acupuncture, fertility, pregnancy

Pelvic pain in pregnancy: the latest Cochrane Review findings

acu statue backOne of the things I love most about my job is working with women who are undergoing preconception care, fertility treatment and pregnancy support. So I was absolutely delighted to see this Cochrane Review come out recently in support of acupuncture for pelvic and lower back pain (LBP) in pregnancy. The authors concluded:

“Moderate-quality evidence suggested that acupuncture or exercise, tailored to the stage of pregnancy, significantly reduced evening pelvic pain or lumbo-pelvic pain more than usual care alone, acupuncture was significantly more effective than exercise for reducing evening pelvic pain.”

In my experience, pelvic and lower back pain associated with pregnancy is one of those conditions that frequently responds very well and extremely quickly to acupuncture treatment. However, everyone is unique and depending on the cause of the pain the prognosis may differ from this.

A well-trained acupuncturist with experience in pregnancy acupuncture will select acupuncture points in the local area, and on the legs, maybe the arms or even ears to reduce pains. The points used will be selected to be effective for the individual presentation of pain and low-risk based on the gestational age. The treatment is not only pain-relieving but also very relaxing – something every pregnant lady needs!

And if you want to see a a video of how amazing the whole sperm-meets-egg-pregnancy-baby process is then check this out.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Oh no! The acupuncturist is sick! What does she do?

Ekka 2013
The Ekka may look harmless but beware of the lurgy!

It’s Ekka time. Everyone in Brisbane knows that when the Brisbane Exhibition is on that the flu goes around. Regardless of whether I go to the Ekka or not (and I did go this year – and I took hand sanitiser), I come down with the lurgy on exactly the same day of the year, the Monday before the Brisbane Exhibition Show Day. Yes, even I get sick sometimes! Picking up a respiratory infection 1-2 times per year is quite healthy and normal. In saying that, being sick is no fun and we like to prevent these things dragging on any longer than they have to.

So, as an acupuncturist, what do I do when I get sick?

Firstly, I should explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we classify the common cold or flu generally into one of two types: hot or cold.

How do you know which one you have?

  • Hot signs and symptoms: fevers or feeling hot more predominant, excessive sweating, yellow & thick mucus, razor blade sore throat and a red face.
  • Cold signs: chills or feeling the cold more predominant, none/slight sweats, clear & runny mucus, sneezing and pale face.

Treatments for the two types have some similarities but also many differences. It’s important to nut out whether you have hot or cold symptoms, and exactly what those symptoms are, before proceeding to treatment. Your acupuncturist can help you to do this.

I was knocked down with the hot type – a hot-cold. This means that my treatment is based on clearing the heat as well as releasing the exterior (a TCM term which is badly translated as opening the pores to release the pathogen that has made you unwell). If you have the cold type, we can employ more warming methods and herbs in your treatment. Here’s a nice soup if you have a cold-cold.

So, what did I do:

  1. Acupuncture. Yes, that was my first stop. I had an acupuncture treatment to clear out my sinuses, dull my headache and release some heat that was contributing to that sore throat.
  2. Herbs. Being able to make up individualised herbal formulas means that I can match the herbs to the symptoms. I used herbs that ‘release the exterior’, dry up phlegm and cool the heat signs. The herbs usually taste quite awful however the upside to having a blocked nose is that it drastically reduces your sense of taste – awful tasting herbs go down easily. Win!
  3. Fluids. Keeping up your 2 litres of fluid per day is essential and if you are sweating well you’ll need even more. It’s okay to include some herbal tea into your total fluid intake. I combined some HealthWise Clinic Cold & Flu Tea in a pot with a squeeze of fresh lemon (picked from my parents’ lemon tree) and a spoon of honey mixed through it. The herbs were pungent and the lemon and honey were cooling and soothing for the sore throat.
  4. Inhalation. Clearing your head out when it’s blocked up with mucus is best done with a steam inhalation. Just like your grandmother recommended: tea towel over your head, breathing over a pot of gently steaming water. I usually would add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of nose clearing oils to the water.
  5. Gargle. One of the simplest gargles that is also very effective is the salt water gargle. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water. Then gargle to your heart’s (or rather throat’s) content. Don’t swallow. Yuck. Salt is cooling for that hot, sore throat.
  6. Rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Don’t go out if there is anyway to avoid it. No one wants your germs and rest will help you get better faster. I love this post on the importance of rest when you are ill – no one says it better than Kathleen, the naturopath! And here is how she manages a cold as a naturopath.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.

How do you prevent getting sick? Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago on getting your defenses (immune system) prepared for cold and flu season.

So if you aren’t sick, look after yourself. And if you are sick also look after yourself. Get better soon and seek help if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting.

And just in case you have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, I’m pleased to report that I will be back on deck after a good rest.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, emotional health, herbal medicine, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine for the broken heart

I’ve seen many a brokenhearted patient in my clinic. Traditional Chinese Medicine has much to offer in helping you through this tough time.

I have recently been asked to write on the topic for the Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Wellspring Blog.

Check out five heart-healing tips in Mending a broken heart with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, Diet, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Traditional Chinese Medicine word on GORD

yinyangfoodsLast semester I researched gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) for my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) masters program. Here’s a summary:

What causes GORD?

GORD affects around 25% of the adult population on a regular basis. The disease is characterised by heartburn and gastric acid reflux. Standard care for GORD includes medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and prokinetic drugs although their success rate is relative to the cause of the individual’s condition and these medications are often associated with complications from long term use.

GORD has been linked to a variety of genetic, dietary and lifestyle factors. An Iranian study identified that GORD was significantly more likely to occur in individuals who had:

  • a higher pickle consumption
  • psychological distress
  • dyspepsia
  • halitosis
  • nightmares
  • restlessness
  • took aspirin
  • a family history of GORD.
  • smoking caused an increase in the prevalence of GORD however this was not significant (p=0.055).
  • Other studies have shown that a high body mass index (BMI) can increase the risk of GORD.

Factors that significantly decreased an individual’s risk of GORD included having a higher fruit and vegetable (fibre) intake and interestingly, a higher fried food intake.

Descending the rebellious ‘reflux’ Qi

TCM places particular importance on eating meals at regular times, in moderate quantities and at a relaxed pace so as not to disturb the downward flow through organs of the digestive system, particularly the Stomach.

In TCM, it is the Stomach that is the first organ to receive the food to be digested. It is known as ‘the origin of fluids’ and is said to prefer foods which are moist to assist in the lubrication of the digestive system and a general function of providing moisture for the body. The energy (or Qi) that is extracted from the food strengthens the whole body but is particularly reflected in the limbs. The process of worrying or overthinking while eating will stagnate or drain the energy of the digestive system, disrupting good digestive processes.

Primarily GORD is classified as a disorder of the descending function of the Stomach Qi resulting in Rebellious Qi. The rebellious Qi moves in an upward direction causing the characteristic burning sensation in the epigastrium and acid regurgitation. There are various reasons why your gastric acid may move upwards rather than staying in your Stomach where it belongs.

How to put out the fire of heart burn

Discuss your condition with your practitioner. They will be able to assess your individual condition and offer an individualised treatment plan which may include:

  • Acupuncture: Several acupuncture studies have shown promising results and some acupuncture points have been studied to identify a mechanism of action for GORD treatment. Acupuncture has been shown to increase the effectiveness of PPIs when used concurrently in the treatment of GORD.
  • Herbal medicine: TCM and Kampo herbal formulae may offer relief for GORD. Meadowsweet and slippery elm powder are often the western herbalist’s herbs of choice for GORD.
  • Reduce your risk factors: decrease pickles in the diet, address psychological stress and dyspepsia, discuss your aspirin use with your doctor, stop smoking and maintain a healthy BMI. Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Mindful eating: eat regular meals in a relaxed manner until you are about 80% full.
  • Relaxation: Find ways to eliminate the causes of stress (where you can) in your life and learn to ways to unwind. This may include meditation, yoga, massage, acupuncture or seeking psychological counselling.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, Diet, emotional health, food, food allergy, health, herbal medicine, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Irritable bowel syndrome: feeling better with complementary medicine

I see many patients each week who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The good news is that I often find that with some good questioning and an individualised treatment plan covering the multiple aspects of this condition, a patient’s abdominal pain and bowel habits often respond for the better.

IBS is the most common digestive condition that patients seek help for and, believe it or not, accounts for up to a third of visits to gastroenterologists.

IBS is diagnosed by eliminating other disorders through medical testing.  An IBS diagnosis is made when a patient has recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort for at least three days of the last three months and at least two symptoms from the following:

  • Improvement of pain with bowel movement
  • Onset associated with a change in the stool frequency
  • Onset associated with a change in the stool consistency

The causes of IBS are poorly understood and so this means that conventional treatment is targeted towards reducing the symptoms. Interestingly, it is antidepressant medications that seem to offer the most relief to IBS patients from the pharmaceutical model.  Additionally, antispasmodics and anti-diarrhoeal medications are often trialed.

There are many natural therapies that have been used traditionally for digestive conditions and some of these treatments have shown statistically significant results in clinical trials.

  • Herbal medicine and nutrition therapy do have plenty to offer a patient with IBS and this is backed by clinical trials. One of the most effective herbal remedies tested in double blind clinical trials is a herbal formula known as Iberogast. A study found that Iberogast significantly reduces abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms. I use a lot of Iberogast with my IBS patients when I feel that the formula fits their pattern and it usually brings excellent results.
  • Probiotics have also been the subject of several clinical trials and there is good evidence for their use in IBS.  They are particularly useful in patients who suffer from bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain. Probiotics enhance the gut barrier function and inhibit pathogen binding. Many probiotic strands are available, so you need to work with a practitioner to get the correct strands and dosing. In addition to supplementing with probiotics, increasing probiotic rich foods (such as yoghurt, keffir, miso, tempeh and sauerkraut) may be beneficial.
  • Fibre, particularly soluble fibre such as psyllium husks, is also supported by research for use in IBS, particularly where constipation is a predominant factor. Soluble fibres should be taken before meals for a greater impact on the lower digestive system.
  • Dietary causes play a part in IBS. It is worth having your diet assessed by your practitioner to identify if there are any foods that are aggravating your system. I often refer patients for food sensitivity testing which takes some of the guess work out of finding out which foods aggravate your symptoms and diets based on this testing have significantly reduce symptoms in clinical trials. Not all patients need to follow a dairy and gluten free diet – however this does work well for some – testing helps us to identify which foods are causing your problems.
  • One of the most important factors in treating IBS is managing stress and anxiety. Seek assistance in resolving ongoing life stresses or anxieties. Hypnosis is well supported in research for managing IBS. Additionally, choose counselling, meditation, yoga, massage and relaxation techniques to help you feel more relaxed. Acupuncture is excellent for enhancing relaxation and has been used for thousands of years for alleviating digestive pain and bowel disorders too.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has several diagnostic patterns for IBS. One of the most common is known as “Liver invading the Spleen”. Basically, this means that when feeling emotions such as frustration, resentment, irritability and anger your digestion system is weakened and your symptoms are worse. If you have this pattern you may suffer from alternating constipation and diarrhoea, and it is hard to pinpoint any foods that make your condition worse. (Here’s a little more on Liver Qi Stagnation, the precursor to Liver invading the Spleen.) It is no surprise then that it is the antidepressant medications that have shown the greatest improvement in this condition from a pharmaceutical point of view. There are many drug-free stress reduction options, and these are listed in the last bullet point above. This brain-gut connection highlights the importance of an holistic strategy in the management of IBS.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

fertility, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Listening, thinking and talking about mothers and babies

capers cam 15 mayThe last few weeks have been crammed with several great professional education seminars.

Of note, was the Womens Health Conference held on 20th April 2013. I was privileged to spend the day in the company of a roomful of general practitioners (GPs) as we all learnt from obstetricians, paedatricians, gynaecologists and fertility specialists on topics including:

  • Childbirth and the pelvic floor
  • Prolapse and stress incontinence
  • The role of counselling in infertility
  • Tumour markers
  • Menorrhagia and dysmenorrhoea
  • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
  • Obesity and pregnancy

This also included several question and answer sessions in small groups with the specialists.  Here is where we got to ask all of those burning questions we store up from practice.  It was a valuable day of adding to my knowledge of obstetrics and gynaecology from a western medical viewpoint.

And next month on Wednesday 15th May, I am excited to say I get to share my Traditional Chinese Medicine knowledge on some of these topics (including acupressure techniques for birth) at the Capers Bookstore Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Pregnancy, Birth & the Early Postnatal Period.  This is a seminar attached to the The Passage to Motherhood Conference that is targeted to midwives , obstetricians, paediatricians, general practitioners, lactation consultants, therapists, nurses, childbirth educators, physiotherapists and doulas.  I’ll be speaking among  brilliant professionals in the obstetrics and birth world including Michel Odent, Thomas Hale, Michael Woolridge, Catherine Watson Genna, Allison Barrett, Sarah Buckley and Rachel Reed. Here is the program. It looks amazing and I’m so pleased to be invited to speak at this great conference again.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Even your pet can benefit from acupuncture

dog acupunctureI spent today with a gorgeous friend, her incredibly clever and kind seven-year old daughter and their adorable devon rex cat.

Miss Seven was over the moon to be able to demonstrate her new vet kit to me.  The vet kit was a little basket of goodies she had put together to treat her animals. It included freshly pressed basil oil, some raw ginger, eucalyptus leaves, a sewing pin and her own written notes on pet medicine.

We started by treated the toy dog. He had a sore back and irritated eyes. With our combination of herbal rubs and sewing pin acupuncture we cured him.

But you know, pets (of the living, breathing variety) really can benefit from complementary medicines just as well as people can. Acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine (such as omega 3 fatty acids), homeopathics and aromatherapy can work a treat for our furry friends for their physical and mental ailments. Some good vets include these therapies in their practice – it’s always worth asking about.

Today’s work with the seven-year old complementary medicine veterinary doctor reminded me of this fabulous video showcasing the effect of acupuncture on the most adorable little pug puppy who suffered with paralysis from a car accident. Her recovery is remarkable.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.