Currently viewing the tag: "complementary therapy"

Are you familiar with waking up felling sluggish, groggy and irritated after pulling an all-nighter, staying up till wee hours, or finishing a night shift?

Unfortunately, apart from feeling exhausted and lethargic, improper sleep does more harm to our health than we assume. We are not only paying fines for sleep deprivation in terms of lack of focus and bad mood; it has greater consequences for our long-term health.

The Vicious Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Despite rising awareness about the importance of proper sleep at night, health disorders associated with lack of adequate sleep are on continuous rise. It is estimated that approximately 1/3rd of human population suffers from health hazarding effects associated with poor sleep, working on computer and stress.

Alone in the US, approximately 50-70 million people are suffering from chronic health problems linked with sleep and wakefulness. Diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and shortened life expectancy are the most common health disorders linked with poor sleep at night.

Research studies conducted on a group of volunteers state concluded that people getting inadequate sleep are at higher risk of falling victim to chronic diseases such as impaired control of blood glucose, increased inflammation, increase blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. According to these epidemiological research studies, long term sleep deprivation is also linked with the development of health problem in people who are initially healthy.

Why Sleep Matters?

Usually, while we are sleeping, our body goes through a healing process; it provides a much needed energy boost to our body in order to effectively carry out hundreds of routine functions.

In order to function properly and sustain healthy energy level throughout the a day, a person needs good sound sleeping of 8 hours at night. Sometimes, our day starts with sluggishness and fighting for energy; usually, it happens due to inadequate sleep that prevents our body from getting sufficient relaxation.

Mental Well-Being

Critical mood disorders including depression, mental distress, stress and anxiety are linked with chronic sleep deprivation. Adequate sleep keeps us focused at work by improving mental clarity and reducing stress level. As per a study, mental exhaustion, sadness and depression are correlated with people getting less than 4 ½ hours of sleep per night.

Diabetes Prevention

Research studies point out to a strong connection between development of diabetes and getting less than 5 hours of sleep. It increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by adversely affecting the way our body utilises glucose.

Immune Boost & Sex Drive

Adequate sleep improves our body’s immune strength and saves us from health problems associated with a weakened immune state. Lower libido is common among men and women not getting enough sleep at night. Sleep apnoea in men is associated with lower libido due to lower testosterone levels.

Healthy Heart

As per research studies, if a person is suffering from hypertension, even one night of sleep deprivation leads to increased blood pressure the following day. Poor sleeping pattern is well known to be associated with stroke, increases blood pressure, and the development of many cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease. Adequate sleep improves our cardiovascular health and helps in reducing high blood pressure.

Healthy Weight Loss

Sleep promotes natural weight loss. In truth, sleep deprivation means putting on more and more weight. If you are sleeping less than 7 hours, it increases your chances of gaining more weight.

Increased Life Expectancy

It is not surprising that sleep deprivation is associated with lower life expectancy. Epidemiological studies narrate that sleeping 5 hours or less at night increases mortality risk by 15 percent.

So what’s you are going to pick? Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, shortened life, or a soothing, relaxed sleep at night?

 

References:

NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. NHS, UK. 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/ [Accessed 5 March 2019]

Harvard Medical School. Sleep and disease risk. 2007. [Online] Available at: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk [Accessed 5 March 2019]

NIH. Sleep deprivation. NIH. 2016. [Online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/sleep-deprivation [Accessed 5 March 2019]

Neurocore. How sleep affects mental health. Neurocore. 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/how-sleep-affects-mental-health [Accessed 5 March 2019]

 

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

Have you recently felt struggling to organize your thoughts? Do you often forget to complete important tasks at work? Our thoughts and emotions are dictated by the brain. Memory is the most important factor to succeed in life. Our memory power and concentration go hand in hand; we think clearly when our brain is in its most optimum state of health. Any form of unbalance in brain functions leads to poor concentration, clouded thinking, and confusion. 

Acupuncture to Optimize Brain Power

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicinal therapy that has been around for more than 3000 years. It consists of inserting tiny, thin needles into specific points of a body to stimulate and balance the flow of Qi energy, enhance circulation and release useful hormonal and substances in our body.

Disposable sterile needles are used through gentle insertion at specific body points. More than 400+ points are known. Also referred to as “Acupuncture points”, they lie on 14 major pathways known as “meridians”. Each meridian links to individual body systems, including internal organs. Disruption to this flow is seen as blockages or sluggish Qi flow. Qi encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional energy. Acupuncture acts by unblocking or stimulating these pathways to facilitate these functions.

Do you know that our intellectual thinking is mutually dependent with other physiological systems?. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine Shen (mind and spirit) is our higher self; consciousness, emotions and thoughts. It influences long term memory, encompasses our wisdom and oversees mental and creative abilities. Brain memory is closely linked to the health and performance of the spleen, heart, kidney, and liver. According to the Five Element theory all of them are mutually inter-dependent e.g. spleen nourishes the heart, or disharmony between the heart and kidneys results in insomnia, anxiety and menopausal symptoms.  Emotionally, the spleen controls worry, the heart is responsible for love and happiness, fear is the realm of the kidneys and anger is associated with the liver (1, 2, 3, 4). Acupuncture positively influences the ability to think clearly by improving long term memory.

Acupuncture for Healthier Brain & Improved Concentration

We are living in a world where we are constantly bombarded by numerous forms of interruptions, smells, sounds and sights; these make it extremely difficult to stay focused at any particular time but even more so for higher level functioning.

Medical studies conducted by the Journal of Neural Regeneration Research concluded that acupuncture can help to improve our brain’s cognitive functions. The same study narrated that acupuncture can increase neural plasticity and thus improve overall brain function. It helps to restore body balance and improve mental clarity.

Treating specific acupuncture such as BA HUI – GV 20, YANG BAI – GB 14, YIN TANG – GV 24.5, SHUI GOU – GV 26, THREE MILE POINT – ST 36, HEAVENLY PILLAR – B10, DAN ZHONG – CV 17 etc. aims to improve brain health and memory functions.

Acupuncture & Brain Disorders

Medical studies focused on Alzheimer’s diseases conclude that acupuncture benefits the spatial learning process of the brain, and helps to improve memory functions. It is shown to improve brain glucose metabolism and helps improve subtle memory loss associated with dementia. Enhanced energy metabolism in the brain is imperative for the ability to learn, memorise as well as cognitive ability.

This time-tested, natural treatment therapy is a boon for your mental health. It energizes the body and nourishes your mind to sharpen memory, improve alertness, and boost your brain power.

If you are having problems focusing or have problems with memory or concentration, then acupuncture may be a good alternative treatment for you. Along with acupuncture, good nutrition also helps tremendously to boost brain functions. When it comes to brain health, never underestimate the power of a healthy diet. Wholesome nutrition acts as a brain food that keeps it sharp and healthy.

 

 

Food intolerance is relatively a new concept, and can be difficult to understand. Even most doctors have a poor understanding of it, particularly when there is a mixture of signs and symptoms that do not belong in the same disease group or there is no pathological explanation.

Common complaints such as headaches, bloating and tiredness after eating may be due to food intolerance. Importantly, this is different from food allergy which occurs as an immune reaction that releases the chemical histamine into the tissues, causing itchy rashes, stomach upsets, cough, wheeze and more severe life threatening anaphylaxis symptoms. At times symptoms of  food intolerance can be similar to food allergy reactions, which can cause confusion. A food allergy will normally show up on allergy tests, however food intolerance may not. For this reason having food allergy tests do not always give the answers that we seek.  One way to look at this is as a spectrum, where food allergy is at the severe end whilst food intolerance is found in the middle with good health at the other end.

In food intolerance substances in food can increase the frequency or severity of existing symptoms or cause new symptoms. This can depend on the amount of the offending food that is eaten. Small amounts may not cause any problems, whilst larger amounts will give rise to troublesome symptoms. The reaction time to an intolerant food varies and since we eat and drink many times a day, sometimes we may get a confused picture of the problem.

Food intolerance adverse reactions may include;

  • General feeling unwell after eating e.g. bloating, heartburn and indigestion.
  • Malaise, tiredness and feeling sleepy.
  • Headaches, arthritis and eczema.
  • Flushing, nausea and bloating.
  • Diarrhoea and/or constipation.
  • Aversion for certain foods where the person not only dislikes the food, but also reacts at the sight or smell of the food. In some this is triggered by emotional association with the food.
  • Underlying anxiety can cause hyperventilation and considerable distress resulting in dizziness, tight chest, blurred vision, unusual body sensations or numbness.
  • Gut upset, weight loss and anaemia.

Food intolerance causes include;

  • Enzyme deficiency e.g. lactose intolerance.
  • Food poisoning: A history of gastroenteritis or food poisoning can leave longer term digestive problems.
  • Food additives: In sensitive people additives used for food preservation, consistency, colour and taste can trigger symptoms e.g. sulphites used to preserve dried fruits and canned goods, and some sweeteners can cause headaches.
  • Certain conditions e.g. irritable bowel syndrome increases the risk of food intolerance.
  • Celiac disease is triggered by eating gluten (found in wheat and other grains). There are some features of food allergy, but symptoms are limited to the digestive system.
  • Continual or recurring stress, or psychological factors.

Diagnosis of food intolerance is based mainly on a detailed history, response to treatment and a continual process of dietary review over a period of time. As explained earlier allergy tests are of little value. The history will help to identify the offending foods or other factors that aggravate symptoms. Often people are able to recognise some of the foods themselves, or by a process of trial and error i.e. by temporarily excluding a suspect food from the diet. Using a food diary to keep a record of what is eaten and any symptoms that may develop during that time is very helpful. Another way is to avoid all suspect foods from the diet until there are no symptoms, followed by a gradual reintroduction of one type of food at a time to see which cause symptoms. In both cases there is a risk of having an inadequate diet, therefore always seek advice from an experienced and knowledgeable medical or health practitioner.

In my experience the use of a combined integrated approach to treat food intolerance offers excellent results. It is important to remember that every treatment plan is individualised to the person, as each person is unique and different in the problems they experience. Additionally, they also vary in their response to treatments. In general following a detailed history every treatment will start with a dietary review, followed by reducing or avoiding the intake of problem foods. Learning to read ingredient lists of processed foods is key to ensuring that the appropriate foods are avoided. Often I find that there is a poor understanding of processed foods and what they may contain. In many cases because of deterioration in health there is food hypersensitivity, where people start to react to non-problem foods and present at my clinic with a very confused picture. Regular acupuncture treatments aimed at restoring healthy body function, by enhancing blood circulation, immune function and flow of Qi (energy), will help calm the body and reduce reactivity to foods. It also eases abdominal cramps, nausea, stress and anxiety. Where necessary multivitamins and supplements are advised to help reduce nutrient deficiencies, alleviate symptoms and in the long-term promote healing of the gut.

References:

  1. Food intolerance (2014). Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/food-intolerance
  2. Li JTC, (2016). What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

 

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 ?

Seeking to maintain or restore good health?  Think harmony–not tune-up or repair.

Illness is dissonance.   The holistic practitioner does more than focus on wrong notes.  He/she undertakes a detailed examination of the body’s many systems to discover where and how they have stopped working properly together.

Patients are sometimes surprised by the questions a holistic practitioner asks and the nature of the examination.

Perhaps you’re troubled by constipation.  Why is the practitioner looking at your feet or your hand? Why are they checking pulses on both wrists, rather than just one? Why do they ask about your emotional temperament or what position you sleep in? What relevance is your blood type?

Traditional and complementary therapies centre on getting the body to work like an orchestra to make beautiful music. Like sections of the orchestra, each body system can perform separately–but all the time fully aware of the fundamental role every other part plays. Restoring good health requires our body’s orchestra of organs, tissue, muscles and bones to be at their best individually but also collectively.

Mind-Body-Spirit is the mantra of Holism, comparable to musical chords made up of top, middle and lower notes. Regardless of the sequence of notes they are equally important. What happens when we play an incorrect note?  Instead of music we get incoherent, disjointed ‘noise’ i.e. disharmony between mind-body-spirit.

A symptom like constipation is the consequence of such disharmony. Understandably, most people will think immediately of a problem in the digestive system. However, it may only be acting up as a result of a domino effect from another system or organ. Constipation can result from a poor diet; intolerance to certain foods; side effects from antacids containing calcium or aluminium.

More significantly it can also be due to low thyroid activity or neurological problems. So will taking a laxative solve the problem? The answer is no.

We need to address the root problem which offers a much better and longer-term solution.  Using this approach holistic practitioners assess beyond just the digestive system to look for clues that can tell them where the root problem lies.

Practitioners may look at your feet or hands for changes in the skin but also to examine acupuncture or acupressure points. Comparing both wrist pulses for their rhythm is an essential Chinese diagnostic tool. Changes in behavior, sleep patterns or sleeping in certain positions can allude to certain diagnostic patterns in homeopathy, Chinese and ayurvedic medicine.

Practitioners adopting Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s approach (author of Eat Right For Your Type) will use your blood type to determine how it chemically reacts to certain foods.

Health restoration is like tuning a musical instrument, and must encompass a look at not just the body itself, but also what you put into it, and the environment it lives in. Most of our problems have been acquired over decades of gradual exposure to various health hazards.

  • Start with the fundamentals of a healthy life style, diet and exercise.
  • Get the right amount of sleep. On average7– 91 hrs for adults, more for children.
  • Cut out or minimize intake of processed foods.
  • Keep hydrated (preferably with filtered water).
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Routinely supplement with good quality multivitamins and minerals and omega- 3, 6.
  • We increasingly live indoors which reduces our body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D. Thirty minutes daily (less for fair skinned people) of good midday sunshine on bare skin in e.g. shorts and tank top. In the UK it is almost impossible to get this amount particularly in the autumn and winter months thus creating a need for additional supplementation.
  • As much as possible eliminate toxic environmental stresses. Xenobiotic chemicals found in our food and water, pesticides, plastic packaging, metal jewellery, shower gels, cosmetics, prescription medication etc. act as anti-nutrients and increase our nutritional requirements e.g. nickel increases the need for zinc and fluoride increases the need for iodine.

If you currently have health concerns, and your GP has not found a resolution to them, you may need additional advice on supplementation or holistic treatments. Consider going to a holistic practitioner, or for more complex problems, a holistic physician.

 

 

 

The goal of palliative care is to help patients achieve the best possible quality of life, no matter what challenges their illness causes. Many people, in particular those with non-cancer conditions, miss out on this essential aspect of medical treatment because of limited understanding of how it can help them.  A recommendation to begin palliative measures can lead to distress in patients and their families, because they may fear it means that the doctor is “giving up” on the patient, or that there is no hope.

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the doctor or healthcare team, treatments may not succeed in halting the course of disease.  At that point, further medical interventions will at best be ineffective, and at worst may cause harm to the patient.  Treatments for very serious illness often have severe side effects, and can negatively affect the patient’s quality of life.  If the benefits to the patient don’t outweigh those negative effects, the doctor will recommend stopping them.  But that’s not the end of caring for the patient’s needs.

 

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialist care that is provided to help people live well with a life-threatening illness or in the final stage of life.  It can involve the relief and ongoing management of severe pain and other symptoms; supervising the use of supplemental oxygen so the patient can breathe better; creation of an individually-tailored nutrition plan to counteract wasting and weakness; ongoing psychological support and emotional comfort.

In the past palliative care was usually associated with diagnosis of cancer. However this is no longer true, as many other conditions can require palliative care. Even if the patient has been told that his or her disease is considered “end-stage,” the palliative care professional strives to make each day more comfortable.

Palliative care can be an important part of treating different stages of life-limiting illness. The goal is always to help the patient achieve and maintain the best possible state of well-being and comfort. Care is provided by a team of professionals:  doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, nutritionists, complementary therapists and others.  This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Relief from pain or other distressing symptoms
  • Spiritual, psychological and emotional support to affirm life and understand that dying is a normal process of living.
  • Advice and support for carers to help cope during the illness, and bereavement care.

St Christopher’s Hospice (UK) founded in 1967, was the first modern hospice where expert pain and symptom treatment was linked to compassionate and humane care. Today palliative care is provided by a team of general and specialist providers. This includes providing everyday care to patients and the family, and specialist treatments from doctors and nurses.  In the past palliative care was seen to be the domain of hospices and hospitals but the focus has evolved to providing care in patients’ homes so that they may continue to live in a familiar environment surrounded by their family. Other supportive complementary therapy services like massage and aromatherapy, acupuncture and nutritional supplements can make a considerable contribution to alleviating pain and discomfort, sleep, improving low mood and depression, and reducing other symptoms e.g. stress, nausea, tiredness and appetite.

Despite its long-term integration into standard medical practice, doctors can still find it uncomfortable to broach the subject of palliative care.  The misconception that palliative care is the start of the last days of life can make it difficult for patients and families to discuss and accept.

In truth, palliative care is all about living–it is about being in control of your life and what you want to do. It offers you peace of mind, knowing that there is always someone for you to turn to for advice and reassurance. It allows your palliative care team to help you to find physical comfort and emotional acceptance of your circumstances, and a spiritual resolution for end of life planning. With this support you can still appreciate vibrant sunsets, and have a reason to wake up in the morning to a beautiful sunny day, full of aspirations and HOPE.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes pain, stiffness, inflammation of the joints, joint deformity and reduced physical function. Autoimmune disorders are characterised by the body’s immune system attacking healthy body tissue. Both T- and B- immune cells are implicated in the underlying pathology due to overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines.  Inevitably, it affects quality of life and life expectancy. Unfortunately, the cause of RA is still unknown. Patients often receive strong medication and may require surgical treatment. However, frequently patients will seek non-medical alternatives to try and alleviate their symptoms.

Acupuncture is often sought by patients for pain. Through its ability to modulate pain signals and release of neuro-chemicals e.g. serotonin and endorphins that influence biochemical changes within the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

A new systematic review of the clinical efficacy of acupuncture on RA was published which included 43 studies. The study concluded that acupuncture alone or in combination with other treatment modalities is beneficial to treating RA, by improving physical function and quality of life. Possible mechanisms included anti-inflammatory effect, anti-oxidative effect and regulation of immune system function.

Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the circulatory and nervous system causing the release of

  • Release body chemicals and changes the way the brain and spinal cord processes the pain signals. These chemicals include; endorphins and other neurohumoral factors e.g. neuropeptide Y, serotonin.
  • Increases local release of  nitrous oxide(NO) known to play an important physiological role in skin local microcirculation, neurotransmission, immunity and wound healing.
  • Reduces inflammation by regulating the immune system, thus normalising immune function.
  • Increases the release of adenosine, which reduces the sensitivity to pain
  • Modulates parts of the brain network (limbic and paralimbic system), responsible for anti-pain, anti-anxiety, and other therapeutic effects
  • Improves muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation, and therefore blood circulation.
  • Benefits depression by acting through other pathways involving dopamine, noradrenaline, cortisol and neuropeptide Y. Stress-induced behavioural and biochemical changes may also be reversed. Acupuncture can generally be safely used in combination with medical treatments.

Alongside acupuncture dietary changes to avoid anti-inflammatory foods e.g. consider reducing consumption of meat, avoid gluten and eliminate dairy products, avoid citrus foods and consume sugars and in small amouts only.  In addition supplements  can help to support the immune system;

  • Essential fatty acids (EFA) like fish or fish oil, flax seed and borage seed oil.
  • Probiotics
  • Turmeric or ginger for its anti-inflammatory action.

 

Once again the media have focused on the use of E-cigarettes. For good reason there are still doubts on its safety. Majority of safety research has been on the e-cigarette liquid prior to it being vaped based on its constituents having fewer carcinogenic toxins. In a recent study scientists at the University of Birmingham believe that e-cigarettes commonly known as vaping is much more harmful than previously thought. Although safer in relation to causing cancer, 20-30yrs of vaping is associated with a higher risk of long term lung disease such as, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after 20-30yrs of vaping. Scientists mimicked the vaping mechanism, once the vapours are inhaled it turns back into a liquid condensate within the lungs. They tested this new condensate on samples of lung tissue and found significantly harmful effects.  It inhibits the alveolar macrophages from working effectively thus affecting the lungs ability to get rid of dust, bacteria and other allergens. Alveolar macrophages are a vital part of the lungs immune system.

When first introduced e-cigarettes had my own alarm bells ringing. The World Health Organisation has expressed concerns over e-cigarette safety. In the UK sales soared by 340% in one year, with the industry worth rising from an estimated £44 million (2012) to £193 million (2013). In 2017 sales increased by 50% to reach £1bn and set to exceed £2bn by 2020.

Vaping is advertised as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, but is it really?  ‘Vaping’ is the inhalation of a mixture of carrier substances; propylene glycol (an alcohol) and glycerine (produced from fats and oils), added with nicotine and flavourings through an electronic vapouriser. Scientists are still divided on its safety. One camp believes that vaping is a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, while others are sceptical of its longer-term use. The finger has been firmly pointed at the many ‘flavours’ and ‘carrier substances’ that cause physiological effects. Vaping also releases volatile organic compounds and (ultra) fine particles into the atmosphere therefore for the rest of us increasing the risk of passive vaping. A study at New York University (Jan 2018) suggested that vaping may raise the risk of cancer and heart disease. Researchers observed changes in DNA which were similar to those found in secondhand smoke. In another stuty  the toxic element chromium and four times more nickle was found when compared to traditional tobacco. A BBC investigation found that a VIP butterscotch flavour refill contained a chemical diacetyl which, although safe to eat is not safe for inhalation and has been linked to a serious lung condition called ‘Popcorn worker’s lung’.

It took a long time for us to realise the health risks of smoking tobacco. Doctors used to recommend smoking to aid the nerves. How long will it take for us to realise that e-cigarettes are not safe? The rise in popularity amongst young smokers is worrying as they are drawn towards its image as a ‘safer’ alternative to smoking, consequently making it a potentially major public health issue. It is hard to accept that regularly spraying your lungs with layers of vegetable fat and other chemicals was OK! There is talk of e-cigarettes undergoing stricter regulation, and for its sale to be made illegal to the under 18s, while the WHO advised on banning its use indoors. Personally, I feel both of these cannot come soon enough as we need to establish a few facts before it is too late and lives are lost.

 

 

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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