Tidbits

Acupuncture Supports Breast Cancer Patients

 

As a holistic practitioner specializing in women’s health, and the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I feel deeply connected to the work I do to support women going through cancer treatments and women dealing with the after effects of treatment.

While cancer treatments are life saving they’re also harsh to the body and spirit.  Acupuncture is a safe way to support a woman receiving chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.  It allows the body to enter a resting state so it can heal and repair. And it’s not just the needles.  As the practitioner, I am not just a technician inserting needles.  There is a patient-practitioner synergy that has its own value in the healing process.  The result is very supportive and healing.

This article on cancer.gov discusses how several studies show that acupuncture can reduce side effects of treatment such as joint pain.

And this breastcancer.org article cites studies showing acupuncture as being effective for other sides effects including nausea, hot flashes and fatigue.

Let’s not forget the mental-emotional strain cancer causes.  Acupuncture is very effective for anxiety, insomnia, and depression as well.

Acupuncture does not interfere with medications and can be modified to accomodate each patient individually.  Please share this article with someone you know who needs support as she makes her way through this difficult journey.

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 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.

Cupping is not appropriate for everyone.  This is why 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.

PCOS – Root Causes and Real Life Solutions

September is PCOS Awareness Month, and since this is something I see a lot in my practice, I want to delve in and not only explain what it is, but also give some real solutions for reversing.  A whopping one in ten women of reproductive age have PCOS, so it definitely deserves attention.

 

The Many Faces of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

A syndrome, by definition, is a collection of criteria, that, when someone meets a certain number of these, is given the diagnosis.  There are misconceptions about what it looks like and who has it.  The main sign is, like in the name, multiple cysts on the ovaries detected with ultrasound.  However, not everyone with PCOS has this.  Elevated androgens (i.e. testosterone), which can cause abnormal hair growth on face or body, head hair loss, and acne.  And irregular periods or no periods.  Some also have weight gain around the middle.  Again, some PCOS patients have some of these symptoms, while others don’t.  Not everyone with PCOS is overweight, and not all have acne or hirsutism.  Diagnosis is based on at least two of the above symptoms.

 

What is PCOS Really?

As a natural health practitioner – we always ask why.  A conventional medical diagnosis often just describes the problem, but doesn’t explain it. Luckily, quite a bit of research since this syndrome rose in prominence in the 90’s has pretty much identified what goes wrong in these women’s bodies.  Here’s the gist:

  •  This is a metabolic syndrome.  Insulin Resistance is a major factor.  Blood sugar disregulation leads to…
  • Inflammation – nowadays everything is attributed to chronic inflammation, but it’s true, this is a basis for many chronic illnesses because of….
  • Stress overload – Chronic stress is not what we’re designed for.  Fight or flight was supposed to be something that turns on in emergencies and turns off the majority of time.  Now many of us have a broken autonomic nervous system switch that keeps us fight or flight most of the time.  The result is overproduction of cortisol, which negatively impacts our sex hormones.  See my other blog.

Bottom line: chronic stress, inflammation, and dysregulation of blood sugar is a recipe for hormonal imbalance, weight gain, etc.

What Causes Insulin Resistance Contains Clues for Treatment

By realizing the underlying causes of Insulin Resistance we can begin to create a treatment plan to address and reverse the upsets to the biology.

  1. SUGAR! Yup, a diet with too much simple carbs, refined carbs, including sugar, will directly mess with metabolism and create inflammation.  This is the #1 most important thing we have control to change for the greatest impact.  Overall a diet that balances healthy fats, complex carbs, and quality protein is crucial for overcoming PCOS. 
  2. Low muscle mass – 85% of energy that we derive from food, aka glucose – goes to feeding our muscles.  If there’s not a lot of muscle, then the energy/glucose will be redirected to storage in the liver or fat tissue.
  3. Nutrient deficiencies – metabolism and hormone production from cholesterol requires numerous vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids.  Drugs, poor diet, and stress can deplete these, while some can be used therapeutically, such as .
  4. Sleep deficiency – I know that lots of people lack quality sleep.  It seems to be something that is sacrificed or difficult to obtain for some.

The built in treatment

The above 4 points form a foundation for what needs to be addressed and changed in order to allow PCOS patients to reverse the disorder.

  1. Switch from sugary and refined carbs to complex carbs that will not spike blood sugar or require overproduction of insulin.  Fasting for 12 of every 24 hours at least 4 times weekly helps the brain to use sugar more efficiently.
  2. Resistance training exercise – research shows that high intensity interval training, the Peak 8 plan, and similar systems burn fat and build muscle better than other types of exercise.  You gotta get out of breath and sweat but you don’t have to be at it for more than 20 minutes to get the positive impact.
  3. Supplementing several nutrients depending on the individual is important. This is something to discuss with your practitioner to customize for you, since PCOS takes so many variations.
  4. If you don’t get good enough sleep due to poor habits, please reflect and reprioritize.  If you lack good sleep due to insomnia, seek help.

What if You’ve made all these changes and still can’t get pregnant or Resolve Symptoms?

While lifestyle modifications are essential, this alone may not be enough for some PCOS patients.  The power of East Asian Medicine includes techniques that work deep in the mind-body to further repair and restore hormonal health.  I develop a treatment plan incorporating acupuncture, nutritional therapy, lifestyle counseling, herbal medicine, and emotional healing to address the underlying imbalances.  It’s so effective because I assess each patient individually, and tailor the plan to each woman’s unique needs.  Health is never one dimensional, healthcare shouldn’t be either.

Please call or text 630-335-1069 to find out more or to schedule a free consultation.

Let’s Talk PMS! 5 Ways Acupuncture Helps Smooth Your Cycle

My periods sucked when I was in my teens and twenties. Constipation, bloating, fatigue, achey low back, and wicked cramps.  While these issues are common, they are not normal or healthy.  No one had told me that, so that’s why I’m here. To tell all the women in Naperville and beyond, that a healthier easier cycle is totally possible.

 

Does everyone get PMS?

Lots of women get signs before their period starts.  Some get emotional, while others get sore breasts, some get irritable and short-tempered.  We all have friends, relatives, or ourselves that experience one or more signs of PMS.   While almost everyone gets some sort of signal of when their period is coming, there’s a difference between a gentle signal and pain and suffering.

In fact it’s so common to have discomforts or disruptive issues associated with the menstrual  cycle,  that more women do than don’t.  According to the Department of  health and  human  services, 90% of women report  having some PMS.

 

PMS vs Dysmenorrhea Vs PMDD

The range of experiences varies as much as our toenail polish choices! Some get no sign at all before bleeding and some notice mild moodiness or mild cramping.  Dysmenorrhea which is the term used for any type of pain associated with the menstrual cycle, to Pre Menstrual Dysphoria Disorder (PMDD) which is severe mood alterations.  All of these can happen before and or during menstruation but happen cyclicly.

 

Take Charge of Your Health!

Our monthly cycle should not cause us to miss work or school, or have a negative impact on our relationships.  I’m here to advocate for you. in a world that doesn’t always understand.  Read on to learn 5 ways acupuncture can help you get your life back.

 

Regulate the Cycle

Irregular can mean coming  at different frequencies, even skipping months or coming twice in a month.  It often indicates that the Liver system is not functioning properly.  Stress and sugar are the big culprits, and acupuncture helps to reduce stress and cravings. Using pulse diagnosis, abdominal diagnosis, and questioning we pinpoint the imbalance and work to correct it to regulate the cycle.

 

Reduce Pain

Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, are miserable! Pain can include the lower abdomen,  low back, thighs, breasts, and head.  Get a migraine every month the day before your  period? That points to what we call Qi Stagnation, which is pent up energy blocking the normal flow of blood and nerve signals.   Acupuncture works by unblocking the energy channels which in turn relieves pain.  Low back super achey?  This points to low energy creating weakness, and sometimes herbs may be added to your treatment plan for internal nourishment and support.  Uterine cramping is lack of proper flow in the uterus, which can be due to a variety of reasons that I differentiate to tailor treatment.

 

Mood Management

So many women are  upset by  how  they seem to transform into a  beast the week  before their period.  Understandable – we know it’s not our true nature yet it  feels out of control.  This is yet another manifestation of how the  body can’t regulate smoothly due to being overburdened.  Acupuncture will help you feel yourself more and less out of control.  And of course the relaxation factor is not to be underestimated!

 

Smooth Digestion

Lots of women experience bloating, constipation, or diarrhea before and/or during their period.  This is because the fluctuation in estrogen, progesterone, and prostaglandins affecting the muscles of the intestines.  Acupuncture really helps regulate the hormones, prevent energy blockages, and again, smooth out the fluctuations.

 

Promote Fertility

Whether you have been told high FSH, idiopathic (unexplained), or male factor infertility are  interfering with conceiving, acupuncture works by  balancing the hormones, calming the nervous system, and promoting circulation, all of which contribute to increased fertility.  If you have trouble conceiving and have any of the above issues, then resolving those issues often helps to resolve the obstacle pregnancy.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome

https://www.healthline.com/health/period-poop#constipation

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327490

Herbal Highlight on Skullcap

The Wonders of Skullcap

 

This blog is inspired by a patient who asked me about Skullcap – the common name for an herb I call Huang Qin, and whose scientific name is Scutellaria. It’s one of the most bitter herbs in our Chinese Medicine (CM) pharmacopeia, and it’s a very important herb that I prescribe daily as part of a balanced formula.

I do want to emphasize that we rarely prescribe a single herb in Chinese herbal medicine.  We mostly prescribe 2-12 herbs combined into a single formula.

Scutellaria baicalensis, the variety of skullcap that we use in CM, comes from China, flowers in the summer, and is a member of the mint family.  This beautiful purple flower is so named because of the cap-like shape of the flowers.  This variety is also called Chinese Skullcap as there is a native American variety, Scutellaria lateriflora, that is also an herb but used differently and not in Chinese Medicine.

chinese herb for sore throat and headaches

As a key component in many herbal formulas, it harmonizes the pivot mechanism in the body – this means it corrects the movement and functions in the body that become out of alignment due to stress, improper diet, or past or current viral and bacterial infections.  It works to allow the body’s own immune system to function properly, thus restoring health.

 

Common indications you need a formula containing Huang Qin include redness in the eyes, headaches, sore throat, neck pain, insomnia, and hot flashes, to name a few.

 

Again, we don’t use this herb in isolation.  And it should be prescribed by a trained herbalist, as should all herbs, to ensure safety and efficacy.

 

I hope this was a fun look at something I work with and that really helps many of my patients!  Feel free to email me your comments and questions!