Mar 01 2014

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas or myomas, are non-cancerous growths that develop on a woman’s uterus.  Rising from the smooth muscular tissue of the uterus (myometrium), a single cell divides repeatedly, eventually forming a benign tumor.  Ranging in size, some fibroids go through growth spurts while others may shrink on their own.  Their growth is often linked to estrogen levels due to the fact that they develop after puberty, typically around 30, and shrink and/or disappear post menopause.  It has been found that as many as 3 out of 4 women (Mayo Clinic) have had uterine fibroids sometime during their lives, often unaware due to their asymptomatic nature.

Classified according to their location, size and number, there are several kinds of fibroids:

  1. Submucosal fibroids.  Growing into the inner cavity of the uterus, submucosal fibroids can cause heavy menstrual flow and could potentially be a problem for women attempting pregnancy.
  2. Intramural fibroids.  Found in the muscular uterine wall, if large enough, intramural fibroids may misshape the uterus, leading to heavy menses.
  3. Suberosal fibroids.  Projecting to the outside of the uterus, subserosal fibroids can sometimes push on the bladder, leading to urinary symptoms.
  4. Pedunculated fibroids. Attached to the uterus by a base, inside or outside of the uterus, these fibroids can be painful if the blood supply to them is ceased.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, African-American women are twice more likely to develop fibroids than their Caucasian counterparts and about 80% of them will develop uterine fibroids by the age of 40.


Common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:

-Prolonged menstrual periods.

-Heavy menstrual bleeding.

-Frequent/urgent urination.

-Pelvic cramping and pain.

-Pain/pressure during sexual intercourse.

Although, larger uterine fibroids can be palpated during a pelvic examination, transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound is typically used to detect fibroids.  In cases where the ultrasound doesn’t provide enough information, and MRI could be utilized to create highly detailed images of the tumor.  Hysterosalpingogram, is an X-ray image of the uterine cavity after a dye has been injected to highlight the pertinent structures.

Feb 27 2014

Lower Back Pain and Acupuncture

With more than 80% of all Americans having experienced lower back pain at one point in their lives (Mayo Clinic), back pain is a common reason for work absences and can greatly impact one’s lifestyle.  Although it can affect anyone, it is significantly more prevalent among adults between the ages of 35 to 55 and the actual treatment of lower back pain is geared towards the diagnosed or suspected specific cause.

Lumbar strains are a common cause for back pain.  With the intricate network of ligaments, tendons and/or muscles of the lower back, it is easy for one to strain these structures, resulting in fluctuating microscopic tears.  This type of injury can occur due to overuse, improper use or even trauma, with an onset after an event that induced mechanical stress on the lumbar region.   Classified between “acute” and “chronic”, soft-tissue injury present for days to weeks is commonly categorized as the former, while any strain lasting longer than three months is categorized as the latter (chronic).

Lumbar radiculopathy is nerve irritation that is secondary to damaged intervertebral discs.  The damage could be the result of degeneration or a traumatic injury, causing the disc to herniate and press on the spinal cord or the nerves exiting it.  The aforementioned rupture is the most common cause for “sciatica” pain that radiates from the posterior down the leg.

The practice of TCM among western societies has significantly increased within the last two decades.  The results of a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain provide further proof that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for back pain, maintaining relief for periods exceeding six months.  According to the theory of TCM, pain is the result of stagnation of the flow of the body’s energy and blood.  Acupuncture works to restore the aforementioned energy flow and relieve the pain.

According to TCM there are three types of pain:

  1. Deficient type pain.  Usually dull, chronic pain, which improves with rest, more prevalent in middle aged an elderly individuals.
  2. Energy and blood stagnation pain.  More severe, accompanied with stiffness and tightness in the muscles.  This type of pain is worsened with rest and can reoccur chronically.
  3. Pain from cold obstruction.  Exacerbated by the cold and most severe in the morning, this type of pain may often be accompanied by numbness and swelling, and can be improved with application of warmth.

Once and individual experiences back pain, its more likely that they will experience it again.  Below are some things one should consider in order to prevent it:

-Regular, low impact exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, and stretching before vigorous exercise.

-Practice proper posture at all times.

-Refrain from shoes with higher heels and focus on support instead.

-Maintain a healthy body weight, as excess mass places more stress on the back

-Avoid lifting heavy objects.


Dec 19 2013

What is Cupping Therapy?

Used in many Asian countries, cupping is a form of Traditional Chinese treatment dating back to 3000 B.C. – outlined in one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, Ebers Papyrus.  In the actual technique, a partial vacuum is created inside cups placed on the skin, by means of heat or suction.  The cups are positioned on top of softer, lubricated tissues, allowing for stronger seals with the edge of the cup.  Today, plastic and glass are more prevalent, replacing the horn, bronze or bamboo cups used in ancient times.

The sensation created by the cupping is opposite the one of a massage because the integumentary system and its underlying tissues are sucked up rather than pushed down.  The vacuum created in the cups draws up the skin and opens pores, stimulating the flow of blood and lymph to the affected area, thus clearing up the toxins from the body’s tissues and fluids.  Cupping treatments often result in minor bruising, usually painless, which disappears in a few days following the treatment.

Nov 25 2013

Diabetes and Traditional Chinese Medicine

With more than 25.8 million people in the U.S. affected by diabetes mellitus, often referred to as “diabetes” – a group of metabolic diseases affecting the body’s ability to effectively utilize blood glucose, commonly called blood sugar.  Vital to one’s health, glucose is an important source of energy for the body’s cells comprising muscles and tissues.  The pancreas, an internal gland in the body, is responsible for the production of insulin – the hormone needed for the proper metabolism of glucose.

If diagnosed with diabetes, no matter what type, it simply means that one has too much glucose in the blood, although the reasons may differ.  If untreated, too much glucose can lead to serious health issues, thus imperative for one to seek medical attention if diagnosed.

Beta Cells

Chronic diabetes conditions comprise of Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.  Potentially reversible are prediabetes – when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, though not enough to be classified as diabetes and gestational diabetes – condition occurring during pregnancy which might resolve after the birth of the baby.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder.  The body’s immune system attacks the patient’s pancreas.  The Beta cells of the pancreas, responsible for the insulin production, are damaged by the misguided immune system, rendering the body unable to produce insulin.  Type 1 diabetes patients therefore must administer insulin daily.  Most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, this type of diabetes can occasionally appear in older patients as well.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.  Associated with older age, obesity and physical inactivity, in this type of diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to the action of insulin, a process called insulin resistance.  In addition to the problems with insulin resistance, the release of insulin by the actual pancreas may also be defective and subnormal.  In fact, there is a known steady decline in beta cell production of insulin in type 2 diabetes, a major contributing factor for many patients with type 2 diabetes, who ultimately require insulin therapy.

pregnancyGestational diabetes can occur temporarily during pregnancy, and it is reported that it occurs in 2% to 10% of all pregnancies.  Doctors propose that it is the hormonal changes, which occur during pregnancy that lead to the elevation of blood sugar and inform that is usually resolved once the baby is born.  However, it should be noted that 35% to 60% of women with gestational diabetes will eventually develop type 2 diabetes within the following two decades, especially those who require insulin during pregnancy and those who remain overweight after their delivery.

The initial symptoms of untreated diabetes are related to elevated concentration of blood sugar and loss of glucose in the urine.  The large quantities of glucose in the urine can cause increased urine output and lead to dehydration.  Dehydration causes increases thirst and water consumption.  Therefore, excessive thirst (polydipsia) and excessive urination (polyuria) are within the earliest of symptoms.  Furthermore, with insulin being an anabolic hormone, one that encourages storage of fat and protein, its inability to perform normally and/or deficiency eventually leads to weight loss despite an increase in appetite.

If the blood glucose levels are uncontrolled, one can see the complications that might occur and how the quality of life might be compromised.  Diabetes has been associated to have an impact on almost every part of the human body; making it a priority that one gets tested regularly.

acupuncture for diabetesIn the classical Chinese books, diabetes is known as Wasting-Thirst Syndrome.  According to these texts, the main causes for diabetes are the consumption of sweets and fatty foods.  Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a way to help eliminate the symptoms associated with diabetes and reduce the need of insulin.  The interview and physical exam help the T.C.M. practitioner create a treatment plan unique for every patient with diabetes, comprising of acupuncture, herbs, diet and regular exercise.  Acupuncture can help restore the hormonal balance, regulate energy and manage sleep.  Herbal therapy is an essential component to the treatment of diabetes.  Commonly used Chinese herbal formulas are Liu Wei Di Huang and Da Bu Yin Wan, both comprising of ginseng.  Coincidentally, researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and University of Toronto have found that consuming American ginseng before a meal reduces blood sugar in people with and without diabetes.

Patients with diabetes can greatly benefit from the integration of Eastern and Western medicine.  Though Western medicine is irreplaceable when it comes to life-threatening conditions, Eastern medicine can increase the quality of life by providing relief for the symptoms associated with the condition.



Nov 25 2013

The Role of Acupuncture in Treating Cancer Patients

chemotherapyThe American Cancer Society has reported that 50% of men and 30% of women in the U.S. population will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime.   Because cancer is such a dangerous and aggressive disease, it should be treated with all available treatments.  The integration of Traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine together has been evaluated, yielding a better overall outcome.

Well known for pain control, acupuncture can help alleviate joint stiffness and musculoskeletal pain among cancer patients.  In 2010, the American Journal of Clinical Oncology published the results of a small study, concluding that acupuncture helps relieve pain and stiffness in breast cancer patients who had undergone hormone therapy.  Furthermore, it can help relieve post-operative pain and sweating by increasing the circulation in the affected area and surrounding tissues, thereby accelerating the recovery process following surgery. 

An additional discomfort many cancer patients have been forced to experience is peripheral neuropathy induced by the chemotherapy in place, causing pain and limited mobility.  In 2011, an article was published in the Acupuncture in Medicine Journal by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, a teaching hospital of the University of Hamburg in Germany, maintaining that acupuncture has a positive effect on the chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

hot flashesNausea and vomiting commonly occur in patients undergoing chemotherapy.  Often times they make the treatments process significantly worse and uncomfortable.  Acupuncture therapy can be offered as a treatment to help alleviate those symptoms; Administered before, after or between chemotherapy treatments to best control the nausea and vomiting, acupuncture can effectively minimize the side effects of standard oncological treatments.

It has been observed that the majority of women treated for breast cancer suffer from hot flashes as a result of the chemotherapy and anti-estrogen hormones such as Tamoxifen and Arimidex.  Unfortunately for these patients, their hot flash symptoms cannot be treated with hormone replacement therapy, since it may increase the risk of the cancer relapsing.  It is why in 2011; Yale and University of Pittsburgh conducted a study for women with hot flashes caused by their hormonal treatments for breast cancer.  The study concluded that female cancer patients, treated with acupuncture had a 30% reduction in hot flashes. 

Overall, acupuncture can accelerate the patient’s recovery process and provides for a way to reduce many of the side effects induced by the chemotherapy and hormone replacement therapy.  Patients can greatly benefit and should take advantage of this remedy while undergoing their recovery process.

Jul 18 2013

Slowing Down the Aging Process

Who wouldn’t want to live a long and healthy life?  This is a desire, intrinsic to every person.  The natural state of the human body is to be healthy and in balance.  The proper balance presents the body with the capacity to heal itself.

Aging is a natural, irreversible process, taking place in cells, organs and tissues over the lifespan of any living organism.  It is characterized by a decline of biological functions and replacement of the functional tissue with fibrosis.

Wisdom from the East and the scientific advances from the West, provide the public with time-tested and well-researched “secrets” for achieving a long and healthy life.  While conventional Western medicine focuses on prescribing drugs to treat diseases, Eastern medicine views disease as a symptom of life being out of balance.  Emphasis has always been to prevent and maintain a good state of health.  Traditional Chinese Medicine employs a variety of natural therapies such as: acupuncture, herbs, diet, bodywork, tai chi and yoga.  TCM sees the aging process as: organ degeneration – body loses its ability to regenerate itself with significant changes in the internal organs; exhaustion of fundamental substances as vital energy, essence blood and body fluids – cause of common aging signs such as wrinkled skin, gray hair, muscle tissue decline and fragile bones; accumulation of metabolic wastes – as internal organs’ functions slow down, they cease to eliminate bodily wastes effectively.

Aging could be experienced as a pleasant process if proper attention is given to support the physical, mental and emotional welfare.  TCM anti-aging therapy is divided in 3 directions: skin health, physical health and mental health.  However, it should be noted that neither could be treated separately, due to their complementarity to each other.  Anti-aging therapy should not rely on a single prescription but rather use all available methods – only a comprehensive approach to the situation would lead to a substantial effect.

inflammation Inflammation is an important factor in wellbeing.  Although it marks the beginning of the body’s healing process, it can also inflict damage if healthy tissues are attackedl.  Persistent inflammation increases the risk of hearth attacks, strokes and even cancer.  Preventing it is the best strategy to ensure long-term health and longevity. 

Diet serves as a major influence on the body’s inflammation status.  A healthy, “anti-inflammatory” diet can reduce cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer and cancer.  The antioxidants present in vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, chocolate and tea aid in protection of our tissues and organs from inflammations.  Modern mainstream diet is significantly low in these protective compounds.  Moreover, it is loaded with inflammation-promoting fats in addition to rapid-digesting carbohydrates in the form of bread, pastries and sugary drinks.  The aforementioned are outlined as high-glycemic foods, which raise blood sugar levels rather quickly, boosting insulin secretion and increasing inflammation.

One can begin leading a healthier lifestyle by choosing slow-digesting forms of carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, squashes and cold climate fruits like berries, cherries, apples and pears.  With his motto “Eat less, live longer”, Maoshing Ni L.Ac. PhD, 38th generation doctor of TCM, found a strong correlation in centenarians and quantity of food consumed.  In his 100-centenarian study, he concluded that centenarians ate less than the average amount for a given meal.  In terms of fluids, water is the best choice.  Most people go about their day dehydrated, affecting their brain since it is more than 70% water.  Mayo Clinic recommends that men require an adequate intake of about 3L while women should consume at least 2L of water. 

With the advances of technology, water has been replaced by numerous kinds of soft drinks, overloaded with chemicals for taste and color, often harmful in speeding the aging process.  An unquestionable approach to slow this process is by eliminating the toxins created by these water alternatives.  Tea is a beverage most commonly used by centenarians around the world.  The free-radical inhibiting properties of tea are well known and scientifically proven.  Polyphenols in tea, especially catechins are powerful antioxidants, used to prevent and treat atherosclerosis, diabetes and some types of cancers.

ginger rootGinger has been well known remedy for digestive disorders.  Containing geraniol, compound that helps fight cancer, it also has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve pain and prevent blood clotting.  Another anti-aging herb with a 5000 year track record is Panax Ginseng.  Science has proven that Ginseng enhances bodily functions, boosts the immune system, improves memory while stabilizing cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Activities keep people young.  Exercise keeps an individuals body and mind in great shape.  The best exercise for slowing down the aging process are the disciplines of Tai chi and Qi gong – focusing on repetitive, gentle movement with attention to breathing, thus slowing down the heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and reducing stress hormones (adrenaline & cortison) levels. 

Sleep is essential as well.  The human body repairs itself best at night with good sleep.  Research has shown that getting at least 8 hours of sleep is required for good health among all age groups.  Poor sleep has been linked to hypertension, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks and obesity.

Acupuncture as been proven successful in treating stress and sleeping problems.  It gives a better night sleep and overall improvement in physical and mental health.  Oriental medicine offers additional techniques and tools like Tui na, Qi gong and herbal therapy.

The mental state greatly influences one’s physical condition.  Studies have shown that regular serenity for a few minutes a day can add years to a person’s life.  Peaceful contemplation, meditation or prayer allows the body to be still and the mind to slow down, thus facilitating the release of DHEA (dehydroepiandesterone) from the adrenal glands.  This hormone has been linked to longevity, peaking in people in their mid twenties.  As expected, the DHEA concentration declines as a person ages.

Today, numerous people in the west do and should utilize Traditional Chinese Medicine to supplement the anti-aging methods of conventional medicine.

Jun 20 2013

MENOPAUSE : Symptoms and Treatment

Menopause is a natural physiologic process; occurring between the ages of 40 and 58 (North American Menopause Society), with an average age of 51 among U.S. females.  It is a transition period, marking the termination of a woman’s “fertile” stage, often accompanied by a plethora of symptoms.  Most noted symptoms include: hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, fatigue and weight fluctuations.  Although the length of occurrence varies among individuals, majority of the aforementioned indicators persist for approximately 2 years, with several prolonging beyond 5 years.

According to Western Medicine, menopause is a condition that occurs when the ovaries cease to produce estradiol and progesterone every month.  Since menopause is a natural process, it doesn’t require any medical treatment.  However, treatments focus on relieving the symptoms and signs, in addition to any chronic conditions that occur with aging.  The standard treatment is Hormone Therapy, which is sometimes accompanied by side effects such as nausea, weight gain and breast tenderness.

Traditional Chinese Medicine treats menopause with a combination of acupuncture, herbal therapy and dieting.  According to a study at the University of Pittsburg, Dr. Susan Cohen D.S.N., A.P.R.N. conducted that after a course of acupuncture therapy, hot flashes decreased by 35% and insomnia by 50%, revealing a significant decrease of symptoms compared to the women who received conventional care.  In my experience, 80% to 90% of patients’ symptoms dissipate within 1 month of biweekly treatments.  However, it should be noted that since menopause is not a disease, but a chronic deficient condition, one to two supplementary treatments per month are required.  Additionally, herbs in conjunction to acupuncture are imperative to treating menopausal symptoms.  Since single herb therapy isn’t potent enough, herbal formulas have been presented as a more suitable solution.

Another therapy solution presented for menopause is phytoestrogen consumption.  These naturally produced compounds, resemble the estrogens produced by the human body, acting as antagonists of human estrogen.  Recent literature correlates increased levels of human estrogen with a greater number of breast cancer incidents.  Hence, why taking phytoestrogens can prevent the body from utilizing the “bad” estrogens.  A rich source for these phytoestrogens are soy bean and soy products, such as soy milk and tofu.