Patients often ask me how acupuncture helps heal their aches and pains and recover from injuries. After describing the traditional functions of acupuncture and its positive effect on strengthening Qi or vital energy I turn to a subject more practical and easy to understand – Inflammation. There is so much evidence that inflammation is at the root of so many health problems and that reducing elimination is key to healing and high-level wellness. Inflammation effects more than joints or muscles. It is a primary source of chronic and serious conditions such as cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Acupuncture reduces inflammation because it signals to the body to produce natural anti-inflammatory chemicals that will course through the circulatory, nervous and endocrine systems to the joints and muscles that are inflamed from injury or disease. In addition to regular acupuncture treatments I often recommend specific Chinese herbal formulas that are specific for each patient’s unique condition and constitution as well as effective nutraceuticals like Zyflamend which contains powerful anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, ginger, basil, skullcap, and others.
I also counsel my patients in the important ways they can reduce inflammation and promote natural, healthy function. These healthy and easy to achieve guidelines will enhance your regular acupuncture treatments and greatly improve the way you feel and your ability to resist disease and lead a longer, healthier life.
1. Create a diet of plant-based, whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Crowd out the inflammatory foods we discussed above (refined sugar and flour, processed junk, animal products, etc.) by adding a variety of plant-based whole foods to your diet. These foods will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fiber it needs to recover from chronic inflammation.
2. Improve digestion and intestinal absorption
Your gut holds approximately 60 to 70 percent of your immune system, so it stands to reason that it would be a great place to reduce chronic inflammation. And if your gut is in bad shape, you can only imagine that your immune system is in some serious trouble. Check out my tips for improving gut health here. A great way to start is by taking a high-quality daily probiotic.
3. Look for food intolerances or allergies.
Many food intolerances may clear up naturally when you switch to a plant-based, whole foods diet. However you may need to identify potential food sensitivities and/or infections. If your body is working to cope and fight these challenges every day, you can bet that you’re stoking the fires of inflammation on a regular basis.
Gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, and yeast are common food allergens that might be distracting your immune system every time you sit down for a meal. These allergies can be identified with a blood test. Ask us about testing for food allergies.
You can try an elimination diet to determine food sensitivities and allergies. Only you can determine how you feel when you eat, which is where an elimination diet comes in handy. While following the elimination approach, you remove all common allergens from your diet and then slowly reintroduce them, one by one.
Another possibility worth exploring is chronic infection (bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites). These guys could be hiding out in your body just under the radar and dragging your immune system down. You have a couple options for testing—look at your bloodworm and/or your stools. If your stools are not well-formed and even in color, and if your bowel movements are painful or irregular, you have signs of dysbiosis or infection in your intestines. You can have your stool analyzed—this analysis will identify parasites, abnormal bacteria, yeasts, and other gastrointestinal issues, which will help you create a game plan that targets the infection, ideally with the help of an integrative MD or naturopath.
You may also want to look into Leaky Gut Syndrome, a condition that can result in damage to your intestinal lining. When this occurs, bacteria, undigested food, and other toxins can literally leak into your bloodstream, triggering an autoimmune response and a host of painful inflammatory symptoms. A simple urine test can tell you if you need to plug up those leaks, so to speak.
4. Relax and rest more…and maintain a steady exercise program.
Your body is hard at work repairing and restoring your glorious cells while you sleep. A minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re cutting corners in the snooze department, you’re cheating your immune system and depleting your adrenal glands, which will cause an upsurge in cortisol and inflammation. Stress goes hand in hand with a lack of sleep and a laundry list of demands from daily life. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed out all the time, you’re also producing more of the hormone cortisol—inflammation’s BFF. It stands to reason that you can easily reduce chronic inflammation by focusing on stress reduction, whether it’s through more sleep, yoga, meditation, long walks, less technology, or a much needed vacation. A healthy way to get to your ideal weight, in addition to these recommendations, is to get ample sleep, every night.
5. Reduce toxins in your food, home, and personal care products.
Your body’s alarm system goes off when you absorb toxic chemicals and pesticides through your digestive tract and your skin. Cut down your exposure by eating organic foods whenever possible and choosing non-toxic personal care and cleaning products. Reduce exposure to your electronic technology by reducing your cell phone use and keeping it away from you when sleeping.