipulation of acupuncture needles into the fascia (causing strain on the tissue) stimulates fibroblastic activity.

The chemical structure of facial proteins is very similar to that of organic polymer which has good semiconductor properties. It also has an ideal organic liquid crystal chemical property which exhibits double refractive light properties. A study using digital anatomical dissection methods analysing three-dimensional fascia of the human body found a pearl-like chain similar to the meridians. They concluded that beyond the supportive function the fascia is also a storage, self-monitoring and self-adjustment system.  On the basis of anatomical, biophysical evidence of low electrical resistance, high acoustic, illumination and thermal lines only found in tissue with semi-conductor properties Chen (2008) concluded that fascia was the most likely structure where meridians may lie. He also uses its continuation from superficial to deeper tissue and internal organs to explain why there is an enhanced feeling of Qi flow during qigong practice when in a state of complete relaxation, and the reverse when there is anxiety, tension or other high emotional states.

In the ancient Chinese book of Miraculous Pivot it is stated, “acupuncture does not take effect until the arrival of qi’. The effectiveness of an acupuncture treatment is determined not just by the meridian but also the selection of acupoints and the phenomenon of ‘Arrival of Qi’. Arrival of Qi is described as a sensation of soreness, numbness or distension at the needle site.  Factors influencing arrival include accuracy of acupoint location, needle insertion depth and needle manipulation. In the next part of our series we try to break down the science behind the ‘arrival of qi’ and its importance.  

In Part 8 we will discuss, Arrival of Qi (De Qi)

Part 1: How Does Acupuncture Work?
Part 2:  Qi: Vital Energy, Life Force
Part 3: Five Elements Theory
Part 4:  Chinese Diagnosis
Part 5: Integrating Western Physiology with TCM Philosophies
Part 6: TCM Meridians

Part 6:  What are TCM meridians ?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) text Qi flow in a network of meridian channels found all over the body, but despite scientific efforts we have yet to find the modern biomedical equivalent. There are 12 major meridians, supported by 8 extra meridians, 15 collaterals and others. Each of the 12 major meridians is linked internally to an organ and externally with joints, limbs and other superficial tissue.

Unlike the circulatory system meridians are not visible and therefore from a western scientific perspective harder to justify. Western science focuses on anatomical and physiological science to explain the functions of the body.  Meridians are not blood vessels, nerves, muscles, lymphatics or connective tissue, but anatomical studies have concluded that acupoints are sites near dense nerve structures, dense vasculature, near lymphatic vessels and have interstitial fluid flow.

Interstitial fluid (or tissue fluid) is a solution that is found in interstitial spaces (or tissue spaces). It is pushed out of capillaries into interstitial spaces due to hydrostatic pressures. It bathes and surrounds cells and tissue. To prevent a build up of interstitial fluid it enters the lymphatic vessels to be transported back into the blood. Overall, the whole interstitium is considered to be four times the volume of blood in the body.

Modern biophysical research on meridians and acupoints show the following;

  • Meridians as lines of low electrical resistance and electromagnetic transmission. This has been demonstrated by acupoint finders using the principle of Ohm’s law. Tests show a ten-fold increase in electrical resistance when compared to non-acupoints. Similarly, interstitial fluid has high electro conductively whilst flowing under the skin and when compared to surrounding tissue there is also high sound conductivity.
  • Some researchers describe meridians to characteristically have low liquid-pressure resistance, which indicates that the tissue on the meridians is looser.
  • Radioactive tracer studies at acupuncture points have helped to show interstitial fluid flow along the meridian lines whilst other similar studies have excluded its flow proximity to be alongside blood vessels.
  • The interstitial fluid system is in a state of dynamic equilibrium and depending on a number of factors the fluid pressures (Pi) are not equal at all sites. This suggests that the interstitial fluid is in a constant state of flow due to the varying levels of Pi, and there is a constant need to maintain fluidic equilibrium. Using biorheology techniques the measured speed of flow is found to be much slower than that of blood circulation.
  • Another study using magnetic resonance studies demonstrated six specific migration channels of interstitial fluid which again did not correspond to the circulatory or lymphatic vessels instead it followed the pathways of the six Yin TCM meridians, further supporting the flow of interstitial fluid along these meridians.
  • Other research has also found that light propagation is more efficient with infrared thermal imaging showing radiant tracks along meridian pathways. There is also significant correlated metabolic activity.

Reasonably conclusions can therefore be made that meridian lines are related to routes of interstitial flow. Further, to this investigators have proposed the most logical location of meridians be the fascia, just below the subcutaneous tissue. Fascia is characteristically a continuous structure found throughout our body similar to meridian pathways, but also typically exhibits the ability of facial transmission of forces  which could resolve the question of how the insertion of an acupuncture needle is able to initiate a therapeutic effect.

In Part 7 we will discuss, TCM Meridians & and its link to Fascia.

Part 1: How Does Acupuncture Work?
Part 2:  Qi: Vital Energy, Life Force
Part 3: Five Elements Theory
Part 4:  Chinese Diagnosis
Part 5: Integrating Western Physiology with TCM Philosophies