15 Arthritis Supplements and Alternative Approaches – Do They Work?

massage-handMillions of dollars are spent every year on prescriptions help relieve pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Are there more natural supplements or alternative treatments that can be equally as effective? Do these natural approaches actually help in alleviating symptoms and is it worth the cost or effort? Continue reading

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What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Sleepy ManGeneralized Anxiety Disorder
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD experience an excessive amount of worry about everyday subjects such as work, family, friends, and health. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (2013) states that “Anxiety disorders affects about 40 million Americans age 18 years and older (about 18 percent) in a given year”. The feeling of anxiety is persistent and lasts for more than 6 months.

People with GAD tend to exaggerate the feeling of uneasiness and tension when there is no reason to worry. The disorder may keep people from doing things they enjoy because they are fearful of the consequences.

The disorder can develop at any age of a person’s lifetime whether it is during childhood or adulthood. The symptoms of the disorder can mimic other mood disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be a life-long condition. Women are twice more likely to be diagnosed with the illness than men (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2014).

Young child frightened parentsCauses of GAD
The cause(s) of Generalized Anxiety Disorder are unknown. There is evidence that the condition may be inherited however the findings are inconclusive. Environmental factors may play a role in the progression of the illness. Living in a stressful household or working in an uneasy workplace may exacerbate GAD (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2014).


AnxietySymptoms of GAD
The National Institute of Mental Health (2014) states that the physical symptoms of anxiety are “fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.”  Mayo Clinic (2014) provides a list of the general symptoms people may exhibit from the condition. The symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Persistent worrying or obsession about small or large concerns that’s out of proportion to the impact of the event
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, restlessness, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or feeling that your mind “goes blank”
  • Worrying about excessively worrying
  • Distress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision
  • Carrying every option in a situation all the way out to its possible negative conclusion
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisiveness

 Worried elderly woman

“People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.”   -National Institute of Mental Health (2014)


Worried depressed older manDiagnosis of GAD
When a person has persistent and excessive feelings of uneasiness, anxiety and worry for longer than 6 months, it is recommended to seek a medical professional to receive a diagnosis. Since the cause(s) of Generalized Anxiety Disorder are unknown, it can be difficult to properly diagnose the disorder without ruling out other illnesses that manifest similar symptoms. The doctor will perform a thorough mental health examination. If Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed, the doctor will discuss proper forms of treatment.

Treatments for GAD
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is commonly treated with three types of treatments: psychotherapy, medication, or lifestyle changes. In psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy is beneficial for people suffering from GAD.
Teenager stressed in libraryThe National Alliance on Mental Illness (2012) states that “Cognitive behavior therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors”.  People learn to think and react differently to certain stressful situations to prevent self-destructive behaviors and negative thoughts that could cause anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines are used to treat GAD.

Antidepressant medications such as Prozac are also helpful in treating mood disorders; however people can have suicidal thoughts while on antidepressants.

Natural Holistic Lifestyle Changes
Mayo Clinic lists the following natural lifestyle changes that are helpful in preventing and treating GAD:

Young adults yoga

  • Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.

Alcohol and depression

    • Avoid alcohol and other sedatives. These substances can worsen anxiety.
    • Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
  • Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren’t sleeping well, see your doctor.
    Woman eating healthy salad
  • Eat healthy. Healthy eating-such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish- may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.


Alternative Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
In addition to the natural holistic lifestyle changes listed above, there are other effective natural and alternative methods for treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some of the most popular methods are:  acupuncture,yoga, and meditation.

 

Acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture needles in woman’s spine

Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that focuses on the human body’s flow of energy. With acupuncture, needles are inserted into certain areas of the body. Acupuncture is becoming more widely used as a treatment for a wide variety of mood disorders.


Yoga
is a Hindu philosophy. yoga matsThe goal of practicing yoga is to gain control over the mind and body through physical postures and breathing exercises. Research studies show that yoga can significantly reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.

 

Meditation is a type of relaxation technique Meditation older peoplepeople use to calm the mind and to eliminate negative thoughts (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013). Many research studies have been conducted on the effects of meditation in reducing anxiety and stress. Recently the United States government has been  conducting research using meditation with men and women in the military.  See our article, “Marines are Meditating! Mindfulness- Based Fitness.”

 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a serious condition which can begin at any age in a person’s lifetime.  If you believe you have GAD and your symptoms have lasted for more than six months, consult with your trusted family physician or health practitioner.  There are many treatment options available to help you.

 

References
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2014). Treating Anxiety Disorders. Complementary & Alternative Treatment. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

Duckworth, K., & Freedman, J. (2012, July). Treatment and Services. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Inform_Yourself/
About_Mental_Illness/About_Treatments_and_Supports/Cognitive
_Behavioral_Therapy1.htm

Mayo Clinic. (2014). Definition. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/definition/con-20024562

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2013). Anxiety. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from, http://nccam.nih.gov/health/anxiety

National Institute of Mental Health. (2014). What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Retrieved November 21, 2014 from, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/index.shtml

 

 

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This articleHang Pham, MBHA Health Educator is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.


Disclaimer:  
The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

 

 

Back Pain: Causes and Alternative and Natural Treatments

What Is the Anatomy of the Human Back?

Muscular System of the Human Back

The human back is made up of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. These parts make up the spinal column. The spinal column consists of 30 bones called the vertebrae. The spinal column helps hold up the upper part of the body. The back is an integral part of the human body (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases [NIAMS], 2013.


Why Do We Experience Back Pain?

back pain personBack pain can affect people of all ages and ethnicities. Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute back pain usually lasts a couple of days and is generally treated by orthodox practitioners by Ibuprophen or other over-the-counter pain medications or  prescription drugs.  However, people can becoming addicted to pain medications especially with chronic pain. Chronic back pain normally occurs for more than three months. Older people are more susceptible to back pain because as they age, their bone strength decreases and muscles become less elastic and flexible. People who are overweight have more back pain due to the excess amount of weight the back has to support. Children who carry heavy backpacks for hours during the school day may experience back pain. Back pain can also affect people who live sedentary lifestyles, smoke often and have unhealthy diets (NIAMS, 2013).


Spine Disorders

What are the Primary Causes of Back Pain?

back pain- woman

Mayo Clinic (2014) provides a list of possible reasons for the cause or causes of back pain:

  1. Ankylosing spondylitis
  2. Fibromyalgia
  3. Herniated Disk
  4. Kidney Infection
  5. Obesity
  6. Osteoarthritis
  7. Osteomyelitis
  8. Osteoporosis
  9. Paget’s Disease of Bones
  10. Poor Posture
  11. Pregnancy
  12. Sacroiliitis
  13. Sciatica
  14. Scoliosis
  15. Spinal Fractures
  16. Spinal Stenosis
  17. Sprains and strains

How are Back Problems Diagnosed?

Acute back pain can be traced back to an injury or trauma. Chronic back pain is usually a symptom of an underlying disorder or illness. To receive an accurate diagnosis for the back pain, visiting a family physician may be the wisest decision.

Back Xray
The physician may take a look at your medical history along with your family history to rule out any genetic predispositions to back disorders. A thorough physical exam will be conducted. In addition, a few other tests may be performed. These tests include, but are not limited, to the following (NIAMS, 2013):

  1. Ultrasound imaging
  2. Bone Scans
  3. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  4. Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  5. X-ray


What is the Traditional  Treatment?

Cancer Exercise Treadmill To relieve acute and chronic back pain, traditional methods used by orthodox medical doctors or practitioners usually include:

  1. Hot and cold compresses to decrease swelling and pain.
  2. Medications such as Advil, Ibuprofen and muscle relaxants or prescription drugs to eliminate or reduce pain.
  3. Low impact exercises such as walking, climbing and swimming have been proven to increase muscle tone and decrease tension in the back.

Prescription drugs can be addictive and harmful to the body with long-term use.

Prescription Drugs Dilemma
What are Alternative Treatments?

Other non-traditional ways to ease back pain include the following:

  1. Chiropractic care. Back pain is one of the most common reasons that people see a chiropractor.
  2. Acupuncture. A practitioner of acupuncture inserts sterilized stainless steel needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Some people with low back pain report that acupuncture helps relieve their symptoms.Back Massage
  3. Therapeutic Massage.  If your back is caused by tense or overworked muscles, massage therapy may help. Massage can help stretch tight muscles and circulate the blood, relieving pain
  4. Yoga. There are several types of yoga, a board discipline that involves practicing specific postures or poses, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Yoga has been found to relieve stress and be effective in eliminating pain.
  5. Naturopathy  The use of natural methods and non-toxic remedies to improve or restore health is known as naturopathy. It includes herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, change in diet, etc.
  6. Physical therapy and exercise are considered alternative and natural treatments. Exercise can be very effective in treating back pain. Research studies confirm that those with osteoarthritis or sciatica back pain are greatly relieved by a daily practice of physical therapy and exercises. Be sure to consult with your trusted health practitioner before starting new exercises.

References

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skins Diseases. (2013). Handout on Health: Back Pain. Back Pain. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Back_Pain/default.asp#3

Mayo Clinic. (2014). Definition. Back Pain: Symptom. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/back-pain/basics/definition/sym-20050878

 

 

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This articleHang Pham, MBHA Health Educator is written by Hang Pham. Hang Pham is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Hang Pham was born in Hoc Mon, Vietnam. She came to America in 1994, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2011. Hang graduated from Seaside High School with diploma and received her AA in General Studies from Monterey Peninsula College in 2011. She received her BA in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. In addition to working as a volunteer staff with the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, she currently works as a Clerical Aid in the Human Resources Department of Salinas City Hall. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.


Disclaimer:  
The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

Hand and Foot Reflexology Meridians – What are they and how do you use them?

What is Reflexology? What Are the Meridians and How Do You Use Them?

Hand Reflexology Massage Meridians

What is Hand Reflexology? How can I use the meridian points for healing?

Hand and foot reflexology massage is probably one of the easiest methods of self healing. There are many reflexology meridian points in the body. Acupuncture meridian points are found the entire length of each energy pathway, in every point in the body.  The reflexology meridian points found in the face, hands and feet and can most easily be used as a self-treatment for healing illness, pain, fatigue and discomfort in a corresponding area of the body. Reflexology is proven to be an evidence-based application for use in medical settings, as demonstrated by researchers such as Choudhary, S., Kumar, G., & Singh, K. (Spring 2006), Piquemal, M. (September 2005), Testa, G.W. (2000), and others. Research has shown the specific techniques of reflexology to be effective and beneficial in many ways, impacting a variety of physical and psychological concerns, including headache, back, joint, and muscle pain, digestive disorders, and relief from symptoms of cancer including fatigue and malaise.
 
What are the Meridian Points in the Hand?
Practitioners use reflexology techniques on the thumb for healing conditions related to the energy meridian of the lungs, chest, or respiration.  Meridian points on the index fingers can be stimulated to improve conditions in the abdomen, such as irritable bowel symptoms, cramping, gas, bloating, pain, diarrhea and constipation. The middle of the palm is the gullet, stomach, heart, liver.

Hand Reflexology Meridians

The top of the pinky finger is associated with the top of the head with the fleshy portion below the top digits associated with the heart.  Stimulating the base of the first digit of the thumb stimulates fatigue and insomnia. The wrist is associated with internal and external hemorrhoids, impotence, prostate glands, uterus, vagina, and urinary problems.  The right and left side of the wrist are associated with the limbs of right and left legs.  For more detailed explanation, and to enlarge the chart, click on the more detailed  Hand Reflexology Charts above.

What are the Meridian Points in the Foot?
Foot reflexology charts are similar to the hand. The spine is located on the inside of both feet, from the big toe down to the heel.
Foot Reflexology
Massaging the toes is a great way to relieve headaches as it relates to all of the bones in the skull, jaw, brain, sinuses and head. Meridian points for the spleen, liver, stomach, gall bladder and bladder can be found by massaging across from from the big toe to the smallest toe.

How to Use the Reflexology Charts
Using the reflexology charts involves massaging the areas associated with the organ or body part. Click on the chart to enlarge the view. Most reflexologists begin by massaging the area all over slowly, but firmly, to loosen it, stimulate circulation, and relax the client. Massage can be done in a circular motion clockwise and then counter-clockwise. The amount of applied pressure varies depending upon what is comfortable for each person. Some prefer light pressure and other prefer more intense pressure. If you feel crackling, or if bubbles can be felt under the point, keep gently working the meridian point until this disappears completely. Crackling or bubbles are an indication of blockages in the energy pathway and need to be dispersed.  The common practice for working with meridians is to gently massage the area for about 15 to 30 seconds.
 

Foot Reflexology Chart top
Example: How to provide relief from blocked sinuses using a reflexology chart

  • Locate the sinuses area on the reflexology charts above (tips of all the fingers and toes)
  • Repetitively squeeze and release the sinus area for twenty seconds on each finger or toe
  • Begin on the right hand/ foot with thumb along to little finger, repeat on left hand and foot)
  • Gently rotate all the joints on each finger or toe (begin on the right hand/ foot with thumb along to little finger, repeat on left hand/ foot)
  • Drink plenty of water to flush out toxins from the body
  • After completing both hands and feet, repeat the process once again, as needed until feeling some relief
  •   
    Special Considerations and Cautions
    Most people love reflexology massage and find it stimulating, healing, and harmless.  However, people with certain conditions should NOT receive reflexology treatments.  
    reflexologist
    People who have the following conditions or are in these particular circumstances, should not try reflexology massage on themselves and/or should consult with a trusted physician or certified and accredited reflexologist. Check with your state or national reflexology certification organization. For example, in the United States, you can contact the American Reflexology Certification Board.

    • Deep vein thrombosis
    • Thromboplebitis
    • Cellulite on the feet or legs
    • Acute infection with high temperature
    • Stroke- in the first two weeks
    • An unstable pregnancy
    • Pregnancy in the first trimester
    • Insulin dependent diabetics
    • Cancer, especially lymphoma
    • Epilepsy
    • Anti-coagulating drugs
    • People taking high dosage drugs or a variety of drugs
    • People who have had heart surgery within the past six months
    • Hypersensitive people (for example, people with chronic fatique)
    • Contagious conditions (for example, plantar warts, tinea, AIDS, Hep B or C)
    • Bruising, cuts, swelling, blisters or contagious or infected skin conditions

    Reflexology can be an effective form of treatment for people around the world. reflexologyIt is something that can be safely practiced by most people in the privacy of their homes, however there are certain conditions that would warrant caution when using this practice as described above. If you are seeking more information about hand reflexology, contact your trusted health practitioner, acupuncturist, or reflexologist for more information.

     

    Resources
    American Reflexology Certification Board
    Reflexology Association of America 
    Association of Reflexologists (UK)

      

    Research
    Choudhary, S., Kumar, G., & Singh, K. (Spring 2006). Reflexology Association of America: Reflexology reduces the requirement and quantity of pain killers after general surgery

    Choudhary, S. & Singh, T. (n.d.). Reflexology Association of America: Efficacy of reflexology in prevention of post-operative nausea vomiting (pdf)

    Ernst, E., Posadzki, P., & Lee, M. (2011). Reflexology: An update of a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Maturitas 68, 116-120.

    Kim M.S. et al. (2001). Effects of hand massage on anxiety in cataract surgery using local anesthesia. J Cataract Refract Surg, 27(6):884-90.

    Oleson, T & Flocco, W. (1993). Randomized controlled study of premenstrual symptoms treated with ear, hand, and foot reflexology. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 82(6), 906-11.

    Piquemal, M. (September 2005). Global effect of reflexology on blood flow Paper presented at the International Council of Reflexologists, Amsterdam and summarized by Christine Issel for the ICR Newsletter (Vol. 15, No. 1, March 2006, pp 18-19), reprinted at the Reflexology Association of America.

    Testa, G.W. (2000). A study on the effects of reflexology on migraine headaches. Dissertation, August 2000

    Williamson et al (2002). Randomised controlled trial of reflexology for menopausal symptoms. BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 109 (9) p 1050-1055.

    ______________________________________

    Jean E. DartThis article is written by Jean Voice  Dart,  M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.”  She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance.  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3  nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about  the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.

     
    Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

    Demystifying Acupuncture – Part 1: Yin and Yang — The Wisdom of Your Body

     

    Yin Yang

    Yin Yang

    The Ancient Practice of Acupuncture
    The ancient practice of acupuncture is deeply rooted in the mysticism of eastern philosophy and spirituality. Much of the power of this healing system does in fact stem from the elegant intertwining of art and poetry with anatomical fact and medical science. Many of the concepts used to explain how acupuncture works, such as the dynamic interplay of the “feminine” and “masculine” forces of Yin and Yang, or the movement of vital energy known as Qi (pronounce “chee”), can be difficult to comprehend at first. However, with a little time and patience it is possible to delve below the surface and discover a deeper understanding of acupuncture in practice. In a series of articles we will discuss acupuncture from several perspectives to gain insight into how it can help each of us attain and maintain optimal health, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

    The Two Primary Forces in Nature
    One of the most fundamental concepts in ancient Chinese philosophy is the balance of Yin and Yang, the two primary forces found in nature and within our bodies as well. Originally, these two terms referred to the shady (Yin) and sunny (Yang) sides of a hill. The classic symbol for Yin and Yang is the familiar circle comprised of half black and half white, separated by a sinuous line, with each half containing a small dot of the opposite color (the black side contains a small white dot and visa-versa). Essentially, Yin and Yang are two sides of the same thing, and such are equal yet opposite. For example, Yin represents nighttime, cold, rest, water, while Yang represents daytime, heat, activity, fire. The key point here is that Yin and Yang are not absolute states, but rather represent a relationship between different states of being. Just as nighttime turns into daytime, and back again, Yin turns into Yang and returns to Yin in an ongoing, endless cycle. This process occurs in our bodies as well: we eat food (substance, or Yin), which we digest and assimilate (activity, or Yang) to build muscles, bone, nerves and other tissues (Yin) that enable us to perform activities such as thinking, walking, talking (Yang).

    Restoring the Inherent Physiological Balance of Yin and Yang
    When the twin forces of Yin and Yang are in balance, then nature follows its course and we experience good health. One of the fundamental applications of acupuncture is to help restore and maintain the inherent balance of Yin and Yang so that all aspects of our body/mind/spirit continue to operate at an optimal level. As you are most likely aware from your own experience, the body has an intrinsic ability to restore the balance of Yin and Yang. Returning to the previous example, when our stomach is empty (lack of Yin), eventually it starts to rumble (Yang) and we, becoming hungry, go search for food (Yin). Once we eat, the Yang (activity) of the stomach is satisfied as it digests and moves the food down to the intestines for absorption. As another example, when we exercise and generate heat (a Yang phenomenon), our body cools itself by mobilizing water (Yin, through perspiration). One of the principles evident in this last example is that Yin and Yang also consume each other; in this case, the Yang heat consumes the Yin fluids. Assuming we eventually drink more fluid, the balance is restored and our body functions normally, maintaining the Yin/Yang balance.

    The Mental, Emotional, and Psychological Function of Yin and Yang 
    Thus far we have explored a few examples of Yin and Yang in terms of normal, healthy physiological function. We can also discuss these forces in terms of mental/emotional/psychological activity. As noted previously, thinking in general is considered more Yang in nature, while sleeping or some forms of quiet meditation would be more Yin in nature, although as one can see everything happens on a continuum, with Yang phenomena being defined relative to a more Yin phenomena. In the above example, thinking and meditating both involve mental activity, with the former being relatively more “active” than the latter. Certain emotional states show more Yang or Yin characteristics as well. We can all remember times of intense anger, which can be a very Yang, outward-directed emotional state, as compared to sadness or perhaps depression, where our spirit deflates or submerges, moving in an inward or Yin orientation. In a healthy person the Yin and Yang return to a balanced state, which doesn’t mean that the person never feels emotions, but rather that they avoid painful or dangerous extremes, much like a swing that moves in a gentle arc instead of careening from the highs of one emotion to the lows of its opposite.

    Treating Yin and Yang Imbalance
    With this background information on the nature of Yin and Yang as we experience it in human form in the context of normal health, the next matter is to explore situations where the Yin and Yang forces become imbalanced, creating disease, and to examine how acupuncture can help remedy these dis-harmonies and restore good health. As a first example, consider a person who is overweight; although weight gain may be caused by many factors, in general we can deduce a state of excess Yin. Some ways to approach this matter include: decreasing the consumption of Yin (eating less overall or perhaps eating smaller meals several times a day), promoting the discharge of the excessive Yin (through increased sweating, urination, bowel movements) and increasing the consumption of Yin (by increasing Yang, such as through increased exercise). As you can see from this example, some of the ways to correct the Yin/Yang imbalance involve changes in behavior, such as changing one’s diet or increasing the level of exercise. In general, for almost all imbalances or “diseases,” the first level of intervention should include lifestyle and behavior adjustments. Of course, in many situations other approaches are necessary to correct the Yin/Yang imbalance more fully. Going back to this example of weight reduction, the next level of intervention might include acupuncture treatment, along with further lifestyle counseling and nutritional and/or herbal supplementation. Here we will focus on how acupuncture can be employed to help correct this (and other) Yin/Yang imbalances.

    Acupuncture

    Acupuncture

    Acupuncture Treatment for Yin and Yang Imbalance
    In the above example our goal is to restore the Yin/Yang imbalance by moving and consuming the excess Yin, as well as limiting the generation of additional “excess” Yin. In terms of acupuncture treatment, our selection of treatment points depends on the specific circumstances of the patient in question. If the problem involves an excessive appetite (excessive intake of Yin), we would treat points that reduce appetite, including points on the ear that send messages to the hypothalamus (a control center in the brain) to control cravings. The appetite problem itself might stem from erratic blood sugar (glucose) levels, so in addition to reducing the patient’s dietary intake of simple sugars (refined breads, sweets/candies), we would treat points that help regulate blood sugar, such as points relating to the liver and pancreas. At the same time we would want to determine if the patient is eating excessively due to stress, anxiety, depression or some other mental-emotional imbalance. In that case we will focus the treatment to include points that assist in alleviating these conditions along with appetite control in general. Under conditions of excessive, chronic stress, the adrenal glands can become weak and under-produce hormones relating to water metabolism and stress adaptation. In this circumstance the body starts to move fat deposits into the abdomen, and the patient may appear overweight. The treatment here would need to include points to support the healthy function of the adrenal glands in addition to the other points mentioned above.

    Determining a Change of Lifestyle and Plan for Future
    After addressing appetite control/food intake, the next objective is to move and eliminate the excess weight/Yin already present. As before, here we need to determine what factors are involved in the inability to decrease the excess Yin. In some cases, the patient may have problems with elimination, such as constipation, that in itself will result in increased weight. Thus the logical treatment is to enhance elimination with acupuncture treatment, perhaps in concert with dietary intake of fiber-rich foods, extra fiber itself, or even gentle laxatives when necessary. Note that constipation can be due to a lack of Yin (such as intestinal dryness) or a lack of Yang (such as weakness in the intestinal musculature), such that our treatment principle changes a little accordingly, even though we are still seeking to eliminate Yin through the bowel movements. We previously discussed utilizing exercise to “burn” the excess Yin by increasing Yang (heat). We can also utilize acupuncture treatment to improve metabolism, such as by enhancing the function of the thyroid gland. In fact, part of our diagnosis should include checking the function of this gland, as a weak thyroid gland (a very Yang organ, since it is involved with metabolism) can lead to weight gain and coldness (another sign of too much Yin).

    As you can see from the preceding discussion, the deceptively simple concept of Yin and Yang forces in nature can be the foundation for an elegant, holistic approach to restoring health and promoting wellness. The basic process we used to analyze this sample patient with a weight management problem can be used with almost any condition. In this discussion we examined health and disease exclusively through the lens of Yin and Yang theory, while in practice we usually incorporate additional perspectives, including the concept of Qi and the Five Elements, as well as various hands-on systems of assessment such as Hara (abdominal) diagnosis, which are all explained in separate articles of this series. The Yin/Yang theory is the oldest and most wide-reaching of all the concepts in this ages-old medical system, and thus is a perfect start for our continuing journey of exploration and discovery.

     

    This article was written by Daniel Bagdadi, L.Ac., M.S.  For more information about the Alliance,contact us or visit Our Mission page on this blog.

     

     

    Prescription Drugs – Mind/Heart Wisdom

    Do we use abuse prescription drugs? Can we reduce the incidence of prescription drug use and drug abuse in our country? Are there other alternative and holistic health options besides prescription drugs?

    Buon pomeriggio, friends and health enthusiasts!

    Today mind/heart wisdom, drug use, pain and stress relief is the MBHA topic and focus. Although this is a time to be grateful and filled with love, holiday shoppers can be seen frantically grabbing  hot deals, and family members can overeat, overwork, lose their tempers, and experience pain and fatigue. It’s a reminder that holiday stress often brings aches and pains, financial worries and debt, and drugs are often the chosen remedy and quick fix.  Using the mind/heart wisdom is so important during these times. Let’s check out some current statistics about the drug dilemma here in the United States.

    Here are a few startling facts.

    Prescription Drugs

    Click to enlarge photo, and copy and share with friends. According to a recent report by the NIDA, 25% of adults who started abusing prescription drugs at 13 years of age or younger met clinical criteria for addiction later in life.

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), unintentional death from overdose of opioids has quadrupled steadily since 1999 and now outnumbers those deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.  Between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million and for opioid analgesics from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million, or about 36% increase.

    The medication most frequently abused is pain relievers.

    Out of the more than seven million people abusing prescription drugs, more than five million people abused pain relievers in the past year.

    The good news is that while cannabis use has risen in the United States, prescription drug abuse among youth and adolescents has dropped in the past year, but prescription drug abuse and death from prescription drugs, still remains a major concern. Social, emotional and mental stress, physical injuries, acute and chronic illnesses, environmental toxicities, poor diet, lack of sleep, and other situations can cause severe body pain.

    So what can we do?

    The  often used phrase “Mind/Heart Wisdom” comes to mind. As a holistic health nonprofit,  it is the mission of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance (MBHA) staff and volunteers to share alternative and complimentary approaches to healing.  The list is long  (energetic healing, naturopathic, homeopathic, acupuncture, herbal remedies, yoga, Tai Chi, aromatherapy, essential oils, hypnotherapy, light therapy, music therapy, and much more, too numerous to name).

    Certainly there are situations where prescription drugs are necessary.

    A health education nonprofit, such as MBHA acknowledges each individual’s right to choose his or her way of healing.  Like many educational service organizations, we are  here as to offer solutions when one way has failed and a person is seeking other options. However, we as a nation and as a world, can choose to use Mind/Heart Wisdom.  We can choose to listen to that inner guidance and higher wisdom within each of us, to know how to care for our bodies.  Of course, that’s easier said than done. If we are deep in depression, Mind/Heart Wisdom is hard to hear.

    Let us remember those 5 million people and make wise choices this holiday season. 

    This holiday season, we at MBHA plan to continue to nurture and nourish ourselves and share this information with you, as a health education nonprofit.  When the head, knees and back are aching, we’re  going to try to listen to the Mind/Heart Wisdom and ask, “What can I do to love my body?”   Prescription drugs and pain killers are certainly important for the survival and comfort of many people around the world, yet there might be times when we can do some stretching exercises, change the diet, get more sleep, or visit an alternative therapist before considering taking more pain medications.  We invite you to share with us. Let us explore ALL health options, and listen and learn together on this journey in life.

    Sending love and best wishes,
    The MBHA Staff and Volunteers