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By Dr. Rachel Erickson

Millions of you are suffering from stress, be it work related or issues at home. You may feel “tired and wired” or you may suffer so much that you are flat out on your face and can’t function. There are different levels of stress and what symptoms of stress you have tells a lot about how far down the path of Maladaptive Stress Syndrome (MSS) you are, and how far back you have to come to feel good again.

Let’s break it down. First, your body is designed to deal with stress in sequential stages. There’s acute stages and endurance stages and then when your body can’t endure anymore, the final stage of MSS.

The first stage of MSS is 0. This is what your body does every day to regulate your response to various stimuli in your environment. It’s a fine balancing act between hypovigilance and hypervigilance. This is your day to day ebb and flow of mental concentration and motor activity.

A Normal healthy response to stress is MSS-1. You meet a stimulating stressful moment, your body reacts accordingly, the stress goes away, and you go back to feeling normal again. For instance, if you were to get attacked by an angry dog. You would feel superhuman strong, amped up to defend your life, your eyes would dilate so you can see better, your heart would pump faster and your muscles would engorge with blood so you could run away or fight better. Many of you have experienced this kind of stress response. It leaves you feeling hung over and exhausted, but nothing a good night’s rest can’t fix.

Maladaptive Stress Syndrome-2 is characterized as the Suppression Phase. This is when you have an increased tendency to get sick, experience some depression or obsessive compulsiveness, anxiety, lack of appetite, high lipid levels, insulin resistance, diabetes and other chronic degenerative diseases. Adrenal androgens (testosterone) increase which can lead to abnormal hair growth in women.

The third and final stage is the Exhaustion Phase: MSS-3 is when your body can’t keep producing the high amounts of hormones and neurotransmitters it once was because you are flat-out tired and nutrient deficient. Commonly known as “adrenal exhaustion”, I see this in my patients who’ve had 2+ decades of high stress jobs, long term sickness and death of loved ones, or highly stressful long term relationships.

So what to do about all this stress? Let’s be unambiguous about this. The best thing you can do for yourself to deal with life in high-stress times is to eat right and move your body! This can be a difficult challenge especially while you’re stressed, so don’t do it alone. Involve a friend or a family member in your goals, see us at Glow to help you get on a good track with dietary choices and healthy exercise. Get acupuncture and Chinese herbs regularly to calm you down. See Dr. Rachel for stress testing, herbs, and diet and lifestyle counseling to balance out your stressful moments.

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Contrast hydrotherapy  is a simple therapy which uses alternating hot and cold water to create a pumping action in the body. The hot water dilates the blood vessels and the cold causes them to contract and reduces inflammation. This helps repair tissues faster and detoxifies the body. It’s very effective, cheap and easy to do. I especially recommend it for sprains and strains (use the” localized version” in this case) and for use  with a detox diet to promote the release of toxins (use the “full body” version in this case.)

Localized Contrast Hydrotherapy I have had great results healing bad sprains with this treatment especially in conjunction with electro acupuncture. For acute conditions use ice only until swelling begins to go down. Submerge affected area in very hot water for 3 min. Plunge area into very cold water for 1 min. repeat three times. Do this 1-2 times daily until bruising, swelling and pain have subsided. For best results use ice water.

Full Body Contrast hydrotherapy Can be done in the shower or even better at one of our local spas like Olympus (women only), or Banya 5.

Shower version (less intense) Finish your daily shower with 3 min. of very hot water followed by 1 min.. of very cold water. Do this three times and end on cold. You will feel invigorated.

Spa version (more intense) This therapy can leave you feeling tired and should be done with caution the first few times especially if you feel run down. Start in the warmest hot tub or stream room available and stay in until you are very warm then move to a cold plunge and stay in for 1 min. Then move immediately back into the hot area. Do this three times. Make sure you are drinking lots of water. Stop if you feel lightheaded. This in my own personal approach and does not take into account health issues that may be present. This is a vigorous therapy not for the faint hearted. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOUR ARE PREGNANT HAVE OR HAVE HIGH OR LOW BLOOD PRESSURE. IF IN DOUBT, CONSULT A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER BEFORE DOING FULL BODY CONTRAST HYDROTHERAPY.

Lindsey Lawson is an Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and Shamanic Practitioner at Glow Natural Health Center.

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Decoding an Ancient Therapy

High-Tech Tools Show How Acupuncture Works in Treating Arthritis, Back Pain, Other Ills

  • By MELINDA BECK

Acupuncture has long baffled medical experts and no wonder: It holds that an invisible life force called qi (pronounced chee) travels up and down the body in 14 meridians. Illness and pain are due to blockages and imbalances in qi. Inserting thin needles into the body at precise points can unblock the meridians, practitioners believe, and treat everything from arthritis and asthma to anxiety, acne and infertility.

WSJ’s health columnist Melinda Beck tests out acupuncture as an alternative means to reduce her neck and back pain.

Does It Work?

While scientists say further research is essential, some studies have provided evidence of acupuncture’s effects.

  • Arthritis of the Knee: Acupuncture significantly reduced pain and restored function, according to a 2004 government study.
  • Headaches: Two 2009 reviews found that acupuncture cut both tension and migraine headaches.
  • Lower Back Pain: Acupuncture eased it in a big study last year, but so did a sham treatment where needles didn’t penetrate the skin.
  • Cancer: Has proven effective in reducing nausea and fatigue caused by chemotherapy.
  • Infertility: Improves the odds of pregnancy for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization, according to a 2008 review of seven clinical trials.
  • Addiction: Often used to help quit smoking, drinking, drug use and overeating, but there is no conclusive evidence that it works.

 

After decades of cynicism, Western medical experts are using high-tech tools to unravel the ancient mysteries of how acupuncture works. WSJ’s Health columnist Melinda Beck joins Simon Constable on the News Hub to discuss.

As fanciful as that seems, acupuncture does have real effects on the human body, which scientists are documenting using high-tech tools. Neuroimaging studies show that it seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation. Doppler ultrasound shows that acupuncture increases blood flow in treated areas. Thermal imaging shows that it can make inflammation subside.

Scientists are also finding parallels between the ancient concepts and modern anatomy. Many of the 365 acupuncture points correspond to nerve bundles or muscle trigger points. Several meridians track major arteries and nerves. “If people have a heart attack, the pain will radiate up across the chest and down the left arm. That’s where the heart meridian goes,” says Peter Dorsher, a specialist in pain management and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. “Gallbladder pain will radiate to the right upper shoulder, just where the gallbladder meridian goes.”

Many medical experts remain deeply skeptical about acupuncture, of course, and studies of its effectiveness have been mixed. “Something measurable is happening when you stick a needle into a patient—that doesn’t impress me at all,” says Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter in England and co-author of the book, “Trick or Treatment.” Acupuncture “clearly has a very strong placebo effect. Whether it does anything else, the jury is still out.”

Even so, the use of acupuncture continues to spread—often alongside conventional medicine. U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army doctors are using acupuncture to treat musculoskeletal problems, pain and stress in stateside hospitals and combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Delegations from Acupuncturists Without Borders are holding communal ear-needling sessions to reduce stress among earthquake victims in Haiti. Major medical centers—from M.D. Anderson in Houston to Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York—use acupuncture to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy.

In a 2007 survey, 3.2 million Americans had undergone acupuncture in the past year—up from 2.1 million in 2001, according to the government’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The most common uses are for chronic pain conditions like arthritis, lower back pain and headaches, as well as fatigue, anxiety and digestive problems, often when conventional medicine fails. At about $50 per session, it’s relatively inexpensive and covered by some insurers.It is also generally safe. About 10% of patients experience some bleeding at the needle sites, although in very rare cases, fatalities have occurred due to infections or injury to vital organs, mostly due to inexperienced practitioners.

Most states require that acupuncturists be licensed, and the Food and Drug Administration requires that needles be new and sterile.

Diagnoses are complicated. An acupuncturist will examine a patient’s tongue and take three different pulses on each wrist, as well as asking questions about digestion, sleep and other habits, before determining which meridians may be blocked and where to place the needles. The 14 meridians are thought to be based on the rivers of China, and the 365 points may represent the days of the year. “Invaders” such as wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness factor into illness, so can five phases known as fire, earth, metal, water and wood.

Using Acupuncture to Treat Stress

“It’s not like there’s a Merck Manual for acupuncture,” says Joseph M. Helms, who has trained some 4,000 physicians in acupuncture at his institute in Berkeley, Calif. “Every case is evaluated on an individual basis, based on the presentation of the patient and the knowledge of the acupuncturist.”

Dr. Helms notes that Western doctors also examine a patient’s tongue for signs of illness. As for qi, he says, while the word doesn’t exist in Western medicine, there are similar concepts. “We’ll say, ‘A 27-year-old female appears moribund; she doesn’t respond to stimuli. Or an 85-year old woman is exhibiting a vacant stare.’ We’re talking about the same energy and vitality, we’re just not making it a unique category that we quantify.”

Studies in the early 1980s found that acupuncture works in part by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, much like vigorous exercise does. Now, a growing body of research suggests that it may have several mechanisms of action. Those include stimulating blood flow and tissue repair at the needle sites and sending nerve signals to the brain that regulate the perception of pain and reboot the autonomic nervous system, which governs unconscious functions such as heart beat, respiration and digestion, according to Alejandro Elorriaga, director of the medical acupuncture program at McMaster University in Ontario, which teaches a contemporary version to physicians.

[healthcolJ] Vitaly NapadowA specialized MRI scan shows the effects of acupuncture. The top two images show the brain of a healthy subject. In the middle two images, a patient with carpal tunnel syndrome registers pain (indicated by red and yellow). The bottom images show the calming effect (indicated by blue) in the brain after acupuncture.

“You can think Western, you can think Eastern. As long as your needle goes to the nerve, you will get some effect,” Dr. Elorriaga says.

What’s more, an odd phenomenon occurs when acupuncture needles are inserted into the body and rotated: Connective tissue wraps around them like spaghetti around a fork, according to ultrasound studies at the University of Vermont. Helene Langevin, research associate professor of neurology, says this action stretches cells in the connective tissue much like massage and yoga do, and may act like acupuncture meridians to send signals throughout the body. “That’s what we’re hoping to study next,” she says.

“ My former spouse had shingles. Doctors told her that the terrible pain would probably last 2 or 3 years. She got acupuncture treatments, plus some Chinese herbs, and the pain was totally gone with 6 weeks.:

—Alan Agardi

Meanwhile, neuroimaging studies at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have shown that acupuncture affects a network of systems in the brain, including decreasing activity in the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain, and activating it in the parts of the brain that typically light up when the brain is at rest.

Other studies at the Martinos Center have shown that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful compression of nerves in the wrist, have heightened activity in parts of the brain that regulate sensation and fear, but after acupuncture, their brain patterns more closely resemble those of healthy subjects. Brain scans of patients with fibromyalgia show that both acupuncture and sham acupuncture (using real needles on random points in the body) cause the release of endorphins. But real acupuncture also increased the number of receptors for pain-reducing neurotransmitters, bringing patients even more relief.

The fact that many patients get some relief and register some brain changes from fake acupuncture has caused controversy in designing clinical trials. Some critics say that proves that what patients think of as benefit from acupuncture is mainly the placebo effect. Acupuncture proponents counter that placebos that too closely mimic the treatment experience may have a real benefit.

“I don’t see any disconnect between how acupuncture works and how a placebo works,” says radiologist Vitaly Napadow at the Martinos center. “The body knows how to heal itself. That’s what a placebo does, too.”

Write to Melinda Beck at HealthJournal@wsj.com

 

 

 

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of connecting with a couple older friends. The topic turned to health, aging and their complaints surrounding getting old. It got me thinking about healthy aging. What does it mean to age gracefully? What are some keystones in the healthy aging process?

Of course my first thought is diet. (Exercise too but that’s for another rant.) Just as they’ve done to everything else the boomers are changing the way we think about aging. They are searching for answers and solutions about their health. But this is fraught with controversy and conflicting information. From my perspective there is no right diet for everyone. Food sensitivities, organics, seasonality, locality, sustainability all need to be taken into consideration. As a general rule, less processed more whole foods are better. Being a foodie, of course I think it should taste delicious, but I’m not immune to the power of convenience either. I don’t believe the two to be mutually exclusive.  Eat from the farmer’s market people!! http://www.seattlefarmersmarkets.org/ Or consider having your produce delivered by one of the many Community Supported Agriculture programs. In Seattle there’s almost no excuse for not enjoying delicious, healthful eating.

Even my well educated friends I saw this weekend, who ARE diet conscious have trouble knowing what to focus on. Low fat? Low Carb? Weight watchers?(This one makes me cringe, but hey, it works and obesity isn’t healthy either.) Culturally we’ve become disconnected from our food, and we’ve certainly lost the idea of food as medicine.

Then there is the question of supplements. Which ones to take? How often to take them? Fish oil has hit mainstream awareness but other healthy heavy weights like fermented foods and beverages (Kombucha!!) are still on the fringe.(Though not for our wise readers!) Check out the book “Nourishing Traditions” for more info on the benefits of fermented foods.

I checked our Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. I’m not his biggest fan but he’s instituted a shift in the public awareness around alternative medicine which I think is good. He has created a new food pyramid which I think is useful in conceptualizing what foods to eat and in what ratios. Here’s the link. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02995/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Food-Pyramid.html Here’s what he has to say about it.

  • It is a practical eating guide that consumers of all ages can use, with tips on how to reduce risks of age-related diseases and improve overall health through diet.
  • It is an interactive educational graphic to help today’s families prevent disease while eating well.
  • It is a simple tool that promotes optimum health and healthy aging by providing dietary advice that addresses inflammation.

 What is hard for me to see is that in their quest for healthier happier lives consumers’ pill boxes are filling up. I feel that it’s easy to underestimate the power of food, to discount food as viable medicine. More and more we are seeing the interactions of various medicines having unwanted and unhealthy results. Why not try a diet change first or at least concurrently with medications? I believe this to be especially important in all chronic diseases with an inflammatory component. A good resource for this is the “Anti inflammatory diet and recipe book” which we carry at our office. It explains that MOST diseases have an inflammatory component, not just the obvious ones like a stiff, swollen knee or allergies. This is one reason that acupuncture can treat such a wide variety of illnesses as well. It reduces the inflammatory response.

I guess my point is, don’t underestimate the power of the foods you eat. While medications can take care of symptoms, they can also have nasty side effects and unwanted interactions. Your diet is the foundation of your health, and a simple way to give yourself the best chance to age gracefully and healthfully.

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Eli is just over 12 weeks now and things are looking up. He had quite the fussy belly there for awhile. He was waking from a dead sleep and crying out. The gas was truly impressive. I’d be in the other room, Eli would let one go and Joel would ask if it was me…It was Eli EVERY time ( I swear.) Who knew such a little guy could make so much noise. Then there was the three consecutive meals of lasagna I ate which caused an all out red rash all over his little tush. NOW every time he pooped he’d scream. Boy did I feel bad.

So I did  some research to find out what foods to avoid while breastfeeding. Now I’ve done almost every cleanse in the book, except for that maple syrup, cayenne pepper one. But I have done gluten free, no nightshades, no- sugar, alcohol, corn, citrus, soy, grains,eggs, salt, spices. The list goes on and on. This one was new to me though.

So-I’ve eliminated eggs, soy, beans (gas producing), cinnamon, spicy foods, anise, onions, garlic, wheat, nuts, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, citrus, apples (sorbitol), bananas, chocolate, coffee, caffeine, dairy. I think I got everything… Oh yeah tomatoes. I eat lots of pork chops, fish, sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa. Pretty good really but I do miss yogurt and broccoli, AND cucumbers.

We also started giving him Gripe water, a homeopathic blend for colic, a Chamomile blend, baby acidophilus, and of course baby acupuncture. I do a special non needle technique for babies. It’s a Japanese style which is very gentle but effective. The whole process takes 10 min. and leaves him feeling really relaxed.

All and all I’d say it was pretty effective. Labor intensive yes but worth it. His little butt is snow-white and healthy looking and his cheeks are getting chubbier everyday. Lots of smiles and less thunder farts. I’ve started adding a few things back in that I know don’t bother him. Nuts seems ok, wheat (strangely enough.) Some spices like cinnamon seem ok too. Sunchokes ( which give ANYONE gas) are not a good idea. Good news though!!! hoppy beer actually improves things dramatically. Oh darn.

Lindsey Lawson MS L. Ac

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Hi there,

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve entered Mommyhood and thus have a few stolen moments to write while little Eli sleeps. Be on the lookout for fertility, nursing, postpartum and baby related info to come as these are one of my specialties, as well as my reality now.

Derek and I have collaborated on this post. He’s getting is Doctorate in Chinese Medicine with a focus on Oncology and pain management at Bastyr. The program focuses on research and he’s got some great studies to share.

Headaches are one of the things we see most commonly and treat most effectively as acupuncturists.  This particular randomized trail compares true acupuncture with a control for chronic headache. The controls include  sham acupuncture, medication therapy, and other nonpharmacological treatments. Types of headaches included migraine, tension type headache or both. The conclusion is that needling acupuncture is superior to sham acupuncture and medication therapy in improving headache intensity, frequency, and response rate.

Read full headache study here

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How you can be better prepared to fight off this year’s bug.

Dr. Rachel Erickson, ND

Everyone knows that wintertime means playing the game of “who can run faster than the ‘bug’ trying to catch you” and lay you up in bed or worse, make work life miserable while you fight it off. Here are some strategies to prevent catching a cold and ways to shorten the duration.

 

Prevention is the best medicine. Exercise boosts your immune cell activity so stay active this winter. Wash your hands. Drink plenty of clean water all day long. Vegetables and fruits are full of all the antioxidants and vitamins and minerals your body needs to function optimally. This winter is the opportunity to add in an extra fruit or vegetable a day to one of your meals. If you make one veggie at dinner, try making two. If you don’t eat fruit at breakfast, add your favorite one in. Satsuma oranges and pomegranates are in season only in the winter and are great sources of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Make it fun!

 

The basics need emphasis when you’re feeling sick. We all know this, but let’s just say it again. When you’re feeling sick, it’s not time to go out to that holiday party and drink three glasses of hot buttered rum and two helpings of dessert. It’s time to lay low, sleep extra hours, stay hydrated and stay away from your vices. Sugar, alcohol and foods you may think you’re sensitive to are only going to suppress your immune function when you need it most. So what do you do when you feel that shift in your body that tells you you’re getting sick? A quick trick is to artificially raise your core body temperature for 20 minutes. You probably learned to suppress your fevers, but what I’m telling you is to actually create a little fever, either by sitting in a sauna or steam room, or by taking a hot bath. Add some Epsom salts in that case (sold at most drug stores) and soak in as hot of water as you can stand for 20 minutes. Don’t stop there! Bundle up warmly and stay hot. Your immune cells actually work faster in a slightly higher temperature while putting the virus or bacteria at a disadvantage!

 

For you special cases, the stressed moms and workers who struggle just to get breakfast let alone enough sleep, there’s hope even for you! The approach for your immune health is through your adrenal glands. They help you cope in times of high stress, and during this winter season they need specific attention. Through the wonderful remedy of herbal medicine, we have the right combination to meet your needs.

 

My favorite, herbal medicine, is also your biggest advocate this season. If you know you always get sick then try taking an immune boosting formulation specific to what you need now. We have some great combinations you can keep in your apothecary at home for just this purpose.

 

Come by for a visit and we’ll find a formula that works best for you.

Dr. Rachel wishes you happy holidays here at Glow!

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