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Oriental Medicine

Reasons Why #4: Balance Them Hormones!

Hormones are a symphony, playing together in harmony.
Hormones are a symphony, playing together in harmony. Photo by Manuel Nageli

 

It’s a bit reductionist to think of life as a bucket of chemicals, and at the same time, the factual complexity also totally blows my mind!! The scientist in me loves to geek out on biochemistry, and the nature lover creative in me loves the beauty of it all too.

Let’s explain that while it’s important and super cool to understand about endocrine glands and the hormones they secrete, that the simplest and one of the most effective ways to treat hormonal imbalances, is through Traditional East Asian Medicine.  Because this is such a HUGE topic, this article focuses mainly on a just a few hormones and a few of their functions.

 

Regulating Hormones

What do we mean by that? Well, hormones are the communication molecules of the body, telling every system how to behave, how to metabolize, sleep, when to menstruate or not, how to regulate body temperature, and on and on. The intercommunication of the 60+ hormones is truly a miraculous marvelous symphony.  It’s so finite and delicate and complex, that sometimes medications work well for imbalances, but sometimes they miss the mark.  Acupuncture to the rescue. Because acupuncture is energetic, it helps the body to regulate and balance itself. By design it allows a return to homeostasis, which is when everything is in balance.

 

Hormone Production & Detoxification

Many hormones, including the sex hormones such as estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone, and stress hormones like cortisol, are synthesized from cholesterol.  Because stress is the response to perceived danger or threat to survival, that response, such as increased cortisol or adrenalin, is prioritized.  When constant perceived stress is present, this means resources can be diverted from the less necessary (sex/reproductive) in order to keep you “alive”.  This is why many people are diagnosed with low estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc. 

On the other hand, hormones also need to be metabolized, broken down, and recycled or excreted.  When this is impaired, too much of a hormone can build up.   What can interfere? Well, it’s the liver’s job to metabolize nearly everything we ingest and every hormone.  And liver toxicity or sluggishness is very commonplace in our hectic modernized society.  With an overwhelmed liver, estrogen and other chemicals can build up, and this too can lead to hormonal imbalance symptoms. Again, a big topic, so can’t get into all of it in this short discussion.  But the solution is supporting the liver’s natural detoxification pathways in order to balance. 

 

Hormones, Fertillity, and a Natural Approach

Our approach to fertility at Energy Flow Health goes beyond analyzing hormone levels. Fertility is a reflection of overall health of mind-body-spirit, and this is why TEAM is such a successful approach for conceiving and maintaining pregnancy.  It’s the synergy of the acupuncture working with the entire hormonal symphony, the natural stress reduction effects, and the balancing and nurturing of the time-tested herbal formulas that account for this.  Our medicine is not reductionist, it’s holistic.  This makes all the difference, and can bring joy back to the baby-making journey.

 

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, along with other natural therapies, reduce stress, promote circulation, and improve natural communication pathways so that hormone balance and production regulates.  We also take into account liver health, to relieve the strain on the liver, improving its ability to naturally detoxify the body and ease metabolism of hormones.

 

A Success Story to illustrate

Melissa was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), but didn’t have some of the stand-out symptoms commonly associated with this  metabolic disorder.  her doctor had found that her estrogen and progesterone were low and testosterone high.  She was in her mid twenties, yet had had only a handful of periods in her life due to anovulatory amenorrhea – her body was not releasing an egg every month and thus not menstruating.  She came to me to get help conceiving a second child.  Her first was conceived with assisted reproductive therapy, but she wanted to get to the root cause this time.    

Literally after 2 acupuncture sessions and some herbs, she got a period.  Well that worked quickly! We continued to work on the chronic digestive issues since everything is connected, and continued to support hormonal regulation with acupuncture, herbs, and TBM (Total Body Modification).  The next month, the period didn’t come, and I thought, well of course the cycle won’t be regulated this quickly.  But I was wrong – she was already pregnant naturally!  

 

Trust Your Body to Know

No matter the diagnosis from your conventional doctor, don’t take that as gospel.  Your body’s wisdom runs deep, and with the right nudges it can be set back into rhythm.  The conductor, musicians, and audience just all need to be in harmony!

How Many Acupuncture Treatments Will You Need?

Let’s dive right in to what it takes to get results from acupuncture.  How many treatments, how frequently, and why.

 

Acupuncture Therapy

Acupuncture is a therapy.  This means that each treatment builds on the next.  We can compare this to taking a medication.  Lots of people are familiar with how that works.  You get diagnosed, and then you get prescribe a dose based on your condition.  How long have you had it, how severe, how many complications are there, etc.

Like taking a medication, acupuncture does require consistency.  Your job is showing up for your appointments, and relaxing during treatment.   

Because acupuncture is based on Wholism, the whole person and the whole person’s life and habits are taken into account.  Your practitioner may assign homework for between visits or suggest lifestyle tweaks.

So besides keeping your appointments, another part of your job may be making small manageable changes at your own pace to help align your daily life toward your health goals.

Now back to the original question.  How many treatments will you need? This will vary based on the same factors for determining a medication dose.  Each acupuncture treatment is “1 dose”.  Based on the practitioner’s assessment of the severity and chronicity of your problem, and your goals, she will determine how often to come in and for how long.

 

Acute Problems

Acute problems are those that have been lingering for less than 3 months, in general.  So if your back pain just started last week, get in and get it treated right away, and you may be fixed in one treatment.  However, if the reason for this back pain is for example uterine fibroids, or a prolapse, or diabetes, or other chronic and complicated issue, then the back pain may not be totally fixed quickly.  We will likely want to address the underlying issue.  

 

Chronic Problems

More often, I see a lot of chronic complaints.  Chronic means it’s been going on for more than 3 months.  For example, you’ve had sinus congestion or painful periods or no periods for 5 years.  Or 10 years.  Or…. well you get it.  People often don’t seek treatment but instead just “deal with it”.  The longer the body-mind is “talking” to you with symptoms, and the longer the communication goes ignored, the more problems can compound and wear on your energy reserves.  Symptoms need attention to prevent worsening over time. 

 

The Treatment Plan

Most acute problems we estimate will take around 6 acupuncture treatments.  Because chronic problems vary so much, and are often so complex and intertwined, we estimate about 10-12 treatments, in general, for some significant results, meaning some things are staying improved between treatments.   The nice thing is there will be gradual improvements along the way as the treatment plan progresses.   I am perpetually amazed at what this medicine can do. 

Once improvements are sustaining longer periods between treatments, and you are feeling pretty good, then we begin a maintenance program, where you come in for “meridian tune-ups” once every 4-8 weeks.  This keeps the engine humming along and prevents relapse.  

 

The Whole Model – The Foundation

Acupuncture is part of the system of medicine called Chinese Medicine (CM) or Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM).  This is a TOTALLY different approach than Conventional AKA Western AKA Allopathic Medicine.  It’s hard to look at acupuncture through the lens of modern medicine and totally understand it.  The basic principles are very different.

TEAM practitioners are interested in treating the whole person.  What is her spirit like? What is her sleep like? Does she have normal elimination and excretion? How can we facilitate her natural healing abilities in order to improve her quality of life ?

a vibrant you through acupuncture

Quality of Life

Bottom line, what do we all want when we make the call or search on Google to find a practitioner of some sort? We want to improve our quality of life.  If you can get pregnant, if you can not miss school or work every month, if you can sleep through the night, if you can go for long walks, whatever your goal, what are you willing to pay? Where in your priorities does it fall? Can you visualize what future you want, and start actualizing it now because the future begins in this very moment?  This is called a personal investment.  And it’s up to you to decide what you want, and how you want to get it.

 

Investment

When someone asks what acupuncture costs, or says they can’t afford to keep coming, I totally understand.  I grew up very modestly, and my family never seemed to have enough funds.  But like education, health is an investment in the future You.  Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is a way to improve your quality of life on every level.  By addressing root imbalances, your branches will grow stronger and those branches will bear more fruit – aka servicing others, creativity, or whatever else you are here to do.

 

if you made it this far…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you got some insight from it.  At the very least maybe you know if this is a route you want to go down.  And please call me for a no obligations chat if you have any questions at 630-335-1069 (textable).

Treating the Whole Person, a Basic Concept in Chinese Medicine

Because Chinese Medicine developed approximately 2,000 or so years ago, it is a completely different yet complete system of medicine.  Imagine what life was like then.  People were completely dependent on the land around them, and very in touch with the stars, the sun, the moon, and the Earth.  Everything was studied and principles of nature were deduced, and then applied to their lives for their benefit.  When to plant what crop where, where to build a house, when to harvest which crop, and what plants can heal what malady.

To understand Chinese Medicine, one should consider the concept of the human as a microcosm of the macrocosm.  All the laws that govern the natural world apply to us too. 

I won’t go into detail because it takes a full course of study to grasp – I could refer you to some books if you want to learn more about chinese medical theories.  But I do want you to understand that by approaching the human organism in this way, you are viewed as a Whole person.  No part is separate, and everything is interconnected.  What happens to your left foot can affect your right hand, what you think can affect your digestion.  Your experiences are stored as memories in your subconscious which can interact with and disrupt or enhance your physiology.

In other words, mind-body-spirit are one.  This is sometimes called Wholism.  It is not woo woo or foo foo.  This is the original medicine. 

Earth Sun Moon as macrocosm

You’ve experienced the failures of conventional medicine or you wouldn’t be reading this. You’ve been frustrated by the one size fits all approaches, and the negative side effects overshadowing the thing you took the pill for in the first place.  Or you know there’s got to be a different way.

Luckily for us Americans, a bunch of brilliant scholars and physicians of this medicine translated the important teachings passed down through the centuries and learned this medicine the traditional way – from teacher to student, master to future master. 

In this way, there’s a bridge from the old knowledge of how everything in nature (which includes us!) works and how to use our natural resources and our innate healing abilities to live more purposeful, fruitful, abundant lives. 

Tap in to this wisdom – learn about and trust your own power. You are whole and complete.    

Why Get Cupped?

I love turning nouns into verbs!  So ya, in my world, I cup people. It’s fun for me and my patients love it too!!

 

What is cupping?

 

Cupping is the application of suction cups to any area of the body on the skin.  The cups may be glass with suction created by fire inserted into cup then quickly placed on the body.  I use plastic cups and use a handheld device to remove air from inside the cups.  Oil is mostly used on the skin and the oil may contain herbs or camphor.

There’s two ways to cup – leave them in one place or slide them around,  pulling  up the tissue with the suction like an inverse massage.  Instead of pressing into muscles, the muscles are gently pulled up, and the amount of suction can be adjusted to comfort.

What does Cupping Do?

Cupping is a deep tissue therapy that breaks up adhesions,  promotes blood and lymph circulation,  and releases tension in the local tissues.  Often joints, muscles, and various connective tissues can accumulate toxins due to tension and lack of circulation.  These toxins contribute to pain and discomfort.  Because cupping releases blockages, this in turn means it promotes qi circulation.   The result is looser tissues allowing waste products to be flushed out and blood and lymph and qi to circulate more freely.

 

Why Get Cupped?

 

I will cup patients typically for the following reasons:

  • relieving pain or tension in the muscles
  • relieving pain or tension in joints
  • relieving symptoms of colds
  • coughs
  • digestive and metabolic support
  • general detoxification support
  • as a diagnostic tool

What Are Side Effects and Contraindications?

 

I don’t cup pregnant women, and I don’t cup those who have bleeding or clotting disorders or who are on anticoagulant medications.

Most patients will have marks in the shapes of the circular cups for a few days after the cupping session.   This is normal and discoloration varies from hardly anything to very dark purplish or red marks.

To determine if or when cupping is right for each patient, I create individualized treatment plans.  I can do a quick short amount of cupping with acupuncture after, or we can do a whole cupping session to cover more areas and spend more time with it.

 

Questions? I would love to hear from you.  Drop me a line.

Endometriosis Signs and Symptoms and Treatment Options

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month!

Endometriosis is a disease that affects around 11% of women worldwide.  But the kicker is it can often take years for women to receive the diagnosis.

 

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is when the cells that normally line the uterus are found outside the uterus.  When during a woman’s menstrual cycle those cells are shed from the uterus and menstruation begins, these other misplanted cells are also signaled to bleed, and that causes inflammation wherever they are.  These cells can be anywhere in the pelvic cavity and can also adhere to the intestines and even travel up to the chest cavity in more severe cases.  So endometriosis can cause all kinds of pain.

 

How Do You Know if you have endometriosis or just bad periods?

Here are the main signs of endometriosis:

  • Pelvic Pain
  • Severe stabbing pain especially before or during menstruation.
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Post-coital nausea
  • Getting very sick with the menstrual cycle such as fever and chills, vomiting, etc.
  • Pain with urination or bowel movements
  • Pain in legs and buttocks

Getting Diagnosed

The only way to definitively diagnose the disease is via laproscopy, which is sneaking a camera in the abdominal and pelvic cavities to look for the implanted endometrial cells. Many women find out they have endometriosis when they have difficulty conceiving.  This is because the continued bleeding of the misplanted cells can cause scar tissue and adhesions to build up, and often on the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. This blocks the pathway for both egg and sperm.

Conventional treatment Options

There are two main ways medical doctors will treat endometriosis.  One is with surgery to either cut out the adhesions or to remove tissues or organs affected. The other is the use of hormonal birth control containing synthetic progesterone called progestin.  This counters the effect of estrogen which is the hormone that causes the endometrium to grow.

There are some negative possible outcomes with either drugs or surgery.   Hormonal birth control often creates side effects and risks such as blood clots, weight gain, or mood changes.  Likewise, serious problems with surgery include the adhesions growing back or scar tissue building up.  Often doctors recommend a hysterectomy, and understandably a woman may oppose this level of invasiveness.  Even with removal of the uterus and other tissues, endometriosis can still grow back in other tissues and areas.

Chinese Medicine Therapy for Endometriosis

Some women prefer to seek other options to hormonal drugs and surgery.  Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used for many centuries to relieve menstrual pain, abdominal pain, and to improve hormonal imbalances.

What to Expect if going the natural route

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine work to uncover the root causes of why a woman is having pain, heavy bleeding, etc, all the symptoms she experiences as part of her endometriosis diagnosis.  We as practitioners will examine the pulses, abdomen, and tongue, as well as ask many questions about the quality of the pain, blood, bowel movements, etc, to get a whole picture of what is not working right.

The Diagnosis and Treatment in Chinese Medicine

According to Chinese Medicine, most women with endometriosis have a form of what is called Blood Stasis, or Blood Stagnation.  In our medicine, refers to a poor quality of blood that is too thick or not fluid enough, and blood that is not free flowing througout the body and especially that gets obstructed in the uterus.  While these terms do not mean that there is something wrong with your blood according to conventional medicine, it refers to the way Chinese Medicine views the Blood as a grouping of functions in the body.  Once the Chinese Medical Diagnosis is determined, we can then ascertain which treatment approach to take.  For instance, if we determine the blood is stagnant, we may use herbs that invigorate the blood and points that promote circulation.

A treatment plan can be anywhere from 3 months to 9 months depending on the severity of the case.  Many women experience significant reduction of pain and bleeding and improved cycles with acupuncture and herbs, and often have noticeable improvements within the first few treatments.

finding hope for endometriosis

Here at Energy Flow Health, we support a woman’s decision, as we honor that a woman knows her body best.  It is helpful to explore the options, and if something isn’t feeling right then you always have the right to try something else.  There is hope, and if you would like to discuss working with Amy, please call 630-335-1069 for a complimentary consultation.

 

 

 

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