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.

Losing weight with Chinese Medicine

A frequent question I hear from patients is, “Can acupuncture help with weight loss?” The short answer is yes, but it’s not an instant, magical fix. In the context of the five pillars of Chinese Medicine, making lifestyle changes that lead to steady, healthy weight loss is attainable, long-term goal.

Diet
The first pillar of Chinese medicine is diet, and that certainly makes sense for patients who want to lose weight. Your acupuncture physician and health care team can help monitor your food choices and make appropriate recommendations for your goals. The basic recipe for weight loss is to reduce calorie intake a little bit and make better choices for the food you eat every day. You also need to make sure you eat enough calories to cover your basic metabolic needs each day.

It’s not appropriate, or healthy, to starve yourself for weight loss. It’s also not appropriate to attempt to lose a lot of weight in a short time. If you find yourself going down that path, it’s important to tell your primary care physician and get the right support to maintain your health. Just as there are serious health concerns for people who weigh too much, there are equally serious health concerns for people who eat too little or lose weight too fast.

Balance is the mantra of Chinese Medicine, and your health care team will help you create balance in your daily food intake and teach you how to make better food choices.

Exercise
Chinese Medicine had this weight-loss thing figured out thousands of years ago. For normal, healthy individuals, diet and exercise are the two biggest keys to weight loss. Your exercise routine should be consistent and appropriate for your age and activity level. Small lifestyle changes such as parking at the far end of a parking lot to squeeze in extra walking time can add up over the long term. The mall offers a mall walkers program for people who want to exercise in an enclosed areas, and there are lots of gyms that offer equipment and classes for all levels.

On the other hand, overdoing your exercise routine has the potential to cause injury and can disrupt some bodily functions, especially if you are a female in your fertile years. Ideally, your exercise routine should be challenging but not excessive. Talk to your health care team before trying anything new.

Bodywork
Massage and chiropractic falls under the third pillar of Chinese Medicine. Massage has a great track record of reducing stress, which can contribute to poor eating habits. Massage can also help ease abdominal discomfort and encourage elimination as well as a healthy sense of body image.

Chiropractic helps your nervous system function and communicate better, and anything that improves the body’s ability to deal with stress and improve digestion is a step in the right direction.

Herbal Medicine
Although green tea is technically a food, it also counts as herbal medicine. A study published last year by the American Society for Nutrition found that green tea (along with black and oolong tea) reduced fat and inflammation. The green tea also slightly reduced food intake, although the other two teas did not have that effect. (1) A meta analysis published last year, however, found opposite results — that green tea did not offer a statistically relevant improvement in weight loss. (2). Several other studies on Pubmed also came to the same conclusion. (3-4)

Regardless of whatever side of the weight-loss fence you think green tea falls on, as a food it has enough health benefits to make it worth including in your diet as long as you don’t have any orders to the contrary from your doctor.

When it comes to over-the-counter herbal supplements for weight loss, it’s important to discuss the topic with your health care team before trying anything. Remember, there is no quick fix for weight loss when it’s done right. Quick results in weight loss are not usually in your best interest, unless you are under the care of a doctor. If you are relying on supplements as a magic pill to fix your weight, you may want to set more realistic goals with help from your health-care team.

Acupuncture
There are specific auricular (ear) points used for weight loss in acupuncture, and many other points on the body used to improve other physiological processes. The points each patient needs may overlap, but will probably not be exactly the same, since each treatment is customized for that patient. Chinese Medicine was designed to be a system of medicine that focuses on the individual’s needs and their personal expression of health or disease. This is reflected in the point prescription your acupuncture physician plans for each treatment.

If you are concerned about your weight, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your weight concerns, so that your health care team can rule out underlying conditions or medication side effects that may be contributing to your current situation. And the role of Chinese medicine in relation to weight loss is to help you accept your body exactly the way it is right now, while educating and supporting you in lifestyle changes to encourage a healthier you.

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.

PUBMED STUDIES ABOUT GREEN TEA AND WEIGHT LOSS
1.) Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea polyphenols reduce visceral fat and inflammation in mice fed high-fat, high-sucrose obesogenic diets. J Nutr. 2014 Sep.
2.) Effect of green tea or green tea extract consumption on body weight and body composition; systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Hosp. 2014 Mar.
3.) Effects of dietary supplementation with epigallocatechin-3-gallate on weight loss, energy homeostasis, cardiometabolic risk factors and liver function in obese women: randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 14.
4.) Can green tea preparations help with weight loss. Can Pharm J (Ott). 2014 May.

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.

Slippery Elm Tea helps ease Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis symptoms

I inadvertently got diagnosed with Diverticulitis a couple of years ago, when I started back working at the office while I finished acupuncture school. Every night for the first two weeks back to work I woke up with a racing heart, anxiety and chest discomfort that wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. Finally I went to the ER, and my heart was just peachy keen, thank you very much.

So I expected to get diagnosed with panic attacks (which I’m pretty sure it was) but there was one puzzling symptom – my pain improved when I held my arms above my head for the MRI. (If I had figured that out earlier, I could have saved myself a middle-of-the-night trip to the ER!) The MRI comes back, and it turns out I had diverticulosis in my upper left quadrant. According to the ER doc, it was pushing up against my diaphragm and causing the chest discomfort.

Well, OK, I’m in my 40s, it’s certainly plausible, but I hadn’t had any abdominal distress. It took me awhile to piece together that the ongoing cramping, gas and discomfort was probably a sign something was amiss more than just lactose intolerance.

Along with this new diagnosis came a new sensitivity to foods, or a sensitivity I hadn’t noticed before. Popcorn and nuts were no longer my friends. After studying for my boards with a bag of kettle corn by my side, I spent the next three days in abdominal agony. Ditto with nuts. Or the bag of plantain chips that helped me get through a Saturday workday at home. Small, crunchy foods were the enemy – an enemy I loved and wanted more of.

Fortunately, slippery elm was my knight in shining armor.

Slippery elm is an unusual herb. It comes from a tree that grows in the north, and can be used as a food, much like you would eat oatmeal, but with a hint of maple under the blandness. It’s been said the battle of Valley Forge was won by Washington’s troops because they were able to live on this porridge through the winter. Back in the day, the bark was chewed on much like we chew gum today.

The mucilage properties of slippery elm improve conditions where coating mucous membranes is needed: sore throats, acid reflux, IBS, diverticulitis or bronchitis. As it coats, it also draws out toxins and reduces inflammation, giving those sensitive tissues time (and a barrier) to heal. It’s like putting a band-aid on the inside of the body. A poultice can also be made for exterior inflammation such as boils, skin diseases or infections.

The other important property of slippery elm is its ability to expand. The tea, when steeped, will swell like any other fiber. As the slippery elm absorbs water in the digestive tract, it expands and gently cleans out the intestines. So when I over-indulge in those foods I know I shouldn’t, out comes the slippery elm tea, and I’m feeling better within a day or so. Really, though, I should also be drinking this as a maintenance tea once or twice a week as well. And why not? It’s loaded with nutrition. Remember how I said slippery elm is a food? It can be a protein source for vegetarians, and contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. It also contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, selenium, sodium, and zinc.

Some other random things I do to help my diverticulosis are:

  • Mixing nuts or chips with softer foods instead of eating them straight, or eating them in very small handfuls and small amounts.
  • Chewing food thoroughly is an often overlooked, but important lifestyle change. I’m usually a quick eater, which puts strain on the digestive system. If you don’t chew your food to a near-liquid, your digestive system has to work harder and your intestines are processing lumps of food, not the ideal near-liquid consistency it needs. Try to chew 50 times before swallowing. Whatever number you get to, it’s probably better than what you’ve been chewing. A little extra time in the mouth is worth less discomfort in the abdomen.
  • Aloe juice can also be a big help, but it’s not tasty. It coats the intestines much like slippery elm, although it does not have its fibrous qualities. If you do try aloe juice, remember more is NOT better. Start with an ounce or so. If you take too big of a serving it will clean you out in more ways than one!

Be kind to your belly, and if it’s having a rough time, soothe the savage pains with a dose of slippery elm. It’s a gentle and inexpensive way to get relief.

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.