In this issue you will find:
- Important PCOM Dates
- Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization
- Emotions and Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Restless Leg Syndrome and Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
June 21st: (Saturday)
Chicago Open House for All Programs
June 26th: (Thursday)
New York Campus Open House
June 28th: (Saturday)
San Diego Open House
Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization
By, Kathleen Rushall
Some of the best health results from the combination of Eastern and Western medicine. Fertility is no exception, and when combined with the Western idea of in vitro fertilization (IVF), Oriental acupuncture can increase chances of pregnancy. Some studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can affect the levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones, which can increase chances of pregnancy. Also, electro-acupuncture (the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating one’s “qi,” or life force) has been shown to improve blood flow in the uterine arteries of infertile women.
Acupuncture is widely known for its ability to induce relaxation. Infertility can be extremely grueling; it often leads to stress and other intense emotions. This can be a vicious cycle for some women, stress can inhibit pregnancy; when the body is relaxed, it functions better. The feeling of well-being provided by acupuncture can serve to relax the muscles of the uterus. If the uterus is in a relaxed state at the time of the IVF embryo transfer, it is less likely to produce contractions that could push the transferred embryo away from fertilization. Acupuncture also improves blood circulation to the ovaries, which will boost the health of the eggs, as well as the uterus, which will increase the lining and make it strong enough to carry eggs full term.
By providing better circulation and blood flow to the womb, acupuncture will give the eggs a better chance to be nourished and supported throughout the pregnancy.
The best results can be achieved from acupuncture when it is practiced regularly. Rather than a quick fix, it should be viewed as a lifestyle change, like eating healthy, or regular exercise. Studies indicate that receiving acupuncture treatments about 30 minutes before and after in vitro fertilization can increase the chances that the embryo will be successfully implanted, and can also reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2007 tested 1,366 women in four Western countries. Some of these women were given traditional acupuncture before and after in vitro fertilization, and for comparison, others were given sham acupuncture or no acupuncture. The women who received acupuncture before and after IVF had a 65 percent increase in pregnancies than the control group, and the rates of live births were nearly twice as high than the women given sham or no acupuncture.
IVF drugs and the in vitro procedure itself are thought to be more effective if acupuncture is done once a week in the two months prior to the beginning of IVF treatment, as well as continued regularly at least once a week during IVF treatment. A German study, published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility tested 160 women, giving 80 of them acupuncture with their IVF treatments. The results were significant: “The analysis shows that the pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group is considerably higher than for the control group (42.5% vs. 26.3%).”
Another benefit of acupuncture is that it is affordable, and is gaining increasing coverage by health insurance plans. In vitro fertilization can cost up to 20,000 dollars, and is often not covered by insurance. Prices in acupuncture range, but are usually between 30 and 150 dollars. Using these two practices in conjunction may be women’s best fertility option to date. It is exciting to be able to reap the benefits of two worlds, both ancient and innovative.
Emotions and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine takes into account both external and internal factors in the creation of an individual’s diagnosis. The current emotional state of the patient is one internal factor that traditional Chinese medicine believes to be very important. In fact, emotions are believed to directly correlate to specific organs and their states of being. Traditional Chinese medical theory believes the body is in the control of the Five Elements: Earth, Wood, Fire, Water, and Metal. Each element corresponds to a specific organ as well as a specific emotion. The emotions are not believed to always be the direct cause of an ailment, but have an undeniable connection with the progress and condition of the problem.
The Suwen, or Book of Plain Questions states “The five yin-organs of the human body produce five kinds of essential qi, which bring forth joy, anger, grief, worry, and fear.” According to the Five-Element school of thought, anger is associated with Wood; joy is associated with Fire, pensiveness with Earth, grief with Metal, and fear with Water. The liver is associated with Wood and therefore with anger, the heart with Fire and joy, the spleen with Earth and pensiveness, the lung with Metal, and grief and the kidney with Water and fear. This is not to say that to experience any of these emotions means that the related organ is out of balance but, rather, that any extreme case or fluctuation of these emotions may be related to a problem with that organ.
Emotions in TCM have slightly different meanings than their Western interpretations. In TCM joy, for example, refers to a state of agitation or over-excitement, rather than elation. Related to the heart, this emotion is correlated with heart palpitations, repeated agitation, and insomnia. Anger in TCM is considered to represent resentment, frustration, and irritability. An excess of rich blood is believed to make one prone to anger, and can affect the liver, causing this organ’s energy to rise to the head and result in headaches or dizziness. Pensiveness is thought to be an excess of mental stimulation that can affect the spleen (which rules over vital energy). This can result in fatigue, lethargy, and difficulty concentrating. Lungs are associated with the feeling of grief. Unresolved grief can lead to problems with general energy and one’s qi (life force) because the lungs are thought to distribute this throughout the body. Like the other emotions, fear is considered a normal and at times, inevitable emotion. However, if it becomes chronic, or settles as a deep anxiety, the kidneys can be affected. The kidney’s ability to hold qi may be impaired, and involuntary urination can also occur.
Traditional Chinese medicine is unique in its belief that cause and effect are not linear, but circular. This means that the cause of an ailment may be an emotion, but also that an ailment can lead to an emotion. By striving to balance the organ related to the person’s emotional state, the emotion can be balanced as well, and visa versa. Acupuncture is one way to accomplish this re-alignment. Acupuncture is the practice of gently inserting needles into specific points on the body to benefit a person’s qi, or life force. There are certain points used in acupuncture that accord with specific organs, and treating these points is how feelings and acupuncture can interplay.
Emotions are considered to be normal and healthy, it is only when they become extreme or uncontrollable that they can open the door to disease. TCM believes them to be the major internal cause of disease within the body, but also the most easily influenced – meaning, that with the right attention and treatment, emotions and their corresponding ailments can change.
Restless Leg Syndrome and Traditional Chinese Medicine
By, Kathleen Rushall
Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as Ekbom Syndrome, can affect anyone, but it seems to most commonly affect women past the age of fifty. About ten percent of the population of the United States and Europe suffer from some degree of this condition. There is no specific known cause of RLS, but it is thought to possibly be genetic. Restless Leg Syndrome involves strong urges to move the to alleviate sensations in them like pins and needles, aching, or a “prickly” feeling. This uncontrollable urge can interrupt sleep, distract from daily tasks, and cause general discomfort. RLS can be a solitary ailment, but has been connected to several conditions. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to develop symptoms of RLS, but these symptoms usually dissipate about four weeks after labor. People with anemia are also susceptible to RLS due to their low iron levels, but once this is corrected, their RLS improves.
RLS is a sign of poor blood circulation in the legs, and a history of smoking, lack of exercise, or diabetes could be contributing factors. Some painless, side effect free treatments include a diet low in sugar, as well as a juice combining carrot, celery, and spinach. A lack of iron in one’s diet is thought to exaggerate symptoms of RLS. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the cause of Restless Leg Syndrome is heat in the Heart, which is thought to cause agitation in one’s spirit, and can lead to restlessness during sleep.
In TCM, the spirit is referred to as the Shen, and it is believed to be stored in the Heart. In traditional Chinese medicine, each organ is believed to be sensitive to one unique type of weather: while the Heart wants to feel warm, it should not feel hot. The theory of Zang-Fu (“internal organs”) holds that the Kidneys are the source of yin and yang in the body. When Kidney yin is low, it means that the body is susceptible to heat, contributing to the Heart’s discomfort (and therefore the Shen’s), and can lead to restless legs.
Herbal remedies can be recommended to help the Kidneys, Heart, and Shen, and this can in turn relieve the uncomfortable sensations of Restless Leg Syndrome. Two of the more common herb formulas that are recommended are RopinoHerb RLS and RopinoHerb PLMD. PLMD is an abbreviation of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, which is a similar condition to RLS, but occurs most often during sleep (while RLS can happen during the day as well) and involves the cramping or involuntary movement of the legs and arms. About 80% of people with RLS also have PLMD, but the reverse is not true.
Nutritional supplements that include Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and folic acid have also been proven to improve symptoms of RLS. Another TCM treatment for restless legs is acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments have proven effective in patients with arthritis, and are believed to also stimulate those parts of the brain that are involved in RLS. Moxibustion, an ancient TCM practice, can also help to control RLS symptoms. Moxibustion is the utilization of the mugwort herb, or “moxa,” to stimulate the points on the body used during acupuncture. Stimulating these points can help to energize or align one’s qi, and also can induce a smoother blood flow, which will reduce the urges of Restless Leg Syndrome.
Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.