Depression

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1 06, 2016

Managing Stress with Acupuncture

Whether physical or mental, we all experience stress to varying degrees. Stress plays a huge role in our everyday health and  can aggravate health conditions that we already have. Routine, chronic stress can in the long run lead to serious physical and mental health consequences if not managed properly. Consider these facts: Up to 90%

22 11, 2013

Acupuncture and Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as a vague, uneasy feeling, with its source unknown or non-specific to an individual. The uneasy feeling is mainly associated with anticipation of danger and dread to a level that the normal body functioning is impaired. The anticipation is normally accompanied by factors such as tension, restlessness, breathing difficulty and tachycardia. Generally,

24 10, 2013

Hormone Imbalance / Estrogen Dominance

A hormonal imbalance occurs when there is too much estrogen relative to progesterone in a woman's body, also referred to as estrogen dominance. In a normal cycle, estrogen and progesterone hormones work together to maintain a woman’s menstrual cycle, each playing an important role. When a hormone balance occurs and estrogen levels are too high, it

7 02, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, starting in the fall and continuing through the winter, sapping energy and making a person feel moody. Symptoms can include depression, changes in appetite (in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods), weight gain, decreased energy, fatigue, a tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability, avoidance of social situations, feelings of anxiety and despair, loss of interest in activities, and a heavy or leaden feeling in the arms and legs. These symptoms generally disappear when spring arrives. SAD may be caused by changes to the body’s circadian rhythms, a change in serotonin levels (which affect mood), and a change in melatonin levels (which affect our sleep patterns and moods).

Severe SAD can be very debilitating, and even in its milder form, SAD can affect our ability to cope with daily life. Research suggests that between 2% and 3% of the general population may have SAD while another 15% of us experience a less severe type described as the “winter blues." Indeed, these winter blues are common for many Canadians, because of our much shorter days in the winter months, and particularly in BC where winters also bring overcast, gloomy weather. SAD may also be of concern for shift workers and for urban dwellers that may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments.

It is important to be aware of our sensitivities to the seasons and to adjust our habits and lifestyle accordingly in order to be able to live an enjoyable and productive life year-round. There are many things that we can do to relieve SAD or winter blues, and the best approach seems to be combining the things that work for you. People with severe symptoms of SAD may be recommended antidepressant medications combined with these lifestyle habits, as well as counseling and therapy.

People with SAD can benefit from spending some time outdoors every day, even for just a short duration and even in cloudy weather. Arranging the home or office for maximum sunlight such as keeping the curtains open, pruning back trees in the fall, and sitting near a window can help.  Exercise is also very effective for relieving SAD, and daily exercise has been shown to relieve the symptoms of mild depression. Exercising in the morning may also help to regulate our bodies’ melatonin levels. Light therapy is also a common treatment for SAD, and involves daily exposure to a special type of bright, artificial light.

Acupuncture is a very effective option for treating SAD. Depression, anxiety, SAD, and other mood disorders respond very well to acupuncture, as do symptoms such as insomnia, low energy, irritability, and concentration. Because of acupuncture’s stress-relieving and relaxing effects, people suffering from SAD will often feel immediate relief following treatment. With regular, continued treatments, acupuncture can help to minimize and prevent SAD symptoms and help the body adapt to seasonal changes.  Acupuncture works by helping our bodies to regain their healthy balance, influencing and correcting our various systems that are responsible for our sleep, our energy, our moods, our digestive system, and our immune system, among others. It is a gentle and health-promoting strategy that works not only to relieve symptoms but also as a preventative to improve health and prevent problems from arising.

SAD is an important reminder to us all to tune in to our body’s cues and to incorporate changes that reflect the changing of the seasons. Winter is a natural time for reflection and inactivity and we need take extra care to nurture ourselves at this time in order to maintain our health. Avoiding over-working and too much stress, increasing our exposure to light, monitoring our diet, sleep patterns and exercise levels are important for all of us. It is also worthwhile to find the strategies that work for each of us personally, whether that is light therapy, meditation, counseling, acupuncture, massage, or any other therapies that enable us to maintain both physical and mental well-being. For warding off the winter blues, acupuncture is well worth-adding to your winter regimen.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.

24 01, 2012

Depression

Depression, also called major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, is a medical illness that involves the mind and body, affecting how a person feels, thinks and behaves. It is characterized by low moods and a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Other symptoms may include preoccupation or over-thinking, irritability or frustration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration and memory, withdrawal from social situations, reduced sex drive, and insomnia, as well as fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, reduced appetite (or in some cases increased appetite), and an agitated or lethargic behaviour.

About 16% of adults in Canada will experience depression at some point in their lives, with women being twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. The risk of depression is increased with certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, cardiovascular illnesses, and the first year after childbirth. Depressed individuals have shorter life expectancies than those without depression, in part because of greater susceptibility to medical illnesses and suicide.

The understanding of depression has evolved over the centuries. Although the causes are still not yet fully understood, a variety of factors are believed to be involved. These include biological differences (people with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains), the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, the body’s balance of hormones, genetics, early childhood trauma, and major life events such as the loss of a loved one or high stress. The most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication, and electroconvulsive therapy, used only as a last resort.

Acupuncture is an excellent option for the treatment of depression, as it is very effective in both relieving the symptoms and in resolving the condition with continued treatments, and without negative side effects. Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a much different approach to depression and focuses much more on the overall functioning of the body and how the various organs and systems are working in relation to each other. According to TCM, there are different causes and mechanisms for depression in different people. For some people it has to do with mental-emotional causes such as continued stress, frustration or worry. Other factors can be either too much or too little exercise and activity. Or it may be due to other diseases in the body, or age or body type. In others it may be faulty diet or lifestyle factors.

By identifying the particular pattern of depression, an acupuncturist can effectively diagnose and treat the depression based on each person’s unique causes and symptoms. This allows for a very effective treatment that is catered to the individual’s needs, from using the appropriate acupuncture points to diet and lifestyle recommendations that can support healing. Acupuncture, particularly when combined with Chinese herbal formulas, is a very effective treatment option for depression and can help a person to regain their lost health and recover from the debilitating symptoms of depression. It can be used as a complement to conventional depression treatments, or as an effective alternative.

Like other chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression is a complex condition that takes time to develop in the body and is caused by many factors. For this reason, there really is no “quick fix”, whether tackling it with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, medications, counseling, or some combination of these. Acupuncture takes time to have an effect on chronic conditions, and the body takes time to heal.

For this reason, it is important to be committed to the healing process, to be patient with our body as it takes time to heal, and to expect some bumps along the way as we are faced with life’s stresses. Typically with acupuncture a series of treatments is needed, on a regular schedule over the course of a few months to achieve lasting results. While depression can be a disabling condition which adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health, there is hope that we can regain both our health and our happiness.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.

15 10, 2010

Anxiety / Generalized Anxiety Disorder

With stress so common in our lives today, more and more people are suffering from anxiety. Ongoing anxiety can interfere with day-to-day activities and relationships and when this happens, it may be diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety can develop from a combination of stress, personality, gender, and life events such as an illness or past troubles. Those suffering from generalized anxiety experience symptoms such as constant over-thinking and worrying, restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, and fatigue.

Chronic anxiety can also lead to other health problems, such as headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, or teeth grinding. Of course, all of us worry from time to time about finances, family, health, and future, but it becomes a problem for us when we are thinking and worrying constantly or when it prevents us from relaxing or unwinding from our daily stresses.

Western medical treatment for anxiety usually is with medications and/or counseling or therapy.  Lifestyle changes, coping skills and relaxation techniques can also help.

Acupuncture fortunately has a great deal to offer anxiety sufferers. Stress responds very positively to acupuncture, and so do the many stress-related health problems we experience, including chronic anxiety. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body- it works by normalizing the body’s internal systems and processes. One of those systems is our autonomic nervous system, which manages our body’s states of arousal (“fight-or-flight”) and relaxation (“rest-and-digest”).

Normally our body fluctuates somewhere between states of arousal/stress and states of calm/relaxation. However, ongoing stressors can leave our body in a state of chronic stress or anxiety, leading to health problems. Acupuncture helps to bring our body back to its calm, relaxed state of healthy functioning.

This is a western perspective of how acupuncture can help with anxiety. However, Chinese medicine (TCM) has its own language for talking about patterns of disease and offers a different perspective. A big difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine is the way in which disease is viewed- Chinese medicine sees health and disease as a continuum. Anxiety is seen as an imbalance or excess of the emotion “worry”. Worry is a normal emotional state which enables concentration, memorization, and focus, however when worry gets out of balance it leads to constant thinking, brooding, worrying, and anxiety.

Anxiety can be caused by our lifestyle, if we have too many stressors or too often, or we can be prone to it due to a constitutional imbalance or weakness in the spleen, heart, lungs, or a combination of these organs.  Excessive worry causes our qi-energy to get stuck and not flow properly. This, in turn, can injure the organs, causing additional symptoms, depending on the organ(s) affected.

By redirecting the body’s energy flow with acupuncture, we can help the body to correct internal imbalances and treat the cause of anxiety symptoms. Acupuncture also works towards emotional balance, so that we are better able to deal with daily stresses without falling into excessive worry.

Acupuncture is also an excellent complement to therapy or counseling, helping to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety and calm the emotions while a person works through the behavioural aspects of their anxiety. Making lifestyle changes to reduce stress and to better deal with it can also contribute positively to treatment.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St., downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.