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Anxiety–Our Formidable Foe

Although I’ve written on anxiety/depression many times, a dramatic increase of calls/inquiries regarding anxiety made me re-address the same subject one more time. In fact, I’ve never seen this kind of spike on anxiety concerns for the last 15 years. Shockingly, it’s not just among adults; more teenagers and children under 10 report that they simply cannot cope. Many people are at a loss about what to do with growing anxiety. In the next two blog articles,  I will examine why anxiety has become a national epidemic and introduce Buddhist triangle acupuncture points, hoping that self-administered acupressure on these points may provide much-needed help in relieving anxiety, depression, and stress.

 

Chinese Medicine in Treating Anxiety and Depression

Chinese Medicine views that we human beings (just like all other living organisms) are made of three different aspects: body, mind, and spirit. Physical symptoms may stem from mental/emotional/spiritual disorders; emotional issues are often being displayed as physical ailments as the body and mind are seamlessly woven together in one energy field. Therefore, treating emotional/mental issues only with medications, without addressing inter-related   physiological counterparts, is not only ineffective, but may exacerbate the conditions.

In Chinese medicine, the underlying causes of anxieties/depression differ drastically from one patient to another. Typically, Chinese medical practitioners look for “pattern disharmonies” in treating depression/anxiety patients. The most prominent pattern disharmonies in depression disorders are:

* Heart and Spleen Qi deficiency – Physical symptoms may include palpitations, insomnia, poor memory, lack of appetite, fatigue, poor digestion, and a pale tongue. Emotional symptoms include excessive worry and feeling timid.
* Heart Yin deficiency – Physical symptoms may include absentmindedness, dizziness, insomnia, low back soreness, dryness, sensations of heat, tinnitus, and a red tongue with little coating. Emotional symptoms include sensitivity and irritability. Yin deficiency is commonly seen during menopause.
* Excessive Phlegm – Physical symptoms may include obesity, feeling weighted down, congestion, dizziness, fatigue and a swollen tongue. Emotional symptoms include depression and feeling cloudy or experiencing dullness of thought.
* Liver Qi stagnation – Physical symptoms may include nausea, bloating, premenstrual symptoms, rib-side pain, belching and possibly insomnia. Emotional stress affects the liver and includes irritability, frustration, and anger.
* Liver and/or Heart fire – Fire is often caused by prolonged Liver Qi stagnation. Symptoms include a bitter taste in the mouth, headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, sores in the mouth, red eyes, red face and a quick temper.

Depending on pattern diagnosis, acupuncture protocols are determined to address the underlying causes. Generally, results with acupuncture and herbs are cumulative, improving week by week. Treatment begins with one or two sessions per week and tapers off as the condition improves.

Acupuncture and herbs are not only safe, but also effectively used together with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. Many patients find these medications to be inadequate at completely resolving their symptoms. Others, together with their doctors, would like to wean themselves to lower dosages in order to decrease the occurrence of side effects. Most patients turn to acupuncture and herbs for a variety of reasons – mostly because of their clinical success.

Nutrition and Diet Tips for Anxiety and Depression

Whether it is anxiety or depression, when it comes to any physiological and/or emotional issues, I need to repeat myself: Stay away from three food items: Sugar, Wheat, and Dairies. All these foods create empty heat in the body, dampen the body, and block the energy flow. Just removing these foods for even one week can make a huge difference in one’s emotional landscape.

Foods Helping Anxiety/Depression

Asparagus, avocados, and berries

Garlic, onion, cinnamon, and honey

Cashews, walnuts, and sunflower seeds

Chamomile tea, and green tea

Oysters, and grass-fed beef

Nutritional Supplements Recommended for Anxiety/Depression

Fish oil

Vit D, Vit B12, Vit C

Calcium

Probiotics

5HTP

Theamine(GABA)

St. John’s Wort

Valerian Root

L Tryptophan

Note: I have successfully used the following Standard Process products in treating anxiety/depression patients:

B6-Niacynamide, Mineral Tranquilizer, Orchex, E-Poise, Zymex, Livaplex, and Calcium Lactae.

Anxiety versus Depression

Most psychiatrists make a distinction between anxiety and depression, primarily because they need to prescribe different medications to their patients.  Here’s how they are differentiated.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by a deep sense of doubt, feeling inadequate and vulnerable especially for future events. Fear, excessive worries, unexplained physical sensations, and lack of self protective behaviors are typically displayed. The attention of anxious people is usually focused on their future prospects, and they anticipate outcomes opposite from what they desire to see.

Depression

The key symptoms of depression include:

* Feeling sad, and/or hopeless
* Lack of interest and enjoyment in activities that used to be fun and interesting
* Physical aches and pains without physical cause; lack of energy
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and/or making decisions
* Changes in appetite and weight
* Unwelcome changes in usual sleep pattern
* Thoughts of death and suicide

Do they sound markedly different from each other?  In my observation, they are very similar in a sense that anxiety/depression patients’ energy fields are far more susceptible to negative emotions than positive ones. I have not witnessed any anxious person who is not depressed, or vice versa.

For some patients, medications may be absolutely necessary. However, in a majority of cases, once their internal “imbalances” are fixed, anxiety/depression can be lessened relatively easily.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Cancer Patients

The National Cancer Institute’s latest research says the following: Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of illnesses and ailments. Cancer patients use it for pain management, control of nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hot flashes, xerostomia(dryness in the mouth), neuropathy, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance.

Acupuncture is routinely employed in many large-scale cancer institutions in the U.S., including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. An increasing number of hospitals with special cancer centers have adopted acupuncture as their adjunct services.

Nausea and Vomiting

The dreaded nausea and vomiting which commonly occurs in some patients undergoing chemotherapy can often be worse than the disease itself. At the University of Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, a well-controlled study reported significant reduction of nausea and vomiting when pre-treated with acupuncture. It is now routinely administered before, after and in between chemotherapy treatment sessions for control or nausea and emesis. The effectiveness of acupuncture in minimizing nausea and vomiting is often far superior to the standard, expensive multi-drug anti-nausea regimens.

Post-surgery Pain Control

It is widely known that acupuncture is a powerful tool for general pain control. Acupuncture is effective for control of pain, of local swelling post-operatively, for shortening the resolution of hematoma and tissue swelling. Acupuncture can also aid in minimizing use of medications and their attendant side effects.

There’s no difference in treating cancer patients vs. non-cancer patients in reducing the pain syndromes.  Since every patient demonstrates different etiologies, constitutional characteristics, and medical histories, acupuncture treatments can vary significantly across patients. Reduction of pain sensations after acupuncture treatments is quite remarkable.

Re-balancing Energy and Unblocking Energy Flow

Instead of focusing only on pain syndromes, Chinese medicine and Acupuncture adopts a wider patho-physiology approach by directing healing energy of the entire body. Most acupuncturists approach cancer patients to restore overall-balance of a patient’s energy patterns, while trying to augment depleted organs’ energy.  Since acupuncture aims at restoring energy level to the organism as a whole, and reestablishes homeostasis by re-balancing energy distribution, not only pain/nausea will be reduced, an overall sense of well-being increases significantly.

Overcoming Addiction with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Any addiction, whether to drugs, alcohol, food, work, or other activity or substance, effectively blocks intelligence and suppresses healing abilities. Through these behaviors we choose to rely on the demands of addiction to dictate our lives, rather than taking responsibility to conduct ourselves in a healthy, life-affirming way.

addiction

Is there a body/mind connection to willpower? According to the principles of Chinese Medicine, there is. The zhi () represents willpower, drive, and determination. It manifests as the urge to persist in one’s efforts and, when in deficiency, feelings of defeat, pessimism, and depression may occur. Without strong willpower, or zhi, one may easily succumb to the temptations of addiction.

In acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, several approaches may be used when treating addictions, generally starting with therapies that help cleanse and balance. Sometimes a vague, uneasy sensation takes over after or during the process of releasing an addiction. Perhaps for the workaholic patient, it is strange and alarming to experience leisure time. Addicts require fortitude to find replacements for the dependence on substances or addictive behaviors. This is why willpower, or zhi, needs treatment, to provide support and determination to discover the power within oneself–a universal necessity for overcoming any addiction.

To aid your transformation from addiction and addictive behaviors to healthier practices, try focusing on routine. Routine provides stability, and a new routine is necessary to break old habits. If your first thought in the morning is to reach for a cigarette, replace that action with another, healthier ritual.

The replacement ritual could be anything from reaching for warm water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne to refresh your system, or singing your favorite song or stating out loud your plans for the day. As long as the action is positive and consistent, it will serve your new routine and changing thought processes.

Deep breathing with visualization can also strengthen willpower and be used as a tool to curb hunger and cravings. Most patients report a marked decline in appetite and cravings with acupuncture treatment alone, but special herbs, healing foods, and exercises can definitely enhance the efficacy of the treatments.

Remembering the power of zhi, how much do you have it, and how much you are willing to augment it are the keys in overcoming any addiction.

Are there cravings or an addiction you are working to overcome?

Call today to learn how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you reach optimum health!

Acupuncture and Depression

Over years of practice, I have encountered many people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. More distressing is that a growing number of adolescents and children seem to be affected by these conditions. Although it appears to affect only one’s emotional state, depression is manifested in all areas of one’s life: physical, mental, and emotional.

despair_by_saca

Despite intensive research,  scientists still do not know the real cause of depression. A general belief is that a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can trigger  imbalances in brain chemicals.  These chemicals include serotonin, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine. What is not known is whether these imbalances are a result or a cause of depression.

Medications and psychological therapies are the most commonly recommended procedures.  Let me add my own recommendations: A balanced diet, the right amount and type of physical exercise, singing and laughing therapy, and MEDITATION. Also, regardless of whether it is  clinical depression or stress-induced depression, one may want to seek help from an acupuncturist.

acupuncture relaxation

How can acupuncture help patients with depression and anxiety? According to Chinese medical theory, depression can be defined as “Disturbed Shen.”   What is Shen?   It can be roughly interpreted as “Spirit.” This Spirit is so delicate and powerful that without a balanced shen, we cannot be happy, healthy, or maintain a normal daily life.  Disturbed shen is most often displayed through the Heart meridian, yet the real causes may also come from the Liver, Spleen or  Kidneys.

Example 1. A person with a major blockage in the Liver meridian: This person will experience a high level of stress, frustration, or repressed anger. The liver imbalance can spill into the heart meridian, as a result, this person may experience intermittent heart pain and/or irregular heart beats. In this case, an acupuncturist may focus on pacifying the liver first. When the liver meridian is more balanced, the heart meridian will be strengthened naturally.

Example 2. A case of menopause:  Women going through menopause often experience severe mood swings along with hot flushes and night sweats.  Depression during this period is very common; a woman’s body is going through a  major upheaval which disrupts energy flows in all meridians.  Typically, a woman’s kidneys cannot provide enough support to other organs, including the heart.  In this case, priority should be given to tonify her kidneys first.  The kidneys will, in turn, strengthen her heart.

Example 3. Troubled digestive functions: A person with chronic digestive issues is more likely to be depressed than the one with healthy digestive organs.  It is common to see cranky, whining people among those with chronic digestive disorders.  The basic sustaining power of our bodies is provided through our digestive organs.  Low energy level and fatigue caused by weak digestive functions impact one’s Shen negatively. So, the most important organs to treat for this person are the stomach and spleen, along with the intestines. When the digestive functions improve, the energy flow through the heart meridian will become much stronger.

The above examples show how Chinese medicine approaches depression/anxiety issues. Most acupuncture patients feel incredibly relaxed and  peaceful after treatment. If you have not tried acupuncture, or if you want to have a really good handle on your depression/anxiety issues, you may want to visit an acupuncturist’s office.