In this issue you will find:
- Important PCOM Dates
- Acupuncture Can Help with Weight Loss
- Massage Benefits in HIV-Positive Children
- Qi Gong Can Relieve Stress and May Help with Heart Disease
- Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
It's a staggering fact that as many as a quarter of all Americans are overweight. In their struggle to lose those excess pounds, Americans spend over 33 billion dollars every year on weight-loss programs. Regrettably, a whopping 95 percent fail in their attempt to lose the weight they need to maintain good health. Fortunately, acupuncture can help.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine, sterile needles at specific body points or "energy pathways." The inserted needles act to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural "feel good" hormones. This can create a calming, relaxing effect, which counteracts the need for excessive eating brought about by increased stress, frustration, or anxiety. In this respect, acupuncture can calm those so afflicted and help them lose weight without resorting to drugs.
Several studies have shown that when acupuncture is combined with traditional methods of weight loss, patients lose more weight. In these cases, one to three acupuncture weight loss sessions can be safe and effective in helping people achieve reasonable weight loss goals.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the belief is that excessive weight gains are caused mainly by an imbalance in the body due to a malfunction of the spleen and liver organ systems. Skilled acupuncture practitioners will zero in on specific body areas to effect weight loss. Among these are the endocrine system and kidneys, which are addressed to treat water retention and to stimulate nerve and hormonal rebalance. The spleen and thyroid gland are also targeted to effect sugar and hormonal rebalancing. Finally, the adrenal and ovary glands are included to treat weight gain due to menopause or Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some people notice the effects of acupuncture fairly quickly and only require treatments every other week.
Another Chinese acupuncture practice for losing weight is ear stapling. This involves manipulating points on the ear to control food cravings. Auricular acupuncture has been used successfully to help cigarette smokers and heroin addicts kick their drug habits. When properly administered by a qualified acupuncturist, this technique may help some people lose weight. One study, published in Medical Acupuncture, found that ear acupuncture combined with a 2,000 calorie a day diet and a 15-minute walk helped reduce weight. The study involved 20 obese women, 22 to 42 years of age. Half of those who received weekly 15-minute sessions of ear acupuncture lost an average of 10 pounds. Those without ear acupuncture averaged only a three-pound loss. Moreover, the women who received the acupuncture treatments reported a decrease in appetite.
It is important to note that ear acupuncture treatments must be administered by a qualified acupuncturist. For the best results, these treatments should be combined with a reduced calorie diet and appropriate physical exercise. The critical point to be made here is that acupuncture should be viewed as a support system not a sole modality.
As with all medical conditions, always seek the advice of a doctor before beginning any acupuncture treatments for weight loss.
Today, millions of children worldwide live with HIV. Regrettably, global access to antiretroviral drugs is not readily available. Massage therapy, which has been shown to improve immune function in HIV-positive adults and adolescents, may boost the immune systems of young children living with HIV.
A strong immune system allows the body to shore up its disease-fighting arsenal. In contrast, a weakened immune system is an open invitation for disease. For HIV patients, the immune system must be continuously built up to prevent the patient from succumbing to the illness. Research has proven the benefits of massage therapy among patients who were HIV-positive. Massage boosts immune system function by reducing anxiety and stress, increasing white blood cell counts, and decreasing the levels of the stress hormone, Cortisol, which has been noted to destroy immune cells. Massage has also been shown to activate the body's natural killer cells.
Although massage therapy, consisting of rubbing, kneading, squeezing, and stretching of muscles, has not been regularly prescribed for HIV or AIDS, recent research suggest that properly administered massage therapy may help preserve the immune systems of HIV-positive children who lack access to antiretroviral medication.
Studies at the Mayo Clinic found that HIV patients who underwent massage therapy had increased levels of natural killer (NK) cells that fight viral cells. Measuring cellular levels of natural killer cells and other immune system helper cells has been the metric used by researchers to determine the efficacy of massage therapy.
In a recent study*, 54 HIV-positive children without antiretroviral medication were randomly assigned to either a massage group or a friendly visit control group. Those in the massage group received two 20-minute massage sessions per week for 12 weeks. Those in the friendly visit control group received two 20-minute friendly visits. Trained nurses administered moderate-pressure stroking and kneading massages. The study revealed that massage therapy appears to have a positive impact on immune function in HIV-positive children not receiving antiretroviral medications. Massaged children showed reduced lymphocyte loss (lymphocytes are the body's primary means of immune function).
In evaluating massage therapy as beneficial for those suffering from HIV**, the factors that appeared to strengthen the immune system were pressure strokes, dosage, and duration of massage therapy. The effect on the immune system was even more pronounced when pressure was applied with multiple-dose massages of longer duration. A full-body stress management approach was most beneficial. The most effective techniques were twice weekly, one-hour sessions of acupressure, trigger-point therapy, and deep strokes extended over several months for best immune-enhancing results.
If a child is HIV-positive, first consult a primary care physician before attempting massage therapy. The doctor may recommend the appropriate treatment. If massage is suggested, find a licensed massage therapist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (www.ncbtmb.org) or the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org). Note: Medicare and most private insurance do not cover massage.
*Preliminary Report on the Efficacy of Massage Therapy to Preserve the Immune System in Children without Antiretroviral Medication.” University of Miami School of Medicine, Division of Disease Prevention, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Medicine, and Touch Research Institutes; and staff at Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
** Diego MA, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Shaw K, Friedman L, Ironson G. HIV adolescents show improved immune function following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 2001;106:35-45.
Qi Gong Can Relieve Stress and May Help with Heart Disease
Qi Gong (pronounced chee-GUNG) massage, a Chinese acupressure technique that dates back thousands of years, has often been used to reduce stress, a major contributor to the development of heart disease.
An ancient martial art related to Tai Chi, Qi Gong literally means “energy practice.” Qi Gong uses pressure points and gripping, tapping, and rolling techniques to encourage the flow of a person's Qi. Qi Gong includes healing postures, movement, self-massage, breathing techniques, and meditation to improve the health and harmony of both mind and body. Hospitals in China include Qi Gong techniques as part of their healthcare programs. This is because, in addition to reducing stress, Qi Gong can reduce an individual's blood pressure. And evidence suggests that a 5 to 6 point drop in blood pressure can lower the risk of coronary heart disease by 15 to 20 percent.
Balancing the energy of blood and body fluid flow from the inside, Qi Gong can be self administered or applied by a professional. No special equipment or tools are required. A Qi Gong based massage may help smooth the flow of blood and Qi. It can help remove blockages caused by internal or external influences. In this way, Qi Gong empowers the body's own natural ability to heal itself.
What makes Qi Gong such a powerful stress-relieving tool is that it unites body and mind using three proven techniques. First, Qi Gong seeks to control one's breathing through exercises involving holding and releasing the breath in unison with movement. Combining deep breathing with postures and movement allows the body to naturally and automatically release hormones that relieve stress. Second, Qi Gong's precisely choreographed movements help contract and expand one's muscles, circulatory, and nervous pathways in very specific sequences. The movements are designed to encourage meditation, which has been shown to calm the mind and relax the body. Finally, Qi Gong focuses the mind and body on movement and breathing. This focus pushes out destructive, stressful thoughts and anxieties.
A typical Qi Gong session may begin with a person sitting or standing quietly while focusing on the Qi flowing through his or her body--all while performing breathing and movement exercises. The breathing and movements would be slow, focused, and carefully controlled. For example, the basic "standing meditation" technique can be one of the most effective postures for reducing stress. After initially getting one’s body into the correct posture, simply stand in one spot and do nothing. The effects of this exercise are usually not apparent until one has been standing for at least 15 minutes. After that, the energy blockages clear and stress decreases.
Qi Gong and massage therapies should only be used on the advice of a medical doctor and are not intended as a substitute for medical care or as a therapy to cure or prevent any diseases.
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