Currently viewing the tag: "alternative medicine"

What is Moxibustion?

Mugwort

Artemesia Vulgaris

Moxibustion is an ancient traditional Chinese treatment (TCM) that involves the burning of Mugwort near the surface of the skin. Mugwort is a common name for several species of aromatic plants belonging to the genus Artemisia. Other names include wormwood and green ginger. Moxibustion is frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture treatments. The main aim is to boost the flow of qi (vital energy) through the meridians (body’s energy pathways), whilst eliminating any unwanted pathological qi concentrations along the meridians. Mugwort is commonly referred to as Moxa and made from the dried-up plant materials. Typically, this process involves shaping the Moxa into a cylindrical cigar-shaped stick or small cones. They can be used directly and indirectly on the skin. Direct moxibustion involves a small amount of Moxa being placed directly on the skin, but it can cause scarring and therefore is less popular. Indirect Moxa involves fixing and burning the Moxa on the top end of the acupuncture needle, or hovering a moxa stick over the skin. This burning edge is then held within approx. 2-inch distance and made to smoulder gently diffusing the heat into the tissue. Other techniques may be burning it on a layer of sliced ginger, garlic or salt on the patient’s skin.

Acupuncturists target specific acupuncture points or meridian pathways corresponding to the condition being treated. Patients often report a flood of warmth at the treatment site which can radiate and along the meridian pathways.

The Moxibustion mechanism

In line with traditional Chinese medicine, Moxibustion functions by delivering a therapeutic effect using a mix of thermal and chemical stimulation. This is reported to lead to a tonification and purgation effect. Experiments have shown that the thermal effects of Moxibustion have proven to be very effective in stimulating not just the superficial, but also the deeper tissues of the skin. Investigations have shown that the burning moxa radiation lies within the infrared portion of the heat spectrum.

Ingredients identified from mugwort leaves and moxa smoke have a variety of biological properties, thus are at the root of Moxibustion effects. It is this dual effect that works along the meridians thereby regulating qi, and helping with disease treatment and prevention. Unlike acupuncture that generally facilitates the elimination of pathogenic qi, moxibustion helps to introduce heat, warming up the meridians and consolidates the body’s qi. Some preclinical studies suggest that moxibustion boosts the immune system and enhances the physiological functions of the body.

In TCM, mental and physical health problems are believed to develop as a result of unexpected blockages in the qi flow pathways. The thermal effect of moxibustion generated along the meridians helps to release these pathways while increasing the flow of vital energy. While arguments could be made either in favour or against its efficacy, preliminary evidence from several studies has shown that moxibustion does indeed provide relief when used in the treatment of a wide range of health issues.

In a 2009 study involving 51 postmenopausal women, the results indicated that 14 sessions of moxibustion were effective in keeping hot flashes at bay. While the actual mechanism and treatment pathway is well-studied, the specific cases where moxibustion can work are still much under speculation. However, this does not mean that moxibustion is ineffective. In fact, as a result of the attention generated from personal reports of people who have experienced acclaimed benefits, there are several studies currently being conducted to investigate the possible efficacy of Moxibustion for a variety of health issues.

 

Benefits of Moxibustion

Common health problems that can benefit from moxibustion includes;

  • Hot flashes – reduced frequency and severity of hot flashes.
  • Ulcerative Colitis – some benefit to symptom relief.
  • Breech birth
  • Arthritis– relieves pain and improves muscle function
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)- benefits symptoms relief
  • Other conditions include insomnia, diarrhoea and chronic pain.

Needless to say, there is a wide range of reported benefits of moxibustion and while studies are still being conducted on the exact range of effectiveness, moxibustion remains a safe treatment and can deliver therapeutic effects that can help heal the body.

References:

  1. Deng H, Shen X. The mechanism of moxibustion: ancient theory and modern research. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013:379291. doi:10.1155/2013/379291
  2. Song-Yi Kim, Younbyoung Chae, Seung Min Lee, Hyejung Lee, Hi-Joon Park. The effectiveness of moxibustion: An overview during 10 years. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011:306515. org/10.1093/ecam/nep163.
  3. Park Ji-Eun, Lee MS, Jung S, Kim A, Kang K, Choi  J, Park J, Choi Sun-Mi. Moxibustion for treating menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial. 2009, 16; 4:660-665

Widely used in traditional medicine, Turmeric is a spice that gained popularity for both its flavorful properties and health benefits. With its spread across Asia, it has been used through ages, as a major ingredient in curries and across cultures as a vital food seasoning ingredient. It originates from the turmeric plant (Curcuma Longa) which is a flowering plant in the same family as Ginger. Its amazing collection of properties make it well utilized as a source of food-colouring, food seasoning and even food supplements. From teas to smoothies and even chocolate bars and hot meals, Turmeric has proven to be a relevant additive that provides a set of benefits.

tumeric, curcumin

It is a perennial and herbaceous plant with a warm-bitter taste, a yellow hue and have been utilized even in Ayurvedic practices for its purported benefits. This rich history and use profile of the plant makes it a vital herb of interest as more and more researchers continue to investigate the reason why Turmeric may be advantageous to human health. Even in its earliest stages of use, in Asia it as a viable treatment for skin conditions, pains and digestive issues. Research would later show that all of these were accurate as the active ingredient “Curcumin” possessed both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that helped with a wide range of health problems.

The function of Turmeric/Curcumin as an anti-inflammatory substance

Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric that gives it both its flavour, taste and most of its healing properties. It represents about (5-6%) of the entire composite makeup of the spice. While Turmeric contains over a hundred different compounds, curcumin as the active compound is credited with most of the healing properties and is often the point of interests in many studies. It appears to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects useful in a variety of conditions.

Curcumin’s well-stacked nutritional profile makes it a favourable treatment for metabolic symptoms, soreness, inflammation, anxiety and even arthritis. It is a polyphenol that works by targeting multiple signalling molecules while also functioning at a cellular level. By delivering therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects, it helps in relieving a wide range of symptoms. It is important to note, however, that while curcumin is responsible for the beneficial properties of the plants, it loses effectiveness when ingested alone as a result of its limited bioavailability.

This limited bio-availability, in turn, creates an atmosphere for rapid elimination, poor absorption, and rapid metabolism, three factors that hinder actual cellular absorption. Thankfully, bio-availability enhancers like Piperine (found in black pepper) can significantly help by increasing absorption up to 2000% and thus in turn, the effectiveness.

How does Turmeric help fight off inflammation?

Inflammation itself is a highly beneficial process of the body’s self-regulation without which bacterial and viral attacks on the body, could cause severe damage. However, not all cases of inflammation are the result of bacteria or viruses e.g. arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer. Chronic infection, over a prolonged period, is a cause for slow, sustained cell damage and is more challenging to treat.

Curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties explain the two primary pathways that explain most of its effects, and reason for having a wide base of effectiveness. There is evidence that it increases body serum antioxidant activities such as super dismutase (SOD), with significant benefit to the oxidative stress factors in the body. Curcumin is also an excellent free radical scavenger, which further assists in reducing oxidative stress load within the body. Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause cell damage. Lower availability of free radicals is associated with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s,  ME, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergy, colitis, arthritis, diabetes, depression, fatigue and others, all involve a process of inflammation. It is a well-known fact that sites of inflammation release free radicals, further worsening the disease. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effect is by blocking the NF-kB molecule (a molecule responsible for inflammation with direct involvement in chronic diseases). This potent anti-inflammatory property puts it right on par with pharmaceutical drugs). In fact, a study involving 45 people showed that Turmeric outperformed Diclofenac as an anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment of Health conditions

While there aren’t a lot of studies that show more details on the function and therapeutic effects of Turmeric. However, early research has shown great promise, and its actual use is evidence of just how effective it is as an anti-inflammatory. One study shows that low doses of curcumin in healthy people can provide some health benefits. It is associated with improved memory function,  reduced cholesterol and reducing healthy biological inflammation. In combination with other supplements, its effects are enhanced even further.

When compared to pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory, curcumin has a significant advantage of having minimal side effects. It is most effective when combined with agents that can help to increase its bio-availability, and research suggests its benefit for inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and high cholesterol.

 

References:

  1. Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012;26(11):1719‐1725. doi:10.1002/ptr.4639.
  2. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. Published 2017 Oct 22. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
  3. Kesarwani K, Gupta R, Mukerjee A. Bioavailability enhancers of herbal origin: an overview. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013;3(4):253‐266. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60060-X

Thanks to environmental pollutants, allergens, increased pesticide usage, smoking, obesity, UV radiation, alcohol consumption, and nutrient poor diet, cancer has become the leading cause of deaths across the globe. The number of people diagnosed per year in the United Kingdom and the United States are about 0.3 and 1.5 million respectively.

CancerWe all know that “Prevention is better than cure”, but how many of us are actively managing our lifestyle or actively taking preventive measures to avoid being slammed by cancer? Just knowing and understanding has never been enough. Nutrient poor diet is not only associated with energy exhaustion, stress, fatigue, and irritation as it is linked with the development of many types of cancers.

If your routine diet is lacking essential nutrients (minerals, anti-oxidants, protein, vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber), nutritional supplements helps to replace missing nutrients in the body. These supplements are most effective either to reduce cancer risk by strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation, or to help ease side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. To date there is still insufficient data on their anti-cancer effects.

Why Nutritional Supplements to Fight Cancer?

Hundreds of world’s leading research institutes are trying to find the answer to cancer prevention/management. Taking the approach of “Prevention is better than Care”, one of their key priorities is to understand the effectiveness of nutritional supplements , and how best to use them.

Nutritional supplements can be put into two groups; anti-toxicity and anti-cancer agents, both widely used among cancer patients. There is a strong recommendation that cancer patients must have an open dialogue with their physicians about using these supplements as the usage needs to be individualized based of various factors such as genetics, tumour histology, and background diet1.

Omega -3 Fatty acids
In a 2015 review, omega-3 fatty acids supplements known for their anti-inflammatory properties may reduce the risk of the development of breast cancer.  The review also concluded that onions and garlic supplements may reduce the risk of the development of cancers associated with our digestive track2. This is particularly true as people who eat a lot of garlic have a lower risk for developing certain common cancers. In laboratory experiments conducted in a 2018 study revealed that garlic extracts can block the growth of some types of cancer cells3.

Curcumin
A 2016 review suggested that curcumin from Turmeric supplements can leads to the death of cancer cells and can slow tumour growth4. A recent review found that it is effective both in vitro and in vivo against cancers of prostate, breast, colo-rectal, pancreatic and head and neck. Its efficacy and safety has been demonstrated in several human clinical studies. The mechanism of action is thought to be via interfering different cellular pathways to either inhibit or induce production of cytokines, enzymes and growth factors. The limitation of curcumin is its poor water solubility, which reduces cellular absorption and oral bioavailability. Chemically it is also unstable. Research is ongoing to try and find an improved delivery system to enhance its effects within the body5.

Vitamin D

Research data published by the National Cancer Institute suggests a possible link between vitamin D and cancer development. Studies on mice cancer cells have found that can slow or prevent the development of cancer including; cell mutation and growth, while at the same time enables cell death and reducing tumour blood vessels from forming. Higher blood levels of vitamin D is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer6.

Green Tea

Green Tea contains polyphenols; a compound with powerful anti-cancer effects. Polyphenols inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, thus limiting its growth and spread. However for it to be effective one would have to drink 10-12 cups. A study on ovarian cancer found that those who drank green tea were likely to survive longer (after diagnosis) than women who did not. A higher level of consumption was associated with better survival rates7.

Antioxidants

Discussions on the use of antioxidants as an anti inflammatory and for cancer prevention and treatment are still unresolved. However there is sufficient data to suggest that antioxidant supplements including, green tea, vitamin A, C, E and multivitamins can improve quality of life for some patients7.

Some types of cancers can also damage our body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. In such instances, the use of probiotics can help to protect the gut and enhance absorption. Doctors may also prescribe multivitamin and mineral supplements to overcome the nutrient deficit.

Health comes first; and we are solely responsible for taking good care of our body. Adapting a healthier lifestyle is no longer an option as we are constantly battling with life-threatening diseases and health disorders including cancer. Wholesome diet along with nutritional supplements can play a vital role in keeping cancers at bay.

To avoid any risk to your health status, it is not advised to take any type of nutritional supplements as an alternative to cancer treatment without consulting your physician or health professional.

 

References:
  1. Harvie M. Nutritional supplements and cancer: potential benefits and proven harms. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2014:e478-86. doi: 10.14694/EdBook_AM.2014.34.e478
  2. Fabian, C.J., Kimler, B.F. & Hursting, S.D. Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship. Breast Cancer Res. 2015; 17( https://doi.org/10.1186/s13058-015-0571-6
  3. Petrovic V, Nepal A, Olaisen C, et al. Anti-Cancer Potential of Homemade Fresh Garlic Extract Is Related to Increased Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):450. Published 2018 Apr 5. doi:10.3390/nu10040450
  4. Deng Y, Verron E, Rohanizadeh R. Molecular mechanisms of anti-metastatic activity of curcumin. Int J Cancer Res. 2016; 36(11): 5639-5647.
  5. Tomeh MA, Hadianamrei R, Zhao X. A Review of Curcumin and Its Derivatives as Anticancer Agents. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(5):1033. Published 2019 Feb 27. doi:10.3390/ijms20051033
  6. National Cancer Institute. Vitamin D and cancer prevention. (2013, Oct 21). https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/vitamin-d-fact-sheet.
  7. Parker H. Vitamin and supplements for cancer patients. (2010, Dec 17) https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/cancer-supplements#2
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Medicines are well known life savers; they save millions of lives every year from hundreds of dreadful diseases.

No matter how prepared we are, we can still be susceptible to infectious diseases and they can come back to haunt us.

The human microbiome is an ecosystem that is a collection of trillions of microbes; human and microbial cells, each have a specific genetic expression and collectively make us a ‘super organism’. Newborns start to pick up microbes at birth. This is a selective process and gradually introduces complementary and useful microbes that help the body to undertake essential body functions.   It adds around 8 million genes to the estimated 20,000-25,000 human genome. Within a period of three years a mature microbiome is developed.

The human microbiome resides in the mouth, gut, vagina and on the skin, but varies greatly between the different body sites. As an example the microbiome difference between the mouth and the gut is comparable to the difference in microbes in the ocean and soil.  Skin microbes prevent pathogens from colonising the skin and stimulate the immune system. Similarly gut bacteria functions include; synthesis of vitamins and neurochemicals, assist digestion and strengthen the immune system. For this reason science has firmly established the relationship between a healthy gut microbiome to overall wellness and good health.

Although comparable, the mibrobiome also varies from one person to the other. Likely influencing factors include, host genetics, diet, environment and exposure to specific microbes in early life.

Medicines: A Miracle or a Martyr?

Over decades we have been witnessing a serious rise in antibiotic prescriptions. Historically, antibiotics have a proven role in warring against harmful bacteria/viruses saving us from countless infections. Unfortunately they are not discriminatory and like many battles the price we pay is in the collateral damage to our microbiome.

According to the research data published by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), one out of four antibiotics negatively affects the growth of gut bacteria. The carefully nurtured gut microbiome falls out of balance, thus upsetting our delicate intestinal ecosystem consequently increasing our risk for disease and chronic conditions e.g. IBS, diabetes, leaky gut, food intolerances.

These findings raise another serious question; could these changes also contribute to antibiotic resistance?, and in the same way can other non-antibiotic drugs similarly damage the microbiome ? Commonly prescribed medicines (NSAIDs, antipsychotics, anti-diabetics, proton pump inhibitors, and so on) have been known to create changes in microbiome composition.

To further answer this the EMBL study screened more than 1,000 marketed drugs to try and understand their effects on 40 strains of gut bacteria. The study’s conclusive statement was that more than 24% of the marketed drugs affected the growth of at least one bacterial species.

In 2019, Belenky and his colleagues published a study in Cell Metabolism. The study was conducted in mice. It was found that antibiotics changed the metabolism and composition of the mice gut microbiome.

Although still not the full picture, these studies offer a snap shot of the potential damage common drugs can do to healthy gut microbial function.

Therapy, Diet & Microbiome

Medical studies suggest that a healthy diet; low in simple sugars and high in fiber increases the susceptibility of gut microbiome to certain antibiotics. Researchers found that adding glucose to a mouse’s diet (normally low sugar, high fiber) increased the susceptibility of certain bacteroides to amoxicillin.  This validates the importance of how our diet can protect gut microbiome from the disturbing effects of antibiotics.

Most importantly, any excessive or unnecessary medication can seriously damage your gut function. Changes to your diet, and seeking alternative therapies can help to reduce the need for medicines, whilst the introduction of prebiotic foods (e.g. garlic, onions, yogurt, kefir, fermented food, bone broth) and probiotic supplements will enhance microbiome function.

A new study has shown improvements in mice gut microbiome with electro acupuncture and moxibustion treatments. Similar microfloral changes were reported by another study using electro acupuncture on obese rats.

To further reduce the need for prescription medicines, therapies like acupuncture, massage and hypnotherapy can be effectively used in place of or as an adjunct for many conditions e.g. pain, anxiety, depression and other conditions.

 

The most innovative of changes to healthcare is the ability to personalize one’s care to their individual medical and personal needs. This new paradigm in medicine uses smart technologies and patient participation to prevent and treat disease. Personalized healthcare works by being able to tailor treatment and care that takes into account not just patient symptoms but also their genomics or genetic profile, brain circuitry, family dynamics, cultural and environmental exposures. Analysis of this data enables the doctor or nurse to understand the patient’s unique characteristics and develop prevention strategies based on individual risk profiles.

Personalised medicine is an evolving practice which has become increasingly popular in the past two decades owing to its ability to streamline care. Specifically, it is being introduced into routine clinical practice and becoming a part of cancer prevention, diagnosis and prognosis. Within therapeutics it focuses on molecular targeting, increasing efficacy and decreasing toxicity.  One the biggest barriers to developing personalized medicine are the cost of resources, the complexity of developing an acceptable system for sharing genomic data and translating data into clinical practice. For personalized medicine to expand and become a part of future of medicine then long strides need to be made to provide training to healthcare professionals1.  More recently, this form of personalized healthcare has been advocated to be included into educational curriculum for primary care providers. It has even insisted that doctors familiarize themselves with the unique mental, social and emotional factors of a patient that influence their health condition2.

Integrated Medicine has been referred to as a form of personalized medicine. Both put the individual at the centre of healthcare. It allows for medicine to be viewed as a philosophy, through an understanding of the patient.  This promotes the likelihood that your doctor will see you as a whole person – thoughts, feelings, mental state included – and not just another prescription to write. Integrated medicine is especially beneficial to the patient because it allows you to have a say in your treatment and be educated on the actual decisions your doctors are making. It promotes a compassionate care environment where the patient feels heard by their health provider, which ultimately helps balance the feeling of power disparities between patient and doctor.

A healthy doctor-patient relationship is a promising option for the future of healthcare. It has the ability to create a unique dialogue that could change the way doctors care for patients for the better. Personalised medicine should be seen as a movement that encompasses wider medicine and healthcare. It must be based on cohesive, tight collaboration between the patient, medical professionals, researchers, scientists and social scientists3.

 

References

  1. Rehm HL. Evolving health care through personal genomics. Nat Rev Genet. 2017;18(4):259–67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28138143
  2. Brooks AJ, Koithan MS, Lopez AM, Klatt M, Lee JK, Goldblatt E, Sandvold I, Lebensohn P. Incorporating integrative healthcare into interprofessional education: What do primary care training programs need? J Interprof Edu & Prac. 2019;14:6–12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405452617301635
  3. Pavelić, K. , Martinović, T. and Kraljević Pavelić, S. (2015), Do we understand the personalized medicine paradigm?. EMBO rep. 2015; 16: 133-136. doi:10.15252/embr.201439609

Unfortunately, Acupuncture cannot offer quick fixes. Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) discipline; its origins are in Taoism which is rooted in the natural world offering a view of health in relation to the natural environment.  Many Chinese philosophers were also contemplative, in depth scientists who devoted their life time to observing natural phenomenon. From this they developed a range of philosophical models to describe human body functions and its relationship to health. In this way they expressed their understanding of health using the language of natural forces and cycles.

TCM teaches us that health is a state of harmony between the many biological and energetic forces within our own body. There is no distinction between us as living beings, our mind and our body. When there is a problem or conflict in any then disease manifests itself as pain or other illness. Attainment of good health is a gentle process of balancing these forces. Healing takes place over a period of time.

In a modern technological world where complex tasks have been simplified to an effortless push of a button, people are often disappointed when told that regaining health is not a simple task, nor is it a short term endeavour. In many cases they have been battling with their health for many years whilst receiving medical treatment. Often patients want acupuncture to be a quick-fix without too much effort. It is amusing to think that they have such confidence in acupuncture. That a single or a few treatments will forever rid them of their health problems. Unfortunately, this is not the case although all acupuncturists would love to have such an ability to heal.

Acupuncture and TCM treatment is akin to gardening- building up healthy fertile soil, eliminating pests, growing complementary plants together, adequate water, sun and suitable temperature to grow the best possible crop. Gardening takes time. It takes regular and consistent care over many months before one can reap the harvest. With constant changes in the environment, wind, rain, sun and snow there is a need for steady ongoing care. Similarly, health is not a constant state of being; there is always an ebb and flow which needs to be cared for. The body needs good nutrition to build up resistance and resilience to overcome disease. The mind needs a suitable environment with the necessary stimulation to experience feelings of contentment and happiness. Spiritually, there needs to be a connection within oneself, others and the natural world. This is the catalyst for a person’s self-healing.

Self-healing is true healing, acknowledged by many ancient philosophies and texts. Through the natural rhythm of the universe, humans have an innate ability to self-heal. This ability is masked when the natural balance and self-awareness is lost e.g. when there is unhappiness, mental stresses or a disease state. Acupuncture and TCM treatments aim to return the balance by restoring the smooth flow of qi thus activating self-healing in the body. Unlike medical treatments that only addresses symptoms, acupuncture and TCM treatments also affects the mind, emotions and spiritual self. A strong inner self resides within us which is able to communicate the process of self-healing to the body. Reconnecting to the inner self is key to initiating this process. Acupuncture and TCM can help start this process of reconnection and harmonising.

How long will it take for your garden to grow ?

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

 

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’.

 

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)