Suggested safety guidelines for Florida beachgoers who get acupuncture

Several cases of necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria, have been spiking in different areas of Florida for several weeks. One of the most recent cases was a man who had a steroid injection in his back in the days before his beach visit (read more here).

Because of my background as a massage therapist, I had already been telling my patients for years that I prefer them to schedule massages before acupuncture, because it does leave tiny holes in the skin temporarily. Several months ago I had updated my post-acupuncture instructions to also include no swimming. Even though needles used for steroid injections are bigger than acupuncture needles, the same theory still applies. Any piercing of the skin will leave a tiny hole temporarily, so swimming in our Florida waters should be avoided if you have ANY break in the skin. And if you cut or scrape yourself while at the beach, that is a good reason to leave right away and go home to clean it out and apply Neosporin ASAP and continue to monitor the site.

How long should I wait to go back in the water?

Right now, I’m scheduling acupuncture patients two days before planned beach activities so that there is 48 hours to heal the skin. If you are slow to heal, you may want to plan on waiting longer before you go back in the water.

Who should avoid the beach right now?

Because I have an autoimmune disorder, pyoderma faciale (a severe form of rosacea), it’s been four years since I went to a beach. Here are my personal recommendations for my acupuncture patients who may want to consider avoiding the beach at this time. As always, consult your acupuncturist and health care team before deciding for yourself what is appropriate for you.

• Diabetics, especially if you use a lancet to check your blood sugar and/or get insulin injections.

• Anyone with neuropathy, lymphedema, cellulitis, cuts, bites, bruises, chronic skin conditions, acne, rash, etc.

• Anyone who has had an injection in the past three days to a week. If you recently got a piercing or tattoo, follow the care guidelines you were given.

• Anyone with autoimmune disorders, even if their skin is intact.

Is this excessively conservative? It’s possible. But now that there has been one suspected case of flesh eating bacteria from an injection site, it’s better to be a little more careful today to avoid a nasty complication later. Hopefully, these recommendations won’t be needed for very long.

What can you do to help?

Our water quality is something that can’t be left to chance or someone else to monitor anymore. Please consider helping out by:

• Picking up litter in and around water, if you can do it safely. Ditto for on land.

• Volunteer with or donate to, Keep Charlotte Beautiful, Florida Coastal Conservancy, Greater Charlotte Harbor Sierra Club, or other organizations that advocate for the environment. They’re helping protect your water quality!

• Reduce your use of fertilizers.

• Be mindful of what you flush in the toilet or pour down drains! That includes medicines too. Flushing is not the right way to dispose of your medications or other items.

• Educate yourself on water quality issues in your area. Write your elected officials and tell them how important it is for your health and our economic security. We depend on clean beaches and harbors to attract tourists and we depend on clean water for our health.

Clean water is not a luxury, and ignoring water quality issues won’t solve it, either. But with teamwork from local grass-root efforts up to local, state and federal government levels, we can help reverse this trend and clean up our waterways and beaches so we can all go back in the water safely.

Be mindful of your health status when deciding to go to the beach, and keep an eye on your skin when you’re there as well as after you get home.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician at Vitalichi Acupuncture. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at http://www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Do I need acupuncture?

Laughter is the best medicine. But your health concerns are no laughing matter. Call me and find out if acupuncture can help you today!doyouneedacu?

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician at Vitalichi Acupuncture. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at http://www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Three ways to help you stop smoking with acupuncture

Stop smoking today! Acupuncture can help kick your butts to the curb and mitigate the oxidative damage that smoking causes. There are three ways acupuncture can help: full-body acupuncture, NADA and ear seeds.

A full-body acupuncture session addresses constitutional complaints while also helping to reduce cravings. It takes longer because your acupuncture physician will talk to you before each session, check your tongue and/or pulse, and come up with a Chinese medicine differential diagnosis before needling you. Needles are typically placed in the head, torso, arms and legs while you lay down on a treatment table. A full session typically takes around an hour.

NADA is a specific set of protocols for needling points in the ear based on whatever addictions need to be addressed — eating, smoking, alcohol, etc. Needles are placed in the ears only, based on the protocol needed, and there is no diagnosis involved, so it takes less time, too. You can read or sit in a chair during this type of treatment, to help distract you, but I’ve developed more of a spa treatment style to help people relax.

Ear seeds are sterilized plant seeds on a tiny bandage that sticks to the ear, or they could be gold pellets with fancy crystals but look nicer on the ear. A treatment with ear seeds is the same as a NADA acupuncture treatment, except you keep the seeds on your ears for about five days, and you press them and massage your ear during the day when you have cravings. If you don’t press, them, they won’t work though, so the patient has to do the work to help the cravings.

You weren’t born a smoker, and with acupuncture, you can kick those butts to the curbs — for good.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician at Vitalichi Acupuncture. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at http://www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

How I prepared my acupuncture and massage practice for Hurricane Irma

In 2017, Southwest Florida braced for impact from Hurricane Irma. I was on medical leave from my newspaper job as well as my acupuncture and massage practice after surgery, but I got clearance from my surgeon days before to resume light-duty activities. I spent a not-so-light weekend with my family preparing my home and my business for the worst.

Port Charlotte was lucky. Although some models predicted we would sustain a direct hit, Irma took a bit of a southward bend and hit Naples instead. It may seem like all our preparations were for naught, but I considered it a good exercise in disaster preparedness for my business. There’s a lot of articles about preparing your practice for a hurricane, but they don’t tell you anything beyond the basics that residents shouldn’t already know, and nothing about the specifics of what you should do before a storm to minimize your property losses….

So here’s what I did. Some of it is specific to acupuncture but most of it is good advice for acupuncture, massage, or a skin care practice, and good advice in general for a business. I’m assuming from this point that you have taken all reasonable precautions to secure your family’s safety and followed standard disaster preparedness protocols and still have the time to safely attend to your business storm plan…

BEFORE THE STORM:
1) UPLOAD DOCUMENTS TO A CLOUD STORAGE SERVICE: Save current pictures of all areas of your office, inside and out, insurance documents, equipment inventory, sharps logs, biohazard plan, licenses, NPI numbers, important contacts, etc. Make sure you have as much of that accessible on the cloud as possible in the event you need to file a claim.
2) BACKUP IMPORTANT FILES: June 1 is the start of hurricane season. Why not schedule your computer backups for the week before?

PRIORITY ACTION LIST:
1) SECURE SHARPS: When the storm tracking models started swaying our way, we still had a few days of lead time, so I contacted my sharps disposal company and had them pick up all of my sharps containers, even if they weren’t full. I remember after Hurricane Charley seeing tons of personal property strewn all over the streets, and there was no way I wanted one of my sharps containers to end up on the street, even if I did seal them first. Just because you safely secure your sharps inside your unit does not mean they will stay there if disaster strikes. Ditto for wall-mounted sharps containers. I consider it to be the most critical prep to cross off your list.
2) SECURE CLIENT FILES: During Irma, I was part of a holistic clinic at New Hope Chiropractic, and our client files were stored in a common area. There wasn’t much we could do to improve where they were or move them. I’m assuming you already have your files in the safest, most secure part of your office away from windows and in the interior of your unit. We covered everything in the front office with as many heavy-duty trash bags as we could fit to prevent water intrusion and wrapped everything else. But what about files you transport off site? A hard-shell, locking case is your best option. In the event your vehicle is compromised or in an accident, you want your files to have the best chance to stay intact and inaccessible to the public.
3) SECURE YOUR ELECTRONICS: Since most practices these days have electronic health records, it’s important to treat your laptops or desktops like patient files. This year, I plan to keep plastic bins on hand to store all the computer equipment, and to be double safe, I would double bag the equipment with heavy duty garbage bags before putting it in the plastic bin. A bit much, you say? Aside from your treatment table and professional supplies, your computer / client files are the second most important thing you need to get your practice up and running ASAP after a disaster. And wrapped equipment in opaque plastic bins won’t be as flashy in case looting becomes an issue post disaster. Ditto for modems, phones and credit card machines. I’m not so concerned about my printers, but we did cover them, too. If time permits, I would box these too.

PHASE TWO PREPARATIONS
1) SPECIALTY EQUIPMENT: Bag and wrap all high-end equipment, and if possible, relocate to interior closets away from windows and doors. Bonus points if you have locking closets.
2) UNUSED NEEDLES, LANCETS, ETC: I took those offsite but this year I plan to have a specific plastic opaque bin for my supplies.
3) TREATMENT TABLES: Bag and wrap all your treatment tables and relocate those to the safest interior spot in the unit. During Irma preparations, I couldn’t find my massage table carrying case, and my table ended up with some minor dings. Make sure you know where the cases and carts for your equipment are before a storm threatens.
4) PRESCRIPTION FORMULAS, HERBS, TOPICALS, ETC: Chinese medicinals are not vitamins. They are patient specific and definitely not candy, either. If you don’t already keep them in a locked cabinet, bag and box them and relocate to an interior closet. I used large zippy bags with handles so I could carry them off site. Secure the rest of your inventory depending on your time constraints.

PHASE THREE PREPARATIONS:
If you get all the other stuff done, here’s some non-essential prep ideas that could come in handy if your area is hit:
1) STRIP THE WALLS: I took everything off my walls that had glass, and wrapped all my diplomas. I worked hard for those diplomas; to me, the originals would be irreplaceable. Aside from making sure there would be a minimum of glass breakage, it was purely an emotional preparation for me, taking care of the items close to my heart. It’s totally skippable if the situation is urgent.
2) HYGEINE SUPPLIES: Toilet paper, paper towers, feminine items… if you have extra time and an extra garbage bag, bag those up. If you have water intrusion and the area is cut off from normal transport lanes, dry goods will be a godsend. During Irma, gas was scarce for a while, even for areas that did not receive a direct hit. In a storm situation it’s best to assume that supplies of all kinds might be hard to come by even if damage isn’t bad in your area. So save what you’ve got.
3) BACKUP FOOD, WATER AND FIRST AID SUPPLIES: We all know when storm season is coming. So if you’re on target with your personal preparations, why not have backup in the office, too?
4) BACKUP YOUR FILES, ONE MORE TIME: In case it’s been a few weeks, or months, since your last one.

This emergency plan may or may not make sense for your practice, but it can start as a template for writing your own. Don’t assume you will remember to do everything in an emergency; make whatever preparations and lists are appropriate for you and keep them handy for when you need it. Here’s hoping you don’t….

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture.

Chinese Medicine can help recovery from shingles

By NICOLE NOLES, DOM LMT
New Hope Chiropractic

Shingles is the term used to describe a contagious recurrence of the herpes zoster virus that manifests with intense pain and a blistering rash along with flu-like symptoms or malaise. Although it’s more common in people over 50, shingles isn’t a disease for just seniors. Anyone who has had chickenpox has the potential to get shingles when the immune system is compromised.

Both allopathic and Chinese Medicine are important when it comes to treating shingles, but time and quick treatment is of the essence if you want to reduce the severity and length of symptoms.

In Chinese Medicine, shingles is considered a pattern of Toxic Damp Heat. The damp heat is a description of the rash, with the blisters manifesting the “toxic” part of the equation. When a patient present with a “hot” pattern such as shingles, the goal with acupuncture is to pick points to cool down the patient (reduce inflammation), help manage stress (intense pain causes a lot of emotional and physiological stress, and that’s normal) as well as “vent” the rash to help the body clear it out as soon as possible. The other important treatment strategy is to make sure the patient doesn’t add any “heat” by way of food, hot showers, or topicals that make things worse.

My preferred treatment schedule for patients includes a visit to the medical doctor first for confirmation and a prescription, if appropriate, then acupuncture and supplements as soon as possible to help manage the pain and speed healing. This is an excellent example of how allopathic and holistic medicine can work together to help patients feel better quicker. It’s definitely not appropriate to take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to shingles; it’s probably not going to get better by itself quickly if that’s what you’ve got.

My neighbor’s medical degree came from Google University

I guarantee that if you see a licensed medical professional, allopathic or holistic, you will not be the first shingles case to walk through their door. Your medical professional will give you advice and prescriptions that have worked for many people before you and are backed by science and experience. Many patients have questions and concerns about new prescriptions, and that’s normal. If you have pre-existing conditions, remind your doctor, and ask your questions before you leave, so that you feel confident about taking your meds or supplements as they are prescribed.

When you feel sick or have severe pain, it’s normal to look for relief from any source once you leave the doctor’s office, but many times, the information you get from Google, a “wellness” coach, or your neighbors can be conflicting or aggravate your condition. Trust your health professionals and try to resist the urge to lather yourself with a dozen different “natural” things that “worked for someone on this one online forum I found at 2 a.m.” Natural doesn’t always mean better, especially if you don’t have experience with that remedy. Save your experimentation for the kitchen.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with researching your condition. Many of my patients like to surf the web for info, and I recommend searching whatever issue you have with the additional terms of “clinical trials” or “scientific studies.” A PubMed study, “Comparison of therapeutic effects of different types of acupuncture interventions on herpes zoster in acute stage,” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23342782) found that with acupuncture there was significant pain relief starting about the seventh day verses medicine alone. Another study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22043678) found that acupuncture, added to other traditional Asian forms of treatment like cupping, increased effectiveness.

Tips for getting through shingles:

  • If you have severe pain that lasts more than a day and you don’t remember injuring yourself or “overdoing” it, make an appointment with your doctor. If you see any signs of rash, see a doctor that day. If your doctor gives you a script, fill it and start taking it as directed right away. Make sure they also know about any other medications or over the counter remedies your take.
  • Do stay well hydrated.
  • Avoid spicy and fried foods. In Chinese Medicine, adding “hot” foods to a “hot” condition makes things worse and prolongs healing.
  • Eat a few extra servings of cooling foods like watermelon, iceberg lettuce and cucumber. Ice cream does not count! Try fruit-based popsicles instead.
  • Take tepid or cool showers.
  • Wash your sheets, towels, etc. with hot water and bleach, especially if your blisters oozed or burst.
  • Ask your health professional what topical products and supplements they recommend for you. Do not apply essential oils to an active rash.
  • Do follow your doctor’s advice. Do not reinvent your treatment plan, change your dosage, or skip your meds. You know your body best, but your health professional team knows what works best for most people.
  • Do not scratch your rash or pop the blisters.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Try to manage your stress and rest often.
  • If you have a chiropractor on your health care team, get an adjustment, if appropriate.
  • Do NOT get a massage.

Shingles is an unfortunate complication of a disease you probably forgot all about, but your health care team can help you find relief.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture.

Addressing pain with the five pillars of Chinese Medicine

Pain is usually an unwelcome visitor. Whether pain is a short- or long-term guest in your life, by addressing your health issues with the five pillars of Chinese medicine, you can make lifestyle adjustments that encourage your body’s ability to heal and cope.

First of all, keep in mind that pain is not the problem; it’s merely a signal that something in your body needs attention. We would be in trouble if we had no way to sense or respond to pain. It’s a survival mechanism. But that’s not much comfort when you have a sprained ankle or chronic back pain. That’s why it’s never a good idea to ignore your body’s pain signals; if your symptoms are severe with quick onset or do not improve within a reasonable amount of time, then it’s important to seek medical advice and help.

Chinese medicine addresses all health issues, including pain, according to the five pillars of diet, exercise, bodywork, herbal medicine and acupuncture. Each pillar has a contribution to make in strengthening the body’s ability to heal or deal with pain.

Diet
With every bite of food you eat, you are making a choice to either fight disease, or fuel it. So when it comes to eating to reduce pain, think inflammation.

A basic anti-inflammatory diet reduces intake of dairy, red meat, sugar, coffee, alcohol and soda and increases water intake and healthy, unprocessed foods. You don’t have to switch from carnivore to vegan overnight, but making smarter food choices that reduce inflammation helps your body heal faster and better.
Remember that everything you consume will end up being the building blocks of new cells and tissue, so build wisely by eating wisely. Your health care team can help you design an eating plan that fits your specialized needs.

Exercise
Most people who are in pain limit their motion, and, most of the time, this is a smart idea. But if you are dealing with chronic pain, you may need to slowly increase your range of motion and activity level under the supervision of your health care team.

Tai chi or qi gong are gentle forms of exercise that can be adapted to any activity level and can be good places to start increasing your activity level.
Yoga is also easily adapted to different levels of activity.

The main goals of exercise are to improve a person’s strength, overall conditioning, range of motion and flexibility.

It’s not a contest. Go slow, go smart and keep going. Inactivity can compound pain issues over the long term.

Bodywork
In Chinese medicine, bodywork, or tui na, is a combination of massage and chiropractic techniques. 
Here in the U.S., we leave chiropractic work to licensed DCs, but still use a variety of massage techniques to help relieve pain. This can include tui na, gua sha (a type of scraping of the skin), cupping or even Western-style energy or massage techniques for those of us who hold dual licensure.


Healthy, therapeutic touch has great potential to relieve emotional and physical discomfort and is an important tool in pain management.

Herbal medicine
When it comes to pain relief, there are more options than just aspirin. Your acupuncture physician may prescribe a Chinese herbal formula to help relieve pain, reduce inflammation and promote healing after doing a thorough intake of your current medications and supplements.

When it comes to using Chinese herbs, it’s important not to self-diagnose and buy off the Internet. For one, it may not be an appropriate choice for your individual needs.

Acupuncture physicians prescribe based on the individual’s pattern of expressing illness, not the illness itself. Second, some medications are not appropriate to combine with Chinese herbs. The quick no-go list of meds includes Warfarin, lithium and seizure-controlling medications or generic counterparts.

Acupuncture
Because acupuncture works with the nervous system, it can be an effective way to mitigate pain and retrain your brain how to deal with it. Acupuncture is used as an anesthetic in China in emergency situations or surgeries, but is more commonly used for non-emergency acute or chronic pain management here in the States.

Sometimes relief comes quickly with acupuncture. More often than not, it takes a series of sessions to make progress with pain management.

Acupuncture is not designed like a pill to be a quick fix; it’s more like going to the gym the way it stimulates the body to heal more efficiently over the long term.

If pain has overstayed its welcome in your body, Chinese medicine may give you some new tools to help.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Green tea has good science to support health benefits

Tea conceptTea isn’t just for scones and English breakfasts. This beverage, steeped in history and ritual (pun intended) is the subject of daily consumption not only in American and European nations, but also in Asia. Although tea does not get its own pillar in the five pillars of Chinese Medicine, it is included in the first pillar of Diet. You could make the argument that it also belongs in the fourth pillar of Herbal Medicine because it functions not just as a beverage but a medicinal compound as well.

Many patients inquire about the health benefits of various supplements and teas, and about green tea specifically. So here’s an abbreviated look at some recent studies on the effects of green tea on various conditions:

• A study published in April 2015 concludes that “long-term dietary intake of Artemisia extracts and/or green tea extracts can be an effective strategy either to rejuvenate H. pylori atrophic gastritis or to suppress tumorigenesis” helping to heal the digestive tract. (1)

• A paper published in March 2015 found “the 10-year prospective cohort study by Drs. K. Nakachi and K. Imai revealed that drinking 10 Japanese-size cups (120 mL/cup) of green tea per day delayed cancer onset in humans by 7.3 years among females and by 3.2 years among males.” (2)

• In January 2015, results from a study on melanoma “suggest(ed) that green tea polyphenols (GTPs) induce a marked disruption of the uncontrolled cell cycle progression, and that may be a mechanism by which GTPs inhibit the proliferation or suppress the cell viability of melanoma cells.” (3)

• Another study published in January 2015 comparing irradiation verses green tea polyphenols “indicate that nerve allografts pretreated by green tea polyphenols are equivalent to transplanting autologous nerves in the repair of sciatic nerve defects, and promote nerve regeneration. Pretreatment using green tea polyphenols is better than pretreatment with irradiation.” (4)

• An abstract released in February 2015 concluded that “experimental data indicated that EGCG (the bioactive component of green tea) treatment suppresses cell proliferation of SSC-4 human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).” (5)

• In a study from February 2014, a study of elderly rats that had a hind limb immobilized for two weeks had better muscle recovery of the plantaris, a fast muscle, although it didn’t help the soleus, a slow muscle. (6)

• Results from a study in October 2014 found “long-term administration of cigarette smoke altered the cellular antioxidant defense system, induced apoptosis in lung tissue, inflammation and damage in liver, lung, and kidney. All these pathophysiological and biochemical events were significantly improved when the cigarette smoke-exposed albino rats were given Chinese green tea infusion as a drink instead of water.” The specific green tea variety used in this study is Lung Chen. (7)

• A study published back in 2011 found “epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG, 0·05 % in drinking-water), the primary polyphenolic component in green tea, effectively delayed the onset of Type 1 diabetes in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice.” (8)

Most of these studies were done on rats and mice, but it provides a broad spectrum of potential health benefits of humans. At the very least, moderate daily consumption of green tea won’t hurt. A good rule of thumb is if it’s something that could normally be consumed, consume it in moderate dietary portions, not concentrated capsules. The biggest concern with green tea intake seem to be too much. Remember, more isn’t always better, and concentrated supplements typically remove other beneficial botanical compounds that frequently work together in ways science hasn’t pinned down yet. Here’s what rxlist.com’s updated guidelines say about possible side effects:

“Green tea is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when consumed as a drink in moderate amounts short-term. Green tea extract is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for up to 2 years … In some people, green tea can cause stomach upset and constipation. Green tea extracts have been reported to cause liver and kidney problems in rare cases.

“Green tea is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth long-term or in high-doses. It can cause side effects because of the caffeine. These side effects can range from mild to serious and include headache, nervousness, sleep problems, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, irregular heartbeat, tremor, heartburn, dizziness, ringing in the ears, convulsions, and confusion. Green tea seems to reduce the absorption of iron from food. Drinking very high doses of green tea is LIKELY UNSAFE and can actually be fatal. The fatal dose of caffeine in green tea is estimated to be 10-14 grams (150-200 mg per kilogram).”(http://www.rxlist.com/green_tea/supplements.htm)

Like any change in your diet, talk to your health professionals to see if green tea consumption is appropriate for you. But it is generally regarded as safe. Moderation and proper preparation are the keys to getting health benefits from green tea.

How to brew green tea correctly
The best way to brew loose tea is in a strainer that allows the individual leaves to unfurl and steep properly. When brewed at the range of 122 to 180 degrees for a minute, a good quality green tea can be brewed multiple times from the same serving. Preparing green tea in the traditional Chinese way ensures a good tasting tea that isn’t bitter. Steeping a green tea for too long or too hot ruins the tea and isn’t worth drinking. If caffeine is a concern, discard the first brew after steeping for 30 seconds and drink the subsequent brews. This works for any caffeinated tea, by the way.

With dozens of varieties of green tea available, good health is just a cup away.

Pubmed studies on the benefits of green tea
1. Helicobacter. 2015 Apr 10: Dietary Intervention of Artemisia and Green Tea Extracts to Rejuvenate Helicobacter pylori-Associated Chronic Atrophic Gastritis and to Prevent Tumorigenesis.
2. J Cancer Prev. 2015 Mar: Primary cancer prevention by green tea, and tertiary cancer prevention by the combination of green tea catechins and anticancer compounds.
3. Genes Cancer. 2015 Jan: Polyphenols from green tea inhibit the growth of melanoma cells through inhibition of class I histone deacetylases and induction of DNA damage.
4. Neural Regen Res. 2015 Jan: Allograft pretreatment for the repair of sciatic nerve defects: green tea polyphenols versus radiation.
5. Onco Targets Ther. 2015 Feb 20: Epigallocatechin-3-gallate suppresses cell proliferation and promotes apoptosis and autophagy in oral cancer SSC-4 cells.
6. Exp Gerontol. 2014 Feb: Epigallocatechin-3-gallate improves plantaris muscle recovery after disuse in aged rats.
7. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Oct: Chinese green tea consumption reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and tissues damage in smoke exposed rats.
8. Br J Nutr. 2011 Apr: Epigallocatechin gallate delays the onset of type 1 diabetes in spontaneous non-obese diabetic mice.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

The tongue tells tales of your current health

Go ahead, stick your tongue out at me. I won’t be offended. Didn’t brush your tongue? Even better.

A patient’s tongue doesn’t lie; it provides valuable clues to internal health and is an important part of the physical exam in Chinese Medicine.

The tongue, like the ear, is a map of sorts to the body, as well as the only muscle of the body you can actually see. The front of the tongue represents the upper jiao, or the upper third portion of the body from the chest up. The middle of the tongue tells about the status of the internal organs, and the back third of the tongue corresponds to the pelvic region, or lower jiao. By looking at the color of the tongue, its shape, size, the coat and any markings on the tongue, an acupuncture physician can assess or confirm diagnostic signs or symptoms in a patient.

Stressed out and anxious? The tip of your tongue may be red and pointed. Is your tongue scalloped on the sides? You may be worrying too much and clenching your teeth.

In Chinese Medicine, an acupuncturist likes to see a thin white coat on a healthy pink tongue. A thicker coat can indicate problems with Phlegm (a type of pathogenic factor in Chinese Medicine) and no coat can indicate Yin Deficiency (a term that loosely translates to a lack of bodily fluids). A pale tongue can indicate Blood Deficiency (which is similar to, but not exactly like anemia in western medical terms) and a red tongue can indicate that Heat (our term for inflammation) is present.

A popular health clue circulated on the Internet reminds people to look for a deviated tongue as a possible sign of stroke. This can be a powerful clue when combined with other signs of stroke such as slurred speech or one-sided paralysis, but it’s not the only reason for a deviated tongue. I used to freak out my classmates whenever they looked at my tongue. The minute I stuck out my tongue, the next question they asked was about history of strokes. Nope. One of the side effects of TMJ for me is a deviated tongue, and when I get regular massage on my neck, scalp and jaw, it straightens out temporarily. So even in tongue diagnosis, there are no absolutes. But it is a good baseline indicator of health.

If you are wondering what your body is up to on the inside, stick your tongue out and just look in the mirror.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Auricular medicine offers needle-free acupuncture on the go

What’s the No. 1 comment I hear when I tell people I practice acupuncture?

“I hate needles.”

Aside from the fact that many of these same people also sport tattoos, this is a pretty normal reaction to needles, because most of the time needles equal uncomfortable but often necessary medical procedures. That’s when I usually launch into my “4-S” spiel about how acupuncture needles are small (about the width of a human hair), solid (which means less painful), sterile and safe.

Sometimes, though, that’s not enough to convince someone to try acupuncture, even if they have medical conditions that can be helped by acupuncture. So that’s when I start telling them about auricular therapy.

Auricular therapy is a fancy term for placing needles, plant seeds or crystals in or on the ear based on reflex points. Similar to Western reflexology, which uses the feet as a road map for the body, auricular medicine uses the ear as a map of the human body.

In Chinese medical theory, the ear is like an upside-down baby, with the head at the bottom of the lobe, the spine at the curve of the ear and the internal organs on the inside of the ear. By using a tiny probe to press on the ear, an acupuncture physician can find tender spots that may correspond to areas of imbalance in the body. Then the acupuncturist places a set amount of tiny, sterile seeds stuck to band-aids on those exact spots. The patient goes home in 15 minutes or less and presses on the seeds two or three times a day for about five days. After that, the patient takes off the seeds and washes their ear with warm soapy water. After a day of rest, the treatment can be repeated.

There are several advantages to using ear seeds. It’s great to use on younger patients who may not sit still for regular acupuncture. It’s also great for people who don’t have 1 to 2 hours for a traditional acupuncture treatment. And because it lasts for five days, it’s good for addressing anxiety, cravings and pain.

The downside is, if a patient doesn’t press the seeds a few times a day, the treatment doesn’t work. That’s because the pressing of the reflex points on the ear gives the brain a little wake-up call to go check in with the corresponding part of the body.

Sometimes patients are uncomfortable with the thought other people can see the seeds, but crystal seeds? That looks classy. You can take that look to the office any day.

When I was in school, I used ear seeds to help relieve my TMJ pain almost every week. One set of seeds per week, and I didn’t even notice my jaw discomfort. Once I became pregnant, though, my teachers told me the ear seeds were verboten, mainly because of the type of seed used.

After a few weeks or months of using the seeds, the body can become complacent and stop responding to the ear seeds, so sometimes it’s appropriate to take a break from seeds for a period of time, just like with regular acupuncture. Even without seeds, you can still practice auricular therapy at home by giving your ears a gentle massage, from bottom to top, once or twice a day for a quick pick-me-up.

That’s also a good way to get to know your ears and to check for lumps, scaly patches or other changes in your ear. While you’re at it, don’t forget the sunscreen if you are taking your ears outside in our beautiful Florida sunshine.

If you are pressed for time but still want to address your health issues, just lend an ear, and you just might find the relief you’re looking for.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Chinese Medicine is more than just needles

Say the word acupuncture, and immediately many people conjure up an image of pincushion patients with needles sticking out of them from every direction. And don’t forget the pain. Acupuncture is supposed to be really painful, right?

Not so.

The reality is that acupuncture is just one branch of the Chinese Medicine umbrella, and it’s not even the most important branch. Needling a patient is the most visible form of Chinese Medicine, but there is much more going on behind the scenes. An acupuncture physician not only treats patients with acupuncture, but educates patients on the five pillars of Chinese Medicine in order of importance: Diet, exercise, bodywork, herbal medicine and acupuncture.

Diet: Your acupuncturist knows that food is medicine; that’s why it is top of the list of the five pillars. With every bite of food, a person is either fighting disease or fueling it. And people eat way more than they get acupuncture! Just because diet is the top pillar doesn’t mean a person has to convert to veganism or give up their favorite food to be healthy. If Chinese Medicine had one keyword, it would be balance. When it comes to diet, that means creating meals that look like a rainbow, with a variety of color and flavor, including meat as a garnish, not a main dish. That also means not feeling guilty about eating “sinful” foods once in while, either, because being healthy shouldn’t be a painful sacrifice. Hydration is also a part of the first pillar. It’s a rare person who couldn’t improve their intake of water. As part of your office visit, your acupuncture physician will sit down with you and offer nutritional suggestions, but not a diet, tailored to your health goals.

Exercise: The goal of Chinese Medicine is to keep “qi” moving. The basic definition of qi is energy and oxygen. You need both to stay healthy. Gentle movement improves energy and circulation, keeps the muscles toned and the joints well-lubricated. Your acupuncturist will need to know what your daily activity levels are, and may suggest incorporating more movement into your day. Tai chi and yoga are excellent ways to care for the whole body in low-impact ways, but your acupuncturist will make suggestions based on what’s best for you. It’s up to you to also talk with your other health care providers and develop an activity routine best suited for your needs. Remember, qi equals energy, movement and life. The more you move, the more you can maintain good health.

Bodywork: The third pillar of Chinese Medicine is bodywork, and that’s no surprise, because brains are hardwired to respond to touch. People thrive on healthy touch. Regular therapeutic massage and chiropractic helps the body respond to stress more efficiently and keeps the joints mobile. In America, acupuncturists do not practice the chiropractic aspects of Chinese bodywork unless they are dual licensed. However, other forms of bodywork are included in their scope, and that could be tui na (Chinese massage), cupping, acupressure, etc. Many acupuncturists are also dual licensed in massage as well.

Herbal Medicine: Here’s where people’s perception of Chinese Medicine starts meshing with the reality of the five pillars. Herbal medicine is a big part of Chinese Medicine, and it’s considered to be a less invasive form of treatment than acupuncture. Your acupuncture physician is trained to provide guidance on what herbs and supplements are appropriate for a patient’s needs, but it’s important that a patient be honest about everything they take, from pharmaceutical medicines, to herbs, supplements and over-the-counter-medications. All of these play a big part in creating the chemical landscape in a patient’s body, and not everyone should be taking herbs or extra supplements. Just because Dr. Oz thinks something is awesome does not mean it’s awesome for you. Seek guidance from your team of medical professionals, including your acupuncturist, before you try something new.

Acupuncture: Finally — the needles! This is what people envision when they think of Chinese Medicine. It’s not voodoo, you don’t have to change religions, or even believe the needles will work in order to have a good treatment. Acupuncture works on what are called channels, or meridians, which are lines of energy that are connected to specific physiological functions. These physiological functions are not grouped or named in western medical terms, but they do conform to specific patterns that your acupuncturist is trained to look for. These meridians cover the entire body, usually starting or ending in the face, hands or feet. After 5,000 years, we can finally see them by injecting radioactive dye or using ultrasound. These meridians travel in the spaces between fascia, or the connective tissue that covers all muscles and organs in a three-dimensional web. Nothing is wasted in the human body, not even the “spaces.” Acupuncture physicians use their knowledge of these channels to give specific instructions to a patient’s nervous system by placing hair-thin, solid and sterile needles in specific locations. Each time a patient gets an acupuncture treatment, they are getting an individually written “computer” health program written just for them. The brain picks up the instructions and then begins to “run” the program. Sometimes results show quickly; sometimes it takes several sessions, depending on how much “malware” a patient has. Acupuncture is a lot like going to the gym. A patient can’t work out once, lose 20 lbs. and never have to exercise again. Acupuncture is just one tool to help patients re-balance their physiological functions.

The bottom line is that there is no “magic cure” or one solution that fixes everything. It takes a good balance of the five pillars to create a solid foundation for good health. Like work and taxes, health is an investment that everyone spends time on sooner or later. Chinese Medicine is a proven map to good health, no matter what pillar a patient finds themselves on at any given time.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.