Archive for the ‘Seasonal advice’ Category

Eugene allergy season – acupuncture wins over antihistamines

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015


Hello, Willamette Valley folks!  Allergy season is is already creeping up on us, and our valley seems to be a tough area for this problem. One of my patients today mentioned how a family member had to leave Eugene simply because of severe seasonal allergies, despite trying all the available drug options.  I have heard several of these stories during my time here.

Medications can help a lot of people, but their effect is is really only providing a holiday from symptoms.  I have never heard of anyone taking Claritin© during allergy season and then finding a lasting benefit if they stop in the middle of the season.  But I have frequently seen long term benefit when Chinese medicine was used.

I want to share an interesting research paper with you about acupuncture compared to Claritin©, also known as loratidine.  I like this paper because I think it has a very low probability of bias, and it looks at this question of lasting benefit.  The paper has some limitations such as not allowing for any individual variation in treatment for patients with different background metabolic situations, but it is from the Clinic of Otorhinolaryngology at the teaching hospital in Dresden, Germany.  The link to the article is posted below.

A teaching hospital has most likely seen many patients with bad reactions to drugs.  I looked loratidine up in the Physician’s Desk Reference and found over 80 adverse reaction warnings such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, decreased libido, and incontinence of urine. These last 5 were some of the more intense symptoms I saw in my clinic last season caused by this drug. Also, many of you may have seen the recent news about how long term antihistamine use increases your risk of dementia. So this acupuncture research is really quite timely.

For those of you that are technically minded and are interested in the chemistry of allergic reactions, there are some lab test results in the paper that are worth looking at.  To keep it simple, let’s look at how the patients reported feeling after their treatment for allergies.  This study was actually looking at dust mite allergies but the physiology of seasonal allergies is almost identical, and with mites you can look at the effect of time without worrying about the change of season.

Sorry for the image quality here (this is a copy and paste straight from the paper) but I hope you can see a bar graph with red and blue columns.  Red is for acupuncture results, blue is for loratidine results.

Allergy bar graph

On your left side, you see how all the patients were feeling on the day after the last day of care, the right side shows how they were 10 weeks later.  87% of acupuncture patients reported improvement at the end of care, and 10 weeks later this was down to 80% of the patients.  So, OK, this acupuncture protocol did not work for every one but 80% after 10 weeks is still pretty good.

For the medication-only patients, on the day after taking their last pill 67% of them felt improved, but 10 weeks later none of the patients taking Claritin© were feeling any better; their symptoms had returned to pre-treatment levels.  After all the risk of side effects, none of the patients taking the drug felt any better after stopping the drug.

The doctors did not track adverse effects in this paper, but the number of patients in this study was not large enough to expect any dangerous adverse consequences of acupuncture, but would be large enough for drug side effects to be seen according to other research.

The moral of this story was that even poorly designed acupuncture treatments show a rather impressive result.  Bear in mind these patients were not offered any herbs or lifestyle/ diet modifications, and the treatments were not individually tailored to account for varying stress levels, other health issues, etc.  When I can treat with the full scope of my practice, surrounding the issue on many fronts, patients can see a benefit even a year later. And within 1- 3 seasons, they can find that they don’t need any further treatment of any kind.

Good luck this season!  And if you want to enjoy the outdoors without medication, give me a call.



The Effectiveness of Acupuncture Compared to Loratadine in Patients Allergic to House Dust Mites

Autumn ~ Healthy choices to enhance longevity

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014



Saying goodbye to summer and embracing the cold…

There is a basic question that Chinese medicine tries to answer with all seasonal advice.  That is “How can I adapt to a new climate without draining my reserves?”

Adapting to the change of season requires energy to be spent by our metabolism.  We may notice everyday examples like a burgeoning preference for hot chocolate over summer’s ice cream, or how our pets are napping more even though the weather is not extreme yet.  I noticed how 50 degree weather this morning made me reach for a hat and coat, but I also remember last February when a 50 degree day seemed almost t-shirt weather.  Same temperature, different metabolic setting.

The ancient physicians thought that this multitude of tiny adjustments our bodies make can be made as efficiently as possible, or not at all.  If transition happens harmoniously, less stress is incurred and we stay healthy.  Otherwise we increase the probability of getting sick or otherwise drain resources best used for healthy aging.

The details may vary a little with individual health situations, but the following are very commonly good ideas for most folk:

  • Cover up.  It’s time for long sleeves, long trousers/ dresses hats and light scarves that cover up the acupuncture points GB 20 and Du 14, 16.  Doing this now before the real cold will harmonize the “wei qi 卫气” assisting the immune system to get ready for the winter viruses.  Right now it’s better to sweat into cloth than have the wind get down to the pores.
  • Warm up the digestion.  Main meals should not be raw salad dominant, but should focus on roasted or stewed seasonal vegetables.  Curried food is pungent and warming and perfect for the seasonal change.  Stay away from chilled, iced foods.  Soup is ideal – all that ‘digestion’ on the stove is that much less energy your body has to spend on the meal’s transformation, leaving the body lighter and quicker to adapt.
  • Spend a lot of time outside.  The more you can experience the seasonal changes around you, the more your own system takes the hint.  Have you ever noticed how outdoor cats get thicker, longer lasting coats compared with indoor-only cats who shed all year round?  My cat already has her winter coat, but I’ve seen indoor cats with summer thicknesses yet.  Be an outdoor cat.
  • Catch up on your sleep.  Sleep is where the maintenance happens.  If you’ve been missing sleep, try to nap or go to bed earlier so that you make up about 1/3 of the lost sleep.  A nap is totally worth the time as an investment in your health right now.
  • Exercise to clean the Lungs.  Focus mainly on cardio, qi gong, dance or anything that calls for lots of regular, deep breathing.
  • Cultivate your inner world.  We are naturally less physically active in the colder, darker months, so it is a good idea to spend more time on things your mind enjoys.  Creative writing, music, study, politics, art – try to add a little more to your week.  This slows down ‘cabin fever’ type stresses or seasonal affective disorder, but clinically I see another advantage as well, in relation to the Chinese idea of longevity.  I treat many people in their 80’s and 90’s who feel quite bereft at how physical limitations decrease their quality of life, yet their minds are are totally fine.  Or even younger folk who are injured and can’t play the way they would prefer.  I see that those folk with a lifelong, rich connection to their inner world are healthier and more content.  If your focus all year has been on external activity, this season, start to find out what inspires you on the inside and cultivate a rich relationship with it.



No flu shot this year? Or said ‘yes’ to the flu shot? Start prevention now!

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

If you have already decided that the flu shot is not for you, read on.

If you have decided that you need the injection this year, I totally support your decision. It is obvious that some people’s risk factors require this extra level of protection. Yet the following advice may still be relevant as the flu shot does not come with any guarantee that it will work completely.

In Chinese medicine, preparing for a problem is considered superior than being caught be surprise by the trouble.

What can you do?
Science and Chinese medicine agree – your immune system is influenced by diet, exercise emotions and genetics. Try googling “psychoneuroimmunology.” But science is not yet developed enough to establish how well things are working until you get challenged with a germ. Your own intuition and experience is frequently an important guide in this case.

How can Chinese medicine help?
Chinese medicine is able to look at the individual and understand what works well and what is weak even before symptoms arise. All returning patients of mine can come in for a free cold/ flu-prevention planning session. We will review your current situation and see what areas need support to limit illness during cold and flu season.

Some people need herbs, some just need an adjustment to their diet or pattern of exercise. Some need acupuncture. Some need help through a new stress. Individualized care has as many solutions as there are human situations.

For many of my returning patients, who have taken my advice over the years, they don’t need to change a thing and can look forward to staying healthy during the cold weather.

If you have not been in to see me before, give me a call on my mobile (541) 228-4822 and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.

No matter what you decide to do, I wish the best of health this season!

Exercising outside during cold weather

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

If you want to cultivate all the benefit that your body derived from summer training, be mindful how Cold and Damp can not only damage your system in the short term, but in the long term as well.
Stay warm.
In Chinese Medicine, the advice to stay warm is very specific – keep the joints used in your exercise warm, dry and wind protected. This regularly means that the athlete must stay covered up to the extent that they feel slightly “too” warm for the large percentage of workouts aimed at maintaining fitness. Workouts that try to push the envelope can be handled a little differently.
Folk that wear shorts and T-shirts to train outside in cold weather will rapidly chill the entire body once they finish the workout. This uncontrolled chilling runs the risk of lowering your resistance to disease. Digestion, joints, the immune system and even aspects of the menstrual cycle can become more subject to imbalance and disease with chronic exposure to the elements. These preventable imbalances can build up over time. And remember, in Chinese medicine prevention is always preferred to treatment.
Warmth increases blood flow and keeps flexible, shock absorbing tissue pliant. Warmth allows enzymes involved in muscle, tendon and ligament repair to work better.
Ice is fine after a workout, when the affected area is not trying to perform. Icing within 24 hours of a workout can speed up recovery time and is great for managing some types of injury. But this kind of icing is applied to specific, limited areas when the rest of the body is warm
If you want to maximize health as you age, keep warm, dry and wind protected during any outside physical activity for most of your workouts.