Researchers have successfully documented not only that acupuncture is safe and effective for the relief of migraines, but also how acupuncture achieves positive outcomes.
Acupuncture has been shown to induce important biological responses to prevent and alleviate migraines. Imaging studies of the brain using fMRI technology confirm that acupuncture causes specific cortical responses to achieve lasting analgesic effects. In addition, blood level measurements document specific responses to acupuncture that play an important role in preventing and eliminating pain. Let’s take a look at the data to see how scientists have mapped how acupuncture works to stop migraine headaches.
Researchers conclude that acupuncture is effective for the prevention and treatment of migraine headaches. A meta-analysis of controlled clinical and laboratory investigations is the basis for the conclusion. In one randomized-controlled trial on the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for migraines, less migraine days and less pain intensity levels were recorded when acupuncture was administered. Furthermore, no severe adverse effects occurred. A follow-up of up to three months following acupuncture treatments maintained the same results and showed that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of migraines both on the short-term and long-term basis.
In another investigation, researchers conducting a clinically-controlled study using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) found a significant decrease in the functional connectivity of the right frontoparietal network of migraine patients. This connectivity dysfunctions was found to be reversible after four weeks of treatment using acupuncture. This is another curative effect of acupuncture that is quantifiable in repeated controlled experiments.
For more than 2,000 years, people have used acupuncture in China for the treatment of various pain conditions, including migraines. It is useful, both as a supplementary treatment and as an alternative treatment, in situations where there is no response to drug therapy. Migraines are a headache disorder affecting a broad population that causes societal burdens due to associated healthcare costs and absenteeism from school and work. Approximately 23% of households in the United States have at least one member who suffers from migraines. The estimated total number of migraine patients in the United States exceeds 28 million and half of them have reduced work or school productivity.
Scientists have uncovered some of the biochemical mechanisms responsible for acupuncture’s pain killing effects. Drugs used for the treatment of migraines often mediate the analgesic action for cerebral vasodilation dysfunction and pain through the induction of cerebral vasoconstriction. In the process of vasoconstriction, myosin light chain kinase in cerebral vessels are activated. In an experiment conducted using animals with migraines, acupuncture has been found to “induce activation of myosin light chain kinase in the middle meningeal artery.” This indicates that the effective action of acupuncture for relief and prevention of migraines is due, at least in part, to its ability to regulate myosin light chain kinase activity.
In another randomized-controlled trial, fMRIs reveal acupuncture’s ability to regulate key regions of the brain affected by migraines. The areas are essentially the pain circuitry regions of the brain and cognitive components of pain processing. In addition, acupuncture also restores normal serum nitric oxide (NO) levels that have been found to be almost 55% higher in patients with migraines. Excess NO is a potent vasodilator contributing to headaches and acupuncture restores homeostasis. The regulatory effects of acupuncture can be quantified as early as the fifth acupucture session and the effects are cumulative.
Additional research documents acupuncture’s ability to regulate bodily biochemistry. In one study, researchers document that acupuncture reduces MMP-2 (metalloproteinase-2) activity in patients without affecting its concentrations. In controlled experiments, researchers conclude that the combination of acupuncture and electrical stimulation of needles (electroacupuncture) relieves pain experienced during migraine attacks through the reduction of plasma glutamate levels. Based on these and other studies in the meta-analysis, the researchers conclude that acupuncture improves patients’ psychological profile, relieves pain, is safe and cost-effective, and has been found to be at least as effective as conventional preventative pharmacologic treatments for migraines.
Wang Y, Xue CC, Helme R, Da Costa C, Zheng Z (2015) Acupuncture for Frequent Migraine: A Randomized, Patient/Assessor Blinded, Controlled Trial with One-Year Follow-Up. Evid based Complement Alternat Med 2015: 920353.
Da Silva AN (2015) Acupuncture for migraine prevention. Headache 55: 470-473.
Vijayalakshmi I, Sjankar N, Saxena A, Bhatia MS (2014) Coomparison of effectiveness of acupuncture therapy and conventional drug therapy on psychological profile of migraine patients. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 58: 69-76.
Gluten sensitivity/gluten intolerance (not to be confused with Celiac Disease) is an immensely popular buzz phrase right now. There is a great deal of controversy around whether or not it is a truly legitimate condition, and many speculate that going gluten free is a trend that will quickly pass for those who voluntarily chose it as a lifestyle. For people who are dealing with very real symptoms, it is a very real problem. In some instances, though, it is misdiagnosed either by the individual or a health care provider.
Gluten sensitivity has many of the same symptoms as a condition called Candida, or Candidiasis, which is caused by an overgrowth of a naturally occurring yeast (Candida albicans) in the body. Left untreated, Candida can lead to major health issues down the line.
I’m not saying this to start a panic, and I’m not trying to alarm anyone. The purpose of this article is to provide information. If you or someone you know is living with the symptoms below, we strongly encourage consultation with a health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you have Candidiasis, going gluten free may not be an effective enough solution.
Gluten Sensitivity and Candidiasis share many of the same chronic symptoms, including:
Depression/anxiety, especially after eating
Digestive distress (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea)
Muscle/joint aches and pains
Candida can lead to the following if untreated:
Adult-onset allergies to foods and airborn irritants. Left unchecked, the number of allergies can continue to grow to the point that some individuals essentially become shut-ins.
Chronic yeast infections
Chronic infections (cold, flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis, ear ache) due to weakened immune system
Rough bumps on the sides of arms
These are only partial lists. One of the reasons that Candida is often misdiagnosed is because it has so many symptoms (and so many shared symptoms with gluten sensitivity), and individuals do not always present with the same cluster of issues. If not properly treated, Candidiasis can linger for life, especially in individuals who frequently consume eggs, meats, and milk treated with antibiotics, or women on oral contraceptives.
Causes of Candida
Candida albicans is a naturally occurring yeast in our bodies. Diets heavy in refined flours and sugars trigger yeast growth and its related symptoms, which is one of the reasons that Candida is often misdiagnosed as gluten sensitivity. Corticosteriods, chemotherapy drugs, and prolonged or frequent broad spectrum antibiotic use kill the bacteria that keep candida albicans in check, allowing for the yeast to flourish. Additionally, individuals with long-term illnesses, excessive amounts of stress, and those who smoke, drink, or have inadequate exercise and diet programs, are vulnerable to Candida outbreaks.
Treatment of Candidiasis
Anti-yeast treatments and a modified diet help reduce the proliferation of Candida albicans in the body. Once the yeast levels are regulated, it is necessary to repair the damage done. Adding nutritional supplements, and acupuncture and/or naturopathy are also effective in treatment.
Candidiasis in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, defines 6 Yang organs in the body. When one of the Yang organs is over or under-stimulated, it affects balance with Yin, and overall health. The Triple Burner is one of the Yang organs. The Upper Burner is the heart and lungs; Middle Burner regulates spleen and stomach; Lower Burner comprises the liver, intestines, bladder, and kidney. The spleen processes the foods we ingest into Chi and Blood, which nourish everything in the body. When Candidiasis affects the Spleen, it can spread and create Damp Heat in the Lower Burner and Heat and Fire in the Upper Burner, leading to a variety of the symptoms listed above.
Acupuncture needles placed along the body’s meridians regulate the Spleen, which can help clear waste, toxins, and phlegm from the body. Once the body is cleansed, it must be tonified to repair damage and restore balance.
While acupuncture and other forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine are highly effective in treating Candida, it requires more than one session. It took time for the body to get broken to the point people experience symptoms, and it takes time for the body to heal to the point symptoms are relieved.
The Candida Diet
Foods to Avoid
Highly processed and refined foods
Foods high in sugar (including honey, agave, syrup, and molasses
Aged cheeses, especially blue cheese
Sweetened beverages – coffee, tea, energy drinks, fruit juice
Processed meats – bacon, packaged deli meat, sausages
Condiments/Dressings/Sauces – ketchup, tomato sauce, pickles containing sugar; vinegar based salad dressings (unless apple cider vinegar)
Free-range chicken and eggs
Nuts and seeds
Yogurt and kefir
Fermented foods (kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut)
Unsweetened coffee and tea (caffeine aggravates Candidiasis in some individuals)
Leafy greens – collards, mustard, spinach, kale, endive, Swiss chard
Fish – mackerel, shellfish, sardines, halibut, wild Alaskan salmon
Non-glutinous grains such as buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and quinoa
Butter and oils – olive, coconut, sesame, flax, sunflower
Radish, especially Daikon
Turnips (makes a great mash in lieu of potatoes; so does cauliflower)
Self-diagnosis is often mis-diagnosis. You may have noticed that your body responds negatively to certain foods, and positively when you limit those foods from your diet. That’s a great first step. The next step is to carefully examine how effective dietary restrictions have been. Did they reduce or eliminate all of your symptoms? Do you have new symptoms that didn’t appear before? Be mindful of your body, and thoughtful in how you treat it. Consult a health care provider if you suspect that you may be living with Candidiasis, or if eliminating gluten from your diet has not alleviated the symptoms often ascribed to gluten sensitivity.
Contact Affinity Acupuncture for Nashville Acupuncture treatments and techniques.
Brain MRI Shows Acupuncture Relieves Migraines
ON 14 APRIL 2015.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reveals that acupuncture prevents and relieves migraines by restoring normal brain functions. MRI results demonstrate that acupuncture decreases the frequency and duration of migraine attacks by increasing functional connectivity in the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. The researchers add that the MRI data reveals the “neural mechanisms of acupuncture treatment for migraine.”
Brain regions of the frontal and temporal lobes have “decreased functional connectivity” in migraine sufferers. The MRI results demonstrate that acupuncture restores functional connectivity in the affected regions. After a four week course of acupuncture treatment, migraine sufferers “showed significantly increased functional connectivity in the bilateral superior frontal gyrus, medial frontal gyrus, precuneus, inferior parietal lobule, posterior cingulate cortex, cingulate gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, and supramarginal gyrus as compared with before acupuncture treatment.” In addition, the researchers conclude that acupuncture decreases the frequency and duration of migraine attacks after a four week course of acupuncture therapy.
The researchers note that a large body of clinical research concludes that “acupuncture is able to alleviate headache degree and/or improve the quality of life and it is safe and at least as effective, if not more effective than prophylactic drug treatment.” The purpose of their investigation was to measure how acupuncture accomplishes pain relief. The researchers note, “The current results indicated that the neural mechanisms of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis might be interpreted as that acupuncture treatment could increase the decreased resting-state functional connectivity in certain brain regions within the frontal and temporal lobe of MWoA (migraine without aura) patients.”
They add that studies show that the “frontoparietal network plays an important role in endogenous pain modulation.” As a result, the researchers posit “that acupuncture treatment could enhance the pain related modulatory effects of the frontoparietal network by increasing its functional connectivity in migraine patients.” They also note that the results indicate that acupuncture relieves pain by enhancing the “functional connectivity of the default mode network and other brain networks.”
Worldwide, there are millions of migraine sufferers.The researchers note that “the clinical therapeutic effect of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis has been widely recognized” but the underlying effective mechanisms had not been fully elucidated. Using a 3.0 T Siemens MRI scanner with a total of 32 axial slices per patient, the researchers discovered acupuncture’s ability to relieve migraines by enhancing functional brain connectivity.
All migraine patients received manual acupuncture treatments over a four week period. The acupuncture points used in the study were:
Disposable stainless steel acupuncture needles of 0.25 x 40 mm were used. Manual acupuncture techniques were used at each acupoint to elicit a deqi sensation. Acupuncture needles were subsequently retained for 30 minutes. Acupuncture treatments were given five times per week over the four week treatment period. No adverse events occurred and all patients involved in the study completed the treatment course.