People with severe chronic constipation may get relief from a more modern type of acupuncture, new research suggests.

Can acupuncture ease severe constipation?

September 12, 2016 by Karen Pallarito, Healthday Reporter
Can acupuncture ease severe constipation?

(HealthDay)—People with severe chronic constipation may get relief from a more modern type of acupuncture, new research suggests.

After eight weeks of treatment with electroacupuncture —acupuncture involving electrical stimulation—study participants experienced significant symptom and quality-of-life improvements, the study found.

Electroacupuncture uses thin needles inserted beneath the skin that are attached to a device that sends electric pulses into the body.

The study findings suggest a safe and effective option for difficult-to-treat patients, several gastroenterologists said.

“It is heartening to see such rigorously tested alternative therapies, since so many of them are administered without any evidence to support them,” said Dr. Christopher Andrews. He’s a clinical associate professor in the gastroenterology division at University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine in Canada.

Dr. Henry Parkman, a professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said: “This seems to be a good treatment for the refractory patients—those not responding to conventional medical treatments.”

The study involved people with chronic, severe “functional” constipation. These people have difficult, infrequent bowel movements—no more than two per week—not due to other medical conditions or medicines they may be taking, such as opioid painkillers.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 1,075 patients to one of two groups. Half received electroacupuncture with needles that pierced the muscle layer of the abdominal wall. The other half received “sham” treatments, with shallow needles at points not considered therapeutic in acupuncture (the “control” group).

Acupuncturists at 15 Chinese hospitals administered the real and sham treatments, consisting of 28 half-hour sessions.

Over the eight-week treatment period, 31 percent of patients in the electroacupuncture group had three or more bowel movements in a week, on average. Only 12 percent of patients in the control group achieved that level of relief.

Bowel movements of three per day to three per week are considered within the range of “normal,” according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

The effects persisted well after treatment. Almost 38 percent of electroacupuncture patients reported three or more bowel movements a week, on average, during the study’s 12-week follow-up period, compared to 14 percent of sham therapy patients.

“We were indeed surprised when we first saw these results,” said Dr. Jia (Marie) Liu of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing. She is one of the study authors and the research team’s coordinator.

Liu cited two possible explanations for the post-treatment effects. For one, electroacupuncture has a “good sustained effect, which is one of its advantages,” she said.

What’s more, the research team evaluated weekly average during the treatment and follow-up periods, not just end points, as in many prior studies.

“[Electroacupuncture] needs time to take effect and got its peak at week eight,” she said.

Dr. Daniel Hsu, who practices acupuncture in New York City, said acupuncture—whether through traditional needling or with electrical stimulation—works in two ways.

“It makes the body release its own naturally occurring painkillers” and “it helps the body calm the nervous system,” he said.

Stress can certainly affect digestion and cause constipation, Hsu explained. Acupuncture “flips the switch” on the body’s fight-or-flight response, restoring normal body functions such as defecation, he said.

One potential drawback is the frequency of treatment. Patients in the study received electroacupuncture three to five times per week over eight weeks, which might be a burden for some people, the study authors acknowledged.

On the other hand, because the treatment effects lasted for many weeks, it may be that patients don’t need continuous , Andrews said.

Additional studies are needed to evaluate longer-term outcomes, the study authors noted.

In the United States, acupuncturists are licensed in almost every state but are most prevalent in big cities, particularly on the East and West coasts, Hsu said. He added that most acupuncture colleges teach electroacupuncture.

Neither Medicare nor Medicaid covers acupuncture but some private insurers cover a fixed number of sessions under their policies, Hsu said.

“A lot of practitioners do take insurance if it’s covered,” he said. If not, must pay out of pocket.

Treatment costs may vary widely from one practitioner to the next. Fees generally range from $60 to $120 per session.

The study was published online Sept. 12 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More information: The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about acupuncture.

If Western Dermatology Has Failed You, Try Acupuncture

by Noël Duan

Assistant Editor
October 13, 2015

Skincare Acupuncture

#Acupuncture can become part of your regular skincare routine. (Photo: Getty images)

Growing up with relatively severe #acne, my parents shuttled me from #dermatologist to dermatologist, trying everything from photo facials that burnt my skin to prescription lotions that made my skin flake to extractions that exacerbated the swelling. Thousands of dollars and many years later, I still suffer from acne on a daily basis. Jaded and (sometimes literally) scarred by Western medicine, I looked to my roots and sought Chinese traditional medicine, namely acupuncture, to see if it could clear my skin, and maybe even give me a health boost beyond the face. I consulted two different Manhattan-based acupuncturists, Shellie Goldstein of Hamptons Acupuncture and Su-Jung Lee of Truing Acupuncture, to teach me about skincare beyond Western medicine. Before you decide to stick needles all over your body in the pursuit of beauty though, here are eight basic tenets to know about acupuncture, skin, and wellness.

Your tongue says a lot about you
Before my acupuncture facial with Lee began, she asked me to stick out my tongue, which is a traditional diagnostic tool. “The body of the tongue can fall on a spectrum of deeper, darker, purplish reds to a light pink,” Lee explains to Yahoo Beauty. “The tongue body reflects the overall physical systems. Bright red for instance will reflect excess heat in the system. Purples could mean there is stagnation of blood or a blockage in circulation.” By checking the tongue coating and body, the acupuncturist can confirm a diagnosis. Goldstein agrees: “According to Chinese medicine, the tongue is the visible end of a long tube that extends from the mouth to the rectum,” she writes in her book, Your Best Face Now. “Your tongue can also say a lot about your Qi,” Goldstein tells Yahoo Beauty. “The Qi is a force of energy that you can’t see, but it affects the way you look and the way you feel. Many of my patients don’t just have skin issues. They are also fatigued.” It’s all connected — and it starts with your tongue.

Acupuncture needles are not one-size-fits-all
There are more than 365 points in your body, but don’t worry — the needles don’t go everywhere. This is great news if you have a fear of needles. In her office, Goldstein presented to me a variety of needles from Japan, China, Taiwan, and elsewhere. They come in different diameters and types of metal, and the Chinese needles tend to be thicker than the Japanese needles. They are pre-sterilized, single-use, and disposable (leave immediately if your acupuncturist is re-using needles). Unlike hypodermic needles, these don’t hurt because they’re extremely thin, solid (versus hollow), and have finely tapered points. You shouldn’t really feel the needles, but you may experience a slight pinch in certain areas. It’s not an unpleasant feeling, but if you already have an aversion to sharp things, this is your warning. You may actually find it relaxing: Many people claim to fall asleep during acupuncture sessions — I know I do.

Chinese medical cosmetology dates back thousands of years
“Used by the ancient Chinese Empresses and the concubines of the Emperor, this system was designed to improve the quality of the skin, reduce signs of aging, and maintain lustrous radiance,” Goldstein explains. She mentions a text, Huang Di Nei Jing, that recommends acupuncture, facial massage, and qi gong as anti-aging and acne treatments, and explains how your diet affects your appearance. The Empress Lu Zhi of the Han Dynasty, for example, is said to have started each day with a soup made of edible jelly fungus, which was supposed to minimize facial pigmentation and freckles, reduce fat absorption, and promote gut health. And Yang Guifei, the famously beautiful concubine of Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuanzong, had her own almond skin cream recipe.

An acupuncture facial requires needles all over your body
I was surprised when the needles went on my feet — the farthest points away from my body. Apparently, the points on your feet can affect parts of your head, whether you’re seeking treatment for chronic migraines, acne, or sallow skin. “As the tongue can reflect an imbalance in the overall physiology, so can the face and skin,” Lee explains. Treating the whole body, as well as locally on the face, synergistically improves the general health of the person.” For example, as Goldstein explains, the point on top of your foot between your first and second toes can be activated to treat wrinkles between the eyebrows and around the eyes, and to reduce and irritation in the eyes. Activating the point on the inside of your foot, directly below the ankle bone, can help treat dry lips, thinning hair, and ringing in your ears. Everyone has an individual experience with acupuncture, but the point is to restore the balance in your body.

Acupuncture has a cumulative effect
As with most skincare treatments that aren’t surgery, you don’t get instantaneous results — much to my dismay. “For a ballpark of number of treatments for facial acupuncture, I’d recommend working once a week for three months since acupuncture has cumulative results over time,” Lee advises. “Then, a maintenance schedule of once a month should do in most cases.” Goldstein agrees: “It’s not just acupuncture. You have to gradually change your lifestyle habits, like diet, if you want to see results.” The cost can add up, though, and even the most premium of health insurances don’t cover cosmetic acupuncture. Luckily, there are many community-oriented holistic acupuncture centers that only cost $50 per session, as long as you’re willing to get treatments done with other people in the room.

According to Eastern medicine, you can temporarily delay the signs of aging
“The muscles of your body attach from either bone to bone, or from bone to tendon or ligament,” Goldstein explains. “Contracting these muscles moves your bones.” But your facial muscles are different — on one end, they’re attached to a bone or muscle, and on the other end, they’re attached to a muscle or your skin. So, when you contract these muscles, you’re moving muscles and skin, not bone. Wrinkles are going to inevitably happen if you have facial expressions, but Eastern medicine says you can delay aging by focusing on balancing your Qi energy levels, starting with your kidneys. Kidneys perform a variety of vital regulatory and balancing functions in your body, from waste removal to blood filtering to enzyme production, and in Eastern medicine, they are also said to possess a special kind of Qi called Jing, which is passed down from your ancestors. When your kidneys are unhealthy, your mind and body suffer, from yellowing skin to memory loss. Another organ that matters a lot is your lung. “Eastern doctors believe we can all have normal skin,” says Goldstein. “All it takes is good Lung Qi.” If your lungs, which regulate moisture and air, aren’t functioning properly, your skin can be too dry, which can enhance signs of aging.

You can do acupressure at home
Goldstein’s book, Your Best Face Now, is a thorough guide to giving yourself the benefits of acupuncture without the actual needles. Acupressure uses the firm pressure of your hands, instead of needles to stimulate vital points on your body. Acupuncture is technically stronger and supposedly more effective, but you also need to see a specialist for it. Goldstein invented the 20-day AcuFacial Acupressure Facelift technique as a non-invasive way to shave years off your face, but you can also consult your own acupuncturist about the pressure points that are most effective for yourself. “Just because someone else has acne, doesn’t mean they have it for the same reasons [as another person] or that it is the same kind,” Lee explains.

You need to live a healthy lifestyle to reap the benefits
Acupuncture is all about restoring balance into your body, but a 60-minute session once a week won’t make a difference if you’re not eating well, sleeping well, wearing sunscreen, and exercising. Both Goldstein and Lee require their first-time patients to fill out an extensive multi-page questionnaire about their lifestyle habits and schedules, from coffee consumption to skincare products to menstrual cycles. It borders on TMI, but here’s the thing: It’s your body, and it requires self-healing. “To really improve and maintain a healthy body and face, we have to work together by addressing lifestyle choices and habits,” says Lee. “With regular acupuncture and herbs, if necessary, you can expect to see a healthier complexion and better overall health by calming stress, and improving digestion and quality of sleep.”


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