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.

Kick your butts to the curb

Now is always the best time to quit smoking. Chinese medicine can help kick your butts to the curb and mitigate the oxidative damage that smoking causes.
With the five pillars of health, your acupuncture physician can help guide you through your journey to wean off nicotine.

There are many supportive lifestyle changes you can make to help ease the journey.

Diet

In Chinese medicine, the theory goes that smoking creates a dry type of heat in the lungs, which is not good for health. For current smokers and new quitters, I recommend they consume organic pears and apples, which replenishes the moisture the lungs need to function properly.

Some studies have found quitters who ate more servings of salads or fruits and vegetables in general had better quit rates. Either way, that’s not a bad diet recommendation.
Smoking depletes antioxidants, so current and former smokers need more than the average person.

When the jitters hit, have cough drops or hard candies handy to distract you and give your mouth something to do.

Staying hydrated also plays a big role in the quitting process. Lemon and lime water can help flush the body of the toxins inhaled during smoking, and it’s important to rid your body of that nicotine “taste” as soon as possible.

Remember, quitting smoking is a detox process. A good diet and plenty of fluids will help make that easier.

Exercise

Many patients worry that quitting smoking will lead to weight gain. It happens a lot, so talk with your health care team and develop a plan that will work for you.

Exercise is also a good distraction for when the cravings hit. Tai chi and yoga, which are meditative exercises, can help still the jittery mind.

Aerobic exercise helps you sweat, which is another way to excrete the chemicals from smoking.
Remember to check with your health care team before starting any new program and stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.

Bodywork

Quitting smoking is stressful, and there’s no sense denying that. Massage is a great way to reduce emotional and physical stress, plus it also helps improve circulation. Self-massage is also effective, according to a study published in 1999 that taught patients how to massage their hand or ear to help reduce cravings. (1) I’ll talk more about that in the acupuncture section.

Chiropractic focuses on maximizing the function of your nervous system, so it’s a great adjunct during the detox process while your nervous system adjusts to your new nicotine-free reality. Remember, your body has not only become accustomed to having nicotine, but now believes nicotine is necessary to function well, and it will take time to re-educate your nervous system.

Herbal medicine

There are quitting smoking teas you can get from Chinese import stores or your acupuncture physician. Personally, my patients report so-so results with the tea, so I just steer them in the direction of a good green tea, which has been shown to reduce oxidative damage in smoke-exposed rats. (2) Most stop smoking teas have a base of green tea anyway, so just pick one you like and learn to brew it correctly. You can drink it hot or iced, and it pairs nicely with honey and lemon. (Check out my previous article on green tea for tips).

If you are interested in herbal medicine, your acupuncture physician will most likely prescribe a formula that improves your constitution or addresses specific health problems, along with guiding you in the right direction for any nutritional supplements you may need.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help your body adjust to your new, smoke-free reality. There are several options to help you navigate this new reality: full-body acupuncture, NADA and ear seeds.

A full-body acupuncture session addresses constitutional complaints and acute problems. 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. This is a good treatment to get on your lunch break, for example.

Remember that bit about self-massage on the ear for reducing cravings? A treatment with ear seeds is a lot like a NADA protocol 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. You can do this treatment by itself, or with acupuncture or NADA treatments.

Last but not least, do not underestimate the power of personal support. It may not have its own pillar in Chinese medicine, but having your own cheer squad of family, friends and health care professionals is vital for your success. A study released this month found that a combination of counseling and exercise encouraged people to try quitting more often and also reduced the amount smoked, although it was the counseling that had the most effect. (3) So before you quit, ask for help and set up a reward system for yourself for every day you resist smoking. Every day you don’t smoke is a victory for your health, even if it takes you multiple tries. So don’t give up if it takes you a few tries to get it right.

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

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.

1.) Smoking cravings are reduced by self-massage. Prev Med. 1999 Jan.
2.) Chinese green tea consumption reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and tissues damage in smoke exposed rats. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Oct.
3.) An exploratory analysis of the smoking and physical activity outcomes from a pilot randomized controlled trial of an exercise assisted reduction to stop (EARS) smoking intervention in disadvantaged groups. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 May 11

Mom was right – wear your scarf!

Fall finally made it here to Florida and – gasp – people are actually putting on long pants and closed-toe shoes. Along with fall wardrobe changes come cold and flu season, too. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we not only treat colds and flu, which we call Wind Heat or Wind Cold depending on its presentation, we like to prevent them too.

Regardless of your geographic location, it’s time to stock up on a variety of hats, hoodies, scarves, and gloves. Mom was right; dressing appropriately for the weather is important for preventing illness.

In TCM, our terms for “disease” sound a lot like weather patterns. The most common “pathogen” we treat is Wind. TCM theory tells us that wind enters through the back of the neck before moving to other parts of the body. Think about the last time you got a chill. First you feel it the neck; it stiffens up and your shoulders get tense too. Then maybe you start with the chills and fever, or the headache. And when Wind invades the body from the outside, it likes to bring friends like Heat, Cold and Damp. They’re all BFFs in the TCM world.

If only you could stop Wind from getting in your body in the first place. That’s where Mom, and her reminders for dressing warmly, come into play. Covering the back of the neck and the head makes it harder for you to get chilled, i.e. Wind to enter the body. That’s why I keep my hair long as a constant protection against Wind. And when it is cold, or I know I am going out on the harbor, I cover the back of my neck with either a collared shirt or a scarf. Wearing a hat also adds protection, but remember the neck is vital to keep covered. It is also why in TCM theory mothers who just gave birth are encouraged not to wash their hair. Chilling the back of the neck after such a strenuous activity and blood loss leads to bone bi (arthritis) later in life, as Wind gets a wide-open door to settle down in the bones because the blood vessels are deprived of a large volume of blood and Wind travels to the bones in that suddenly empty space.

On the opposite side of the body, the feet are sensitive to and conduits of Cold, which is why acupuncture physicians tell you to always wear shoes, especially on tile floors. The Kidney channel, which is the meridian in charge of our lifelong energy and genetics, starts on the sole of the foot. The Kidney channel is connected to the low back and knees. If you have pain in either area, check to see if they are cold to the touch. If they are, then you know you have a little more work to do to keep them warm. The Kidney channel’s BFF, the Urinary Bladder channel, starts at the inner eye, travels over the scalp and down the back in two lines, and down the back of the legs and knees until it reaches the little toe. So Cold on the feet affects the two channels connected to the back.

Here in the US, we wear back braces for heavy lifting to protect the back. In China, they have a padded version that older people wear to protect the lower back from Cold. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Japanese obi have a large sash at the back, either.

The take home point is TCM theory is a lot like Mom’s common sense. Keep important parts of the body warm, and you will be healthier. Your acupuncture physician will give you what may seem to be simple suggestions during your office visits, but creating good daily habits go a long way toward keeping you healthy when you aren’t getting needled.

Now go put a scarf on.

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.

Skin care starts from the inside out

A lot of people mistake me for my daughter’s older sister. Most people don’t peg me for 40 unless they see me first thing in the morning (I’m definitely NOT a morning person). Although I do sport quite a deep liver line (in Chinese medicine we call the crease between the eyes the liver line – it’s an indicator of stress or eyestrain) the rest of my face is fairly wrinkle free.

I get a lot of compliments on my skin, but that wasn’t always the case. I had the chicken pox twice as a child, and the second time left me badly scarred on my forehead and nose. Severe acne runs in my family too, and I certainly wasn’t immune as a teen. And my fellow TCM students saw firsthand the severe case of rosacea plus melasma I dealt with during my last pregnancy / miscarriage. I battled that for two years before getting it under control (but not cured, it’s a chronic thing). So I’ve learned a lot about skin issues. And I’ve been on the wrong side of staring and rude comments too.

Like it or not, people do judge other people by their skin. But it’s not just about beauty – our skin is the biggest organ of protection we have, and we as a society tend to treat it like a measure of beauty only and not of health. It’s not vain to take care of your skin; it’s just as important as taking care of the rest of you.

If you want beautiful skin, you have to be willing to work on it everyday for the rest of your life. It’s not hard, but it does take a little discipline and some dietary adjustments.

Here are my DOs and DON’Ts for beautiful skin:

• DO drink water. There is no substitute for hydrating your skin. If you are low on water, your internal organs get first dibs and shorts your skin. The rule of thumb I use is drinking half my body weight in ounces each day. Mind you, I don’t always make that benchmark, but I see a huge difference when I do stay hydrated. I especially love Voss water from Norway. I also keep an AquaGear water filter pitcher in the office. Nix the crystal light packets or anything with artificial sugar; there are plenty of cleaner versions of flavor packets available now. You can deal, especially if you have a good tasting water. Add a slice of lemon or lime if you have to have a little flavor.

• DO see a professional. It’s your choice whether you see a dermatologist, esthetician, Chinese doctor, or any combination. My dad and sister see a doctor. I have an awesome skin care specialist Nadine Toriello who helped me get my skin back to healthy. There are quite a few Chinese herbal formulas to help acne and itchy skin too. I used one to help help with the itching. Whichever route you go, it’s important to not pay attention to other people’s well-meaning but perhaps not accurate advice. Everyone who took one look at the oozing, itchy red-butterfly shaped mess on my face had a fix for me. Most of it made my face worse, not better. (And no, I don’t have lupus. I was diagnosed with a severe form of rosacea, pyoderma faciale, by a doctor. I also had symptoms as a child but had no idea what it was back then). Even some professionals I saw recommended things I felt weren’t appropriate, and it turned out they weren’t. So listen to your inner voice, and if you don’t see good results or it aggravates your skin don’t be afraid to speak up.

• DO create a full beauty routine. Emu oil is my go-to topical product, which I use daily. I also have a corrective makeup pallet that I can use to cover whatever blemishes I have. There’s nothing wrong with making your skin look the best it can every day.

• DO wear sunscreen. Every day. It will make a difference.

• DO remember that your skin “eats.” If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin. I use all natural soaps and neem shampoo (especially important since your hair gets on your face all the time). What I do get is amazingly soft and not-dry skin with a clean feeling that no other soap matches. Even the stuff in health food stores can be full of junk like gluten, parabens, phthalates, petrolatum or sulfates. Read labels. Every time.

• DO get a good night’s sleep each night. Enough said.

• DON’T drink alcohol, coffee, black or red teas, chocolate or spicy foods; limit the dairy and red meat too. Inflammation starts from the inside, and most of it comes from our diet. A lifetime of poor diet choices will show up on your face. My skin looks so much better when I avoid these things. I can see a difference within hours if I eat something inappropriate for my skin. Yes, it hurts. This is the hardest change to make, I won’t lie, but it is worth it. And when you do indulge, make sure the situation is worth it. You may want to invest in a good anti-inflammation diet book if you are ready to go hard-core. I think Dr. Perricone has one.

• DON’T touch or scratch your face. Wash your hands before and after if you must touch  your face. My rosacea itched and flaked so bad! It was nasty, and it was hard not to mess with it. That’s one reason why it’s so important to get a good serum for your face – if your skin isn’t itchy, you won’t touch it, and it will heal faster.

• DON’T let stress get to you – it will show up on your face! Massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture treat stress well.

• DON’T use those fancy microderm abrasion cloths unless your skin care professional tells you to. Learned that one the hard way too.

And here is the most important tip to remember:

• DO tell yourself you are beautiful, every time you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter how scarred or acne-ridden or itchy your face is. It doesn’t matter what other people think or say about it either. You are beautiful, exactly the way you are. OWN IT! You deserve to feel beautiful everyday of your life.

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.

Pau D’arco — a powerhouse of an herb

Pau d’arco is my favorite herb, hands down. According to my favorite go-to book for herbs, “20,000 Secrets Of Tea” by Victoria Jak, pau d’arco is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-yeast, anti-microbial, anti-tumor and anti-fungal. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, vitamin A, the B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C. This can be a good tea to drink if you need to build blood after your menses, keep candida or herpes outbreaks under control, are fighting off a cold or flu, or need to clear out mucous.

I keep pau d’arco in my house at all times. I keep a plain jar, and a jar mixed with a 50-50 blend of pau d’arco and echinacea purpura leaf. My kids know that if they bring any sort of nasty home from school, they’ll be drinking the pau d’arco / echinacea blend morning, noon and night as a hot or iced tea. They rarely stay home more than a day if they drink their tea. (Sometimes I think they skip drinking their tea on purpose though!)

For people on the candida diet, this is the one beverage that is usually allowed besides water. And for those of you battling toenail fungus, you can soak your toes daily in a strong tea after it’s cooled to a tolerable temperature. Some people choose to just apply the pau d’arco tincture for convenience, which works just as well. I’ve seen some patients in the clinic use it on slow-healing sores where sweat created a lesion in moist folds, too. If you’re diabetic, though, you should consult a doctor about any skin lesion before trying pau d’arco or any alternative treatment.

WARNING: Pau d’arco has caused or is associated with fetal damage, although it is compatible with breastfeeding. Lactating women should use with caution under supervision and pregnant women or those trying to conceive should abstain from pau d’arco. It can also interact with blood thinners (The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety, 2005).

In any case, it’s always wise to see your doctor first for any medical condition, but keeping pau d’arco in your kitchen cabinet may help you fight off a cold or flu the next time it visits your neighborhood.

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.

Living stress free with lavender

preparation of herbs, homeopathy, dried flowers, bannerLavender has such a variety of uses that it should be a staple in every home. The dried lavender flowers can be used to make scented sachets, relaxing eye pillows, dried flower arrangements and herbal bath balls. You can also find lavender in your tea and spices. Check the ingredient label on your favorite stress tea, and lavender could be there. Those of you who cook with the French spice blend Herbs De Provence already know how yummy lavender can taste in chicken and fish. Lavender scones and breads are popular too, although the flowers are usually finely ground when used for cooking.

For more information about cooking with lavender, check out “The Lavender Cookbook” by Sharon Shipley. Look for culinary grade lavender and organic as well.

When it comes to essential oils, lavender may be the most well known aside from tea tree oil. (Both oils are the only two that are safe to apply neat, or undiluted, on the skin.) With its reputation for relaxation, lavender is to go-to oil for people suffering from insomnia or stress. It’s a wonderful oil that can relax you and give you focus. Just one drop on the wrists or on a tissue tucked in your pillow can melt your stress away. You can also make your own linen and room spray by adding 10 drops of lavender oil to a small spray bottle along with a few drops of vodka (optional) to keep the oil dispersed. Just shake and spray to give your living areas a whole new level of calm. You could also add up to 10 drops of oil to your bath if the flowers are too messy for you. Just remember that the oil is far more potent – you only need a few drops to get its benefits. A drop on insect bites can take the itch out. Lavender also has antibacterial properties which makes this oil a wonderful addition to health and beauty products.

When looking for an essential oils, the best quality oils are gas chromatograph tested for purity and will tell where they were made. The prices of individual essential oils are different, and cheaper isn’t better in this case.

With lavender in your life and in your home, you are sure to have a blissful and relaxing day!

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.

Arnica and the ER

My second child was a bit of a klutz when he was younger. He saw more of the ER than his big sister did, that’s for sure. So when I got a worried call from my mom while I was driving to school several years ago, I wasn’t surprised. The sidewalk had been slick with rain, and my little guy slipped on his way to the front door and had hit the concrete wall of the house – with his face. Mom said he had a nice bump on his forehead, she was icing it, and what did I want to her do? I told her to go ahead and take him to the ER just to be safe.

I was a good 45 minutes away, but I got back to town, stopped at the house to grab my arnica and met her there. By then, the bump was the size of a healthy golf ball – ouch! I gave him a dose of arnica 30C while waiting for the doc. He checked out my son for signs of concussion and he was fine, although he said the bump may hang on for a few days and to keep icing it. In the meantime, did I want him to remove the popcorn kernel from my son’s ear? (Sure, since we’re here…)

Eventually, we made it home sans popcorn and I dosed him again with arnica before bed. The next morning, I anxiously checked out my little man. No bump. I looked closer. There was the faintest of green tinges where the bump had been last night.

There’s a reason why Arnica is essential for every homeopathic first aid kit, and this is it. It not only helps with muscle aches and bruises, but its keynote (its signature and what it’s best known for) is head trauma. I was certainly a believer. Although it’s not a good idea to store homeopathic remedies in a car (especially in hot climates) or by electronic items, it’s a must-have remedy for your home first-aid kit. It’s the one remedy I fall back on and replace the most.

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.