Ten Reasons to Meditate and Practice Mindfulness (and how to do it)

Ten Reasons to Meditate and practice Mindfulness (and how to do it)

1) Increases blood flow, lowers respiration rate, slows heart rate 2) Decreases heart rate 3) Reduces stress, anxiety and aggression 4) Enhances the immune system 5) Harmonizes the endocrine (hormonal) system 6) Relaxes the nervous system 7) Improves brain function and electrical activity 8) Reduces stress and balances hormones to stimulate ovulation 9) Improves learning ability and memory and increases productivity 10) Improves relationships with others

Mindfulness Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

This exercise is very simple, but the power, the result, can be very great. The exercise is simply to identify the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as the out-breath. When you breathe in, you know that this is your in-breath. When you breathe out, you are mindful that this is your out-breath. Just recognize: this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. Very simple, very easy. In order to recognize your in-breath as in-breath, you have to bring your mind home to yourself. What is recognizing your in-breath is your mind, and the object of your mind—the object of your mindfulness—is the in-breath. Mindfulness is always mindful of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing. So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath. It gets even better. You can enjoy your in-breath. The practice can be pleasant, joyful. Someone who is dead cannot take any more in-breaths. But you are alive. You are breathing in, and while breathing in, you know that you are alive. The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful. When you are joyful and happy, you don’t feel that you have to make any effort at all. I am alive; I am breathing in. To be still alive is a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive, and when you breathe in, you touch that miracle. Therefore, your breathing can be a celebration of life. An in-breath may take three, four, five seconds, it depends. That’s time to be alive, time to enjoy your breath. You don’t have to interfere with your breathing. If your in-breath is short, allow it to be short. If your out-breath is long, let it to be long. Don’t try to force it. The practice is simple recognition of the in-breath and the out-breath. That is good enough. It will have a powerful effect.

This meditation instruction excerpted from the Shambhala Sun website. http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=3490

Acupuncture and Cancer Pain

The recent study, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, suggests that acupuncture relieves cancer pain due to the side effects of medications. Some cancer treatments cause Peripheral Neuropathy, a condition that is due to damage of the peripheral nerves. This study found that acupuncture can be helpful in treating Peripheral Neuropathy pain.

Our practitioner Catherine Travis, L.Ac. has many years of experience treating cancer patients with peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, and nausea. Her acupuncture treatments are safe, gentle and effective.

Ilumina is a calm, nurturing and uplifting environment for all patients and especially for those experiencing the side effects of cancer treatment.

http://www.healthcmi.com/index.php/acupuncturist-news-online/620-acupunctureceucancerpainbaltimoremaryland

Acupuncture: Another Option When Facing Depression

A recent study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry suggests that acupuncture, as a stand-alone therapy, may be quite effective for mild to moderate depression. This particular report was a compilation of several different studies looking at the effectiveness of acupuncture at relieving the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Our practitioner, Catherine Travis, L.Ac. was part of the University of Arizona 's National Institute of Health's funded study "Acupuncture and the Treatment of Depression " and is quite familiar with the research on this subject.

Read the complete article.. http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120903/entlife/709039967/

Lecture Series Aug 13: Mayan Abdominal Massage

Mayan Abdominal Massage is an external, non-invasive massage modality that specifically addresses the uterine position and other internal organs to support the optimal flow of blood, lymph, and chi throughout the body.Some common symptoms/conditions this type of massage can benefit include displaced or prolapsed uterus or bladder, infertility, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids, as well as pelvic or abdominal pain from previous surgeries or scar tissue. Join us August 13, at 6:00 pm at ilumina to learn more about this modality and how it can be a benefit to you. Spaces will be limited so please call 602-957-2602 to reserve your spot.

We are very excited to have the lecture series back in action, we are currently putting together a schedule of topics that promise to be informative and promising.

Also heading your way is a Infant Massage Class taught by our amazing massage therapist Audrey Blanchard.

Five Top Men's Health Concerns and How Acupuncture Can Help

Acupuncture has been used to treat men's health concerns for thousands of years and is growing in popularity. The reason for this growth in popularity is that many health issues that men face, such as high blood pressure, prostate problems and depression, respond extremely well to acupuncture treatments. Here is a list of five health issues that affect men and how acupuncture can help:

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading men's health threat with heart disease and stroke topping the list of the first and second leading causes of death worldwide. By integrating acupuncture and Oriental medicine into your heart healthy lifestyle, you can dramatically reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Taking small steps to improve your health can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by as much as eighty percent. Steps to prevention include managing high blood pressure, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress and improved sleep - all of which can be helped with acupuncture.

Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful in lowering blood pressure. By applying acupuncture needles at specific sites along the wrist, inside the forearm or in the leg, researchers have been able to stimulate the release of opioids, which decreases the heart's activity and its need for oxygen. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in men. Tobacco smoke causes ninety percent of all lung cancers. If you are ready to quit smoking, acupuncture can help.

Acupuncture has shown to be an effective treatment for smoking. Acupuncture treatments for addiction and smoking cessation focus on jitters, cravings, irritability, and restlessness; symptoms that people commonly complain about when they quit. It also aids in relaxation and detoxification.

In one study on substance addiction, a team from Yale University successfully used auricular (ear) acupuncture to treat cocaine addiction. Results showed that fifty-five percent of participants tested free of cocaine during the last week of treatment, compared to twenty-four percent and nine percent in the two control groups. Those who completed acupuncture treatment also had longer periods of sustained abstinence compared to participants in the control groups.

Prostate Health

The prostate is prone to enlargement and inflammation as men age, affecting about half of men in their sixties and up to ninety percent of men as they approach their seventies and eighties. If left untreated, benign prostate gland enlargement, which presents with symptoms such as frequent nighttime urination, painful urination, and difficult urination, can lead to more serious conditions such as prostate cancer, urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney damage, bladder stones, and incontinence.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be used to treat prostate problems to relieve the urinary symptoms and prevent the more serious conditions from occurring. The few studies completed on acupuncture and prostatitis show positive results with participants noticing an marked improvement in their quality of life, decrease in urinary difficulties, and an increase in urinary function.

Depression and Mental Health

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among all men; for young men it's higher. While experts previously thought depression affected far more women than men, it is now believed that that men's tendency to hide depressed feelings and not seek professional help has skewed the numbers.

When suffering from depression, brain chemicals and stress hormones are out of balance. Sleep, appetite, and energy level are all disturbed. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can alleviate symptoms associated with depression and mental health issues by helping to rebalance the body's internal environment.

The growing body of research supporting the positive effects of acupuncture on depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain syndrome is so strong that the military now uses acupuncture to treat troops with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and combat stress syndrome.

Sexual Health

While sexual health concerns may not be life threatening, they can still signal significant health problems. Two-thirds of men older than seventy and up to thirty-nine percent of forty year old men report having problems with their sexual health.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are well known for improving men's sexual performance; in fact, there have been medical textbooks devoted to the subject. Chinese Emperors took their sexual health quite seriously and would consult with a team of physicians if they experienced any difficulties in the bedroom.

Acupuncture can be used to treat premature ejaculation, low sperm count, diminished sperm motility, erectile dysfunction, male climacteric (menopause) and increase libido.

Written by: Diane Joswick, L.Ac.

www.acufinder.com

Chinese Medicine and Winter Season

The ancient Chinese believed that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on our health, replenish our energy, and conserve our strength. Winter is Yin in nature; it is inactive, cold, and damp. Remain introspective, restful, and consolidate your Qi through the season and prepare for the outburst of new life and energy in the spring.

“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat, by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang, and what is hard and soft. So it is that dissolute evil cannot reach the man of wisdom, and he will be witness to a long life.” - Huangdi Neijing Suwen

Element: Water • Nature: Yin • Organs: Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Adrenal Glands, Ears, and Hair • Taste: Salty • Emotion: Fear and Depression

Winter is ruled by the water element, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands.

According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered the source of all energy (Qi) within the body.

They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.

During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney Qi. It is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter — rest, reflection, conservation, and storage.

Foods for Winter

Winter is a time when many people tend to reduce their activity. If that’s true for you, it’s wise to reduce the amount of food you eat, too, to avoid gaining weight unnecessarily. Avoid raw foods during the winter as much as possible, as these tend to cool the body. During winter you should emphasize warming foods:

  • Soups and stews
  • Root vegetables
  • Beans
  • Miso and seaweed
  • Garlic and ginger

Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts help to warm the body’s core and to keep us nourished.  Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend a minimum quantity of energy.

Staying Healthy This Winter

Seasonal changes affect the body’s environment. With the wind, rain, and snow comes the colds, flu, aches, and pains.

Here are a few tips to staying healthy this winter:

  • Wash your hands regularly. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons that we catch colds and flu in the winter season is that we are indoors and in closer proximity to others in cold weather. Protect ourself by washing your hands regularly and try not to touch your face.
  • Get plenty of sleep. The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advised people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.
  • Reduce stress. Find a way to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Such methods may include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, simple relaxation therapy, or whatever method you use to release the stress and pressures of modern life.

According to TCM, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can work together to throw your immune system off, allowing pathogens affect your body.

Build Up Your Protective Qi

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can prevent colds and flu by building up the immune system with just a  few needles inserted into key points along the body’s energy pathways.

These points are known for strengthening the circulation of blood and energy and for consolidating the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (wei Qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.

Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year also serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems. The ultra-thin needles don’t hurt and are inserted just under the skin. The practitioner may twist or “stimulate” them once or twice, and they are removed within 10 to 20 minutes.

Acupuncture Point: Du 14

One particularly important point to attend to is Du 14. Located below the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebrae, approximately at the level where the collar of a T-shirt sits on the neck.

Du 14 activates the circulation of blood and Qi to strengthen the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (wei qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.

This point is often used to ward off, as well as shorten, the duration colds and flu.

This would be a great point to place an acupuncture needle, magnet or pellet before going on a flight. Ask your acupuncturist for more information.

Treat Those Colds — the TCM Way!

If you’ve already happened to catch that cold, acupuncture and herbal medicine can also help with the chills, sniffles, sore throat, or fever in a safe, non-toxic way that doesn’t bombard your body with harmful antibiotics. Acupuncture does not interfere with Western medical treatment. On the contrary, it provides a welcome complement to it in most cases, and with its emphasis on treating the whole person, recovery time for illness is often shortened.

There is a 1,000-year-old Chinese herbal formula that forms a handy complement to these immune-boosting treatments: the Jade Windscreen Formula. It is made up of just three herbs: Radix astragalus, Atractylodis macrocephalae, and Radix ledebouriellae. These three powerful herbs combine together to tonify the immune system, strengthen the digestive system (so that we can be sure to gain the nutrients from our food), and fortify the exterior of the body so that we can fight off wind-borne viruses and bacteria.

This handy formula which comes in pill, capsule, or liquid form can be taken for a few days each month to stave off colds or flu or when there’s been a challenging workload, or perhaps some loss of sleep.

By: Diane Joswick for Acufinder

Treatment of Neurological Disorders with Acupuncture

A neurological disorder refers to a problem with the nervous system, which is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates the body’s activities. Nerve pain can arise from trauma, inflammation, stroke, disease, infection, nerve degeneration, exposure to toxic chemicals, and nutrient deficiencies. Nerve pain is usually a sharp shooting pain or a constant burning sensation. Typically occurring in the same location with each episode, it can often be traced along the nerve pathway. Sometimes weakness or impaired function in the affected area occurs and the skin may be either overly sensitive or numb.

Some common neurological disorders acupuncture treats include:

Peripheral Neuropathy - damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body. Neuropathy caused by diabetes often affects the feet.

Trigeminal Neuralgia - facial pain, sometimes called Tic Douloureux, affects the trigeminal nerve which is responsible for impulses of touch, pain, pressure and temperature sent to the brain from the face, jaw, and gums.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - also known as median nerve entrapment, it occurs when swelling or irritation of the nerve or tendons in the carpal tunnel results in pressure on the median nerve.

Headaches - Headaches that can be treated with acupuncture include migraines, tension headaches, headaches occurring around the menstrual cycle, sinus headaches and stress-related headaches.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine have been found effective as a conjunctive therapy for neurological disorders and in treating pain and inflammation.

Women's Circle, Monday Oct 3rd

Circle and Meditationat ilumina Healing Sanctuary

Marion Light offers a Circle for women on the 1st Monday of each month and a meditation evening on the third Monday of each month. These begin at 6pm at the clinic. The Circle is a wonderful opportunity to connect with other women and to receive support with whatever you are going through. It is a safe environment for sharing and includes meditation. The meditation evening will be a short guided meditation and lead in to a silent time. All are welcome. Please call to sign up, 602.957.2602

Physical Benefits of Meditation • A deeper level of relaxation • Deep rest accompanied by decreased metabolic rate and lower heart rate • Decreased high blood pressure • Improved flow of air to the lungs • Increased levels of energy • Decreased muscle tension • More easily falling asleep and sleeping soundly • Improved state of the immune system.

Mental and Emotional Benefits of Meditation • Decrease in restless thinking • Increased ability to stay calm in every situation • Greater creativity • Decreased anxiety • Decreased tendency to worry • Decreased depression • Decreased nervousness, irritability and moodiness • Enhancement of self-confidence • Improved concentration • Increased self-discipline • Improved learning ability and memory • Increased feelings of vitality • Enhanced feelings of happiness • More emotional stability • Developed intuition

Spiritual Benefits of Meditation • Peace of mind • Emotional and mental detachment • Heightened awareness of the inner self • The ability to look within, beyond the body, mind and personality • Discovery of the power and consciousness beyond the ego • Discovery of one's true being • Attaining self-realization and spiritual awakening

An End to Pain

Acupuncture is gaining new traction—and respect—in hospitals and doctors' offices as evidence of its curative power piles up. Here, why it works—and what conditions it's best for. Virginia Ginsburg, 35, of Santa Monica, CA, didn't put much stock in acupuncture. So when she woke up one morning in September 2009 with pain in her back and leg so excruciating that she could barely walk, she begged her husband to take her to the emergency room. She was diagnosed with sciatica, given a shot of morphine and some pain pills, and sent limping home. But after a few days, when the pain hadn't abated, she remembered how acupuncture had eased her morning sickness when she was pregnant. "I was skeptical that it could help with a more serious condition, but I didn't know where else to turn," she says. So she called the acupuncturist again.

The results astonished her. After just one treatment, the agony began to subside. She went to two or three sessions a week and, after 10 weeks, she was completely pain free.

Stories like Ginsburg's have become increasingly common over the past few years. Marilyn Burack, 52, of Livingston, NJ, says she was cured of vertigo in two sessions of acupuncture after 6 months of medications had failed her. Rhalee Hughes, 38, of New York City, found that just one treatment could stop a flare-up of the pinched nerve in her neck. And similar accounts are told by many of the more than 3 million Americans who have turned to the 2,500-year-old Asian technique to relieve osteoarthritis, back pain, migraines, nausea, hot flashes, anxiety, addiction, insomnia, and infertility.

Western doctors are taking notice.

"More people in the medical community are embracing acupuncture because they see it works—often in cases where conventional medicine hasn't been as effective," says Geovanni Espinosa, ND, the director of the Integrative Urology Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. An estimated 1,500 US physicians are now trained in acupuncture. And some hospitals even have acupuncturists on staff, who tote their needle kits into cancer and orthopedic wards.

What's behind this wave of acceptance is more than treatment trendiness. As reports of acupuncture's potency accumulate, researchers have discovered more evidence about how the technique functions—and the conditions for which it's most effective.

What's behind your back pain? The first step of pain management is understanding the cause.

The Burden Of Proof

Licensed acupuncturists point to a 2,500-year history as confirmation that the practice works. The concept that traditionally underlies acupuncture (or needling, as it's sometimes called) is that the human body has 12 meridians along which energy—called qi (pronounced chee)—flows. When these channels are "blocked" or "unbalanced," it's thought, the result is illness and pain. To unblock and balance qi, an acupuncturist inserts needles at strategic points along the meridians and their tributaries.

But for Western doctors and researchers, this explanation does not rise to the level of objective proof. As a result, "there has been an explosion of study on the bio-mechanisms of acupuncture over the last ten years, showing complex, verifiable responses in the brain, nervous system, and connective tissue," says Arya Nielsen, PhD, senior attending acupuncturist in the department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. One recent review named more than 20 scientifically established benefits of acupuncture, from increasing the effects of painkilling endorphins to boosting immune function to releasing anti-inflammatories (which reduce swelling and help healing).

The latest research focuses on the connective tissue that runs under the skin, between muscles and organs. "We suspect that this tissue may be involved in the transmission of the signal from the needle to the brain," says researcher Helene Langevin, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. As it turns out, the meridians that acupuncturists use to "unblock energy" actually line up with the areas of the body where needles can most easily reach this deep connective tissue. It is possible that in ancient China, acupuncturists mapped out the meridians by palpating connective tissue situated in depressions or "channels" between muscles, she says.

Despite mounting evidence, a major area of inquiry has been whether acupuncture's effectiveness can be explained away by the placebo effect—meaning that needling works only because patients believe that it will. In tests, researchers have compared "real" acupuncture with "sham" (using toothpicks or very short needles or placing needles at "inactive" points). Many—but not all—of these studies found that both versions provide some relief, but acupuncture experts claim the studies have several flaws.

Try this yoga and meditation routine to help ease your mind and relax your body.

First, they argue, there's no such thing as faking acupuncture—inserting a needle, no matter where or how deeply, provokes an effect in the body. Even more significantly, one University of Michigan study used brain imaging to find that the two procedures affect brain chemistry differently. Real treatments triggered the release of pain-relieving endorphins and increased the number of endorphin receptors in the brain. In contrast, the sham therapy merely produced more endorphins—without changing receptor number. Finally, science has started to recognize the legitimacy of the placebo in medicine. "Expectations, the relationship between doctors and patients, and the attention a patient is given all can improve the outcome of any treatment," says Brian Berman, MD, professor of family and community medicine and director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. "But it's only been recently that conventional doctors have acknowledged that the mind does have some power in the process of healing."

While the debate rages, patients are finding real relief. Below, the areas where acupuncture has proven most potent, along with the science explaining why.

Pain

More than a dozen studies over the past decade have shown that acupuncture is more valuable than conventional care for treating osteoarthritis of the knee and lower-back pain, says Dr. Berman. It has also been shown to reduce migraine symptoms as well as medications do.

Digestive Issues

Acupuncture was acknowledged as an antidote to vomiting and nausea in 1997 by a National Institutes of Health consensus panel. "The treatment releases calming neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, and it reduces stress hormones," says Alex Moroz, MD, an acupuncturist and director of the Integrative Musculoskeletal Medicine Program at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. These neurotransmitters can quiet your nervous system and induce sleepiness but may also soothe digestion, Dr. Espinosa says. Furthermore, needling relaxes muscle contractions in the stomach, found a study from Duke University School of Medicine. There is some indication that it can also help treat heartburn.

Chemo Side Effects

Recent studies show that acupuncture not only relieves nausea and pain in patients going through chemotherapy but also helps ease neurological symptoms such as dizziness and prickly or tingling skin. What's more, it may improve survival outcomes by enabling patients to stick to their grueling treatments.

Acupuncture is also being used to mitigate the effects of ongoing pain, fatigue, depression, and weakened immune systems. In addition to its other healing capabilities, it sparks the release of immune-system cells and stimulates production of fibroblasts, connective tissue cells that help heal wounds.

Hot Flashes

Acupuncture is thought to regulate the vasomotor system (the portion of the nervous system that controls blood vessel diameter), which affects blood pressure, heart rate, and dilation of blood vessels—all of which play a role in your body overheating. In one study, acupuncture reduced hot flashes by 50%, and the benefits lingered for 3 months after the acupuncture was completed.

Stress, Anxiety, And Mild Depression

Acupuncture works to counteract the fight-or-flight stress response by releasing calming, feel-good neurotransmitters such as endorphins and reducing stress hormones like cortisol. It also improves blood circulation, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol. These effects soothe worry and ease sadness.

How chronic stress can affect your health.

But Does It Hurt?

One of acupuncture's biggest obstacles to acceptance has been how off-putting many Americans find the idea of being pierced with needles. But patients generally agree that the experience is more nurturing than nerve-racking.

Case in point: Susan Heinle, 53. A few months ago, she was on her stomach in the Maplewood, NJ, clinic of acupuncturist Chris Butler. She'd been suffering from symptoms of chronic Lyme disease, including pain in her hips, legs, and back, plus migraines.

Butler targeted a spot on her back with his finger and inserted a superthin, flexible needle about an inch and a half long, then deftly gave it two quick twists and a tap to "stimulate" it. He repeated the process about a dozen times on her back and legs.

Before her first session, Heinle says, "I pictured big needles, like at the doctor's office, and imagined each insertion would be horrifically painful." In reality, she let out only a few mild "ouches."

"It shouldn't be painless," explains Butler. "You should feel an achy sensation for a few seconds."

After 30 minutes, Butler removed the needles, and Heinle left feeling energized—and migraine free.

Is your pain due to arthritis? Why even patients in their 30s are discovering they're at risk.

Finding a Good Acupuncturist

A doctor's referral or friend's recommendation is a good place to start. If you don't have either, check nccaom.org, the site of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Make sure to look for:

A state license

An acupuncturist doesn't have to be a physician but should have a license. Requirements vary by state, but include between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of training (usually a 3-to 4-year master's degree program) and a series of written exams at one of the more than 65 accredited US acupuncture schools. Note: Doctors who practice acupuncture don't have to have a state acupuncture license but are required by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture to have 300 hours of training and 2 years of clinical practice, and to pass an exam.

Specialization

Acupuncturists may have areas of expertise, such as pain management, orthopedics, urology, or neurological issues.

Reasonable rates

Costs for an hour-long session typically range from $60 to $120. An acute problem may require two or three sessions a week for a few weeks; a chronic issue, one or two sessions a week for 8 weeks or more.

By Laurie Tarkan, Prevention

Acupuncture Improves Fertility in Men, Too

In many cultures, women are unfairly blamed for the inability of a sexually active couple to conceive. In reality, men suffer from infertility issues just as frequently as women. According to statistics from the National Infertility Association (an organization also known as RESOLVE), between 35 percent and 40 percent of infertility problems among couples are actually caused by male conditions. Several factors may be responsible for male infertility, including low sperm count, abnormal sperm shape and size, and reduced motility. Lifestyle, genetics, and physiological changes can also raise or lower male fertility levels, and can significantly affect a man's ability to produce offspring.

Previous research has shown that acupuncture can improve fertility levels in women. Fewer studies on male infertility have been conducted, although evidence suggests that acupuncture can have an effect on sperm production and quality, without causing any changes in behavior or sexual desire. A recent trial published in Fertility and Sterility has shown just how effective acupuncture can be in the treatment of this condition, leading to significant increases in the number of normal sperm and equally significant reductions in structural defects.

In the study, 28 men who were diagnosed with idiopathic infertility received acupuncture twice a week over a period of 5 weeks. The following acupuncture points were used as main points: Guan yuan (Ren 4), shen shu (UB 23, bilateral), ci liao (UB 32, bilateral), tai cong (Liv 3, bilateral), and tai xi (KI 3, bilateral). Secondary points included zhu san li (ST 36, bilateral), xue hai (SP 10, bilateral), san yin jiao (SP 6, bilateral), gui lai (ST 29, bilateral), and bai hui (Du 20). Needles were inserted to a depth of between 15 and 25 millimeters, depending on the region of the body being treated. Needles were manipulated for 10 minutes to achieve de qi, then left in place for another 25 minutes before being removed.

Semen samples were collected from each of the men after a 3-day period of sexual abstinence. Two samples were collected from each patient: one obtained the day before treatment began, the other after the last acupuncture treatment. Samples from the treatment group were then randomized with semen samples from 12 untreated control patients and analyzed.

Compared to the control group, motility levels increased significantly in semen samples in the men receiving acupuncture. While median motility levels increased from 32% to 37% in the control group, they increased from 44.5% to 50% in the acupuncture group.

The number and percentage of healthy sperm also increased dramatically in the acupuncture patients. At baseline, only 0.06% the sperm among men in the acupuncture group was considered "healthy," while the median number of healthy sperm calculated in ejaculate was 0.04 x 10 6 (40,000). After 10 sessions of treatments, the median percentage of healthy sperm had increased more than four-fold, to 0.26%, while the median number of healthy sperm per sample had reached 0.2 x 10 6 (200,000).

In addition, significant changes in sperm structure and quality were seen in the samples from the acupuncture group. Before treatment, only 22.5% of the sperm samples in the acupuncture patients contained normal-shaped acrosomes, a cap-like structure that develops over the anterior portion of a sperm cell's nucleus. After treatment, the median percentage of normal acrosome shapes showed a "statistically significant improvement" to 38.5%.

Similarly, the percentage of sperm with a normal axoneme pattern increased significantly among men receiving acupuncture. (The axoneme is a microscopic structure that contains a series of tubules arranged in a distinct pattern, and is believed to aid in sperm motility.) Prior to the start of the study, the correct axoneme pattern was present in 52% of sperm in the control group, but only 46.1% in the acupuncture group. After 5 weeks of therapy, the median percentage increased to 52.2% in acupuncture patients, but actually decreased to 38.2% in the control group.

While acupuncture appeared able to improve the overall quality and structural integrity of sperm, it was ineffective against some common sperm pathologies. Apoptosis levels (programmed cell death) in sperm samples were reduced slightly, but not to a statistically significant degree. Median percentages of necrosis (unprogrammed cell death) and sperm immaturity also decreased slightly in the acupuncture group, but not to a level considered statistically significant.

The authors concluded that despite the inability of acupuncture to significantly reduce some sperm abnormalities, the treatment could be used to improve overall sperm quality, leading to the possibility of increased fertility.

"In conjunction with ART or even for reaching natural fertility potential, acupuncture treatment is a simple, noninvasive method that can improve sperm quality," the authors concluded. "Further research is needed to demonstrate what stages and times in spermatogenesis are affected by acupuncture, and how acupuncture causes the physiologic changes in spermatogenesis."

Acupuncture Today Editorial Staff

References

Hopps CV, Goldstein M. Male infertility: the basics.

Levine D. Boxers or briefs: myths and facts about men's infertility.

Pei J, Strehler E, Noss U, et al. Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertility and Sterility July 2005;84(1):141-7.

 

Oriental Medicine and Male Sexual Disorders

Throughout Chinese history its society has been dominated by men. As this is an unfortunate reality it has also lead Chinese Medicine to be able to focus its medical knowledge on treating men's health and longevity. As far back as the Yellow Emperor's reign many classical texts were devoted to increasing men's sexual performance and health. Although centuries have past since the Yellow Emperor began inquiring about health and wellness, men today still look for various ways to stay healthy sexually.Sexual health is not the only concern for men today. As men age they begin battling with various other male disorders. Aside from impotence, men also suffer from conditions affecting urination, the prostate and testicles.

How Chinese Medicine Views Sexual Disorders and Men's Health

Chinese Medicine can help treat various male disorders. At the center of treating all male disorders are the Kidneys. Although other organ systems tend to be involved such as the Liver, Spleen, Bladder, and Heart the kidneys are usually at the core of the problem. One of the kidneys major functions according to Chinese Medicine is storing Jing (essence). Jing is one of three treasures, Qi and Shen (spirit) being the other two. “The life-giving processes of nature are manifest in the concept of Jing. It can be understood as the sap of life, the irreducible essence that contains all the critical ingredients needed to make new life that shares characteristics with its source.” As Jing has a direct connection with sperm in men you can begin to see why premature ejaculation and other sexual disorders are important to treat for the Chinese.

As a man ages Jing naturally depletes. As a man turn 40 the decline of kidney qi begins and with that Jing. Men experience their own kind of Men-opause as they age. This is different then that experienced by woman as there is no single physiological change. This is still a time that brings many imbalances in men as estrogen begins to be the dominant hormone in the body.

Another reason why the kidneys are the focus of treatment is its close connection with urinary function. According to Chinese Medicine the kidneys govern the opening and closing. This function corresponds to urinary incontinence as well as premature ejaculation. Both of these functions depend upon the kidneys strength and control to govern these functions properly. If this ability is weakened someone might experience frequent urination, dribbling, or incontinence.

Acupuncture and Impotence

One condition that we hear about often on the television, in the newspapers and magazines, and on the radio is impotence. As mentioned previously, Chinese Emperors viewed sexual function as an important part of health and longevity. If an Emperor had impotence he would seek the advice of his medical staff, and in the case of Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, her would ask the advice of Su Nu. Impotence is known as yang wei, which literally means flaccidity. Impotence refers to the inability to attain erection or the ability to attain only partial erection. This can be caused by several underlying reasons; however some of the more common causes are overindulgence in sexual activity and emotional disturbances.

Prostate Health

The condition of an enlarged prostate gland as a man ages is called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). In BPH the prostate enlarges, the layer of tissue surrounding it stops it from expanding, causing the gland to press against the urethra. Symptoms commonly seen with BPH are:

  • a hesitant, interrupted, weak stream
  • urgency and leaking or dribbling
  • more frequent urination, especially at night

These conditions, if left untreated, could lead to more serious conditions such as prostate cancer, urine retention, urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney damage, bladder stones, and incontinence.

BPH according to Chinese Medicine is categorized into diseases relating to urination. Historically there was no mention of an enlarged prostate. The Chinese had no way of knowing that a mans prostate was enlarged, but they were aware of the symptoms it caused. These symptoms of frequent nighttime urination, painful urination, and difficult urination were observed and thus categorized as disease categories which are used today to diagnose and treat BPH.

Male Infertility

Male infertility is rarely spoken about but can frequently be the problem when couples are having trouble conceiving. In many cases men have poor quality sperm or a decreased quantity. According to the World Health Organization guidelines normal sperm count consists of 20 million sperm per ejaculate, with 50 percent motility and 60 percent normal morphology (form). The amount of semen in the ejaculation matters, too. If the concentration is less than 20 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate, it may impair fertility. Still, if the sperm show adequate forward motility -- the ability to swim -- concentrations as low as 5 to 10 million can produce a pregnancy. It is important to remember that only 25 years ago, counts of 100 million sperm per ejaculate were the norm. Time, the effects of our environment and/or lifestyle seem to be gradually degrading male sperm counts. Within Chinese medicine once again the kidneys play an important role in semen production and quality; however this is not the only cause for infertility in men. Many times infertility is caused by dampness in Chinese Medicine. One major way that dampness is produced is through poor and improper dietary habits. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a large contributor to health problems and that remains true with infertility.

For a study in Fertility and Sterility, Volume 71, Number 4 (April 1999), pp.684-689, on the Comparison of the sperm quality necessary for successful intrauterine insemination with World Health Organization threshold values for normal sperm, visit the http://www.inciid.org/fertinews/whothreshold.html

What Acupuncture Can Treat

Here is a brief list of Male Health problems that Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture can help:

  • Premature Ejaculation
  • Low Sperm Count
  • Diminished Sperm Motility
  • Impotence
  • Hernias
  • Testicular Pain
  • Prostatitis
  • Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy
  • Male Infertility
  • Male Climacteric (men-opause)

References:

  1. The World Health Organization
  2. “ A Brief History of Qi” by Zhang Yu Huan and Ken Rose – Paradigm Publications, Brookline Mass, 2001
  3. “Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine” – by Yan Wu and Warren Fischer – Paradigm Publications, Brookline, Mass, 1997
  4. “ A Handbook of TCM Urology and Male Sexual Dysfunction” – BY Anna Lin, Blue Poppy Press, Inc. Boulder Colorado, 1999

By: Marc Sklar DA, L.Ac., MSOM

Male Fertility and the Sperm Saga

For fertilization (and pregnancy) to occur, sperm must travel from Point A—the male reproductive system—to Point B—the female fallopian tube, where an egg is waiting. Simple, right? Not quite. First, think about the math. The distance a sperm must travel to meet an egg is only about 6 inches/15 centimeters long. But that journey is 3,750 times the length of a sperm cell. It’s as if a person had to swim 40 miles to reach a destination. And the journey isn’t exactly a friendly and welcoming one; the course is filled with obstacles to be overcome. In other words, of the 50 to 250 million sperm (an accepted range for fertility) that start the journey toward the egg, the one that successfully fertilizes it is a true champion. And by the time this champion completes its mission, it is very different from the sperm cell that began it.

The Vagina: A Not-Very-Friendly Entranceway Chemically speaking, the vagina is hostile territory for sperm; the environment is acidic (pH 4.2), which impedes sperm movement. But the seminal fluid not only provides the sperm with energy for the journey, it also helps change the vaginal environment to a more sperm-friendly pH 7.2. To do this, the semen (the majority of the seminal fluid) changes twice. First, after being deposited in the vagina, it becomes thicker and coagulated for about 20 minutes, which minimizes sperm loss. Then it liquefies, which helps the sperm swim into the uterus.

The Cervix: A Maze to Master “The cervix is almost like a puzzle, a maze,” says Michael A. Thomas, M.D., professor and director of reproductive endocrinology at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center. There the sperm confront two obstacles.

The first obstacle is the cervical mucus, which changes during a woman’s cycle. For most of the cycle the mucus is thick and viscous, trapping sperm and preventing them from proceeding further. But close to ovulation the mucus becomes thin and stretchy, helping the sperm to cross the cervix and enter the uterus.

The second obstacle are cervical fibers, which are so close to each other during most of the cycle that they act as a barrier to prevent sperm from passing. But close to ovulation the gaps between the fibers widen and create tunnels that orient and guide sperm into the cervix. Fewer than one million of the original 50 million-plus sperm make it this far.

The Uterus: A Steep Climb Once into the uterus, sperm need to climb to reach the fallopian tubes (also called oviducts). Many sperm die along the way, and only a few thousand reach the top. There, two roads exist, since there are two oviducts, each leading to an ovary. But only one ovary releases an egg each cycle. Some sperm will head toward the ovary that did not release an egg. Only a few hundred sperm will survive and choose the path toward an egg.

Throughout this journey, the sperm are undergoing a drastic transformation. Freshly ejaculated sperm are incapable of fertilizing an egg. The newbie sperm must go through a process called “capacitation” within the female body. Chemicals in the sperm’s head change or are removed, and the sperm’s tail movement increases. “These steps help the sperm mature and render them able to fertilize an egg,” explains Dr. Thomas.

The Fallopian Tube: Victory In the fallopian tube, the sperm that remain await the egg. As the ovulated egg makes its way down the tube, these sperm surround it. Many sperm try to enter. One champion succeeds.

A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Conceive Magazine. By Tamar L. Goulet, Ph.D.

 

 

When Hot Tubs Aren’t Such a Hot Idea

Hot tubs can be great…relaxing, soothing, and sometimes romantic. If all a man cares about is sex, then a hot tub can be a perfect aphrodisiac and no harm done. But if he’s interested in having sex and fathering children, he’d be wise to go another route and skip the hot tub. How come? Because it turns out that heat and sperm are a bad mix.Let’s back up a second for some basic anatomy here. Sperm are made in the testicles, which hang from the body in the scrotum. The reason for putting the family jewels in such a relatively precarious position is that the sperm-making Sertoli cells of the testicles don’t work right unless they are cooler than body temperature by a few degrees Fahrenheit. Warm them up for more than a few degrees and for more than a few minutes and sperm production is temporarily shut down.Normally, the testicles maintain a relatively constant temperature by raising or lowering closer to, or farther from, the body. The scrotum is lined with temperature-sensitive muscles. In warm conditions the muscles relax and let the testicles hang far from the body whereas cold temperatures (particularly cold water) make the scrotum contract, pulling the testicles tight against the body for added warmth.But soaking in a hot tub makes it impossible for the testicles to remain cool. As relaxing as it may feel, it’s not a happy experience for the testicles. Sperm formation slows or halts, and sperm that have already been made may be harmed, all of which can lower the chances the man can conceive a child.  The same thing, by the way, happens if a guy has a high fever…sperm production will be temporarily interrupted.This impact on fertility also happens if a man has a high fever, which is why guys going to get a sperm count are told to wait for up to 3 months if they’ve had any kind of cold, flu, or infection.Bottom line? A hot tub every once in awhile isn’t a big deal, but if you’re having a hard time getting pregnant, avoid romantic interludes in hot water.By Harry Fisch, MD