Digestive and Heart Health

Your body is an intricate system and the health of your heart and digestive track are very connected

Acupuncture & Digestion – Will it Help?
By Dr. Teresa Shen

In a word, yes! If you or someone you know is experiencing indigestion, irritable bowels, constipation, bloating or pain (in the stomach or intestines), acupuncture can be a tremendous resource for feeling better now and maintaining those improvements over the long term. Acupuncture improves the body functions of digestion, absorption and metabolism. Acupuncture reduces ulcers and neutralizes excessive stomach acid. Acupuncture calms abdominal distention and helps the body balance as to reduce or completely eliminate IBS symptoms. Acupuncture even addresses overeating and sugar addictions.

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Acupuncture & Digestion: The TCM Perspective

TCM states that the stomach receives food, while the spleen transports, distributes and transforms nutrients. They both share the work and coordinate to fulfill the task of the digestion and absorption of food. When the function of the spleen in transporting and transforming the nutrients is in disorder, symptoms such as poor digestion, poor appetite, abdominal distension, weakness of the limbs and weight loss may occur.

The small intestine receives the food content that has been partially digested by the stomach and then completes the digestion and absorbs it. In the light of modern medicine, most of the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the food are absorbed by duodenum and jejunum, while the bile salts and vitamin B12 are absorbed by ileum. Water and electrolytes are also exchanged in the small intestine. The endocrine function of the pancreas also contains various digestive enzymes important to digestive function.

So what does that all mean for your acupuncture treatments? Acupuncture stimulates energy to the liver, gall bladder, stomach and spleen (the four main channels for digestion) along with the small intestine, large intestine and even lung or heart channels (depending on the particular patient). Acupuncture isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. Needles can be placed at specific points to maximize the effectiveness for the patient, and those “patterns” will somewhat change from session to session based on exactly how the patient is doing that day and responding to treatment.

Acupuncture & Digestion: The Process

Every patient is different. Some patients have varying degrees of “excessive heat” in their system causing problems, while others have varying degrees of “excessive cold” creating symptoms. Through a consultation we’ll discuss your main issue, the type and intensity of your discomfort and when that discomfort occurs. We’ll discuss your diet and lifestyle and eating habits to determine if there’s anything contributing to the problem. And the acupuncture sessions will combine treatments and nutritional counseling.

It can be wonderfully empowering for a patient to not only feel better and experience better digestion from acupuncture treatments, but also feel he or she has more control over how to stay healthy moving forward.

How Does the ‘American Diet’ Affect Digestion?
By Dr. Teresa Shen

Cutting Out Cold

You can’t discuss acupuncture and digestion without talking about the damage often done by the “American diet.” For starters, the American diet is cold, cold, cold! From a Chinese Medical perspective we always want the body in a healthy balance — making sure the organs and body systems aren’t too cold and damp or excessively hot. Either extreme will deplete your energy, lead to body dysfunction and uncomfortable symptoms.

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One thing that’s truly American is ice-cold beverages — especially in summer. What seems better than a cold drink on a hot day, right? Refreshing, cools you down, ahhhh! But what seems natural to the mind is actually totally unnatural for your body. Think of it this way: How often do you see a National Geographic program where African elephants are kicking back with a cold drink? It’s unheard of in their natural habitat. The water they drink reflects the temperature of the environment, and there are no radical swings in temperature from their external environment and what they put in their bodies.

We’re just the same. Our body’s have a harsh reaction to something so cold being imbibed. It affects blood circulation, which for women affects menstruation. It causes stomach pain. And all you have to do to prevent it is drink something room temperature or drink hot tea when you’re not overly hot from the temperature outside. A simple switch to warming food and drinks will eliminate many people’s nagging pains — especially stomach pains — that have plagued them for years.

I recently saw a menopausal patient who was experiencing extreme hot flashes. Naturally, she wanted to cool down. So, he began to sleep with an ice pack on her stomach. She came to me complaining of sharp, intense stomach pain. I told her to immediately stop with the ice pack, and her pain vanished. You may be thinking, “Duh!” But in our culture we are so used to this idea of tasty cold drinks and “cooling off” that it doesn’t occur to many of us that the cold we’re forcing on our body might be the culprit of our ills.

It’s okay if you have ice cream every now and then. I’m not telling you to “stop having fun” with meals and desserts. Just start with cutting out cold drinking water and see if you feel different after awhile.

Meals in Balance

Eat at consistent times. Eat smaller meals more often, if possible. Make sure your meals balance the “five tastes” whenever possible: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory. In the American diet, we’re really good at sweet and salty, but if we don’t have a balance, it throws off the body’s digestion. And whenever possible, eat local and organic. It may cost more, but the price of poor health is much higher.

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Assisting Heart Function with Acupuncture

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Lower Your Blood Pressure with Acupuncture
By Dr. Teresa Shen

The numbers of people diagnosed with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, are skyrocketing. Some people suffering from this all-too-common condition turn to medication to get it under control. But drugs aren’t always the best solution. Although they might help in the short term, medication always has side effects on the body — even if we don’t see them right away.

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According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body has a natural homeostasis. Any time we introduce a foreign chemical like a drug to the body, it creates an imbalance to this natural state. And disturbing our body’s delicate balance could have negative side effects later on, particularly to the adrenals and kidneys.

More and more people are coming to Eastern Medical Center for a natural alternative to lower their blood pressure without side effects. Drugs mask hypertension’s symptoms, which can include dizziness, flushed face, tinnitus, headaches or insomnia. But acupuncture offers more than a temporary fix. Acupuncture treats your symptoms so you are more comfortable — while also treating your body as a whole so your blood pressure naturally lowers as you get back into balance.

There’s no one single reason for hypertension. Everybody is unique, and it’s important to treat each person individually. So the first thing we’ll do is find the root causes of your hypertension.

Common Causes of Hypertension from a TCM Perspective

What are some of the common causes I see? A deficiency or excess of yin or yang energy. If that’s the case, we’ll balance out the meridian systems. If the cause is stress, we’ll increase your serotonin levels to calm the mind and nourish the heart. If you have a local blockage, we’ll work to unblock the channels in that area.

After we discover the root cause of your hypertension, we’ll carefully address it through herbs, cupping, acupuncture and acupressure. These natural alternatives can help you avoid problems caused by medication down the road: I’ve seen people who’ve never had a problem come to me with numb limbs or horrible pains in their body after they’ve started taking medications.

I’ve also had patients who’ve never had high cholesterol or high blood pressure offered drugs such as statins from their doctors. I always remind people to get a second opinion and to always question your doctor about these kinds of drugs before taking them.

I believe that all pain is a sign that the body is not happy with something. If you are struggling with high blood pressure or side effects from drugs, visit your acupuncturist. At Eastern Medical Center, we’ll figure out why your body is unhappy and I’ll do my best to help you heal.

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