Fatigue

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6 08, 2011

Cancer Treatment

It is estimated that 40% of Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that survival rates are improving thanks to improvements in cancer screening and cancer treatment. Cancer is not a death sentence, but it is a life-changing experience.

There are 3 main types of cancer treatment: primary treatment, adjuvant therapy, and palliative care. The goal of primary treatment is to remove the cancer from the body or kill the cancer cells, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. The goal of adjuvant therapy is to kill any cancer cells that may remain after primary treatment, common therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. The goal of palliative care is to decrease pain and help maintain quality of life during and after cancer treatment, by relieving the side effects of both the cancer and its treatment. Acupuncture in the treatment of cancer falls into the category of palliative care.

Acupuncture can be an effective complementary therapy when used with conventional cancer treatments. The purpose of acupuncture treatments is not to treat the cancer itself but rather to help a person cope with cancer, its treatment or side effects, and to feel better. There are many general symptoms associated cancer, including fatigue, digestive problems, and pain. Cancer treatments also create symptoms- chemotherapy and radiation are very powerful treatments that target cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells in the body and weaken the immune system, and can leave a person with symptoms of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbances, and skin irritation. For many people dealing with cancer treatment, there is a need to manage these symptoms, keep the body and the spirits strong, and maintain quality of life. 

Acupuncture can be a very useful tool in this regard. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of many cancer symptoms including generalized pain, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and can help to boost the immune system. Because chemotherapy and radiation can be very hard on the immune system and because the body may already be weakened from the cancer, strengthening the immune system and the body with acupuncture can help a person undergoing cancer treatments to experience fewer negative symptoms and to bounce back more quickly from a course of treatments, something that is very important in the recovery process.

In addition, the pain associated with cancer can be an extremely difficult part of a patient’s experience, and acupuncture thankfully can effectively help to relieve this pain and relieve a great deal of the day-to-day discomfort. Fatigue and depression are also common symptoms that respond positively to acupuncture, allowing a person to function better, have a better quality of life, and better maintain a healthy routine while undergoing cancer treatments. By relieving nausea and digestive upset, acupuncture can also help to restore appetite and prevent weight loss that often occurs during cancer treatments.

To benefit from acupuncture during cancer treatment, it is recommended to schedule regular appointments during the course of cancer treatments while symptoms are being experienced. Typically treatments will be scheduled on a weekly basis in order to keep symptoms in check and strengthen the body. Acupuncture can also be used between courses of chemotherapy or radiation treatment to build the immune system, aid the body in recovery and strengthen it in preparation for the next course of treatment. All in all, acupuncture is a very powerful tool in the treatment of cancer and can dramatically improve quality of life.

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

 

24 05, 2011

Shift Work

Shift work refers to both long-term night shifts and work schedules where employees change or rotate shifts between daytime and evening or night schedules. Shift work is a reality for about 25 percent of the North American working population.

Many workers prefer shift work because of the free time and flexibility it provides. However, for most workers, shift work causes at least some disruption to their family and personal life and some degree of negative health symptoms. Being constantly tired is a typical complaint of shift workers, often described as “jet lag”. Shift work can also lead to health problems including insomnia, chronic fatigue and gastrointestinal disorders. Shift work can make it difficult participate in regular social activities and family life, which can cause loneliness and isolation.

A shift worker, particularly one who works nights, must function on a schedule that is not "natural". The body is naturally attuned to a circadian rhythm- many of the body’s functions follow a daily rhythm or a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping, waking, digestion, secretion of adrenalin, body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and many other important body functions and human behaviour are regulated by this 24-hour cycle. These rhythmical processes are synchronized to allow for high activity during the day and low activity at night. However, if a person is working at night, the body rhythms get out of sync with the person's activity pattern. This disorientation can lead to feelings of fatigue and disorientation, or “jet lag”. Also, exposure to light at night can alter sleep-activity patterns and suppress melatonin production, leading to insomnia or difficulty sleeping.

Frequent changes in schedule and disruption to circadian rhythms can lead to chronic fatigue and other health problems, including higher risk for heart attack and cardiovascular conditions, digestive problems such as indigestion, heartburn, stomachache and loss of appetite, and insomnia or sleeping disorders. Shift work can also interfere with medications and the medical treatment of some diseases. Because of the way that shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm, research suggests long-term shift work may also increase the risk of cancer. Shift workers are also at risk of eating a less healthy diet because the loss of appetite at night often leads to increased snacking on "junk" food, while fatigue may encourage the consumption of caffeinated drinks to help the worker stay awake. This can further aggravate health issues particularly gastrointestinal problems and difficulty sleeping.

Where does acupuncture fit into this? Acupuncture can offer stellar results for improving the wellbeing and quality-of-life of shift workers. Acupuncture is very effective for many of the symptoms that accompany shift work: it can improve energy and mental clarity, resolve insomnia, and correct digestive disorders. It can also help shift workers adjust to changes in schedules or days off and help the body bounce back more quickly. One of the ways acupuncture may be particularly helpful for shift workers is the way in which it helps to normalize and regulate the body’s functions. Research has shown that acupuncture can influence many systems within the body, including our hormones, our neurotransmitters, our immune system, our blood pressure, and our circulation, helping to correct any functions that are out of balance or not working properly. What this means is that acupuncture may help the body to get back into its normal circadian rhythm, and help these rhythms to adjust more quickly to changes in the daily routines.

One of the biggest changes that shift workers notice with acupuncture is a boost in their energy levels. There is a huge improvement in quality of life that accompanies this change, as a person is more alert both at work and through the daytime, better able to enjoy time off and to be more involved in their family and social life. Indeed, many people find that with regular treatments, shift work no longer has to take a huge toll on their personal life.

Prevention and healthy lifestyle are also very important for shiftworkers, both for maintaining quality of life, and because shift work puts a worker at higher risk for health problems. Regular exercise and maintaining an adequate level of fitness is important, as is good dietary habits, managing stress, and making time for leisure activities. Participation in family and social life is also important for physical and mental health.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

3 01, 2011

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the body’s myelin, the protective sheath that encases the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, eventually causing deterioration of the nerves themselves. When myelin is damaged, the messages that travel along that nerve may be slowed or blocked, interfering with the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

It is not yet understand exactly why multiple sclerosis occurs in some people and not other although a combination of factors, ranging from genetics to childhood infections, may play a role. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose early in the course of the disease, because symptoms often occur in periods of relapse and remission, sometimes disappearing for months. Symptoms vary widely, depending on the amount of damage and the particular nerves that are affected. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, tremors, lack of coordination or unsteady walk, double vision or blurring of vision, tingling or pain in parts of the body, deterioration of vision, electrical jolt sensations that occur with certain head movements, and numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which typically occurs on one side of the body at a time or the bottom half of the body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis often are triggered or worsened by an increase in body temperature.

Because there is presently no cure for multiple sclerosis, treatment typically focuses on combating the autoimmune response and managing the symptoms. Western medical treatment mainly consists of medications to manage symptoms, although many disease-modifying treatments are being developed. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.

In Chinese medicine, a number of factors are considered to contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis, including diet, lifestyle, and constitutional factors that may cause a vulnerability to developing this condition. MS is considered a dampness pattern, meaning that there is an obstruction of the flow of energy through the body’s channels, causing a feeling of heaviness in the legs as well as numbness and tingling. Over time, the blocked energy has an effect on other areas, causing a deficiency in the liver and kidneys that leads to blurred vision, weakness of the legs, dizziness, and vertigo.

Acupuncture cannot cure multiple sclerosis, but it can offer considerable help in alleviating the symptoms and slowing down the progress of the condition. However, the extent to which acupuncture can help depends on when treatment is started- the earlier treatment is started, the better.

If treatment is started in the very early stages, symptoms can be minimized and even eliminated, and the disease progression slowed or halted. Later stages of multiple sclerosis can be more difficult to treat, however acupuncture can still be of benefit in the relief of symptoms, and is an option well worth considering for the management of this condition. One can expect a schedule of 2-3 treatments per week for the first few weeks, going down to once a week as progress is made.

Living with a chronic illness such as MS is a challenge that means managing symptoms and preventing and minimizing flare-ups. Staying healthy, exercising, decreasing stress, avoiding heat, and lots of rest can play a big part in managing the condition and maintaining quality of life. Finding therapies that can help to manage symptoms and keep the body healthy are also important, and acupuncture can play a role in this management.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre’s new location, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

18 11, 2010

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by a constant dull pain throughout the body accompanied by fatigue and sleep disturbances. Symptoms can vary depending on the weather, stress, physical activity, and even time of day. Generally the pain is widespread and occurs in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, along with especially sore spots called “tender points” on various areas of the body.

Fibromyalgia can be accompanied by many other conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, headaches, IBS, arthritis, and restless legs syndrome, among others. There is still no clear cause for this condition, though it is believed to be a combination of genetics, stressful events such as car accidents, emotional stress or trauma, repetitive strain on the body, infections and other illnesses- basically everything that drains our immune system.

Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition and Western medicine often finds it difficult to treat. Fortunately, acupuncture has a lot to offer for sufferers of fibromyalgia. Acupuncture is widely known as being very effective for the treatment of pain, a big topic of research studies for years. In addition, sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, and energy levels all respond well to the influence of acupuncture. Acupuncture acts on the body by normalizing our internal processes, so when a system is not functioning properly- such as our digestion, our sleep, our emotions, our stress, our immunity, our nervous system, etc- acupuncture is able to influence and correct that system to help it to resume it’s normal functioning.

With fibromyalgia, there are a number of patterns in Chinese medicine (TCM) that can contribute. The first is spleen deficiency, which can be responsible for many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including fatigue, digestive problems, muscle weakness, and poor thinking. Liver qi/energy stagnation or blockage can also be a factor, causing emotional symptoms and muscle-joint stiffness. Blood deficiency prevents the body from being properly nourished, causing the constant pain typical of fibromyalgia. Kidney deficiency also plays a role, as all chronic muscle-joint pain tends to include the kidneys, and the kidneys are at the foundation of good health.

Acupuncture can help to reduce tender points, relieve body aching and pain, and improve mood, sleep and digestion, as well as many of the other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. The key to remember with acupuncture is that it is a healing process, rather than an instant fix, so recovery takes time and each treatment builds on the progress of the last, producing a steady and gradual improvement. We must also factor in the complexity of the condition and consider that conditions that are more complex or that have been developing over a longer period of time take more time to reverse and undo.

That being said, fibromyalgia sufferers can typically see pain relief quite early on in treatments, and with continued treatments, notice gradual improvement of the other symptoms as well. For this, acupuncture makes an excellent treatment option for fibromyalgia, one that does not produce negative side effects and in fact improves the body’s overall health while targeting the symptoms.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

8 10, 2010

Chronic Fatigue

Fatigue is a feeling that most of us have probably experienced at one time or another. Whether from stress, poor eating habits, sleep deprivation, overwork, or even medical treatments, fatigue often has a lot to do with our habits and routines, though it can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition. But sometimes in spite of what we do, fatigue can become an ongoing problem. In severe cases, it may be diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, a complicated disorder without obvious onset or causes.

Fatigue in Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes both chronic fatigue syndrome, and short-term or ongoing fatigue. Fatigue can be brought on by a number of factors. A hereditary weak constitution is one common cause, particularly in chronic fatigue syndrome.  A person’s constitution is determined by several factors: the parents' constitution, parents' health and parents' age at time of conception, the conditions of pregnancy, and childhood development.  Hereditary weakness can manifest in any of the five “vital” organs- or yin organs as Chinese Medicine calls them, because they are said to store the body’s essence. 

A hereditary weakness in the heart would produce symptoms of nervousness and disturbed sleep in childhood. Lung weakness would show signs of catching colds easily, chest diseases in childhood, thin chest, and a weak voice. Spleen weakness will cause symptoms of weak muscles and physical tiredness in childhood, a poor appetite and digestive problems. Liver weakness will show myopia and headaches in childhood, and infertility and menstrual irregularities in adulthood. The kidneys will show signs of nocturnal enuresis and childhood fears, poor bone development, and in adulthood infertility and premature aging and graying of hair.

Lifestyle factors also contribute to fatigue, particularly overwork and eating habits. Overwork can mean either excessive mental or physical work of long hours with inadequate rest. This is a very common cause of fatigue in western societies, and in many cases rest is the only treatment needed. Physical overexertion is also a factor, which includes overexertion at work, as well as excessive exercising or sports activities. Again, this can become a problem when not allowing the body proper adequate rest.

Improper diet is by far the most common cause of chronic fatigue. Irregular eating habits, eating poor-quality food, rich, greasy, fatty and even sometimes too much cold-raw foods, can all injure the spleen and stomach. With the spleen and stomach being the main organs for the transformation of food into energy and blood, its always important to assess eating habits because our food is what provides our body with fuel- insufficient fuel will result in insufficient energy.

Other important factors that are not too uncommon for chronic fatigue are severe illness, the long-term use of medications (which can stress the body), and childbirth. Childbirth can mean many births in a short period of time, or having a weak constitution going into pregnancy or delivery.

It is important to understand that lifestyle factors combined with our constitutional weaknesses are what create the formula for a condition to develop- this is why some people may develop this condition, whereas others may experience symptoms in other areas of health. All of these factors can develop weakness in one or more of the vital organs: lungs, spleen, kidney, liver and heart.  There can be a deficiency of either qi, blood, yin, or yang of one or more of these organs. Whereas in western medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome is a difficult to understand syndrome with uncertain causes, in Chinese medicine chronic fatigue has well-understood causes, which explain why it may develop in some people and not others. When the cause is clear, treatment is straightforward and effective.

This makes acupuncture is an effective option for people who suffer from fatigue with no relief, as acupuncture can produce positive results. In fact, an increase in energy for people with normally low energy is a common result of acupuncture, even though it may not have been directly targeted in treatment.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

2 02, 2010

Migraines

Migraines are severe, chronic headaches that can cause significant pain for 4 to 72 hours. The frequency with which these headaches occur varies from person to person, from several times a month to much less frequently. A typical migraine attack may include symptoms of moderate to severe pain on one or both sides of the head, head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality, pain that worsens with physical activity, pain that interferes with regular activities, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

A migraine may be preceded by sensations of “premonition” several hours or a day or so before the migraine actually strikes, such as auras (changes to vision, such as seeing flashes of light, and feelings of pins and needles in an arm or leg), feelings of elation or intense energy, cravings for sweets, thirst, drowsiness, or irritability or depression.

Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Although much about the cause of migraines isn't understood, genetics and environmental factors seem to both play a role. They may be due to changes in the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve in the head or imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin (which drops during migraines). Migraines may be more common in people under 40, in women, and in people with a family history of migraines. Stress, certain foods, strong stimuli (such as lights, sounds or smells), disruptions to sleeping patterns, physical exertion, changes in the weather, medications, and hormonal changes can all trigger migraines.

Western medicine treatment for migraines includes medications to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Unfortunately, medications may cause side effects such as abdominal pain or ulcers or rebound headaches, which is when a medication stops being effective for the treatment of headaches and actually becomes the cause of headaches. Lifestyle changes that can help manage migraines include being well-rested and getting enough sleep, meditation or muscle relaxation exercises, and keeping a diary to identify migraine triggers.

From a Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, migraines can be caused by a combination of inherited constitution and lifestyle factors such as diet and stress, including emotional stress and overwork. Over time these factors can contribute to a pattern of imbalance that leads to migraines. Because there are different causes for migraines, the symptoms that are experienced will differ from person to person, and so will the treatment. An acupuncturist can create a very targeted and effective treatment by catering it to a person’s specific causes.

For migraine sufferers, acupuncture is an option well worth considering, offering both immediate and long-term relief. Initially, acupuncture can help to relieve both the severity and frequency of migraine symptoms. In fact, it is common for people to see relief after a few acupuncture treatments, although more treatments are typically needed to resolve the problem.

As treatments progress and begin to rebalance the body, the frequency of migraine episodes begins to decrease. And long-term relief is possible- many patients reduce or eliminate their need for migraine medication through acupuncture, demonstrating just how effective an option acupuncture can be.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

8 06, 2009

Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the most common medical complaints- more than one-third of adults have insomnia at one time or another, while 10-15% suffer from chronic insomnia. With insomnia, a person usually awakes feeling unrefreshed, over-fatigued and has a hard time concentrating during the day. This lack of sleep can sap energy levels and moods, as well as health, work performance, and quality of life. Insomnia can cause daytime fatigue or sleepiness, as well as irritability, depression or anxiety, a loss in concentration and focus on tasks, increased errors or accidents, tension headaches and gastro-intestinal problems. It is a problem that takes a huge toll on a person’s health and well-being.

From a Western medical perspective, insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, or depression, medications, caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, eating too much late in the evening, work schedule, changes in your environment or routine, poor sleep habits, and a variety of underlying medical conditions. Insomnia can also be a result of aging or changes in health or lifestyle. Typical treatment may include making changes to sleeping habits, relaxation techniques, light therapy, behavioural therapy, and in difficult cases, medications.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), insomnia covers a number of different sleep-related problems such as an inability to fall asleep easily, waking up during the night, sleeping restlessly, waking up early in the morning, and dream-disturbed sleep. As with Western medicine, the amount and quality of sleep depend on the state of the mind. Because the organ most closely related to the mind is the heart, this organ is often affected in cases of insomnia. If the heart organ is healthy, the mind will be grounded and sleep will be sound; if the heart is deficient or if it is being affected by other internal pathogenic factors in the body, the mind becomes agitated and sleep is affected.

There are seven major factors that lead to insomnia in Chinese medicine: overexertion and worry, overwork (both mental and physical and working long hours without adequate rest), anger-related emotions (including frustration, resentment, and irritation), constitutional weakness that leads to timid character, irregular diet, childbirth, and internal heat in the body. The most important differentiation for insomnia is whether it is due to an excess or deficiency in the body. Once this differentiation is made, there are a number of different patterns that lead to insomnia. Although there are many different patterns that lead to insomnia, treatment will always have the end goal of calming the mind because it is at the root of insomnia, but how this is achieved varies greatly according to the pattern presented.

It is this very specific diagnosis that makes Chinese medicine so effective for insomnia. Treatment will focus on improving quality of sleep but also accompanying symptoms according to the type of insomnia. Thus acupuncture can treat insomnia that consists of restless sleep combined with nightmares, irritability, headaches and dizziness. But it can also treat insomnia that involves difficulty falling asleep, combined with tiredness, poor appetite, anxiety, poor memory and palpitations. Or it can treat insomnia that involves waking up during the night combined with excessive dreaming, talking or walking in one’s sleep, irritability, sore, dry eyes, dry skin and hair, and dizziness. Each of these is considered insomnia, yet each represents a very different type of insomnia and the way that we approach treatment is also different.

In this way, acupuncture uses the body’s own energy to help it to rebalance and return to its natural rhythm, to correct the underlying cause of insomnia and prevent future problems from re-occurring.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

12 05, 2009

Headaches

Headaches are a common ailment and can make life very difficult. Headaches can have a wide range of causes, but often the causes are not well understood by Western medicine, and in most cases do not have an identifiable underlying physical cause. To make matters worse, headaches can often be a rebound effect of the very medication that people take to relieve them. Medications are usually the standard treatment method, however some chronic daily headaches are resistant to all medications.

Fortunately, acupuncture can offer both immediate as well as long-term relief. In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a number of factors are always considered in headaches. These are constitution, emotions, overwork, diet, accidents, childbirth and external pathogenic factors (such as common cold). There are a few ways to diagnose the cause of headaches, one is according to the where the headache is located on the head and which meridian is being affected, another is according to the pain type. 

A headache on the top of the head is part of the liver channel and is commonly due to a liver-blood deficiency; this type of headache gives a dull pain and will usually improve when lying down. A headache on the sides of the head indicates gallbladder channel and is commonly due to too much heat or fire in the liver. This headache will be sharp and/or throbbing.

Headache behind the eyes, a frequent location for migraines, is also due to liver-blood deficiency if the pain is dull, or liver heat if the pain is sharp and severe. The forehead is part of the stomach channel and is either a stomach deficiency if the headache is dull, or stomach heat if it is sharp.

The back of the head is part of the bladder channel and if headaches in this area are chronic, it usually indicates a kidney deficiency manifesting on that channel. An acute headache on the back of the head is most commonly due to exposure to cold weather and usually indicates the beginning stage of a common cold.

If the whole head is affected and the pain is chronic, it is due to a kidney-essence deficiency. The kidney essence is said to nourish the brain, if it is deficient and the brains lack this nourishment there will be a chronic dull headache with a sensation of emptiness.

When diagnosing according to pain type, dull pain means deficiency. A feeling of heaviness is characteristic of dampness or phlegm obstructing the head and preventing proper circulation. A distending headache that is throbbing, bursting, or pulsating is typically due to the liver (liver-heat). Stabbing headaches with a sensation of very intense pain and fixed in one location are due to blood stasis. Stiffness or tension headache is commonly due to overactive heat in the liver if chronic and invasion of cold if acute. 

There are other factors that can be used in understanding headaches such as what aggravates or eliminates the headaches, including time of day, activity/rest, weather, emotions, food, posture, time of month, and if there is relief or more pain with palpation.

Overall, this analysis gives an acupuncturist a very accurate picture of what is causing the headaches, therefore treatment is very targeted and effective. In fact, it is common for people to see relief after one or a few acupuncture treatments, although more treatments are often needed to resolve the problem. And long-term relief is possible- many patients reduce or eliminate their need for headache medication through acupuncture, demonstrating the effectiveness of this safe and natural therapy.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

10 03, 2009

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues. There are many different kinds of anemia, each with its own symptoms. The main symptoms of anemia are tiredness and fatigue. Further symptoms include weakness, pale skin, headaches, numbness or coldness in the arms and legs, problems thinking, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.

Our blood is made of fluid called plasma and cells floating within the plasma. One type of cell in our blood is red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the other tissues in the body. Red blood cells do this with hemoglobin, a red protein that gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin not only helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues, it also helps to take carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs to be expelled. Anemia is a condition in which either the number of red blood cells is too low, or the number of hemoglobin within the blood cells is to low.

There are different kinds of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia, the most common one, when there is not enough iron for the bone marrow to produce enough hemoglobin, or vitamin-deficiency anemia, for example because of a lack of vitamin B12. Anemia can also be caused by certain chronic diseases like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, medications, or have genetic causes.

A poor diet, intestinal disorders, menstruation, pregnancy and family history are all factors that increase the chance of developing anemia. Western medical treatment depends on the cause and may involve making diet changes, taking supplements, changing medications, and treating the underlying disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) anemia is called blood deficiency. There are several causes that can lead to a blood deficiency such as a situation where there is excessive blood loss and the body is unable to replace it, an insufficiency of the building blocks required to create blood due the spleen and stomach not functioning properly, or blood stasis, which means that the body is unable to generate new blood because of an inability to get rid of old blood which is stuck or sluggish.

Blood deficiency syndromes can also involve one or more of the major organs, adding certain symptoms, specific to each organ:

  • Heart blood deficiency will show symptoms of restlessness, disturbing dreams, insomnia, heart palpitations, forgetfulness, and the lips are likely to be pale.
  • Heart and spleen blood deficiency will show symptoms of difficulty falling asleep, poor memory, feeling tired, palpitations, poor appetite, anxiety, and anorexia.
  • Liver blood deficiency has symptoms of numbness in the extremities, tics, tremors, dizziness, blurred vision, floaters, and dry and withering nails.

With acupuncture we invigorate energy and help the body nourish the blood by stimulating points for the spleen and stomach as well as any other organ that is functioning poorly or is contributing to a blood deficiency. Acupuncture can help to bring back the energy levels, improve memory and concentration, relieve anxiety and stress, and strengthen the body so that it is better able to produce the blood it requires. Of course lifestyle, stress reduction and a good diet are also very important factors for success!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.