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According to forecasts on pollen.com, this week is going to kick off the start of allergy season! Rather than running out and stocking up on over-the-counter medications, consider acupuncture and herbal medicine as a natural solution to combatting seasonal allergies.
Attack Time v Non-Attack Time
In Chinese Medicine, allergies are treated differently depending on whether you are having active allergy symptoms or not. During attack time/allergy season we focus the treatment approach on reducing symptoms, while still supporting the organ system. This treatment approach is not unlike Western medicine; however, acupuncture and herbal medicine usually doesn’t have many (if any) of the negative side effects.
During non-attack time when you are asymptomatic, we work on addressing the underlying imbalances that cause your body to overreact to allergens. Each person is unique, but treatment could involve supporting the gut and its microbiome, managing the stress response, and/or boosting immune function. This treatment needs to start 6-12 weeks before allergies typically strike.
Root Treatment v Masking Symptoms
Allergies can be compared to a tree. The branches are what you see and experience—they are the allergy symptoms that typically affect the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Trees also have roots, which are akin to the underlying imbalances that cause the body to overreact to pathogens.
Chinese Medicine differentiates itself from Western Medicine in that it addresses BOTH the roots (underlying organ imbalances) and branches (symptoms) of seasonal allergies, whereas the Western approach focuses only on masking symptoms.
The Dreaded Histamine
When the body is infiltrated by an allergen, it triggers an immune response that causes histamines to be released in the affected area. Histamines cause inflammation and initiate a series of events that activate the immune system to kick the allergen out of the body. Histamines are important for a normal immune response, but when the body overreacts to an allergen and produces too many histamines, you begin to experience the classic allergy symptoms: runny nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat, and itchy eyes and skin.
Antihistamines Aren’t Necessarily the Best SolutionSymptom masking gives you relief in the short-term, but almost always results in the condition recurring. Furthermore, you are also faced with managing side effects. Antihistamine medications, such as Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Claritin (loratadine), work by blocking the action of histamines. In addition to blocking histamines, they can also cause headache, drowsiness, nervousness, constipation or diarrhea, dry mouth, sore throat, blurred vision, nosebleed, and skin rash.
There’s Still Hope for You…
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture give you the opportunity to make allergy season a time of year you don’t have to dread! Your reality doesn’t have to include allergy attacks. Call the clinic at 303.499.1633 to learn more and schedule an appointment.
A short bio about Erin Hallstrom MSOM LAc
What is acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture in Boulder with Dr. Jack Schaefer DACM, LAc providing alternative medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine to the Boulder, Louisville, Superior Colorado areas.
Food is medicine. In our clinic, we prescribe bone broth as dietary therapy to patients with low immune function, bone and joint issues, digestive complaints, and skin problems. Animal bones contain minerals, amino acids, and collagen. Minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, are essential to building healthy bones and producing blood. Amino acids aid in detoxification, metabolism, and immune function. Bones are also an excellent source of collagen, which helps maintain healthy skin, aids in absorption of nutrients by nourishing the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, and promotes joint health.
Chinese herbs can be added to enhance the medicinal quality of bone broth. In this recipe, Chinese red dates and ginger root both support digestion. Chinese red dates also nourish blood and improve the overall taste of the broth. Customized modifications to this recipe can also be made, based on your unique symptoms and underlying health condition(s).
We have had patients raise concerns about the ingestion of heavy metals, such as lead, from bone broth. A 2017 study looked at the levels of heavy metals in several types of bone broths, specifically those made of chicken, pork, and beef bones. Researchers found that the levels of heavy metals extracted from all types of bones were minimal and posed negligible health risks.
If you’re still concerned, pay attention to the following recommendations:
Use high-quality pasture-raised or grass-fed, grass-finished bones.
Avoid the use of ceramic pots when cooking, as it can leach lead into food
Filter water to remove fluoride, as fluoride can also enhance lead accumulation
5# beef knuckle / long bones / pig trotters
1 large onion
5-6 cloves fresh garlic
5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary
2-3 bay leaves
1 T apple cider vinegar
1-2” fresh ginger root
6 Chinese red dates (optional)
2 pieces kombu (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rough chop onions and carrots.
Roast bones, onions, carrots, and garlic at 375F for approximately 45 minutes or until marrow begins to bubble out of bones.
Place all roasted ingredients (including pan drippings) in large crockpot with remaining ingredients.
Cover with water.
Simmer on low for at least 18 hours.
Strain liquid through fine mesh strainer into large vessel. Discard bones, veggies, etc.
Place vessel with liquid into refrigerator. Allow fat to rise to top and solidify. Skim fat off top and store in sealed container in refrigerator or freezer.
Our expertly trained acupuncturists are here to serve you.
Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia? Are you hesitant to take Western drugs to treat it? Part of our clinic’s mission is to help our patients avoid unnecessary drugs and surgeries. Read on to learn more about osteoporosis and how we treat it at Mountain West Wellness.
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease characterized by reduced bone density. Postmenopausal women are the population most commonly affected by osteoporosis. As a woman ages, her body becomes less able to increase bone size and density. Consequently, the treatment and management strategy for osteoporosis primarily focuses on diminishing bone loss rather than on increasing bone size.
Bones require an adequate supply of calcium, vitamin D, and several hormones to stay healthy. They are constantly adjusting to changes in nutrition, hormone function, and mechanical stressors. Bone cells that are responsible for breaking down and rebuilding bones (osteoclasts and osteoblasts) are located in the bone marrow. Immune cells are also found in the bone marrow. Bone cells and immune cells share several molecules and proteins that help regulate their function and turn genes “on” or “off.”
A recent research study showed a connection between osteoporosis and immune system activation. It also demonstrated the effectiveness of treating osteoporosis using Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese herbs and formulas simultaneously regulate immune system function and promote bone health. Herbs such as Gu Sui Bu (kudzu root), Yin Yang Huo (epimedium leaf), and Du Zhong (rubber tree bark) are commonly used when treating osteoporosis. We use them in combination with other herbs to make custom herbal formulas that treat both the root cause of your condition, as well as your associated symptoms.
You can also enhance your body’s bone building ability through your diet. Calcium is a key mineral for bone health. It is found in dark leafy greens. If supplementing with calcium, calcium citrate is the best form to take. The body can only process 500 mg of calcium at a time, so keep that in mind when dosing.Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) helps with absorption of calcium in the GI tract. Dietary sources include pasture-raised eggs and wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. About 10 minutes of directly sunlight to the hands and face daily can also help with vitamin D levels.
Vitamin K is the It is found in grass-fed yogurt, naturally-ripened cheeses, natto, miso, dark leafy greens, avocados, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, parsley, and kiwi fruit. The recommended form is Vitamin K2-7 (menaquinone). Both Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2-7 are fat-soluble and are best absorbed when taken at the same time as a dietary fat source.Interested in exploring whether acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine could help treat your osteoporosis? Call the clinic at (303) 499-1633 to schedule a free consultation (valued at $55) to find out more.
What causes the ICV to function abnormally?
An imbalance of gut bacteria can cause gas and bloating, resulting in increased pressure within the intestines. The increased pressure can cause the ICV to stay open for longer than normal.
Dysregulation of the nervous system can cause the vagus nerve to lack tone. Low vagal tone results in lowered response to stressful situations, which can negatively impact the “rest and digest” functions of the body. The stomach and intestines are innervated by the vagus nerve and are thus affected.
How do I know if I have ICV syndrome?
Despite the condition having been first identified in the 1950s, ICV syndrome is still not well understood. For many, it is a diagnosis of exclusion, especially since its symptoms are like many other conditions, including Crohn’s. Western medicine will often diagnose via colonoscopy.
If you are not responding to treatment for digestive issues, impaired immunity, and/or low back pain, ileocecal valve syndrome should be considered as a possible culprit.
In the clinic, we palpate the abdomen. In cases where we suspect ICV syndrome, we palpate the abdomen to determine if increased tenderness and pain exists in the region directly over the ICV.
How does Western medicine treat this condition?
Western medicine commonly treats ICV syndrome by surgical resection. Although this can be an effective method of treatment in some cases, the likelihood of recurrence is high if the underlying cause of ICV dysfunction is not addressed.
How do you treat it with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?
We treat both the associated symptoms and the underlying cause. By treating the symptoms, we help you to feel better now and we treat the root cause of the condition to keep the symptoms from coming back!We use acupuncture and custom herbal formulas to help promote normal digestion, reduce gas causing increased intestinal pressure, and improve vagal nerve tone. Manual body work to close the ileocecal valve can also be very helpful.
What can I do on my own to treat ICV syndrome?
Try doing a manual self-release of the valve. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Palpate for a hard or tender spot on the right side of the abdomen, about halfway between your hip bone and bellybutton. Press gently into the tender spot and drop your knees to the left and to the right in a windshield wiper motion for about 30-60 seconds. Repeat this 2-3 times per day.
by erin Hallstrom LAc
Would you believe it if I told you that your back pain may be due to an intestinal problem? This suggestion may seem more reasonable if you are simultaneously experiencing digestive issues, such as right-sided abdominal pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and/or blood in the stool. These are the symptoms commonly associated with dysfunction of the ileocecal valve (ICV), the muscular sphincter that connects the small intestine to the large intestine.
The function of a healthy ICV is to prevent the backflow of feces from the large intestine into the small intestine. When the valve becomes blocked or prolapsed, problems often arise. The population most at-risk for ICV dysfunction is obese women over 40 years old.ICV syndrome is known as the “great mimicker” because its symptoms mimic those of more frequently diagnosed conditions, including Crohn’s disease, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), sinus infection, influenza, and low back pain. A research study by Pollard et al (2006) used muscle testing at the ICV point to determine a high correlation between subjects with low back pain and tenderness at a point directly over the ICV. In the same study, 32 of 33 subjects without low back pain reported no tenderness at the ICV point.Western medicine treatment of ICV syndrome is surgical resection; however, there is a risk of relapse and recurrence of the condition. In our clinic, we strive to help our patients be healthy without the unnecessary use of drugs and surgeries using Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. We have had success treating ICV syndrome using acupuncture strategies that promote normal intestinal motility, restore the “rest and digest” function controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system, and flush the digestive tract with fresh blood circulation.
We want to help you both address the problematic symptoms now and keep them from coming back later. If you suspect that your health concerns may be related to ICV syndrome, please call us at the clinic at 303.499.1633 to see if we can help you.
Bablis, Peter & Pollard, Henry & Bonello, Rod. (2006). The Ileocecal Valve Point and Muscle Testing: A Possible Mechanism of Action.. Chiropractic Journal of Australia. 36. 122-126.
by Erin Hallstrom
Cold and flu season is in full swing and Colorado is one of the hardest hit states. Here are some pointers for giving your immune system a fighting chance, as well as an at-home treatment to use if you do catch a cold:
Move your body. When the weather allows, get outside to exercise in sunshine. Vitamin D can help boost immune function. While moderate exercise is good for you, avoid over exercising, as it can create a negative stressor on the body, decreasing the body’s immune function.
Steer clear of alcohol. Alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and is known to damage the gut lining. Much of our immune system originates in the gut and its function is reduced by alcohol consumption. To reduce your risk of respiratory infection or pneumonia, moderate the amount of booze you drink.
Take probiotics. A recent study showed that participants who took probiotics had enhanced immune function and a significantly reduced incidence of upper respiratory infections and flu symptoms. Probiotics don’t work immediately and should be taken regularly over several months for full effects. Look for products that target immune function specifically.
Increase your glutathione stores. Glutathione is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body and helps to decrease inflammation. N-Acetylene cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione. Both have been shown to help your body fight off bacterial and viral infections. Consider supplementing daily with either NAC or liposomal glutathione to give your immune system a boost.
Follow all of these suggestions and still get sick?
Get plenty of rest, stay well hydrated, and consider trying out the remedy below at the first signs of illness.
2 cloves of garlic, peeled OR 1 Tablespoon grated daikon radish¼ cup room temperature waterSqueeze the juice from the garlic or daikon and mix with the water at about 1 part juice to 10 parts water. Apply as nose drops.
Note: Daikon is less intense than garlic.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are not just for when you are sick—they are also helpful in boosting immunity and preventing illness. If you follow the suggestions above and still get sick, give us a call at the clinic at (303) 499-1633 to schedule an appointment. The sooner you come in, the quicker you will get to feeling better!
Acupuncture can be very effective in the treatment of pain located in Boulder Colorado.
by Erin Hallstrom
Do you struggle to fall asleep or have difficulty staying asleep? Do you wake feeling exhausted? If so, you’re not alone! According to the NIH, insomnia affects roughly 30 percent of the population. Recent research has found that artificial light disrupts endocrine function and reduces the sleep hormone melatonin, thus leading to acute or chronic insomnia.
What is melatonin and how does it affect sleep?When light enters the retina of the eye, it is first transmitted to a region of the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is the part of the brain primarily responsible for circadian rhythms, including sleep-wake cycles. The signal is ultimately relayed to the pineal gland, where melatonin is produced.
The release of melatonin is triggered by darkness and inhibited by light exposure. When melatonin is cruising through your body, its purpose is to make you sleepy. Levels of this hormone should rise and fall in accordance with the natural light and dark cycles of a normal day. As such, melatonin secretion should begin to rise around sunset, peak at around 9pm, remain elevated throughout the night, and then taper off to undetectable levels by around 9am. When the eyes are exposed to excessive light after sunset, it essentially tricks the body into believing that it is morning and it down regulates melatonin production, thus leading to trouble sleeping.What are the side effects of decreased melatonin secretion?
Decreased melatonin secretion affects more than just sleep. It can also increase hunger, leading to poor food choices and late-night eating. Lack of quality sleep can also be associated with poor memory, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, high blood sugar, reduced fat metabolism, indigestion, heartburn, and reduced repair and detoxification functions.
Use light to your advantage to regulate your sleep-wake cycles.
At night, make your environment dark:Turn off electronic devices, including cell phones, tablets, computers, and televisions, 1-2 hours before bed.
Install an app, such as f.lux, that coordinates the brightness of your e-device screens to your external environment.
Minimize light sources in bedroom by installing blackout curtains and either dimming or covering up alarm clock.If you wake to use the bathroom during the night, install a night light to avoid having to turn on bright overhead lights.
During the day, expose yourself to light: Get outside for 10-20 minutes in the morning to expose yourself to sunlight.
Eat breakfast in a sunny spot.
Open your blinds and allow sunshine to stream in.Light exposure (or lack thereof) is not the only contributing factor to insomnia.
If you incorporate these suggestions and are still struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, it might be worthwhile to explore the role of diet, exercise, stress, and emotional health to achieve a good night’s sleep.
Russart KL, Nelson RJ. Light at night as an environmental endocrine disruptor. Physiology & Behavior. 2018;190:82-89. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.08.029.
We use several diagnostic methods in order to make an accurate treatment possible.
Learn about all of our acupuncture related therapies.
Jack Schaefer, founder of Mountain West Wellness, is commited to helping you achieve optimal health.
The injection of various healing substances into the body either under the skin or in the muscles.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be a very effective way or treating IBS
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The use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be a very effective method in the management of allergies.
Acupuncture can be a very useful strategy for treating insomnia.
There is a lot of modern science behind acupuncture and how it works.
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If you watched the summer Olympics in Brazil there is no doubt that you saw the purple circles on the backs of many of the US swimmers. Those marks are caused by a form of therapy we called cupping. This has since become one of the most asked about therapies in our clinic.
In this blog I thought I would take a second to explain how cupping works. This amazing form of therapy is so useful that many western physical therapists and massage therapists have begun to adopt this classical Chinese medical technique.
In Western science it is called myofascial decompression. That is just a fancy way of saying what the goal of the treatment is. The process of cupping is to create a small vacuum in the cup while it is attached to the body. This vacuum pulls and stretches the skin, connective tissue, and muscle apart. This stretching apart creates space which allows for better blood circulation. The improved circulation releases muscle tension. It is also thought that it creates a local vasodilation. Additionally, because there is some bruising that takes place, your body will send white blood cells and macrophages to the area. These are sent there in an attempt to heal the trauma of the bruise. However they will also heal the local injury that you had before received cupping in the first place. This is especially important with chronic injuries. When any injury has existed for a long time, the body will sometimes start to ignore it. Cupping this helps the body to re-recognize that there is a problem there.
When you receive cupping there will usually be a small amount of purplish marking in the area where the cupping was. This marking usually goes away within a week. Traditional Chinese medical thought is that the worse the mark is, the worse the blood circulation is in that area. We will often reapply the cups after the marks have healed and see how much marking that we get again. This is done over and over until there is no more marking. That is usually a sign that the local circulation has improved and cupping is not necessary anymore.
Next time you are in the clinic we can talk about it and see if cupping is right for your complaint.
I just wanted to share a little more of my study trip to China with you all. This trip actually marks the 11th or 12th time I have been to China to further my studies. It has been a huge investment in time and money, but worth all of it. In the end it has helped me as a practitioner immensely. Hopefully the skills that I am learning on this trip will benefit all that come to our office.
I am currently in Beijing, where I have spent the most time in China until these last two trips. I am here to visit a few old friends and teachers and tie up some loose ends.
A good friend and I are planning on bringing a group of people to China in 2018 on a study trip. It will be open to the public. The focus will be on traveling to Daoist temples and learning about traditional Chinese culture, Daoism, meditation, tea, and a whole lot more. If you are interested in this let me know so that I can make sure you get the info as it comes together.
See you back in the states in a few days!
I just wanted to share a China update with you all. I arrived a few days ago and took a connecting flight to Wenzhou. It is a beautiful area on the coast pretty far south and not too far from Taiwan.
After getting here we got reacquainted with the temple that we stayed in last year and Huang Shifu the teacher we are working with. He is a unique Daoist Abbot who lived in a cave on a mountain for a few years meditating.
From him we are learning a lot, but the crown jewel is an old handwritten herbal manual that he got from his teacher. We are currently translating it in the hopes of sharing it with the west.
I will keep you abreast on what is happening here.
Information to help you take care of yourself without drugs or surgeries.
In the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver energy flows upward into the eyes. When this energy is flowing smoothly and working as it should, your vision is clear and sharp, you have efficient night vision and the eyes are bright and well-lubricated.
When out of balance, the liver can generate heat that rises upward. This heat can manifest in dry eyes, itchy eyes or eyes that are red and irritated. Think about how red one’s eyes can get after a night of drinking. Alcohol adds heat to the liver, which in turn rises upward and creates hot, red eyes. The facial flushing you see after a night of imbibing is also indicative of this heat.
When the liver blood is deficient, you will see symptoms of dryness throughout the body, particularly in the eyes. Dry, scratchy eyes are a sign of liver blood deficiency, and floaters (those little black spots that can appear in the periphery of your vision) are also indicative of this deficiency.
When liver blood deficiency becomes more pronounced, patients can develop something we acupuncturists refer to as “Internal Wind.” Wind manifests as symptoms of shaking, tics, tremors or issues such as rashes that move around from place to place within the body. You know that annoying eye twitch you get that you are convinced the world can see, even though everyone tells you they don’t notice it? Those tics are a sign the body is deficient in energy, and wind has developed to shake things up. Internal wind can also show up as issues that itch, such as dry, itchy eyes.
The kidney plays a role in keeping the body well-oiled and lubricated. If the kidney yin is lacking, you might experience dry, creaky joints, dry skin and eyes.
continued from last post...
The gastrointestinal tract acts as a “second brain.” It has the ability to constantly transform us. The Human Microbiome Project is an ongoing study confirming microscopic bacterial colonies in our digestive tract have very important jobs to do. The bacterial colonies help keep us healthy both physically and mentally. But because of human intervention, these bacterial colonies in our guts are becoming sick, depleted and are dying.
To rejuvenate these gastrointestinal bacterial colonies, many people are turning to TCM for help. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are great methods of reviving our gastrointestinal Qi. The stomach and spleen are the two main pathways TCM practitioners focus on when treating somebody who exhibits digestive Qi deficiencies. TCM can help to repair the Qi of the spleen and stomach meridians. But TCM can’t do it alone.
This is where fermented foods come into play. Fermented foods have been around for centuries as well. Fermentation is one of the oldest attempts to preserve food. But in today’s world, fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt are being utilized to help restore the healthy bacterial colonies found within the gastrointestinal tract. In fermentation, bacteria or yeast feed on natural sugars found in foods. This makes certain foods easier for the gut to digest and allows for the nutrients to be absorbed during digestion. People who do not ingest fermented foods can actually develop immune deficiencies which can lead to serious illness and disease. For instance, sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, actually has anti-carcinogenic components that can help prevent cancer. Yogurt can help prevent colorectal cancer, breast cancer and yeast infections. Kimchi has been shown to help improve symptoms of asthma and other allergic reactions, while also lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Incorporating fermented foods into the daily diet and getting regular acupuncture treatments that help balance out the body’s Qi, can lead to a very healthy gastrointestinal tract. And when the gut is happy, the body is happy.