In a recent post, Trust Your Gut, we talked about the importance of gut health, and how a healthy gut is important to the immune system and balancing the gut-brain axis and nervous system. We have gotten so used to tummy troubles that a lot of people suffer daily, even without a diagnosed digestive disorder; at times, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of the discomfort. Americans are inundated with articles about food sensitivity, overconsumption, and other factors that lead to gastrointestinal problems. The good news is, acupuncture is a safe, effective approach to improving overall gut health, which has a positive impact throughout the body.
Acupuncture can help improve the performance of the different organs in the abdomen, as well as the nervous system, and balance hormonal imbalances – all of which impact gut health. An overactive nervous system alone decreases digestive function, which has a negative impact on how effectively our bodies absorb nutrients and process waste.
The Major Players
Generally, when we think about gut health, the stomach gets all of the attention. There’s more to how the digestive system works.
Chewing, beginning of food breakdown through saliva
Peristalsis – the movement of organ walls, allowing food and liquid to move through the GI tract
Where food and digestive juices meet
Produces digestive juices that help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
Processes nutrients absorbed by the small intestine
Recent studies show that acupuncture can help promote or decrease peristalsis and reduce certain acid outputs.
Some of the areas acupuncture can impact:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Acupuncture has been effective in treating areas of digestive distress for thousands of years. Your acupuncturist will look at the body as a system, rather than a sum of individual parts, in developing a treatment plan specific to you and your needs.
Eating well is one of those elusive things that we know we should do, but don’t. Like flossing. But also like flossing, proper nutrition is incredibly important to our overall health. We should be placing a focus on proper diet, exercise, and yes also dental hygiene, but it can be tough. Life gets in the way. We don’t always feel we have the time. The benefits of taking care of ourselves in this way can get lost, but they do exist. And once you get into the habit of paying attention to these things, you’ll notice a difference.
The first thing you’ll notice is the simple fact that you feel better. You’re body works overtime when it has to digest unhealthy food. The leads to feeling sluggish and tired. And when we’re tired, we tend to be more cranky. But proper nutrition ensures your meals act more as a fuel source than a drain. This is what our meals are supposed to be, but we’ve gotten away from that with the increased ease of finding meals that don’t benefit us nutritionally.
Different foods affect our internal systems in different ways. Not paying attention to what we are putting into our bodies can lead to a weakened immune system. Nobody likes to get sick. So give yourself the best chance at staving off common colds and infections by keeping your immune system strong. Proper diet helps your body to run as smooth and efficiently as possible. You’ll thank yourself the next time you see your coworkers reaching for the kleenex while you feel great.
Nutrition for More Energy
As we said earlier, healthy food turns your meals into an energy source. Clean food means your body doesn’t have to waste its energy breaking down your meal and can instead mine it to give you the power to finish out your day strong. Have you ever noticed an afternoon slump in your energy? Perhaps you’ve wanted to take a nap behind your desk? This is most likely because your lunch is sitting too heavy in your stomach and is draining you of your energy. Paying attention to your meals can help avoid this.
Nutrition to Reduce Risk of Disease
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure—all of these things can be mitigated by a healthy diet. The foods we eat translate into what our body becomes. And if you give your body unhelpful things to work with, it will turn that food into undesirable results. Whether it’s making use of vitamin E to reduce the chance of blood clots, reducing sugar and salt to help with diabetes, or reducing cholesterol to help your heart stay healthy—our food can have a large impact on susceptibility to dangerous health conditions.
Nutrition to Lose Weight
The most noticeable result of a proper diet is lost weight. We carry around the excess of what our body doesn’t use from our food. And unhealthy food has a lot of this excess. Not only does losing weight make us look better, it makes us feel better and reduces our chances of future health problems. Obesity is a major health issue in the US. Along with exercise, a nutritional diet can stave off the negative effects of carrying around extra weight.
Nutrition for Stronger Microbiome
We each have a microbiome living in our stomachs. That’s right, living. This is a collection of various bacteria, microbes, and other microscopic single-celled organisms that have a drastic effect on our health. This microbiome helps with everything from mood, to memory, to how well our digestive system operates. The foods we eat either help or harm this complex and important system living inside us. Focusing on foods to help this system thrive can help our microbiome work in our favor at all times of the day.
How Do You Know You’re Doing It Right?
Eating healthy can be difficult. There are countless articles on the internet and many of them contradict each other. So who do you trust? The most simple answer is to trust yourself. Find foods that aren’t overly processed, contain a lot of vegetables and fruits, and make you feel better after you eat them.
But if you want to be absolutely sure that you are getting everything you need from your diet, consult a professional. Affinity Acupuncture in Nashville, TN offers nutritional counseling. Our experts offer nutrition education to their clients. But if you really want to dig in, you can sign up for the Affinity for Nutrition program.
This program involves a discussion of your personal habits and goals, leading to a personalized plan to help you reach them. With all the information out there, a direct conversation with a professional will give you the clearest path toward optimizing your meals.
Traditional Chinese medicine describes acupuncture as a means of balancing energy that flows through pathways within your body. This is done through the insertion of very small needles at strategic points on the patient’s body. It is generally used to treat pain although it can also be used to treat mental health issues like the management of stress.
This practice has been around for over 4,000 years. Acupuncture has remained a steady source of treatment since then, although it has gone through some changes throughout the years. The same basic concept has remained the same, however. And whether you’re seeking acupuncture for neck pain, fertility, or any of the other positive outcomes you can visit Affinity Acupuncture for help in Nashville.
Let’s look into the specifics of acupuncture to see how we can benefit from it.
The systems by which acupuncture affects the patient differs depending on who you ask. The traditional Chinese interpretation is based around energy.
The energy inside your body is referred to as qi (pronounced “chee”). This qi travels throughout your body by way of 12 separate pathways, known as meridians. And although these meridians don’t follow similar pathways of blood flow and nerves, they do represent the major organs as well as the functions of the body.
Our bodies contain competing energy flows, known as the yin and the yang. These make up our qi. And it is the harmonious congruence of these two forces that keep our bodies in good health and make us feel better. An improper balance of these forces is what leads to illnesses.
There are 361 points on our bodies that can manipulate the flow of our qi. Strategic placement of tiny needles helps direct our energy in the appropriate way to balance out our yin and yang, resulting in a more well-balanced qi.
Western scientists have further studied acupuncture and come up with other theories as to why it works. The first theory is that acupuncture works by stimulating neurohormonal pathways. The needle effectively stimulates a nerve in the patient’s body. The nerve sends a signal to the brain which releases hormones such as endorphins, which promote good feelings in the body which increases the pain threshold.
Another theory is that acupuncture reduces proteins in the body that promote inflammation. This reduction in inflammation is linked to a reduction in pain.
Yet another theory relates directly to acupuncture’s positive effects on nerve damage. It says that insertion of the needle stimulates the brain to secrete a factor that stimulates nerve growth, effectively re-growing the damaged nerve.
But whether you subscribe to the eastern or western explanation of why acupuncture works, the benefits are all the same. But what can acupuncture be used to treat?
What It Treats
Acupuncture is used to treat a number of various conditions. Most notably, it is used to assist in general health, sleep, and digestion. It reduces stress, inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Acupuncture also increases fertility and energy.
Acupuncture has been proven through clinical trials to be an effective treatment for the following:
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Induction of labor
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Nausea and vomiting
Pain in dentistry
Periarthritis of shoulder
These and other conditions have shown positive effects from acupuncture treatment.
What to Expect
Many people feel somewhat lethargic after an acupuncture appointment. This is commonly related to a feeling of deep relaxation. However, treatments affect everyone a little differently. In fact, some people feel energetic from a quick boost of adrenaline after the appointment.
It’s generally recommended to continue seeking relaxing atmospheres after an acupuncture session. Find a quiet place to sit down or even go for a massage. This is a healing process so more the more time you give yourself to take it easy, the better your chances become of experiencing the benefits of the treatment.
Try It for Yourself
The best way to learn about the benefits of acupuncture is to try it firsthand. Those in the Nashville area interested in acupuncture for neck pain, fertility, or any other ailment should visit Affinity Acupuncture.
Affinity Acupuncture serves both the Nashville and Franklin areas. Visit us today to set up an appointment.
How Alternative Medicine Like Acupuncture Alleviates Menstrual Pain
Researchers find acupuncture combined with moxibustion more effective for the treatment of painful menstruation than ibuprofen. Across three independent studies, researchers made several important findings. Acupuncture plus moxibustion produces superior treatment outcomes to oral intake of ibuprofen. Acupuncture plus moxibustion is superior to using only acupuncture as a standalone therapy. Acupuncture improves blood circulation and hemorheological characteristics for patients with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Let’s take a look at the results.
Hubei University of Medicine researchers (Jiao et al.) conducted a controlled clinical trial and confirm that the combination protocol of acupuncture plus moxibustion produces superior outcomes to using ibuprofen capsules to control menstruation cramping and pain. Jiao et al. conclude that acupuncture plus moxibustion has a 96.8% total treatment effective rate for the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Ibuprofen sustained time release capsules achieved a 58.1% total treatment effective rate. Acupuncture plus moxibustion outperformed ibuprofen by 38.7%. This is consistent with the independent research of Zhao et al. finding acupuncture effective for improving blood hemorheological characteristics, regulating blood viscosity, and enhancing the microcirculation of blood in the uterus for patients with dysmenorrhea.
Jiao et al. had a sample size of 62 human female patients and conducted a clinical trial at the Acupuncture Division of Hubei University of Medicine. Patients were randomly divided into an acupuncture group and a medication group, with 31 patients in each group. The acupuncture group received a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy and the medication group received ibuprofen sustained time release capsules. The primary acupoints selected for all patients were the following:
Guanyuan (CV4) Zhongji (CV3) Sanyinjiao (SP6) Additional acupoints were selected on an individual symptomatic basis. Acupoints selection was based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of differential diagnosis by pattern differentiation. For qi and blood stasis, the following acupoints were added:
Taichong (LV3) Xuehai (SP10) For depressed liver qi with dampness and heat, the following acupoints were added:
Xingjian (LV2) Yinlingquan (SP9) For liver and kidney deficiency, the following acupoints were added:
Shenshu (BL23) Mingmen (GV4) For poor qi and blood circulation, the following acupoints were added:
Qihai (CV6) Zusanli (ST36) Treatment commenced with patients in a supine position. After disinfection of the acupoint sites, a 0.30 mm x 40 mm disposable filiform needle was inserted into each acupoint with a high needle entry speed. Manual acupuncture stimulation techniques for obtaining deqi including lifting, thrusting, and rotating. Once a deqi sensation was obtained, the needles were retained and moxibustion was conducted on the same acupoints.
Moxa cigar cuttings, each 2 cm long, were attached to each needle handle and ignited. Moxa was left in place to self-extinguish. One acupuncture session was conducted daily for 3 – 4 consecutive days during menstruation. Treatment was also conducted on the 2 days prior to the next menstrual cycle. The entire course of treatment comprised 3 menstrual cycles. Patients were also advised to avoid getting chilled and to keep warm during activities of daily living.
For the ibuprofen group, patients received 300 mg of ibuprofen sustained time release capsules starting 1 – 2 days prior to menstruation. Capsules were orally administered twice per day for 2 – 3 days until the symptoms were mitigated, for a total of 3 menstrual cycles. Vitamin B was administered additionally for patients who also experienced stomach discomfort. The results tabulated, the acupuncture plus moxibustion protocol provided greater pain relief than the ibuprofen protocol.
In an independent research trial, Lu Ying (Xianning Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine) investigated the treatment efficacy of triple acupuncture and mild moxibustion for primary dysmenorrhea patients. Lu Ying determined that triple acupuncture with mild moxibustion yielded better treatment results than conventional acupuncture. For primary dysmenorrhea, triple acupuncture plus mild moxibustion therapy achieved a 96.7% total treatment effective rate. Conventional acupuncture achieved a 90% total treatment effective rate.
A total of 60 patients were treated and evaluated in the study. They were randomly divided into a treatment group and a control group, with 30 patients in each group. The treatment group underwent triple acupuncture with mild moxibustion therapy while the control group received conventional acupuncture therapy. The primary acupoints selected for the treatment group were the following:
Zhongji (CV3) Sanyinjiao (SP6) Diji (SP8) Shiqizhuixia (M-BW-35) Additional acupoints were selected based on individual symptoms. For poor blood and qi circulation, the following acupoints were added:
Xuehai (SP10) Pishu (BL20) Zusanli (ST36) For poor blood and qi circulation with blood stasis, the following acupoints were added:
Hegu (LI4) Taichong (LV3) Ciliao (BL32) For chills and dampness, the following acupoint received moxibustion but needling was not applied:
Shuidao (ST28) For dampness and heat in liver, the following acupoint was needled bilaterally:
Yanglingquan (GB34) Patients were instructed to urinate prior to treatment and subsequently rested in a supine position. Upon disinfection of the acupoint sites, a 0.30 mm x 50 mm filiform acupuncture needle was inserted into the acupoints. For Zhongji, the needle was inserted toward Qugu (CV2) with a high entry speed at an entry angle of 45°, to a depth of 5 mm, and until the needle stimulated a deqi response at the midpoint of the upper edge of the pubic bone.
Subsequently, two acupoints located 3 mm laterally to Zhongji were swiftly pierced to a depth of 5 mm and were then inserted to become parallel to the needle at Zhongji. The same deqi response was stimulated at these points, as was in the case of Zhongji. This is the triple acupuncture technique applied to Zhongji.
The remaining acupoints were pierced perpendicularly until a deqi sensation was achieved. The deqi sensation was defined as the patient feeling soreness, numbness, swelling, or aching towards the bottom part of the perineum or a slight electrical sensation. A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. During needle retention, the needles were each manipulated every 10 minutes with manual acupuncture techniques. Additionally, during needle retention, mild moxibustion was conducted at Zhongji, until the skin was flushed and moxibustion heat was transmitted downward into the skin.
For the control group, selected acupoints were identical to those of the treatment group. Primary and additional acupoints were perpendicularly pierced with a 0.30 mm x 50 mm filiform acupuncture needle. Needle manipulation techniques varied based on individual body conditions. The triple acupuncture threading technique was not applied, only perpendicular insertion was used. For poor blood and qi circulation, blood clotting, or chills and dampness, the Xie (attenuating) manipulation technique was applied. For poor liver health, heat, and dampness, the Ping Bu Ping Xie (attenuating and tonifying) manipulation technique was applied. For poor blood and qi circulation, the Bu (tonifying) manipulation technique was applied. A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. During needle retention, the needles were each manipulated every 10 minutes.
Both groups of patients received their respective treatments 5 days prior to menstruation. For one treatment cycle, treatment was conducted once daily for 5 consecutive days. Treatment was ceased during menstruation. The entire treatment course comprised 4 menstrual cycles. In addition, patients were advised to maintain a positive emotional state and avoid exhaustion and becoming chilled. The clinical results demonstrate that triple acupuncture and mild moxibustion produce greater therapeutic effects than conventional acupuncture in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.
The average rate of dysmenorrhea in China is approximately 30% – 40%. During puberty, the rate is approximately 50%. Among all cases of dysmenorrhea, 10% – 20% are severe. The researchers provide a brief synopsis of the Traditional Chinese Medicine understanding of primary dysmenorrhea. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, primary dysmenorrhea falls under the Jing Xing Fu Tong class of disorders. TCM classifies primary dysmenorrhea into two major types based on the overall TCM pathology: deficiency and excess. Deficient primary dysmenorrhea is caused by weak qi and blood circulation, deficiency of the liver and kidneys, or qi and blood deficiency. Excess-type primary dysmenorrhea is exacerbated by emotional pressures, depressed liver qi, blood stasis, or poor qi circulation. Consuming cold drinks during menstruation also contributes to excess-type primary dysmenorrhea.
The researchers also provide some insight into TCM principles relative to the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Regulating the Chong and Ren meridians improves blood and qi circulation to produce healthy, well regulated, and trouble-free menstruation. The Guanyuan acupoint significantly restores yuan (source) qi, improves blood and qi circulation, eliminates blood stasis, and relieves pain for patients with dysmenorrhea. Administering moxibustion at Guanyuan warms the meridians, expels chills, and regulates the Chong and Ren meridians. Guanyuan, Qihai, and Zhongji are acupoints which benefit yang and regulate the Chong and Ren meridians. Sanyinjiao is a central acupoint for the maintenance of liver, spleen, and kidney health and is therefore beneficial to patients with dysmenorrhea.
Acupuncture and herbs outperform drug therapy for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers compared two groups, one received acupuncture and herbal medicine and the other received drug therapy. The group receiving acupuncture and herbs had superior positive patient outcome rates. Acupuncture and herbs produced clinical outcomes yielding greater improvements in stool consistency and significantly greater reductions of abdominal pain, mucus in the stool, bloating, and bowel urgency.
Chongqing Nanchuan Hospital researchers started with a sample size of 126 human patients with IBS. The patients were randomly divided into the acupuncture plus herbs group and the drug group, with a total of 63 patients in each group. For both groups, there were improvements in abdominal pain and discomfort scores. However, the acupuncture plus herbs group demonstrated significantly greater clinical improvements. In addition, the group receiving acupuncture plus herbs had greater reductions of anxiety levels and behavioral disorders. The data indicates that the acupuncture plus herbs group had significant improvements in general psychological well-being and overall perceived energy levels.
IBS affects the large intestine and involves cramping, distention, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain. Often, there is mucus in the stool and the condition is chronic. Exacerbating factors include specific foods, hormonal changes, stress, and secondary illnesses. IBS tends to occur in younger patients and the rate is double for women. IBS, when presenting as a long-standing illness, often involves dietary restrictions and accidental malnourishment caused by an attempt to avoid exacerbating foods. The long-standing nature of the illness may also contribute to mental depression. Two major types of diagnostic criteria define IBS, the Rome criteria and the Manning criteria.
For the Rome criteria, one important parameter is that abdominal pain lasts for a minimum of 3 days per month and involves at least two of the following: decreased pain after defecation, changes in frequency of defecation, changes in consistency of stool. The Manning criteria includes pain relieved by defecation but also takes into account mucus in stool, incomplete bowels movements, and variability of stool consistency. An MD may order a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, lower GI series (liquid barium X-ray), or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.
All participants and procedures were approved by the Chongqing Nanchuan Hospital medical ethics committee. All participants were volunteers with a diagnosis of IBS, prerequisite abdominal pain, and abnormal defecation. No participants were admitted to the study groups that had taken medications within three month prior to the investigation. Exclusion criteria involved several other parameters: mental illness, low blood pressure, history of abdominal surgery.
The sample size involved 67 males and 59 females, with an average age of 55 years. The average duration of IBS per patient was 31 years. After randomization into the two groups, there were no significant differences in terms of age, gender, and course of IBS duration.
The group receiving drug therapy was administered loperamide hydrochloride capsules (1 tablet, 3 times per day), 30 minutes before meals. In addition, they received 9 g of Si Shen Wan, two times per day. Loperamide hydrochlorida (trade name IMODIUM) is used to control diarrhea. Functionally, loperamide hydrochloride slows bowel movements to achieve its effective action. The drug may cause drowsiness, fatigue, or dizziness and is not recommended for breast-feeding mothers because the drug is transferred through the milk. In this acupuncture continuing education study, the group receiving acupuncture plus herbal medicine was administered the following medicinal formula (prepared in the form of a decoction):
Zhi Gan Cao
Based on diagnostics, modifications were made to the formula. For patients with severe diarrhea, Bai Bian Dou and Fu Ling were added. Zhi Ke, Fo Shou, and Mu Xiang were added for cases of pronounced abdominal swelling and pain. For mucus in the stool, Huo Po and Cang Zhu were added. Yu Li Ren was added for patients with constipation. The following protocolized set of acupuncture points were administered to the patients:
Shangjuxu, ST37 (Upper Great Void)
Quchi, LI11 (Pool at the Crook)
Dachangshu, BL25 (Large Intestine Shu)
Tianshu, ST25 (Heaven’s Pivot)
Sterile filiform acupuncture needles were used. At ST37, the needle insertion depth range between 1–2 inches. For LI11, the depth of insertion was 0.5–2 inches. For BL25, the insertion depth was 0.8–1.2 inches. For ST25, needle depth was 1–1.5 inches. Reinforcing and reducing manual acupuncture techniques were applied with twisting, lifting, and thrusting motions. Total needle retention time was 30 minutes per acupuncture visit. For both the drug and acupuncture plus herbs groups, the total treatment duration was 28 days. Dietary modifications for all patients in both groups included the following recommendations:
No raw, cold, or spicy food
Regulate consumption of food to moderate levels of intake
Regular meals consumed at regular intervals, 3 times per day
Non-oily, light foods that are easily digested are appropriate
Non-oily, light, and easily digested foods are appropriate
Several important findings were made. The acupuncture plus herbal medicine group had greater positive patient outcomes. In addition, the relapse rate was lower in the acupuncture plus herbs group than the drug group. The results indicate that acupuncture, herbs, and continuing patient education on dietary modifications is an effective integrative approach to patient care for patients with IBS.
Herbal medicine gained recognition for the treatment of IBS in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The prestigious journal published the findings of an Australian randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled study conducted by gastroenterologists and herbalists. The researchers concluded that Chinese herbal medicine “offer[s] improvements in symptoms for some The results reflect an enhanced positive patient outcome rate, which is consistent with the flexibility of the study design.patients with IBS.” The results reflect an enhanced positive patient outcome rate, which is consistent with the flexibility of the study design.
Zhang Yousheng, Zhang Xiaodong, Investigation of the Effect on Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, Chongqing Nanchuan Hospital, 2016.
Sun YZ & Song J. (2014). Therapeutic Observation of Acupuncture at Jiaji (EX-B2) for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 34(9).
Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Oct;32(10):957-60. [Meta analysis of acupuncture-moxibustion in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome]. Pei LX, Zhang XC, Sun JH, Geng H, Wu XL. Acupuncture and Rehabilitation Department, Jiangsu Province Hospital of TCM, Nanjing, China.
JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1585-9. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with Chinese herbal medicine: a randomized controlled trial. Bensoussan A, Talley NJ, Hing M, Menzies R, Guo A, Ngu M. Research Unit for Complementary Medicine, University of Western Sydney Macarthur, Campbelltown, New South Wales, Australia.
Liu, Xiao-xia. “Moxibustion on Shenque (CV 8) improves effect of acupuncture for diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.” Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 12, no. 6 (2014): 362-365.