Gut-Allergy Link

Unveiling the Gut-Allergy Link

Gut-Allergy Link: The TCM Perspective on Lung and Large Intestine Health

April marks a special significance in the health community as IBS Awareness Month.

This time is dedicated not only to informing the public about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) but also to acknowledging the experiences and battles faced by those who suffer from this debilitating condition. At its core, this month is about empathy, understanding, and searching for paths toward better health and well-being.

In recent years, the intersection of IBS, gut health, and rising allergies has captured the attention of both sufferers and health practitioners. The gut, often referred to as our ‘second brain’, plays a pivotal role in overall health, and its disbalance can lead to a domino effect of health issues, including allergies.

For centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has offered a unique lens through which we view and understand the intricate workings of the human body. It’s an ancient wisdom that weaves the physical and the subtle, a language spoken through symptoms and elements, guiding holistic health enthusiasts and informing contemporary approaches to wellbeing.

In the TCM paradigm, internal harmony is depicted by the balance and interaction of organ systems – each contributing its distinctive function. Among these, the connection between the lung and large intestine presents an intricate dance of health and vulnerability, particularly as we unravel the layers behind allergies.

The Vital Breath and the Path of Cleansing

The lung, in TCM, is revered as the master of Qi – the essential life force that animates our being. It regulates breathing, governs energy, and serves as a protective barrier. Similarly, the large intestine acts as the steward of elimination, maintaining the balance by clearing waste. It’s a partnership of giving and receiving, taking in the new and releasing the old.

Yet, when this system is disrupted, a domino effect ensues, impacting not just the organ involved but its seemingly distant partner, too. For instance, if large intestine health falters and toxins accumulate, this can adversely affect lung health, and vice versa — underscoring a TCM principle where nothing in the body functions in isolation.

Understanding IBS and Allergies and the Gut-Allergy Link

Recent studies have started to shed light on the intimate connection between IBS and allergies. Research suggests that IBS patients often also suffer from exacerbated allergic responses; their discomfort goes beyond the gut, manifesting in frequent sneezes and watery eyes, especially during allergy season.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) provides a unique perspective on this modern medical conundrum. According to TCM, the body is a network of interconnected pathways, and a disturbance in one area can ripple through the entire system. The lungs and large intestine are perfect examples of this interconnectedness.

The TCM philosophy posits that these two organs share an intimate relationship; an imbalance in one can directly impact the other.
The link seems clear: a compromised gut may contribute to a heightened allergic response. But why does this occur? The answers may lie in ancient wisdom.

Immunity and Allergies: A Tangled Web

One’s immune health is pivotal in the context of allergies—unsurprising when considering that the large intestine plays a vital role in safeguarding this realm. A well-functioning large intestine supports a robust immune system, poised to stave off environmental, food, or seasonal allergens.

On the flip side, an imbalance can exacerbate allergic reactions. Why? Because in the nuanced interplay of TCM, the large intestine oversees the elimination of harmful elements. When it wavers in this duty, it overburdens the lung that thus becomes hypersensitive to allergens, igniting symptoms we recognize as allergic responses.

Nurturing Balance, Cultivating Health

Bridging awareness and action, there are practical facets to nurturing the health of these crucial organs, and in turn, managing allergies.
Practices such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi can harmonize the flow of Qi. Simple dietary shifts — more fiber, fermented foods, and hydration — can bolster the large intestine. Simultaneously, deep breathing exercises may enhance lung Qi. This is not just self-care; it’s a reawakening to the rhythms of nature and our innate capacity for balance.

Acupuncture and Acupressure: Points of Relief for Allergies and Congestion

In the quest to alleviate allergies and symptoms of IBS, TCM leans significantly towards acupuncture and acupressure — ancient practices known for promoting healing and balance within the body. Specific points, when stimulated, can open up pathways (meridians), allowing Qi to flow freely and reducing the symptoms associated with allergies and congestion.

One key point often recommended for relief is LI4 (Hegu), located on the back of the hand, between the thumb and index finger. Stimulating this point is said to enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation, making it especially beneficial for those suffering from nasal congestion and headaches to more gut related symptoms such as IBS. (This point is contraindicated in pregnancy and should be avoided. During pregnancy alternative points are used).

Another crucial point is LU7 (Lieque), found on the wrist, just above the thumb. Activating LU7 can help to expel pathogens and release the exterior, which in TCM means to enhance the body’s natural resilience against allergens and improve overall lung function. LU7 can also indirectly benefit gut health.

A powerful point not located on either the Lung or Large Intestine channels is ST36 (Zusanli). Known as the “Leg Three Miles” point, ST36 is believed to strengthen overall health, boost the digestive system, and enhance the body’s ability to heal itself. It can be found 4 fingers below the knee just lateral to the shin bone. Stimulating ST36 could not only help alleviate symptoms of IBS but also assist in managing the body’s allergic responses.

By gently applying pressure or seeking a professional acupuncturist to precisely stimulate these points, individuals might find significant relief from the burdens of allergies and IBS. These practices, deeply rooted in the wisdom of TCM, offer a gentle, yet powerful, way to restore harmony and health, emphasizing the empathetic understanding of our body’s capabilities to heal and maintain balance.

Herbal Allies in the Fight Against Allergies

In addition to acupuncture and acupressure, Traditional Chinese Medicine harnesses the power of herbal formulations to combat allergies. These blends are meticulously selected for their synergistic effects, aiming to restore the body’s equilibrium. Yu Ping Feng San, also known as “Jade Windscreen Powder,” is one such revered blend, famed for its ability to bolster the immune system, making the body less susceptible to allergens. Comprising Astragalus, Siler, and Atractylodes, it serves as a protective shield, particularly effective during the allergy-prone seasons.

Another potent formulation is Bi Yan Pian, a complex mixture of herbs tailored to clear nasal passages, reduce inflammation, and alleviate allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itchiness. With ingredients like Magnolia Flower and Forsythia Fruit, it acts directly on the pathways that mediate allergic reactions.

For those struggling with IBS, Tong Xie Yao Fang is a frequently prescribed formula, celebrated for its ability to soothe the liver and strengthen the spleen, thereby addressing the crux of IBS-D symptoms according to TCM principles. Please consult your TCM herbalist or acupuncturist prior to starting any herbal formula to ensure that it is addressing the proper TCM diagnosis and imbalance.

Conclusion: Taking the Reins of Wellbeing

Acknowledging this deep-seated TCM connection offers hope and reassurance. It invites you to understand the nuanced language of your body and inspires proactive steps in managing both IBS and allergies. It’s a gentle nudge to blend modern-day insights with ancient wisdom, opening a path to deeper health that’s both empowering and preventative.

Knowledge, after all, is the precursor to change. Through understanding the TCM perspective on the lung and large intestine, you’re better equipped to tune into your body’s messages and engage in practices that promote harmony. We invite you to carry forward this knowledge, finding in it the seeds of wellness to cultivate each day.

For those on this holistic path, may you find in the changing seasons a reflection of your own potential for renewal and balance. And as you do, remember this TCM adage – in the grand garden of health, tenderness and attention are the greatest healers.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation or learn more about our services.

Lokahi Acupuncture
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Coughs and Colds

What We Say Versus What We Mean – Part II: Coughs and Colds

Coughs and colds are common illnesses that people tend to brush off as just a nuisance.

However, they can have a significant impact on our daily lives and are often indicators of weakened immune function. Western medicine tends to classify all coughs and colds as the same illness, with similar symptoms and treatments. In contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees each cold as a unique combination of symptoms and underlying causes.

In this blog, we will explore the difference between Western terminology and descriptions of coughs and colds versus TCM.

The common cold usually involves symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and a sore throat. In Western medicine, these symptoms are typically attributed to viral infections. However, in TCM, coughs and colds are seen as a result of imbalances in the body’s organ systems, triggered when pathogenic factors such as wind, heat, and dampness invade the body.

TCM categorizes coughs and colds into three main types: wind-cold, wind-heat, and damp invasion.

Wind-cold symptoms are associated with a runny nose with clear or white phlegm, a mild fever, chills and aversion to cold, achy joints, and headaches. This type of cold is often slow to progress and may last for a few days.

Wind-heat symptoms, on the other hand, are associated with a sore throat, a cough with thick yellow phlegm, a fever, sweating, and thirst. This type of cold is often fast to progress and may last for a few days.

Damp invasion symptoms are associated with fatigue, a sensation of heaviness in the limbs and head, a cough with sticky phlegm, and a lack of appetite. This type of cold may last for several days to a week.

It is important to keep in mind that a cold can also be predominantly one type while also being multiple types at the same time and even move through different stages. This makes TCM treatment effective and personalized to the cold itself. TCM practitioners will take into account the unique combination of symptoms and underlying causes, which in turn, helps to determine the appropriate treatment.

In conclusion, our terminology sounds the same as the Western words.

Still, the meaning can be radically different between Western medicine and TCM. If you are considering seeking TCM treatment for your cough or cold, it is essential to keep this difference in mind.

Understanding these differences can help you better communicate with your TCM practitioner, making it more likely that you will receive the correct treatment for your unique situation. By embracing both Western and TCM approaches to coughs and colds, you can more effectively manage your health and wellbeing.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation or learn more about our services.

Lokahi Acupuncture
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Embracing Winter

Embracing Winter: A Holistic Look at the Season from an East Asian Medicine Perspective

Winter is the season of stillness, darkness, and preservation in many cultures.

It is when the Yang energy recedes and Yin energy flourishes. According to East Asian Medicine, winter is associated with the Water element and the Kidney organ system, which governs water metabolism, bone health, and reproductive function.

During the winter months, we are more vulnerable to certain ailments and conditions as our body adjusts to the cold weather and reduced daylight hours.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms we experience during the winter months are dry skin, chapped lips, cold hands and feet, muscle stiffness, joint pain, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and anxiety.

From an East Asian Medicine perspective, winter is a time to nourish and tonify our Kidney Qi, which is the foundation of our vital energy and vitality.

The Kidneys store essence, which is our genetic and constitutional makeup, as well as govern our aging process. When our Kidney Qi is weak or imbalanced, we may experience a range of symptoms such as frequent urination, nocturia, lower back pain, brittle nails, hair loss, or sexual dysfunction.

One of the most common winter ailments is the common cold or flu, which is caused by external pathogens such as Wind, Cold, and Heat.

According to TCM theory, Wind-Cold type of cold presents with symptoms such as chills, fever, headache, stiff neck, nasal congestion, and a thin white tongue coating, while Wind-Heat type of cold presents with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, yellow phlegm, and a red tongue with a yellow coating.

To prevent and treat the common cold, it is essential to boost your immune system by eating warming and nourishing foods, such as soups, stews, and bone broth, avoiding cold and raw foods, staying warm and dry, and getting enough rest and sleep.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can also be effective in enhancing your immunity and relieving your symptoms.

Another common winter ailment is arthritis and joint pain, which can be exacerbated by the cold and damp weather.

In TCM, arthritis is often related to a deficiency of Kidney Qi and Blood or the accumulation of Dampness and Wind in the joints. Therefore, it is important to keep your joints warm, move your body regularly (especially in the morning), and avoid damp and cold environments.

You can also try topical applications of warming herbs, such as ginger, cinnamon, and pepper, and internal use of herbs, such as Eucommia and Acanthopanax, that tonify the Kidney and strengthen the bones and tendons.

In addition to physical ailments, winter can also affect our mood and emotional well-being, especially during the shorter and darker days.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to the changes in light exposure and circadian rhythm. SAD is more common in Northern latitudes and affects more women than men. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, oversleeping, cravings for carbohydrates and sugary foods, social withdrawal, and hopelessness.

To prevent and treat SAD, it is important to expose yourself to natural light, exercise regularly, eat a balanced and nourishing diet, and practice self-care and mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and qi gong.

Winter is a season of contrasts and opportunities for introspection and regeneration.

By understanding the East Asian Medicine perspective on winter, you can better align yourself with the natural rhythms and cycles of the universe and take proactive measures to maintain your health and well-being. Whether you are dealing with a physical, emotional, or seasonal issue, there are many natural and holistic remedies that can help you feel more balanced and energized, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, exercise, and mindfulness.

Remember that every season has its beauty and wisdom, and that you can learn and grow from each experience. Stay warm, stay healthy, and stay connected to your inner source of vitality and joy.

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation today

Lokahi Acupuncture
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A Brief Introduction to Moxibustion

A Brief Introduction to Moxibustion

Have you ever heard of moxibustion?

You may have seen it before, or even experienced it during a visit to your acupuncturist. Moxibustion is a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that has been used to treat various health conditions for more than 2500 years. Let’s take a look at what exactly moxibustion is and how it’s used in traditional Chinese medicine.

What Is Moxibustion?

Mugwort, or artemisia, is a flowering species belonging to the daisy family. Moxibustion is an external treatment applied directly onto the surface of an acupoint to warm certain points on the body.

It involves the burning of moxa wool, which is made from dried mugwort plant material, until it produces heat that penetrates into the skin. The heat stimulates the flow of qi (energy) and blood throughout the body, which helps improve circulation and promote healing.

It can also help reduce pain and inflammation.

What Conditions Can Moxibustion Treat?

Moxibustion has the ability to balance and regulate qi, blood and yang energy; expel cold; warm yang energy; and protect against illnesses, helping to ensure overall health and well-being.

The most common usage of a moxa treatment in to turn a breech baby. In this case, indirect moxa is used on a point on the little toe every day for 10 days to turn a baby. It is effective and used by midwives and hospitals in Australia!

Moxibustion can also be used to treat a variety of conditions, including menstrual pain, arthritis in the joints of the fingers, chronic coughs due to cold accumulation in the lungs, digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea, and bleeding that will not stop.

How Is Moxibustion Applied?

Moxibustion is a therapeutic technique that involves the application of heat to specific acupuncture points on the body. It can be applied in various ways, including holding the lit end of a roll of dried mugwort near but not touching the skin, or placing moxa-infused wool on top of an acupuncture needle or close to the skin and letting it smolder for 10-15 minutes before removing it.

The frequency of treatment depends on the condition being treated – for some conditions it may be administered daily or twice weekly over a series of weeks or months.

Who should perform Moxabustion treatment?

It is important to only undergo moxibustion therapy with the assistance of a certified and qualified professional. If you receive acupuncture treatments, you can consult with your acupuncturist on whether they offer moxibustion services or can refer you to another trusted practitioner.

Moxibustion is a safe and effective form of traditional Chinese medicine therapy that has been used for centuries to treat various ailments ranging from menstrual pain to digestive issues. It works by stimulating qi flow throughout the body and promoting better circulation and improved overall health.

It remains one of our very favorite modalities due to its calming and warming properties, and is a fabulous way to level-up an acupuncture treatment!

Schedule a 15 minute video consultation to learn more about how our team of acupuncturists can support you!

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
408.279.9001
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Spring Into Acupuncture - Acupuncture & Allergies

Spring into Acupuncture!

With the arrival of spring, we are reminded of the beauty and renewal that comes with the season.

This year, in particular, we have experienced a true, wet winter here in San Jose which is making for a more vibrant and green spring. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spring is associated with the element ‘Wood’, whose symptoms indicate an imbalance from its natural flow. Read on to find out how TCM can help those suffering from seasonal allergies this year.

The Five Elements Theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine sees five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—which correspond to different organs.

According to this theory, during springtime (or “wood” season) the Liver organ system is most active and therefore needs proper balance to remain healthy. Symptoms of an unbalanced wood element include headaches and irritability/anger due to stress accumulation during winter. If left unchecked these symptoms can worsen over time leading to more serious illnesses such as depression or chronic fatigue syndrome.

As we move into this spring there is a heightened risk for allergies due to our wet winter.

Allergies are caused by an overly stimulated immune system response to environmental factors such as pollen or dust mites; in turn resulting in inflammation which leads to sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes among other things. To prevent allergies from becoming unmanageable it is best to start treatment sooner rather than later so as not suppress the body’s natural response before it gets worse.

At Lokahi Acupuncture we use both acupuncture and herbal supplements to treat seasonal allergies and restore balance for our patients.

Acupuncture works by stimulating your body’s internal energy systems which helps reduce inflammation while also strengthening your immune system so that it doesn’t overreact when exposed to allergens like pollen or dust mites. We also provide herbal supplements tailored specifically for each patient which target their individual allergy symptoms while restoring balance internally so they can better cope with environmental triggers without having an exaggerated reaction in the future.

Springtime brings growth and renewal but it can also bring out certain imbalances in our bodies if not managed properly or kept in check before they become too severe.

At Lokahi Acupuncture we offer treatments for both acute allergic reactions as well as preventive care through acupuncture and herbal medicine that can help keep you balanced during this season of growth and renewal!

Schedule a 15 minute video consultation to learn more about how our team of acupuncturists can support you this spring!

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
408.279.9001
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Can Acupuncture Help My Immune System?

Can Acupuncture / TCM Help My Immune System

Immune system issues vary widely. 

They range from an underactive immune system (as in recurring colds and heightened susceptibility to infections) to an overactive one (as in allergies or autoimmune disorders, where the body attacks its own tissues).  

What is the immune system anyway? 

Our immune system is our first line of defense, designed to eliminate intruders (pathogens) at the initial stage of invasion before they enter deeper into the body. In Western medicine, you’ll hear about white blood cells that engulf and destroy viruses and bacteria or create antibodies.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we talk about the Wei Qi—the protective energy that wards off External Evils.

The 6 Evils include: 

  • Wind
  • Cold
  • Damp
  • Heat
  • Summer Heat
  • Dryness

The common cold from a TCM perspective: 

Wind-Heat and Wind-Cold 

In Chinese Medicine, we differentiate between two main types of the common cold: a Wind-Heat invasion and a Wind-Cold invasion. There are other variations, including Dampness, but the above-two are the most commonly seen types. 

Depending on whether your body exhibits more signs of Heat (i.e. fever, headache, thirst, sore throat, sharp pain, thick, yellow mucus, redness of the tongue with a yellow coating and a rapid pulse) or Cold (i.e. chills, lack of thirst, scratchy throat, dull pain, thin, clear or white mucus, paleness of the tongue with a white coating and a slow or moderate pulse), we will choose a different treatment strategy.

Either way, our goal is to support your body in releasing the external Evil (pathogen).

Deficiency 

If the body is deficient, we may need to strengthen your system, so it can effectively kick out the invader. Ideally, this strengthening takes place when you are healthy to prevent future illness by tonifying the Wei Qi. It’s akin to reinforcing the outer walls of a fortress to ensure enemies can’t enter. Once inside, more effort is required to kick them back out, and more havoc may be wreaked in the process.

Prevention is always the best medicine!

That said, if an invader does get in, we summon the troops to help win the battle. 

Excess 

An excess pattern is the presence of an external pathogen that has become too much for the body to cope with easily (i.e. excess heat would present with heat symptoms; excess cold would present with all the cold symptoms, and excess damp may present with lots of mucus or chest congestion).

With an excess pattern, we focus on strategies to release and drain, which could include modalities like cupping, scraping, and bleeding (releasing a few drops of blood by pricking the skin with a small, sterile lancet) in addition to acupuncture and herbs 

When to come in for treatment? 

We can help you feel better faster during the acute stages of a common cold, but the best time to come in is before you get sick! When your stress levels are high, the last thing you may think to do is carve out time for self-care, but that’s exactly when you need it the most—before your body reaches its breaking point! 

If you’re generally quite healthy, monthly maintenance care may help you remain strong.

If, however, you’re the first to catch any cold that goes around, you may want to come in twice a month or weekly for prevention.  

Seasonal Allergies 

Allergies are a sign of the immune system being overactive, tagging benign particles (pollen, dander, dust, etc.) as enemies.  

While we do not suppress the immune system in TCM as some Western therapies do, we aim to modulate it. Some of the acupuncture points we choose can help the body to self-regulate—much like when we treat blood pressure or thyroid issues. We do not suppress or amp up—rather, we support the body in finding its own balance point. 

With allergies, just like the common cold, prevention is key! If you know your allergies kick up every year in the spring, then start coming in for treatment two months prior. 

Autoimmune Disorders 

Autoimmune (AI) disorders are complex, and there’s no one quick fix for them. However, acupuncture can be a very helpful tool in your kit to manage symptoms and improve the quality of your life.  

Much like with seasonal allergies, the goal in treating AI issues is to help an overactive immune system to calm down.

We select points and herbs to reduce inflammation in the body and treat, as always, according to pattern differentiation, based on what we deduce from your tongue, pulse, and unique symptoms. 

If you would like to know more about how acupuncture can help with your specific issue, give us a call for a free 15-minute consultation!

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
408.279.9001
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