Affecting Autoimmune Diseases

Treatments for Lupus, MS, Hashimoto's
Affecting Autoimmune Diseases
Treatments for Lupus, MS, Hashimoto's

Can Acupuncture be Used for the Treatment of Lupus?

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt,  L.Ac

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause chronic inflammation in nearly any part of the body, including the kidneys, the central nervous system, blood vessels, lungs, heart and/or the skin. An autoimmune condition occurs when the natural disease-fighting agents in the body start attacking healthy tissue and cells, instead of foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. The full name of this disease is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

There is an extensive list of symptoms, so each patient suffering with lupus will present with a different set of symptoms. However, there is a short list of symptoms that may suggest a diagnosis of lupus. The first on this list is the presence of what is known as a ‘butterfly rash’ on the face. This rash resembles a butterfly with its wings spread, thereby inspiring its name. Many, but definitely not all patients will experience this symptom.

Other common symptoms of SLE are:

  • Unremitting fever

  • Constant body aches

  • Fatigue

  • Sensitivity to sunlight

The complications of lupus can involve virtually any part the body. For example, if the lungs become inflamed, this presents a condition known as pleurisy, which can lead to difficulty and pain with breathing. If the kidneys suffer from prolonged inflammation, this may lead to their failure, a life-threatening condition. Sometimes more than one organ or bodily part is afflicted.

Even the onset of symptoms can vary widely between individuals. Some may experience severe symptoms in a short period of time, while others may develop mild symptoms over a long period of time. Some symptoms disappear quickly, while others remain permanent. The most commonly afflicted group are women of African American, Asian, or Hispanic heritage, between the ages of 15 and 40 years old.

In keeping with the mystery of this disease, the exact cause is not known. It is believed that a person’s genetics, plus exposure to certain environmental factors, may play a role. Potential triggers from the environment may include sunlight, infections and some pharmaceutical drugs.

If you suspect lupus or have already received a diagnosis, you may want to book an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Diagnosis from your practitioner will rely on several things, including your symptoms, plus a pulse and tongue diagnosis. According to the theory of Oriental medicine, internal body conditions and imbalances are reflected through the tongue and pulse. The tongue is visually inspected, and the pulse is taken manually. A practitioner will take your pulse on both the left and right side.

In a case where symptoms of lupus are present, an acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner may see signs of toxic heat accumulation as evidenced by a dark red tongue, and it may be accompanied by mouth ulcers. Ordinarily, a healthy tongue is light red or pink in color. The pulse may be rapid, reflecting the presence of excess heat in the body. A rapid pulse is one that beats faster than 90 times per minute.

Not every patient with a diagnosis of lupus will present with symptoms of toxic heat accumulation. It will all depend on the unique set of symptoms for that patient. Therefore, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine will need to evaluate each case individually for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Oriental Medicine for Multiple Sclerosis Relief

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt,  L.Ac

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that progressively damages the central nervous system. This happens due to the wearing away of the myelin sheath, a protective layer encasing the nerves. The central nervous system is composed of the brain and the spinal cord, and is responsible for sending messages from the brain to other parts of the body via the nerves.

Imagine an electrical wire with a fraying plastic coating. This analogy demonstrates the neurological damage patients with symptoms of multiple sclerosis suffer with. As a result, there are many different symptoms a patient may experience. The following is only a partial list, but includes some of the most common signs and symptoms:

  • Weak or numb limbs (commonly experienced on one side of the body)

  • Visual disturbances (often in just one eye)

  • Systemic body pain (felt all over the body)

  • Electric shock sensation when trying to touch your chin to your chest

  • Difficulty walking

  • Irregular, uncoordinated body movements

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Lightheadedness

  • Urinary problems

The severity of symptoms and the length of time they last can also greatly vary depending on the person. Some patients initially experience strong symptoms, and then they suddenly disappearance as the disease enters a period of remission. A remission can last weeks, or even years, in some cases. Others may experience a more insidious process wherein mild symptoms develop slowly over time but ultimately increase in severity.

The cause of multiple sclerosis is not known at this time, although there are several risk factors to be aware of. People at risk include:

  • Those aged 15-60

  • Women (women have twice as much risk as men do)

  • Caucasians

  • Smokers

  • Those living in temperate climates

It is very interesting to note that while those living in temperate climates have a greater risk factor than people living in in geographical areas with more severe weather, it is the extremes in temperature that can bring about or exacerbate symptoms of multiple sclerosis. For this reason, immersing oneself in hot or very cold water is not advisable. Avoiding sudden, extreme changes in temperature is recommended as well.

A patient diagnosed by a physician with multiple sclerosis is most likely treated with the proper pharmaceutical drugs to help manage their symptoms. In addition to this treatment, there is very promising evidence that use of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help mitigate symptoms and some complications of multiple sclerosis. Complications include: depression, problems thinking clearly, and emotional instability.

An article called “Acupuncture and Multiple Sclerosis: A Review of the Evidence,” was featured in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 2014. In this article, the authors assessed the validity of using acupuncture and Oriental medicine to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. To do this, the researchers reviewed many scientific studies on the subject to reach their conclusions. The use of electroacupuncture showed particularly outstanding results.

Electroacupuncture involves the use of a mild electrical current to stimulate the needles applied at the proper acupuncture points. The current is always connected between two points and is especially helpful in stimulating a healthy flow of Qi (energy). Qi is a primordial energy on which of all life is based. It is vital, therefore, that the flow of Qi remains free and unhindered to deliver healing components where they are needed in the body.

In this review article, researchers demonstrated that remyelination, a repairment of the damaged myelin sheath, occurred in a significant amount of study participants. Additionally, electroacupuncture showed an outstanding ability to produce anti-inflammatory responses in the body and help reduce levels of pain. The conclusion was drawn that electroacupuncture would be a viable, secure treatment for patients suffering from symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Other studies, including those looking at traditional acupuncture (without the use of electro-stimulation during treatment), also showed potential in regards to treating the mental and emotional challenges faced by patients with multiple sclerosis. Subjective feelings, such as depression and the ability of the patient to handle their illness, were measured and shown to improve. Whether one suffers from mental or emotional issues, in addition to the physical symptoms of multiple sclerosis, acupuncture and Oriental medicine can offer holistic treatments specifically tailored to the patient’s needs.

‘ . . . the exact of cause of Hashimoto’s disease remains a mystery. Some scientists believe it may arise due to a viral or bacterial infection, while others suspect genetics, heredity, sex and age may also be contributing factors.’

Hashimoto’s Symptom Relief

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt,  L.Ac

Hashimoto’s disease, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is a disorder in which an individual’s immune system attacks their thyroid, causing inflammation of the gland. This, in turn, can lower the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones needed for metabolism, growth and many other functions vital to the body.

Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease, is the most common reason for hypothyroidism; meaning, the gland is underactive and not producing enough hormones to help the body run as it should. The disease progresses slowly, so it may take years for hypothyroidism symptoms to appear. A goiter, a swollen lump that typically develops at the front of the throat, is often one of the first signs.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Major sensitivity to cold

  • Constipation

  • Pale, dry skin

  • Puffy face

  • Dry, raspy voice

  • Weight gain (generally 10 to 20 pounds) as a result of fluid retention

  • Muscle pain and stiffness in knees, hands and feet

  • Menorrhagia (excessive bleeding during menstruation)

  • Slowed heart rate

  • Hair loss

  • Difficulty getting pregnant

  • Depression

As with many autoimmune diseases, the exact of cause of Hashimoto’s disease remains a mystery. Some scientists believe it may arise due to a viral or bacterial infection, while others suspect genetics, heredity, sex and age may also be contributing factors. Middle-aged women are most likely to get Hashimoto’s, though women, men and children of all ages are susceptible. A person’s risk may also increase if a family member has the disease or if the individual already has an autoimmune disease of any type.

It is important to schedule an appointment with your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner if you have been tested and diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, and have begun to experience symptoms. Early treatment is necessary to help prevent complications associated with the disorder if it is left untreated. Some problems include:

  • High cholesterol levels, which may lead to cardiovascular problems

  • An enlarging goiter

  • Mental health issues such as depression

  • Slowed mental functioning

  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)

  • Birth defects in babies born to mothers who were untreated while pregnant

  • Infertility

  • Extreme cold intolerance and drowsiness that can be followed by lethargy and coma

When you go to your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner for treatment, you will most likely receive acupuncture treatments to address your particular symptoms. This can include addressing your emotional imbalances as well as your physical ones. According to acupuncture and Oriental medicine philosophy, when you treat the body, the emotions are treated at the same time. In this way, any depression or other difficult emotions may be soothed from an acupuncture treatment.

One lifestyle change you may discuss with your practitioner includes diet. To help address the sensitivity to cold, fatigue and muscle pains, you might want to try certain congee recipes. Congee is the word for traditional Chinese porridge. The basic recipe involves cooking 1 cup of rice in about 7 cups of water for 1 to 3 hours. The addition of a piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb), beef, lamb, onions and leeks can help with fatigue and cold sensitivity. Adding black sesame seeds can assist with reducing inflammation for muscle pain.

Congee is considered a medicinal meal because it is very easy to digest and it is highly nutritious. To make it more enticing, you can ask your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner for different recipes to address your specific symptoms.