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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - August 2009 | Issue 65

In this issue you will find:


Important PCOM Dates:

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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Autism

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, current estimated cases of autism range from one in every 1,000 to one in every 500. Theories suggest vaccines are responsible, but there is growing concern that environmental toxins and pollution may be contributing factors. It is also theorized that nutrition, viral infections, immunizations, and antibiotics may be causal aspects as well.

People speak in terms of children “developing” autism, but new research cited by the Autism Society of America suggest genetic ties -- that the disorder is present prenatal.  An autism symptom will usually appear before the age of three, at which age a formal diagnosis can be made.  Because an autism characteristic can be any combination of insufficiencies in language, social communication, and cognition, autism is difficult to diagnose before normal development in these areas would usually occur. 

Autism is considered a spectrum disorder by standard medicine.  Spectrum disorders are defined as a group of conditions that have similar features but may present an autism symptom in different ways.  Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes “classic” autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (atypical autism).  Each of these conditions usually is accompanied by a secondary autism characteristic such as aggression, irritability, stereotypes (involuntary but seemingly purposeful movement), hyperactivity, negativism, volatile emotions, temper tantrums, short attention span, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. 

Unlike Western medicine, which rates the brain the most important factor of the human physique, Chinese medicine sees the body and mind as part of the same circular system with the organs and the central nervous system. Western medicine has traditionally considered emotional influence on the organs as secondary, while Chinese medicine has always seen it as a key to understanding and achieving balance.

In Chinese medicine, reason and awareness, which are strongly affected by autism, are primarily ruled by three organ systems: the Heart, Spleen and Kidney. The Heart holds the Mind or Shen and rules the mental functions, including the emotional state of the individual and short-term memory. The Spleen is linked to the mind’s ability to study, memorize, and concentrate. Kidney qi rules over long-term memory. A disturbance in these areas can lead to displays of any autism characteristic.

The Autism Research Institute asserts that nutritional treatments have shown great success in autism treatment. They suggest for an autism diet avoiding yeast, glutens, casein, and any allergens.  The Chinese medical diet is determined by flavor (pungent, sweet, salty), temperature (both physical and energy quality) and action on the body. Central to the philosophy and practice of Chinese medicine, it is thought that many, if not most, of our health problems are related to imbalances in our diet. Sensitivity to foods is not the cause of autism, but it does appear that certain components of foods exacerbate some of autism’s symptoms. Dietary therapy, by creating a healthy autism diet, helps patients treat illness and maintain health.

Autism has also been treated with acupuncture and massage. These two methods can be a difficult undertaking. It can take time for a child to adjust to touch treatments, but the benefits that have been discovered through studies and by practitioners may well be worth any required patience.

Acupuncture has made incredible strides in treating autism. Its efficacy can possibly be explained through the medical theory that autism is in part a neuroendocrine dysfunction and a result of the incorrect production of opioids. According to the book Scientific Bases of Acupuncture, acupuncture affects opioids, the central nervous system, and neuroendocrine function.

Although alternative autism treatment such as tongue acupuncture and dietary changes should still be viewed as a complementary approach, these exciting early findings stand as an innovative starting point for a new system of autism treatment.

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Emotions and Oriental 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.  
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.

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Acupuncture and In Vitro Fertilization

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.
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 analysis showed that the pregnancy rate for the acupuncture group was 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.

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Chinese Wisdom: Proverb of the Day

A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.

~ Confucius


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