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Acupuncture can help with those pesky resolutions

Written by by Douglas Schwan, DC, Dipl ac. Posted in January

Acupuncture is a system of medicine that goes back over 2,500 years. Its essence is that there are flows of energy around the body, termed Qi, which are used by the body to maintain health and homeostasis. Disruption of these patterns can lead to health problems. Acupuncturists can diagnosis these patterns and stimulate points along their flow in order to balance the energies and restore health.

 

Can I stop smoking?

With the coming New Year, many people will make resolutions to start living healthier. Smoking is one health hazard that is easy to recognize. However, kicking the habit can be devilishly hard. With the cost of cigarettes today, a monthly bill for a one-pack-a-day habit can easily equal a car payment!

Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins and other brain chemicals, canceling out cravings and easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Acupuncture in the first two weeks of quitting can get you over the “hump” and lead to long-term cessation of a bad, dirty habit.

Can I lose weight?

Of course, smoking is only one New Year’s resolution. Another is to lose weight in the coming months. There are many reasons people become overweight—hormone imbalances, slowed metabolism, overeating, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise are some of the most common. People also have a tendency to “medicate” themselves with food in times of stress. There is also the problem of getting the proper balance of vitamins and minerals in our diet. If some trace nutrient is in short supply, our body might compel us to eat a lot of useless calories in order to get enough of this nutrient. A well-known example of this is food cravings, the body will crave a certain food because it is rich in something the body needs. We see this in pregnancies all the time.

Whatever the cause, weight gain occurs when we take in more calories than we use up. The body’s hunger reflex is controlled by an area in the brain called the hypothalamus and by cells in the gut lining. When the gut is empty, it stimulates the release of the “hunger hormone,” called ghrelin, which stimulates the brain to be “hungry.” Fat cells, in turn, fill up with fat and release another hormone called leptin, termed the “satiation hormone.” Leptin tells the brain you are full and to stop eating.

Research has shown that this simple feedback mechanism can be influenced by specialized acupuncture treatments that can reduce blood levels of the hunger hormone and raise the levels of the satiation hormone. It thus becomes much easier to maintain proper portion control when you are not gluttonously hungry all the time!

Acupuncture for weight loss is usually paired with commonsense steps that help avoid repeating a pattern of poor nutrition that can seriously impede your journey to a healthier you.

Can I stop hurting?

Pain comes in all shapes and sizes. If pain is cramping your style, a consult for acupuncture may be a good idea in the New Year. Chronic pain can, after a time, reinforce itself as a “pattern” in the brain. Studies have shown that acupuncture treatments are capable of raising the levels of endorphins and enkephalins, which are morphine-like natural painkillers made by the body.

In addition to pain relief, acupuncture treatments can stimulate healing directly in areas of damage. Many times your doctor will accelerate the energy effect by running a micro current between two acupuncture needles, thereby “turbo boosting” the local energy levels and speeding healing. Even Western physicians are keen to this trick, as electric currents are used to speed the healing of particularly nasty bone fractures.

One recent research study on pain and acupuncture utilized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. As much as a 70% decrease in activity in the pain center of the brain was recorded after an acupuncture treatment.

Strong pain killers can be addictive as well as lose their effectiveness over time. Acupuncture might be a good adjunct to your pain management.

What about stress and anxiety?

Stress is probably the number-one cause of most illness today. It lowers your resistance to disease and can break down the body’s functions over time. Eliminating or minimizing stress should be on top of everyone’s “get healthy” list.

There are many drugs out there to treat stress and anxiety, but they come with many side effects: weight gain, suicidal thoughts, addiction, sexual dysfunction, difficulty focusing, etc. For thousands of years practitioners have known that acupuncture can relieve or reduce stress and anxiety in patients.

The question has always been, “Just how does acupuncture do this?” A recent study in the Journal of Endocrinology may point the way. When a body is under stress, three chemical hormones are released, one each by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. In a carefully controlled study of rats, these stress hormones had reduced levels following acupuncture treatment vs. sham and no treatment. Reducing prolonged elevations of this “Terrible Triad” of stress hormones is key to managing long-term stress. In fact, many patients report a feeling of euphoria from their treatment. Many chronic illnesses can be headed off just by reducing your stress levels.

Are you considering acupuncture?

If you are interested in starting the New Year right and are firm in your resolutions, you may find that acupuncture is a good, drug-free way to achieve your goal of quitting smoking, losing weight, decreasing pain, or lowering your stress and anxiety.

Most practitioners will allow you to come in for a free consult and talk about how acupuncture might be suited to your particular case. Together you and your doctor can work out a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.❦

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