When practicing functional medicine, we are looking for the underlying cause of disease and how the body can function better. This type of diagnosis and treatment is not one-size-fits all and focuses on more than just symptom management.
From a Western biomedical perspective, acupuncture has been proven to release the neurotransmitter serotonin and beta-endorphins, opiate-like substances made by the brain. Serotonin balance is essential for emotional and mental health and has been linked to healthy eating patterns, sleeping patterns, and the degree of pain in the body. Beta-endorphins are analgesic and anti-inflammatory and are responsible for the ‘runner’s high’, which is why acupuncture can induce similar sensations.
The Chinese Medicine model of the 5 elements is an intricate feedback loop of communication between the organs. Similar to the HPA axis, we look to the endocrine system as the communication between Kidney (Water) and the Chinese organ system.
- Fire: Heart houses Mind, or Shen, and controls the Blood vessels
- Earth: Spleen is charge of our Digestion and production of Blood
- Metal: Lung controls Breathing and therefore, responsible for our Qi (or life energy)
- Water: Kidney is in charge of Prenatal Qi (genetics),Reproductive organs/hormones and producing Blood
- Wood: Liver stores and moves blood during menstruation and is also harmonizes Emotions
Genomics Testing – Genetic testing is primarily used to evaluate common genetic variations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The presence of specific SNPs may indicate a predisposition for health vulnerabilities and we can then, focus on lifestyle changes to maintain health and wellness. SNPS may be assessed in multiple functional areas including cardiovascular, detoxification, methylation, immune modulation, and estrogen metabolism.
Genetic testing uncovers potential susceptibility to diseases and conditions such as:
- Breast cancer
- Heart Disease
- Autoimmune conditions
Functional stool tests assess three critical areas of gut health: digestive function, gut inflammation and the gut microbiome (good and bad bacteria). These areas not only affect digestive health, but overall health and function within all the body systems as well. For women with specific symptoms that may have gastrointestinal dysfunction as the root cause of hormonal imbalance, a comprehensive stool test can provide insight into a more effective treatment plan.
Imbalances in the microbiome have been studied extensively as the source of certain conditions which may include:
- Autoimmune disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Celiac disease
- Mood disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Food allergies
A comprehensive nutritional evaluation to identify specific deficiencies of vitamins and nutrients that are essential for optimal health and wellness.
A comprehensive view of organic acids shows the body’s cellular metabolic processes and breakdown. This 24-hour urine test looks at energy production, detoxification, neurotransmitter breakdown and intestinal bacteria or yeast. Women’s health is often complex and this test can give us information on which body systems are out of balance for the most efficient treatment plan.
An organic acids test is ideal for patients who may suffer from:
- Weight issues
- Sleep problems
- Mood disorders
- Chemical sensitivities
Serum lab testing of hormones is an easy, inexpensive way to get an overview of a women’s health. Some of the typical blood tests that can be important include complete sex hormone testing, complete thyroid panel with antibodies, a chemistry panel, iron/ferritin/homocysteine and vitamin-D levels. Other specific lab tests are also considered individually.
Dutch Test (dried urinary for comprehensive hormones) – This innovative test shows a complete picture of hormones and their metabolites, including cortisol circadian rhythm, to assess adrenal health and melatonin. It is useful for women who are considering taking bio-identical or synthetic hormones or for perimenopausal women. It can tell us not only how much estrogen, testosterone, etc. she is making but how it is being detoxified and broken down in a healthy or not-so-healthy way. This information can help us be aware of the risk for breast or uterine cancer for each women individually.
The Dutch test is also a more accurate way than saliva testing to measure free cortisol and to monitor hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) regulation, which is how our brain and adrenals communicate. Since we know that our hormone balance is closely connected to our HPA axis, it is important to test them at the same time to get the big picture.
Acupuncture should be a relatively pain-free experience. There are times where the initial insertion will be felt by the patient, but there is never an occasion where the patient should be in pain through the duration of the treatment. Acupuncture can cause dull achiness, heaviness, tingling, heat, and increased sensation around the area needled. Almost always, these sensations are accompanied by a deep quality of relaxation and tranquility. Acupuncture should be a relaxing experience. In fact, this is one of its therapeutic benefits. I have had many patients who felt so relaxed after treatment that they had to drink some water and ‘get their bearings’ before they were permitted to leave my office. This deep relaxation tends to stay with the patient longer through successive treatments. I look for this as a measurable sign of progress. If the patient seriously objects to needles, there are many alternatives that I can employ. I will use acupressure, energy work, nutrition, herbal medicine, etc. as back-up options. These therapies are often sufficiently powerful to replace the acupuncture. Many patients feel an initial apprehension, but are shocked by how little they feel upon needle insertion.
Most patients that come to me for chronic health problems plan on committing to treatment once a week for 4-6 treatments. At this time, we will assess for progress and discuss where to go from there. Within that period of time, I expect that their symptoms are showing signs of definite improvement and that their general health is markedly better. If someone has extremely chronic and severe symptoms, it is not uncommon for me to see them weekly for 10 visits. I encourage the body to heal over a period of time, as excessively rapid progress can put the body into a state of shock. If something has accumulated over a period of years, it is only natural that it will take some time to unravel the condition and heal it at its foundation. While no therapy can help everyone, my clinical experience has been that approximately 80% of my patients undergo noticeably positive changes through their course of treatment. Compliancy is an important factor in treatment progress. Generally, patients that commit to my lifestyle suggestions will progress more rapidly.
In my clinical practice, I have had great success in treating a wide variety of health concerns
What can acupuncture treat?
In my clinical practice, I have had great success in treating a variety of health concerns:
Anxiety and Depression
While I don’t claim to be a specialist in any one area, I have helped many people with anxiety and depression get off of antidepressants. I enjoy working with this population because many people with anxiety or depression simply aren’t aware that there are alternatives to drugs and talk therapy. Nutrition, exercise, mindfulness techniques, acupuncture, and herbs can offer an incredible support system for healing these conditions.
I have helped many women with PMS, menstrual cramps, irregular cycles, infertility, and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
I have successfully treated many people for headaches, back pain, neck pain, sprains, strains, etc.
Constipation/diarrhea/irritable bowel syndrome
Acupuncture and herbs can work miracles for people suffering with these symptoms.
Acupuncture alone can be very effective. With herbs and stress reduction techniques, the healing process is even more powerful.
Other symptoms/disorders that have I have successfully treated with acupuncture:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Colds and flus
- Autoimmune conditions
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Thyroid imbalances
There are two main styles of acupuncture that have made their way to the Western world. These are called the 8 principle and 5 element approaches to treatment. Most acupuncturists use one of these approaches exclusively. I am uniquely trained in both and actively teach acupuncturists how to integrate both styles into clinical practice. I do this because I believe that these styles are actually inseparable and that their isolation from one another is based on false pretenses. Using both models enables the practitioner the ability to utilize a much broader and deeper set of skills and to effectively treat a more diverse array of patients. The 8 principle approach is based on diagnosing and treating the patient within the parameters of yin/yang, hot/cold, excess/deficient, and interior/exterior. These 8 parameters are used to determine one’s overall health and the relative balance of their internal organs. For instance, a patient can be yin deficient with interior heat. This would likely reflect someone who feels hot, thirsty, irritable, or has dark urine. Menopausal women often fit this pattern. The acupuncturist takes all of the patient’s symptoms, examines their tongue and pulse, and creates a pattern of disharmony based on these 8 principles. Then, acupuncture points are used that directly treat this pattern. For instance, the patient with yin deficiency and interior heat would be treated on acupoints such as kidney 3 and spleen 6, both points that nourish yin and clear heat. The 8 principle approach excels at symptomatic treatment. It can work wonders for pain and acute conditions. The vast majority of acupuncturists use this approach exclusively. My opinion is that, while this approach is certainly valid and useful, it has inherent limitations that create a limited scope of practice for most acupuncturists.
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