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March 23, 2018

8 Compelling Reasons to use Acupuncture for Weight Loss

Acupuncture for Weight Loss: An Affordable Weight Loss Solution

Ok, so you want to lose weight and you’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars on quick fix promises and diet plans – and you’ve probably noticed that after you’ve spent the time, effort, and money, your weight bounces back on.  Are you ready for a more permanent solution to weight loss?  Then it is time to try acupuncture for weight loss.  Acupuncture used to be considered “alternative medicine” but these days it is proving its efficacy in mainstream medicine as more doctors refer people and more insurance companies cover service.

Using acupuncture for weight loss is not a solution for anyone looking for a quick fix or any gimmicks.  Although the method and steps are super simple, this process can be challenging- but no worries, you can find programs that integrate extensive and affordable help along the way.  We recommend a program such as Source’s 21-Day Weight Loss Challenge in which you get step-by-step guidance by certified health coaches, clinically proven supplements, and bi-weekly acupuncture to curb cravings and increase metabolism.

How does Acupuncture for Weight Loss Work?

“The guiding principle is that acupuncture can power up any other weight control strategy by curbing appetite, quelling cravings, boosting metabolism, improving digestion, regulating obesity-related hormones and enhancing the way nutrients are used,” says Dr. Mehmet Oz on his website, DoctorOz.com.

When you come in, an acupuncturist will review your medical history and assess a diagnosis and treatment plan based on any digestive disharmonies you might have, your overall constitutional health, and your tongue and pulse.  Then the practitioner will insert hair-thin, sterile needles into specific points to increase your body’s metabolism and organ function.  Many effective treatments involve something called “electrical stimulation” or “e-stim” of the needles, which applies a painless small electrical current to certain needles to provide constant stimulation and tissue healing.  Auricular needles are also often used in order to curb food cravings and emotional addictions to food which could be an underlying challenge for losing weight.

Reason 1:  Acupuncture Works!

 Studies show that women who got acupuncture at least bi-weekly for 6-10 treatments, combined with low glycemic-index foods and regular exercise, lost seven pounds more than their counterparts who only ate a reduced calorie diet.  The women who received acupuncture also reported feeling less hungry and having less cravings. 

Research out of Hong Kong Baptist University randomly assigned 72 overweight people to receive real acupuncture or sham acupuncture.  Each person did 16 sessions over eight weeks.  Those who got the real deal, lost an average of five pounds, with one patient losing 16 pounds.  In contract, the sham group lost an average of only one pound. 

 Reason 2: Acupuncture Decreases Stress

 When under stress, we all have our ways of coping – and sometimes they are not healthy ways.  No doubt about it, when stress is knocking, that candy bar and chocolate sounds really good!  Maybe even smoking, alcohol, or binge TV watching (which leads to popping in that extra bag of potato chips without thinking about it!) is a way people deal with stress. 

Acupuncture slows cortisol production, which is a major player for adding weight around the midline when stressed.  It also tunes the vagal nerve which is connected to every organ.  Tuning this nerve allows for your parasympathetic nervous system to override the fight or flight response more readily.

Reason 3:  Acupuncture Increases your Energy

Acupuncture increases blow flow which increases the amount of useable energy you have.  This medicine naturally uses your body’s own healing ability to decrease inflammation, improve mood and sleep, and create hormonal harmony – all of which can give you the right mindset and reserves to make better food choices and have less pain and inflammation in the body to feel overall more vital. 

Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, the hormones associated with that awesome “runner’s high” feeling. 

Reason 4:  Acupuncture Curbs Cravings

Acupuncture for weight loss can help stabilize blood sugar levels which can keep an overactive appetite in check.  When your cravings are kept in check, you eat less.

Here’s a list of surprising conditions acupuncture can treat.

Reason 5:  Hormonal Harmony

Researchers believe acupuncture may boost the production of the “happy” hormone, serotonin (95% of which is found in the gut of a healthy person) and beta-endorphin.  Beta-endorphins boost mood, suppress appetite, and increase the breakdown of fats.

Reason 6:  Acupuncture Decreases Inflammation

Inflammation is linked to many serious conditions such as weight gain, high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and chronic pain.  In 2015, a study published in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences found that acupuncture can decrease inflammation and change the body composition of obese individuals.  Dr. Josh Axe states “They believed the effects of acupuncture were at least partially due to improvements in pro-inflammatory markers like high sensitivity C-reactive protein, which has been found to be positively correlated with abdominal fat.”

Reason 7:  Acupuncture Improves Insomnia

Acupuncture for weight loss can even help decrease insomnia symptoms.  Insomnia can be caused by many things – one of which is poor food choices or eating too late at night.  Good quality sleep is proven to aid in weight loss too.  A meta-analysis of 46 studies done by Beijing University in China found acupuncture to be effective and safe for helping people sleep. 

Sleep expert Michael J. Breus PhD, says “When you are sleep deprived, you have more ghrelin, the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat and you also have less leptin, the hormone that tells you to stop eating.  More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.”

Reason 8:  Detoxes the Liver and Improves Liver Function

Dr.Oz also states that “It (acupuncture) also strengthens the function of the liver, the organ that produces many chemicals critical for digestion, processing nutrients and breaking down of fats.” 

We live in a toxic world so it’s no wonder that it is common to have an overloaded liver – the liver is a main organ that processes chemicals and toxins from the body.  It also processes emotions.  When the liver is overloaded, we can get lots of symptoms like headaches, weight gain that will not move, flank pain, high blood pressure, tinnitus, insomnia, and irritability.  The liver plays a huge role in digestion as well.  Acupuncture for weight loss, along with herbal medicine, can greatly regenerate the liver and improve its function in the body which can greatly improve sleep, digestion, and mood.

If you are looking for an acupuncture weight loss program, feel free to contact us at Source Empowered Wellness.


February 12, 2018

If it comes out Brown and Yellow then you can stay Mellow

As a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, I am no stranger to talking about “poop” and “pee”.  It’s a normal function of the body and the variations of its presentation can give you deep insights into your health and digestion.  For both excretions, the color, size, shape, and smells mean different things.

Let’s take a closer look at your poop or stools specifically.  First:

Did You Know?

  • It’s normal to poop anywhere from 3 times a day to once every 3 days depending on if this has been a long time habit either way and the stools are well formed.
  • If your stool smells pretty funky and strong, you may be ingesting too many animal proteins.
  • Healthy poop sinks slowly and starts as half floating and half sunken.
  • Excess mucus in the stool could be a sign you need to get tested for food allergies and start to avoid those foods.

Stool Color and What it Means:

The normal color of stool should be a medium to darker brown color.  So what if your poop is green?  Or red?  Or black?  What does it mean if it has some white stringy stuff trailing through it?  I will attempt to answer some of those questions.


No need to panic if this is happening occasionally.  Most likely this is normal with a reasonable explanation.  Sometimes it is green because you had some green foods or a mix of vitamins or supplements- even if they’re not green.

There can be many reasons: The first and most obvious is eating green foods which is of course super good for you and helps form healthy poops because of the fiber content. Green, leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll, which can color the stool green.  Iron supplements or foods that are rich in iron can also give it a green tinge.

Aside from the actual pigments you take in, bile, which is a natural substance that is secreted in the first part of the small intestine to help you break down fats, is green too.  Usually, when food is digested and passed through the large intestine, it turns into a darker brown color.  However, if the poop is still green by the time it is excreted, it may have gone through the large intestine too fast to be changed in color and may come out more as diarrhea. This is often called “rapid transit” or “decreased colonic transit time”.  Take your time and chew foods well.

In breast-fed infants, green poop is normal, especially right after delivery. In older children, the reason could be food-related as described above, or from eating or sucking on colored non-food items such as crayons.


If your stool is yellow, it may be a sign that certain fats or protein and glutens in your diet are not getting properly digested. Tell your doctor and rule out malabsorption disorders (like celiac disease).  It may also be you’ve just been eating too many fatty foods so cut back.

Light White-ish or Pale:

Are you having any abdominal pains or does digestion feel sluggish?  These colors can be indicative of a lack of bile. Perhaps a bile duct is obstructed, or maybe you’ve taken too much bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, aka Pepto-Bismol) or some other anti-diarrheal medication? If this persists, bring this up with your doctor.

Red or Rainbow:

Most likely this is normal unless you feel any pain or a sensation of “bearing down”.  Foods with dark purple or coloring, like Kool-Aid, popsicles, and gelatin (Jell-O), can result in rainbow-colored poop.  Certain high pigment foods (like beets and other things with artificial red coloring) can make your poop look alarmingly bloody colored though this is totally normal. Real blood, however, can be a sign of a problem. When you wipe with toilet paper and see blood, this may be a sign of hemorrhoids.  The medical term for blood in the stool is “hematochezia.” The brighter the blood is, the lower it may be coming from in the gastrointestinal tract (colon) and rectum. A physician should always investigate blood in the stool to rule out potentially serious conditions.  


Black stools can range from being normal to being a very serious condition.  If they are tar-like in consistency and have a foul odor, this can be the result of eating certain foods, taking iron supplements, or possibly from internal bleeding. If the black color is from blood, it is known as “melena.” The dark color indicates that the blood has been in the body for some time and comes from higher up in the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, small intestine).

Note: A black stool caused by food, supplements, medication, or minerals is known as “false melena.”  Foods that are dark blue or black may also cause blackness. Substances that can cause false melena are:

  • Black licorice
  • Blueberries
  • Iron supplements
  • Lead
  • Bismuth (Pepto-Bismol)

Consult a physician immediately if the black color cannot be attributed to a benign cause such as an iron supplement or food.

Stool Smells and What They Mean:

Isn’t poop supposed to smell bad?  Well, it generally smells a bit bitter and not great but if it ever starts to smell like rotten eggs, take note. Changes in diet are the most common culprit for changes in stool odor, but if this smell continues for a few days along with cramping and diarrhea, then let your doctor know.

If you get foul-smelling poop from eating something that didn’t sit well with you, no need to worry – just wait it out and eat more cleanly.  However, if the smell is accompanied by changes in the color of the stool, pain, fever or chills, or weight loss, it could mean something serious and you may wish to consult a doctor.  Antibiotics, medicines, and excess multivitamins can also upset the natural flora of your gut so be sure to supplement with quality probiotics, especially after a round of antibiotics.

If this is a chronic issue, then you may wish to take steps to find out the underlying cause.  Foul-smelling stool can also be caused by malabsorption issues, such as lactose intolerance, celiac disease, food allergies, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Bristol Stool Chart Explained:

This chart was developed by a team of gastroenterologists at the University of Bristol and is widely used as a general measurement by healthcare professionals to evaluate the consistency or form of stools.

Some general guidelines for understanding this chart:

  • Stools at the lower numbers on the scale are hard to pass and often require a lot of straining. If you are constipated, you will be passing type 1 or 2 stools when you pass them at all.  In Chinese Medicine, this can be caused from blocked energy of the liver and/ or from not taking in enough fiber and liquids.  The liver plays a huge role in digestion and needs lots of dark leafy greens and iron rich foods to function properly.
  • Those suffering from diarrhea will pass type 6, 7, or 8 on a frequent basis. Those at the loose or liquid end of the spectrum may seem to pass through your digestive system too easily, causing an urgency to defecate as well.  In Chinese Medicine, sometimes you need to supplement the digestive system with more digestive fire.  Needling certain acupoints to address the kidneys and spleen can be very helpful with additional moxabustion (herbal infrared) and herbal medicine.  If the stools smell foul and feel incomplete or burning, then we may need to take the excess heat and damp out of the digestive system.  Everyone is different.  See your acupuncturist to help you determine your needs.
  • Types 3 and 4 are ideal since they are easy to pass without being too watery.

There is a direct correlation between the shape of the stool and the amount of time it has spent in the colon. Therefore, the Bristol scale can be used to detect patterns or changes in bowel habits. However, it’s important to remember that this scale is intended to provide a general, not exact, measurement of fecal form and consistency.

The Bristol Stool Scale classifies feces into seven types, based on their appearance as seen in the toilet water. They are distinguished as follows:

  • Type 1: Feces come out in separate, hard lumps, similar to nuts. Type 1 has spent the longest amount of time in the colon and is generally difficult to pass. When feces sit in the colon for too long, it can cause constipation. This condition is usually caused by a lack of fluids, lack of friendly bacteria, stress, excess mucus, and not enough good fiber, though it can also be a sign of other conditions.
  • Type 2: Lumpy and sausage-like in appearance.
  • Type 3: Comes out looking similar to a sausage but with cracks in the surface.
  • Type 4: Feces are smooth and soft in the form of a sausage or snake.
  • Type 5: Feces form soft blobs with clear-cut edges that are easily passed through the system.
  • Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges. These are considered mushy stools.
  • Type 7: Entirely liquid and watery with no solid pieces. This type of stool has spent the least time in the colon. Diarrhea is usually caused by a bacterial or virus infection from food or water. It can also be caused by anxiety, food allergy, drugs, or other problems in the colon. This type is a sign that something is wrong, and the body is trying to cleanse itself.
  • Type 8: This type was not included in the original Bristol Stool Scale, but was added later by Dr. Group. It is foul-smelling and mucus-like with bubbles (sprayed out). This may indicate excessive intake of alcohol and/or recreational drugs.

Abnormal Stools:

According to HealthLine, you should seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the following changes in bowel habits:

  • blood in your stool
  • increased mucus in your stool
  • watery, diarrhea-like stools for over 24 hours
  • pus in your stool
  • severe abdominal pain

And you should make plans to see the doctor if:

  • You haven’t pooped in more than three days
  • You can’t pass gas
  • You have mild, persistent abdominal pain
  • You have lost the ability to control your bowels and have sudden urges to have a bowel movement
  • You’re losing weight for no apparent reason
  • You have thin, ribbon-like stools for longer than a few days

Disclaimer: As with any online advice, this article is not meant to replace a consultation with a professional doctor, and if you are concerned about your bowel movements or your stools in general, then my advice would always be to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as you can.

November 20, 2017

Cacao Medicine: The Heart Centered Path to Balance

Cacao Ceremony at Goddess Fest

Flowing with the Great Mystery

Embrace the human condition of paradox in order to be in touch with the Great Mystery.  Learn how to navigate the truth through your heart.


Watch the video here 


October 19, 2017

What TCM Element Type are you?

5 element cycle

The Chinese have formulated an ancient map called the five elements that theorizes how the natural world acts, interacts, and finds balance around us and within us.  The five elements are water, wood, fire, earth and metal.  We need all these elements to be alive.  Each has it’s unique properties and they are interconnected in various ways.  For instance, you need water to grow wood, or a plant.  This is true with the relationship of how our kidneys (the water element) in our body help support the liver, or wood element, in the body for detoxification.  And often water and wood personalities are beneficial to each other as well.

Read below and choose which element resonates most with you.  You can also take this fun QUIZ>

The Metal Type:  Common archetypes for the metal-dominant person are: the Queen, the Ballerina, the Yogi, the Alchemist.

The season associated with metal is fall and your gift is gracefully being able to be one with change – to let go, release, and surrender distractions, toxic thoughts, and unnecessary things in your life the same way a tree lets go of its leaves in fall. Though you enjoy solitude, you may feel like an outsider with very few people who understand you and you do not easily accept others’ knowing what is right for you. Sorrow tends to be in the backdrop of your life but it never destroys or controls you. You are moved towards finding refinement, spiritual connections to yourself and a deep meaning to life. You are great at discovering solutions and transforming hostile situations. You prefer information over entertainment, protocol over excellence and tend to have high values. You do not readily emote and under stress can easily become aloof and detached. Beware of becoming too much of a hermit or holding others to too high a standard of perfection. Avoid being too much in your head and allow yourself to be in your heart so you don’t miss out on people and the experiences around you.


Common ailments for Metal Types:

The Metal Element is associated with the lungs and skin and so when out
of balance, they are prone to respiratory problems such as asthma, common colds,
and skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.

Eat more:

Juicy fruits and veggies, honey, walnuts, spinach, aloe vera, garlic, black cohosh


The Water Type:

Archetypes:  The Philosopher, the Baby, The Prince/ Princess, the Artist, the Poet

Water is associated with the winter – a time to reflect and hibernate.   Your gift is that you intentionally savor the moment and effortlessly find rituals and symbolism to make sense of life’s events.  You tend to move at a slower pace than most and though you enjoy company, you are fueled by introspection and time to yourself.  You search for meaning and importance in everything you do.  Fear can be immobilizing and heavy for you as you often feel scared or insecure about being you highest self.  You can be equally afraid of being successful as you are unsuccessful. Your favorite question is why!  You are a foodie and often know all the best restaurants in town. There is a tendency towards enjoying childlike ventures like tickling, camping out, and cuddling.  And you may yearn for someone else to do the hard work for you so you don’t have to as you prefer to take time to enjoy the small things in life.  It’s important to take downtime for yourself and not feel guilty about it!  When your partner says “We have to talk,” then really prioritize and make that time.  Have faith that things will be ok – lean on your friends to stay motivated, decisive and positive.

Common ailments for Water Types:

The Kidneys and the Bladder are the organs associated with the Water Type and when imbalanced, water types have a tendency to get urinary tract infections and have water metabolism issues leading to swelling and edema. The Water element also governs the bones so Water Types can have sore joints and back problems.

Eat More:

watermelon, apples, berries, unrefined olive oil, garlic, cauliflower, ginger, juniper berries, parsley leaf, goldenseal root, seaweeds


The Fire Type

Archetypes:  The Wizard, the Unconditional Lover, the Comedian, the Life of the Party

Your season is summer – just like the season, you energy is ready to expand.  Once as you arrive at a party (and you are ALWAYS down to party), the whole room lights up from your innate charisma!  And you can be counted on to be the first on the dance floor.  You are care-free, playful, touchy/ huggy and have a contagious positive spirit.  You are truly able to live in the present moment, without analyzing and over-thinking, and are always open to new experiences and interests.  Often, you are a role model to many people on how to enjoy life.  However, you are easily overwhelmed and have a tendency to fret about the small stuff, imagining worse case scenarios.  Remember there is a bigger picture so no need to let your imagination create too many stories.  Most events and energies have transitions and cycles and everything works out in the end.  Take time to slow down to avoid burn-out – clear your schedule and de-clutter your life.  Learn techniques to manage panic and over-stimulation as you are prone to adrenal fatigue.

Common ailments for Fire Types:

When imbalanced, the Fire Type can suffer anxiety with sweating, insomnia and palpitations. They’re prone to overheating and often have ruddy complexions, acne and skin rashes.  The heart is the organ most associated with the fire element and circulatory problems can be common.  If they are over-stimulated, adrenal fatigue is also common.  Take extra care to avoid or protect against EMF (electromagnetic frequency) as you are sensitive to an overload of cellphones, microwave towers and computers.

Eat more:

green tea, oregano, garlic, ginger, tumeric, omega-3 fatty acids, apples, carrots, raspberries, asparagus


The Wood Type

Archetypes:  The Pioneer, the Solider, the Visionary, the Warrior

Spring is the associated season and is all about growth and movement and wood types are the same.  You have a gift to see the big picture, are solution-oriented, and always seek the best in things.  Your tenacity and strength both in body and spirit definitely makes you a game changer!  You are stong, sturdy, stable, fearless, logical, reasonable, bold, independent, and unapologetic.  Nothing upsets you more than injustice.  Respect, honesty, and loyalty mean everything to you.  You don’t back down from a chance to debate or confront an issue and are not easily swayed by other’s opinions. You know what you want and you go about organizing the world to get it, pushing yourself to the limit – right NOW.  However, your tendency to be a work-a-holic can wreak havoc on your relationships and if you don’t take time for rest and daily exercise your health easily fails and you can get easily irritated.  A balanced wood can rule the world but you easily tend to get regimented in your ways and have controlled and limited ways of reacting to the world and often feel like people are distractions from your goals.  Wood type women have it rough in this day – seen as rebels more than their male counterparts you are seen as powerful.  Don’t allow anger to get the best of you though!  Use your anger to fuel your creativity.  Switch gears, switch environments and speak mindfully and with kindness so you can be the leader you are born to be without being seen as overpowering or arrogant.

Common ailments for Wood Types:

When overly purpose-driven or stressed, Wood Types can be easily irritated,
frustrated and impatient and suffer health problems such as PMS, high
blood pressure, tight muscles and headaches. Because you have strong livers, which gives you the power to push yourself to your limits, when stressed you reach to alcohol or other drugs and unhealthy means of relieving stress.

Eat more:

lemons, dark leafy greens, salmon, almonds, dandelion root, milk thistle, peppermint, Oregon grape root


The Earth Type:

Archetypes:  The Mommy, the Preschool Teacher, the Caregiver, the Empath, the Humanitarian

Earth-types excel at keeping calm during transitions because their associated seasons are the Equinoxes and Solstices.  True to your element, you are often seen taking care of the Earth somehow as much as you care for your communities and the people around you.   You love comfort and bring comfort to others so they feel loved and safe- and since you are a gifted empath, you always seem to know exactly what others need and desire.  It pains you to exclude people.  You are the ultimate underdog:  doing and giving without any intention of being memorialized for your efforts.  You make an excellent collaborator and personal assistant as you hum along worker-bee style with your own sense of time, without burning yourself out.  One of the most friendly truly kind and altruistic of the elements, you love serving the masses and building community and often pour your devotion into your relationships. However, you tend to give to the point of self-sacrifice and can be stubborn about not needing help from others.  Overtime, this imbalance can manifest as an extreme need to be needed or feeling resentful when there is no reciprocity.  Ask for exchange and for help!  We all need it, even the best of us.  When the times get tough, you get to worrying and ruminating which can lead to over-mothering children.  You tend to be prepared for any scenario involving sickness or injury during travel.  It can seem foreign to not worry but you need to learn emotional boundaries to separate your life from others – you are not responsible for other peoples’ happiness, their feelings, or the course of their lives.  Because change can be hard for you, it is important to realize when to let go of things, people, and the past.  Tune into your inner voice so you don’t get lost in indecision.

Common ailments for Earth:

The digestive organs are associated with the Earth Element so
you are prone to digestive problems, loose stools, fatigue and food allergies. It’s common to have cravings for carbohydrates and gain weight easily.  Beware of overeating or indulging in unhealthy foods to substitute for a lack of love in your life.

Eat More:

sweet potato, squash, black beans, fatty fish, chamomile, alfalfa, burdock root

August 18, 2017

Personal Case Study of “asthma” and living inhaler-free

What is asthma?  Can it be misdiagnosed?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 8% of all Americans and 17% of poor, non-white children in the U.S. have asthma.   A little known fact is that asthma can be misdiagnosed.  Asthma, physiologically, is a condition where breathing out is affected by inflammation.  Difficulty breathing IN can be associated with issues of “silent” or non-symptomatic acid reflux where the upper part of the larynx containing acid receptors get triggered and create an inflammatory response.

Dr. Jamie Koufman, author of The Chronic Cough Enigma, found in his 30 years of his medical practice that 80% of his patients did not have asthma but actually had silent acid reflux.  The American College of Gastroenterology found that about 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month and of these, about 15 million experience heartburn symptoms every day.  Research confirms that GERD can trigger asthma symptoms and that it is more common in people with asthma than in the general population. Individuals whose asthma is difficult may have underlying GERD.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that babies and young children may have silent GERD or not be diagnosed. Recent studies strongly suggest that GERD aggravates or may be the predominant cause of asthma symptoms in the very young.  GERD affects as many as 89% of all patients with asthma, regardless of their age, sex, or ethnic background (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology).

Some common asthma medications may promote gastric reflux. For example, research has found that prednisone and albuterol can possibly decrease the contracting abilities of the esophageal sphincter, thus allowing reflux.  Other bronchodilators that relax the smooth muscles of the esophagus, can increase the possibility for gastric reflux as well.  It is important to note that many patients who use those specific asthma medications regularly will not necessarily develop GERD or experience worsened symptoms (asthmaandallergies.org).

I believe that my personal experience with asthma may be similarly misdiagnosed or have a mixture of causative agents.  I feel I may have silent acid reflux-related breathing constriction that is often combined with food sensitivities that lead to a severe allergic reaction.  My intention is that in sharing my personal history, others may be more aware of a possible misdiagnosis and that there are more natural and effective options that may not only alleviate the symptoms but also can address the root issue of cause for this condition.  I fully realize that my personal case is unique and individual to me and in no way would recommend that someone follow my story as a “treatment plan”.   Instead, I would refer them to see an acupuncturist as well as an asthma specialist and/or gastroenterologist to design a course of action right for the individual and to determine the condition’s etiology that that specific person.

The medically accepted definition of asthma is very broad and possibly not complete.  The Mayo Clinic definition:  “Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.  For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.”

The Mayo Clinic goes on to say: “Asthma can not be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled.  Asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling (wheezing is a common sign of asthma in children)
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu”

My story

I was diagnosed with allergy and exercise- induced asthma (EIA) when I was fourteen.  When my throat started to constrict and air would not come into my body, I panicked and thought I was dying! In addition, my hands and ears would itch so badly I wished to tear them off.  My eyes would also itch and swell as big as golf balls to the point of shutting.  All of these symptoms point to anaphylaxis, which is life threatening.   It was and remains to be one of the most scariest situation in my life.  Tests determined I was allergic to near everything under the sun and I was put on steroid inhalers that I was told to take three times a day plus the usual albuterol to stop asthmatic attacks.    I’ve always been somewhat of a rebel against pharma.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with taking the inhalers and didn’t enjoy the “high” every time I took them either.  So instead of taking the inhalers as directed, I eventually trained my lungs to expand whenever my breath started to get wheezy.  I would concentrate on being calm instead of reacting to the wheezing and would take deep and long breaths in and out, holding the breath in between as long as I could.  (Little did I know I was practicing the box breath which is actually a type of yogic pranayama!)  This would slow down the constriction in my airways and if I stopped moving and meditated, the wheezing would go away.  Overtime, I realized I had two different types of reactions.  If my lungs were “touchy” and wheezy I could control my breath and stop the wheezing with pranayama and meditation.  I never had any issues with breathing out so as long as I could calmly and slowly breathe in, I could resist taking my inhaler.   For the past sixteen years, I have not been affected by this kind of breathing issue.  The other type of situation is more severe and results in anaphylactic symptoms.   This condition happened less frequently when I was young- maybe once every six months or so and now happens sometimes years apart.  When I was young, I would stop the situation with the only things available to me at the time (inhalers and benedryl), and would feel completely drained for three days afterwards.  To this day, I still use benedryl for these extreme situations but have been inhaler-free for sixteen years.

When I was 24, I was exposed to this amazing medicine called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which includes herbal medicine as well as acupuncture.  Talk about a game changer!   My teachers also confirmed that breathing IN is not actually asthma but can also be related to having weak kidney Qi (energy) which is responsible for pulling the diaphragm down when we breathe.  There are other related etiologies that theorize a build-up of heat and/ or phlegm (likened to mucous) in other organs such as the lungs, liver, and stomach which ties into Dr. Jamie Koufman’s findings about acid reflux.   Every individual must see an Acupuncturist to diagnose what pattern of organ disharmony is presenting for their unique body and situation.

TCM believes that the mind, body, and spirit are connected and that the spirit actually leads the mind-body.  Therefore in TCM, emotions can often play a huge role in the development of conditions like asthma and allergies.  We can literally be allergic to an emotionally toxic environment.  Stress (triggered by a multitude of emotions) can cause inflammation and affects the immune system.  I can very much relate to this as my living situation was emotionally stressful to me when I developed my symptoms suddenly at age fourteen.  When I moved out of that living situation, my breathing issues and allergies began to improve.  I notice even today that when I am stressed emotionally, my issues have a higher rate of re-appearing.

How to alleviate breathing issues with TCM

Although the symptoms of breathing issues can be alleviated with acupuncture, taking herbal medicine and addressing lifestyle (diet, environment, stress, exercise) is key to addressing the root issue and internal causative factors for breathing issues.  The specific herbal formula must be prescribed by your local licensed Acupuncturist as there are various patterns that could be causing your condition.  Acupuncture can aid in relieving the emotional stress and help guide excess heat/ inflammation from the organs which also helps boost the immune system.  In addition to body points, I always keep ear seeds and needles on me for when I start to have symptoms of an attack.   The itchiness for me is an early indicator and I apply either ear seeds or strong pressure (fingernails are best to the point when you feel pain in the points) to the highlighted energy points on the diagram:

Lifestyle for GERD related Asthma

Herbal medicine is very effective for GERD when treated before longterm use of strong medications.   See a TCM practitioner for a prescription.

Diet:  Physicians recommend that people with reflux problems avoid fatty and fried foods; caffeinated drinks; onions; garlic; tomato-based products; citrus fruits; pepper; chocolate; peppermint; and alcoholic beverages.  Also, eat smaller meals.

Eliminate Tobacco which causes the esophageal sphincter to relax.

Yoga and Pranayama can relieve the stress causative factors and also helps to detoxify the organs so excess heat and toxins can be flushed out from the body.

Avoid eating too late.   Eating right before bed can cause insomnia as well as cause acid to pull upwards when lying down.  Have a three hour buffer period between eating and lying down.

Decrease Environmental Toxins:  We live in a chemical world so reducing your exposure to harmful fluorocarbons and other irritants is extremely important.   It is also incredibly wise to as much as possible decrease emotionally toxic conditions and find a sanctuary of peace at home and work.