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

Classical Homeopathy – the interview of a lifetime

Homeopathic bottles and PillsMany people go to the health food store or online to get homeopathic remedies for their issues. These people are generally picking a remedy based on their acute or chronic physical issues, maybe even an emotional issue now and then. Homeopathy can work well for those kinds of issues. I’ve seen it happen in my own family. But there is a different side of homeopathy that many people may not realize exists – the constitutional side of prescribing homeopathics. This is where the skills of a trained and licensed homeopath really shine.

Constitutional prescribing in homeopathy treats the whole person – body, mind and spirit, much as Traditional Chinese Medicine does, but on an even deeper and more profound level. The theory is that each person, as a unique individual, expresses disharmony as a unique set of symptoms and disease. This disharmony also manifests as unusual dreams, likes or dislikes, delusions or themes. So when a homeopath interviews a person for a constitutional remedy, he or she will ask a broad range of questions including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. This process usually takes at least an hour, and is essential in determining the essence of a person, and therefore, prescribing an accurate remedy. A homeopathic interview is a much more skilled and demanding art than most people realize, requiring knowledge not only of the remedies, but also the skill of gentle but persistent questioning that will create an accurate picture of the individual and their issues.

Homeopathy does not promise to fix all your physical or emotional problems, but it can help reduce them, resolve them or help you find new ways to cope with them. Think of it as unlocking your DNA. Like your brain, most of our DNA is not actually in daily use. There is a lot of information there just waiting to be accessed. One of the emerging theories is that homeopathy can unwind unused parts of your DNA so your body has new information to work with to keep you in homeostatic balance on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Everything you already need to know to heal yourself is already inside you, and homeopathy can help you find it. It’s a more efficient (some might say even evolved) version of you that’s waiting to be expressed. At its most basic, what homeopathy does is instigate change, like the Tao. Our perspective of self is that we never change, but the reality is we are changing every second. We remodel bone, create new cells, digest new things (physically and mentally) and constantly evolve our personality. Our very existence is a constant dance of change – and homeopathy can play a vital part in easing those changes or helping create positive ones.

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.