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Thinking of trying accupuncture? Here are tips

  • Published Tuesday, August 6, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Accupuncture – that most ancient and least understood Chinese therapy – has snuck into mainstream medical practice, in very specific areas, now that reliable studies have convincingly demonstrated its benefits.

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for a host of conditions, including adverse reactions and nausea related to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, seasonal allergies, depression, menstrual cramps, headache, high blood pressure, knee and lower-back pain, morning sickness, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and tennis elbow. And acupuncture is now offered in many North American hospitals (the Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine provides more than 10,000 treatments annually) and by the Department of Defense to treat soldiers suffering acute and chronic pain.

If you are thinking about trying acupuncture for pain relief or to augment treatment for heart problems, allergies or headache, or to increase the effectiveness of fertility treatments, here’s our advice about how to proceed:

1. Ask if your physician knows an acupuncturist whom he or she would recommend. If not, go to www.nccaom.org for a nationally certified practitioner in your area. (Some MDs are certified, and insurance may cover their treatments.)

2. Don’t rely on acupuncture alone for treatment of chronic or serious illnesses unless you see a physician first.

3. Make sure your acupuncturist uses sterile, prepackaged, one-time-only needles. Ask!

4. For best results, go through the entire course of treatment.

About fat

A 400-pound mama bear can gain 150 pounds of brown fat as she heads for a six-month semi-hibernation (during those months she gives birth and nurses). The brown fat is higher than white fat in healthy DHA omega-3 fatty acid, and it’s full of little cellular power centers called mitochondria. In bears (and people), it provides calories, generates heat and helps regulate insulin use and glucose uptake. And burning brown fat reduces insulin resistance – a hallmark of type 2 diabetes – and helps you lose weight!

Fortunately, you can turn that nasty white fat under your skin and around your internal organs into shades of brown fat called brite fat (that’s brown fat from white fat) and beige fat. Here’s our two-step plan for how to brown your fat:

1. Turn up your thermostat with aerobic exercise – 10,000 steps a day, plus 20 minutes of sweaty aerobics three times a week in a cool room. Also smart: two to three days a week of strength training to build muscle mass.

2. Avoid saturated and trans fats, which cause you to accumulate more white fat. Brown-fat-friendly oils are mono- (olive oil) and polyunsaturated (canola oil), and omega-3s in avocados, walnuts, flax, ocean trout and salmon.

Hormone therapy

For years, as healthy women entered and went through menopause, they’ve been frightened away from hormone therapy by reports of a two-fold increase in dementia and cognitive decline for those who took estrogen or combined estrogen and progesterone. (Not to mention the overblown reports of increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer.) It’s a shame, because the studies that generated that information were looking at women 65 and older who were taking the least-favorable type of HT and were not told to take aspirin (so important, because if you are on birth-control pills or hormone therapy, aspirin reduces the risk of deep vein clots – ask your doc).

All this made many younger women (50 to 55) needlessly avoid HT to control hot flashes, heart palpitations, urinary incontinence and mood swings. Now, results from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study in Younger Women reveal HT does not damage cognitive abilities. The key is to take it at the right age (within five years of your period stopping or around 50 ti 55), with the right Rx (we recommend micronized progesterone and bioequivalent estrogen), for the right length of time (five years tops) and with two baby aspirins a day (if your doc says it’s OK).

So, if you’re 50-55 and going through night sweats or worse, talk to your doc about HT.

Gut bacteria and autism

The bacteria in your guts are like a baseball team. Let’s call them the Biomes. If the players are out of sync, the team will suffer. But if the manager (you) puts a good mix of players on the field (and in your gut), you’ll see better results. Now, like any team, the Biomes suffer a few setbacks along the way (diarrhea, antibiotics, stress, food poisoning), but usually bounce back if you eat a bacteria-loving diet (green vegetables, garlic, onions and high-fiber foods, and avoid red meat, added sugar and processed foods) and take probiotics such as bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 to fill out the roster.

But what if your biome is chronically short a couple of key players? Scientists and doctors have been studying children with autism spectrum disorder who also have gastrointestinal problems – about 50 percent do – to see if there is a relationship between the two conditions. Turns out these children have significantly fewer types of gut bacteria, along with lower amounts of three crucial strains, Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae. In other words, they need more players on the team.

Even more important, researchers found that the imbalance correlated with behavior problems, and have suggested that managing GI problems can dramatically improve ASD-related behavior. So if your child has ASD and GI problems, talk with your doctor about getting a lab test of a stool sample. If results show that your child’s biome is a couple of players short, explore medical treatments that may provide some relief.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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