Trust Your Gut
In recent years, “gut health” has become a popular buzz phrase with scientists, physicians, and on social media. The idea isn’t new – Hippocrates once said that “all disease begins in the gut.” Improving digestive health has been a foundational ethos of Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. As a society, we’ve strayed from prioritizing health and nutrition over convenience, and are seeing the ramifications in increased obesity, heart disease, and other ailments that weren’t as prevalent before processed foods became a mainstay in our diets.
So why does the gut matter? Does having a drive-thru meal once a week really make that much of a difference? Your immune system, mood, sleep, digestion, heart, and brain all say yes.
Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at why gut health is important, and the roles of some of the unsung heroes of the digestive system.
Why it Matters
More than 100 trillion bacteria live in the gut.
That’s not a typo. There are more bacteria than human cells in the human body. Gut bacteria help our esophagus, stomach, and intestines work together to comfortably digest foods. When the biome is thrown off, it can lead to heartburn, bloating, constipation, nausea, and loose stools. The little bacteria can’t ward off infection or communicate well with the brain through nerves and hormones.
Roughly 70% of the immune system (by weight) lives in the digestive tract.
Without getting too technical, the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) is the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body, and helps protect the body from infection in the gut. The gut’s mucosal surface is thin – it to be in order to allow food absorption. That also means that it’s vulnerable to infection. GALT helps protect the body from a large population of plasma cells (which produce antibodies) – larger than the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow combined.
90-95% of serotonin (the body’s mood boosting chemical) is produced in the gut.
You read that right. You’re probably familiar with serotonin as a brain neurotransmitter, right? A recent Caltech study shows that certain bacteria in the guy play a pivotal role in serotonin production. The foods we eat impact our moods beyond what we refer to as “comfort food.”
Up to 90% of diseases can be traced back to the gut microbiome.
An estimated 70 million Americans have digestive diseases, and almost 1 in 5 have IBS. Those little bacteria strengthen the digestive tract’s wall, protecting us from pathogens. When the pathogens get through, it leads to inflammation and digestive disorders.
Help a Gut out Already
There are some easy things you can do to help give your gut a break (while avoiding any allergens):
1) Eat a variety of whole grains and legumes
2) Minimize eating out
3) Stop eating when you’re full
4) Eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day
5) Have a handful of nuts each day
6) Drink lots of water
7) Avoid artificial sweeteners and minimize candies and confections
8) Keep a food diary. If you get heartburn, feel bloated, or experience other digestive distress after eating certain foods, try eliminating or minimizing them in your diet.
9) Get some exercise
11) Be careful with antibiotics. If you need them, add yogurt to your diet for the duration of the prescription.
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Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Researchers find acupuncture effective for normalizing hormone levels and improving the overall health of patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Scientific data demonstrates that acupuncture produces significant improvements in menstrual regularity, restores ovulation pattern regularity, increases pregnancy rates, regulates hormonal secretions, normalizes basal body temperature patterns, and increases embryo survival rates. Fertility enhancements provided by acupuncture apply to both natural conception and IVF (in vitro fertilization) patients.
Research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion entitled Advances In Clinical Research On Acupuncture Moxibustion Treatment For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome cites several clinical studies. Let’s take a look at the finings. Chen et al. applied stimulation with acupuncture at sacral plexus acupoints and paraspinal acupoints. Acupuncture treatment sessions were regularly administered over the course of three menstruation cycles. Upon completion of all acupuncture therapy, follow-up examinations (including ultrasound imaging) demonstrated significant improvements in menstrual regularity, ovulation frequency, and cervical mucus consistency. In addition, the pregnancy rate of patients in the study increased significantly.
The research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture reviewed the work of Wang et al. That study demonstrated an 80.8% total effective rate for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome with acupuncture. The acupuncture points used in the study included the following acupoints:
Two additional acupuncture points were added, based on symptomatic presentations and differential diagnostic considerations: Taichong (LV3), Fenglong (ST40). In another investigation, Huang et al. combined moxibustion with traditional Chinese medicine massage (Tui Na) and medications. The controlled investigation demonstrated the ability of traditional Chinese medicine to regulate ovulation and secretion of sex hormones to normal levels when compared with the control group that received only drug therapy. Moxibustion was applied to the following: Sanyinjiao, Guanyuan, Zigong. The researchers conclude that moxa and Chinese massage enhance the efficacy of drug therapy for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Xie et al. combined traditional Chinese herbal medicine with acupuncture and achieved significant clinical results. Patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome had an 80% total treatment effective rate using the combined therapy protocol. An herbal pill (Zi Shen Yu Tai) was administered to nourish the kidneys and reinforce fertility. On the fifth day following menstruation, acupuncture was applied to the following acupoints:
The pattern of basal body temperatures significantly normalized using the herbal medicine combined with acupuncture therapy approach to patient care. In addition, hormone levels significantly normalized, including the following hormones: LH (luteinizing hormone), testosterone, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). The work of Xie et al. was published in the Guiding Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Qiu and Xu administered electroacupuncture to patients that had a combination of polycystic ovarian syndrome with obesity. Electroacupuncture was applied to body style acupuncture points. In addition, auricular (ear) acupuncture was added. Important clinical improvements were documented by the researchers. Patients had significant improvements in the reduction of polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms, including improved menstruation regularity. In addition, many patients experienced a healthy reduction a bodily fat. The total treatment affective rate was 89.7%.The auricular acupuncture points used in the study were as follows: Zigong, Neifenmi, Pizhixia, Pi, Shen, Luanchao. Body style acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
Li et al. administered acupuncture therapy to determine whether or not it is successful for the improvement of in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo survival rates. Inclusion criteria for the study predetermined that all patients were of kidney deficiency type (according to Chinese medicine principles) and had a confirmed diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome. The results demonstrate significant clinical improvements, including higher embryo survival rates. The following acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
In related research, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers investigated ovulation and pregnancy rates for patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The study involved two groups. Group one received acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises. Group two received drug therapy (cyproterone acetate / ethinylestradiol tablets and metformin). The acupuncture, herbs, and exercise group slightly outperformed the drug group.
The combination of acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises produced higher rates of ovulation and pregnancies in PCOS patients, producing a 46.92% ovulation rate and a 32.16% pregnancy rate. The drug therapy protocol produced a 40.61% ovulation rate and a 30.16% pregnancy rate. The researchers concluded that drug therapy and Chinese medicine produce similar positive patient outcomes for patients with PCOS.
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Zheng HM, Lv GY, Wang YJ, Hou WG, Chen YL, Zeng YJ. (2013). Advances in Clinical Research on Acupuncture moxibustion Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 32(9).
Wang XY, Zhang YJ, Wu FD, Lu Y & Huang GQ. (2007). Acupuncture Treatment for 26 Cases of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of acupuncture, moxibustion & Tuina. (05).
Chen D, Chen SR, Shi XL, Guo FL, Zhu YK, Li Z, Cai MX, Deng LH & Xu H. (2007). Needle pricking therapy in treating polycystic ovary syndrome. China Journal of Acupuncture & Moxibustion. (02).
Huang M, Lai H, Lv FB & Pan BQ. (2007). Moxibustion in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome. Massage methodology. (01).
Qiu HN & Xu J. (2006). Acupuncture, moxibustion and auricular point sticking in treating obese polycystic ovarian syndrome. Chinese Community Doctors. 8(14): 86-87.
Li J, Cui W, Sun W. (2009). Electroacupuncture in treating patients with kidney deficiency type of PCOS and receive IVF-ET. China Journal of Sexual Science. (07).
Bai, S. L., Jiang, X. H., Li, Y. L., Huang, W. Q., Wang, L. & Liu, X. Z. (2014). The effect of weight-loss herbal decoction combined with acupuncture and exercise on endocrine markers and pregnancy outcomes in non-obesity patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Chinese Journal of Family Planning. 22(8).
Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Papavassiliou AG. Molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Mol Med JT – Trends in molecular medicine, 2006, 12(7):324.
Sun, J., J. M. Zhao, R. Ji, H. R. Liu, Y. Shi, and C. L. Jin. “[Effects of electroacupuncture of” Guanyuan”(CV 4)-” Zhongji”(CV 3) on ovarian P450 arom and P450c 17alpha expression and relevant sex hormone levels in rats with polycystic ovary syndrome].” Zhen ci yan jiu= Acupuncture research/[Zhongguo yi xue ke xue yuan Yi xue qing bao yan jiu suo bian ji] 38, no. 6 (2013): 465-472.
Article Originated at
Researchers document that acupuncture produces higher pregnancy rates than fertility medications for women with hyperprolactinemia (HPL).
Acupuncture produces a higher rate of pregnancies than fertility medications with significantly less adverse effects. In a controlled clinical trial, researchers document that acupuncture outperforms bromocriptine and bromocriptine plus clomiphene for the treatment of infertility for women with hyperprolactinemia (HPL). Acupuncture produced a 43.3% pregnancy rate whereas fertility medications produced 20% pregnancy rate.
One important mechanism responsible for the fertility treatment success with acupuncture is hormonal regulation. Acupuncture more rapidly normalized levels of prolactin than fertility medications. In hyperprolactinemia, elevated levels of prolactin (PRL) hormone causes infertility by inhibiting gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) production. GnRH is responsible for stimulating gonadotropins (Gn), luteinising hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) production. As a result, hyperprolactinemia affects the overall function of the ovaries, ovulation, and corpus luteum formation because Gn, LH, and FSH play an important biological role in reproductive health.
The study (Hu et al.) confirms that acupuncture normalizes prolactin levels more rapidly than receiving bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene. Patients receiving acupuncture averaged a normalization of prolactin levels within two weeks. Patients receiving bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene experienced normalization of prolactin levels within four weeks. The research indicates that acupuncture produces a faster homeostatic response for prolactin production in women with hyperprolactinemia.
One significant advantage to acupuncture treatment for the treatment of fertility emerged; acupuncture did not produce a high adverse effect rate. Conversely, fertility medications produced a high adverse effect rate. Patients receiving bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene had a 63.33% adverse effect rate.
Hu et al. (Mawangdui Hospital of Hunan Province) determined that acupuncture is a preferential fertility treatment option for women with hyperprolactinemia. Production of greater positive patient outcomes combined with a significantly lower adverse affect rate was the basis for the conclusion. Let’s take a look at the treatment protocols for both the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach and the pharmacological approach.
The investigation included 60 female patients with infertility due to hyperprolactinemia. They were randomly divided into two equal sized groups. Patients ranged from age 26 to 33. The duration of illness ranged from 2 to 8 years. Acupuncture group patients received only acupuncture. Medication group patients received bromocriptine or bromocriptine plus clomiphene. The clomiphene was added for patients with thermoregulation irregularities. The primary acupoints selected for acupuncture therapy were the following:
Therapy commenced on the 8th day of menstruation. A 0.30 mm x 40 mm disposable needle was used to administer acupuncture on all acupoints. For Qihai and Guanyuan, the needle was inserted in a slanted orientation and an upwards direction, thereafter manipulated with the Bu (tonify) technique. Zusanli was pierced perpendicularly for a depth of 1.5 inches, and the needle was manipulated with the Bu technique. Taichong and Ligou were both pierced for a depth of 0.5 inches, perpendicularly and horizontally respectively, then treated with the Xie (reducing) needle manipulation technique. For Taixi, the needle was inserted perpendicularly 0.5 inches deep and manipulated with the Bu technique. A needle retention time of 30 minutes was observed. During each menstrual cycle, one daily acupuncture session was conducted for a total of 10 days. The above treatment was administered for a period of 1 year.
For the fertility medication control group, an initial dosage of 1.25 mg of bromocriptine was administered twice per day after meals for 7 consecutive days. After that, the dosage was increased to 2.5 mg. Patients remained on the medication for a period of 1 year. In cases where the patient did not experience changes in dual-directional thermoregulation after 3 months of bromocriptine treatment, clomiphene was administered to facilitate ovulation. Bromocriptine is a synthetic drug and is an analogue of ergot alkaloids. It stimulates cortical dopaminergic receptors thereby inhibiting prolactin release. Clomiphene is a fertility drug that stimulates ovulation.
In hyperprolactinemia, women have unusually high levels of peripheral prolactin (PRL) and experience hypothalamic pituitary gonadal axis dysfunction. This often causes menstrual disorders, galactorrhea, reproductive dysfunction, and infertility. The rate of occurrence of hyperprolactinemia is 0.4% among healthy women and 7% – 9% for infertile women (Zhang, 2012). The authors focused on the benefits of acupuncture for promoting fertility. However, the normalization of prolactin levels may have additional benefits for the patients. Further studies to examine the more global effects of acupuncture on PRL normalization and bodily health are required to quantify and confirm these additional benefits.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, hyperprolactinemia results from a Chong and Ren meridian imbalance. The acupuncture point prescription chosen for the treatment protocol reflects this principle. The signature Zusanli acupoint is effective in promoting overall qi circulation. Together with Qihai and Guanyuan, these three acupoints consolidate yuan qi, revitalize the body, nourish body cells, and strengthen the reproductive system. Taichong and Ligou are acupoints located along the liver meridian, making them significant acupoints for promoting liver health. Taixi, being a kidney meridian acupoint, is ideal for promoting kidney health. Sanyinjiao is a powerful acupoint that maintains general bodily health and has proven efficacy in treating gynecological disorders. Acupuncture administered to Taichong, Ligou, Taixi, and Sanyinjiao has an overall effect of promoting qi circulation along the liver, spleen, and kidney meridians. Acupuncture on all of the aforementioned acupoints collectively promotes liver and kidney health, dredges liver qi, and benefits the Chong and Ren meridians.
As part of continuing education in the field of acupuncture and clinical research, additional studies using this acupuncture point prescription protocol with larger sample sizes will help to confirm the findings of Hu et al. It will also be interesting to see a third study group added to future investigations comparing acupuncture combined with medications to groups receiving medications or acupuncture only.
Rubin et al. conducted an investigation of acupuncture combined with medications. The research team consisted of investigators from the University of Washington, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, and Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences. Their meta-analysis confirms that live birth rates increase when acupuncture is added to standard care protocols for women receiving donor egg IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Xu et al. conclude that acupuncture benefits fertility rates for women with anovulatory infertility. The Ruikang Hospital researchers had a sample size of 40 patients. The effective rate was 85% based on the pregnancy rates measured in follow-up examinations. Acupuncture normalized FSH, LH, and E2 levels. Additionally, the thickness of the endometrium and the follicle diameter increased. Zigong, CV4, and CV3 were the primary acupoints used in the treatment protocol supplemented by additional Ling Gui Ba Fa acupoints. Ling Gui Ba Fa (eightfold sacred tortoise method) employs the addition of acupoints from a selection from the eight confluent points based on the time of day.
Overall, there is wealth of information indicating that acupuncture is successful in promoting reproductive health. Pregnancy rates increase accompanied by measurable improvements in hormonal regulation. Additional research is warranted based on the evidence.
Hu J, Yan XL & Wang ZX. (2014). Acupuncture and Bromocriptine in the Treatment of Special HPL in Infertile Women. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 30(7).
Zhang P. (2012). Bromocriptine in treating hyperprolactinemia. Journal of Jingchu University of Technology. 24(7): 50-52.
Hullender Rubin, Lee E., Michael S. Opsahl, Lisa Taylor-Swanson, and Deborah L. Ackerman. “Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization: A Retrospective Chart Review.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2013).
Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012 Feb;32(2):113-6. Effects of electroacupuncture on embryo implanted potential for patients with infertility of different symptom complex]. Kong FY, Zhang QY, Guan Q, Jian FQ, Sun W, Wang Y. Department of Reproduction, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Shandong University of TCM, Jinan, China.
Xu, Yin, and Miao Zhang. Efficacy observation on 40 cases of anovulatory infertility treated by acupuncture and moxibustion. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion 23, no. 1 (2013): 40-43.
There are more than 80 chronic illnesses that are immune related including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and celiac disease.
Autoimmune diseases result when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own body’s tissues. Immune deficiency is more common than most people think; around 20 percent of the population suffers from some form of an autoimmune disorder, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.
Although symptoms vary greatly depending on the specific disease, commons symptoms include chronic fatigue, joint pain, muscle weakness, weight loss, dry eyes and abdominal pain.
Autoimmune diseases are not always easily treated, as they are a chronic illness with no known cure. However, there are natural ways to ease and reduce symptoms such as acupuncture treatment.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that immune deficiencies come from an imbalance in the body. When there is a stagnation in the body’s natural energy flow, called Qi, the body becomes out of balance, whether it is from a deficiency or excess of yin or yang.
Acupuncture works by addressing the body as a whole. By using specific acupuncture points on the body, the treatment is able to release any blockages and return the body back to its natural balance.
Research has shown that acupuncture can affect the release of hormones, proteins and chemicals in the body, which can affect blood pressure and the immune system.
Although there is no cure, immune deficiencies can be managed properly to have the best quality of life possible. Acupuncture has also been shown to help boost mood and lower stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for increased symptoms.
If you think you may have an autoimmune disease and are not getting a diagnosis, don’t give up. Immune deficiencies are hard to diagnose because of the wide range of symptoms. It may take multiple doctors to get a correct diagnosis.
Acupuncture is a safe, non-invasive treatment option that can decrease symptoms and improve overall well being.
Ever wonder why we migrate to mashed potatoes, chips, fresh-baked bread, pastries, pasta, and other carbs when we’re stressed? Carbohydrates increase the body’s serotonin levels, which are decreased by stress.
Stress eating is one of many minor reactions has to stress. Other physical symptoms include increased heart rate, paling, blushing, indigestion, blood vessel constriction or dilation, dilation of pupils, impotence, allergies, asthma, depression, hearing loss, tunnel vision, shaking, muscle tension, headaches, chest pain, fatigue, altered libido, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and a suppressed immune system. In extreme cases, it can lead to substance abuse, cancer, and heart attacks. The average American cannot avoid stress, and likely experiences at least some physical responses every day.
Stress triggers an alarm in the body, which releases hormones such as cortisol into the bloodstream. When the body is in proper balance, it should recover and return to its equilibrium in a relatively short period of time. When this doesn’t happen, a stress-overload occurs: the body becomes exhausted, losing the ability to adapt. Long-term stress can cause illness and damage to the cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems. In extreme cases, it can lead to high blood pressure, substance abuse, heart attack and death.
The best way to relieve stress is to avoid it, but we all know that isn’t realistic, especially because most people report that work is their #1 stress trigger. We cannot let it run and ruin our lives, though.
How To Cope With Stress:
1) Change how you manage stress.
2) Identify the triggers that cause stress for you.
3) Figure out ways to deal with your stress triggers.
4) Try acupuncture. It helps the body restore balance by regulating hormone levels, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and digestive function, decreasing tension, and much more.
5) Get regular massages. They help loosen muscles, increase circulation, and allow for a peaceful and relaxing experience.
5) Incorporate self-guided stress relief techniques such as Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, and pranayama, the art of yoga breathing.
Types of Meditation
Guided Meditation – forming mental images of locations or situations you find relaxing.
Mantra Meditation – Silently repeating a calming word, though, or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness Meditation – Focusing on the experience of meditation itself, such as the flow of breath, and/or increasing acceptance and awareness of living in the present moment.
Transcendental Meditation – Silently repeating a mantra (a word, sound, or phrase), to eliminate other thoughts from your mind until you reach a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
Deep Breathing – Focus all of your attention on breathing. Listen to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale through your nose, and concentrate on the feeling of the air passing through your nostrils and into your lungs.
Body Scan – Focus your mind on how different parts of your body feel at the moment. Is there pain, tension, warmth, or relaxation? Imagine your breath touching different parts of your body and removing any negative sensations.
Walking Meditation – Focusing on the movement of walking itself, repeating the action words of walking (lifting, moving, placing) in your mind. This method usually has a slower pace of walking so you can increase focus on your movements.
Prayer – Most faith traditions have spoken and written prayers, which are some of the best known and most widely practiced forms of meditation.
Reflection – There are benefits to reading poetry or text, listening to music or spoken word that relaxes or inspires you, and then taking some time to reflect on the meaning of the piece. You can journal or discuss your reflections with others.
Foods For Lowering Cortisol
Elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels can damage the body over the long term. The following foods are beneficial in reducing cortisol levels.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Whole wheat pastas
AVOID INFLAMMATORY FOODS!
Excess caffeinated beverages, such as coffee
Processed meats (i.e. sausage)
Black Tea – A study at University College, London, showed lower cortisol levels in individuals who consumed black tea four times daily over a six week period.