Category Archives: Health Article

Acupuncture for back pain?

I have chronic low back pain. Would acupuncture treatments help?

Answer From Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

Many people who have chronic low back pain have found acupuncture to be helpful. But the scientific evidence to support these claims has been mixed, partly because it can be difficult to devise a good form of sham acupuncture for comparison.

Acupuncture for back pain involves inserting very thin needles to various depths into strategic points on your body. Scientific studies have indicated that sham acupuncture works just as well as real acupuncture for back pain. A key point, though, is that in several studies, both sham acupuncture and real acupuncture relieved low back pain better than having no treatment at all.

This could mean that sham acupuncture could be having an effect, or it could mean that the effects of acupuncture may be due in part to a placebo effect.

The research on acupuncture is growing, but interpreting it is still a challenge. For now, most studies seem to indicate that, for most people, acupuncture results in some beneficial effect with a low risk of side effects when provided by a well-trained practitioner.

So if other treatments haven’t helped your low back pain, it may be worth trying acupuncture. But if your back pain doesn’t begin to improve within 6 to 8 weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you.


Identifying and Fixing Brain Chemical Imbalances


We all have friends and family members with health issues, including depression, anxiety, migraines and dementia. But what most of us don’t know is that we all have blood sugar problems that can lead to these brain chemistry problems.So what leads to these blood sugar imbalances? How exactly does blood sugar imbalances lead to deficits in brain chemicals like serotonin? And, how do these imbalances cause brain dysfunction – specifically depression, anxiety, migraine headaches and dementia?

Let’s first spend some time with the numbers:

  • Mental disorders affect 1 in 4 worldwide.
  • 16 percent of adults are at risk of depression during their lifetime. Of these, 50 percent will also suffer anxiety disorder.
  • Approximately 3.4 million Americans 71 and older have dementia. Of those, 9.7 percent – or 2.4 million Americans – have been diagnosed with Alzheimers.
  • Between 12 percent and 28 percent of Americans have migraines during their lifetime.

An obvious conclusion is that these are prevalent diseases and they touch every one of us in some way. But how is this connected with our blood sugar?

The simple answer is, your brain needs fuel to make seritonin and the other chemicals that make us happy and energetic. If the brain does not get this chemical, consistently and over time, we feel like we are lacking, either in energy or good humor. If you have depression or know someone who does, you know low energy and depression go together.

One in four Americans have “metabolic syndrome” otherwise known as “insulin resistance.” (In my practice, I encounter far more patients with this resistance – as much as 80 percent.) Insulin resistance causes wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

The brain is the most dependent part of your body to glucose, or sugar. Your brain needs sugar for the brain to change one molecule into another – in other words it needs a sufficient amount of biological energy called ATP. This happens during the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. That energy is derived from the sugars in our food in the form of glucose (sugar, or blood sugar).

When the brain does not have enough energy, and especially over many years, a depletion of serotonin is the result. With a depletion of serotonin, our brains cannot respond to pleasurable events and the result is depression. This is called endogenous depression; i.e. depression is due primarily to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mainstream medicine and psychology often fail to help people with this type of depression, because they have no proper explanation as to what causes “endogenous” depression.

If a person has fluctuations in the level of glucose in their blood over time, they are vulnerable to having low levels of the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which control mood, energy levels, memory and pain. This is the cause of the mental diseases that I have listed above, including depression, anxiety/panic attacks, migraine headaches and dementia.

(I am an acupuncturist and clinician, so there will be some physicians, psychiatrists, neurologists and scientists who disagree about migraines and dementia being in the category of brain chemical imbalance, but from a clinician/treatment perspective, patients respond well to these treatments.)

What are some solutions?

For depression: Current medical solutions include anti-depressant drugs. These can be very effective, especially in the short-term. They do have side effects ranging from mild to severe, but these drugs are used with shocking frequency and volume. A large percentage of my chronic patients have been on them for many years and have no plans to get off of them.

One problem I have with the drugs (aside from the side effects) is that is does nothing to address the underlying problem of blood sugar imbalance. (We are speaking of the connection between blood sugar and depression, but thyroid function plays a huge roll also.)

Anxiety is also treated with anti-depressants, unless it is severe, and then it is often treated with valium-type drugs like Xanax. These drugs really pump up the GABA (one of the neurotransmitters, mostly responsible for calming) which is great for someone with anxiety attacks, but it is really difficult to stop taking these “diazepams” once the brain gets dependent on them.

Migraine headaches are also treated with drugs. There are drugs for when a person is having a severe headache – some are tartans, or narcotic pain medication. The side effects of tartans can be severe, and narcotics have the effect of not being able to work or drive. And this treatment strategy addresses the severe episodes, but not the cause, which can be ongoing for decades.

There are drugs for preventing attacks, but all of these drugs are primarily for other diseases and have been found to be moderately effective for preventing migraine headaches. The types of drugs are interesting in that they all either affect the central nervous system, or relieve the effects of stress peripherally. These drugs are anti-depressants, anti-histamines, anti-seizure drugs and botulinum toxin (Botox).

According to the Mayo Clinic website: “In most cases, preventive medications don’t eliminate headaches completely, and some cause serious side effects.”

The common thread through all of these diseases is that drug therapies help control the symptoms of the imbalance, but do nothing to address the underlying cause of the neurotransmitter imbalance, which is glucose level fluctuations in the blood.

So, how can we fix the underlying cause of these brain chemical imbalances?

Clearing up depression, anxiety, and migraine headaches using acupuncture, herbal medicine and dietary changes is very successful, but it takes a commitment of time and energy (money and lifestyle change) from the patient. Here is the simple-to-say protocol:

  1. Acupuncture twice a month.
  2. Eat in a way that keeps a constant, but slow flow of glucose to your blood. This means starting with a protein-rich breakfast and a snack every two to three hours with protein in it. There aren’t many protein snacks (nuts, eggs, meat, beans, seaweed, protein shake) but we all get used to eating these. Don’t finish meals with a sugar-rich dessert. And, do not eat simple carbohydrates, like bread, baked goods, bagels, etc. between meals. These products will make your blood sugar spike like crazy.
  3. Take supplements and herbal medicines that fix the chemical pathways that are broken to restore insulin sensitivity.

When my patients do these things for a few months, most of the brain chemistry imbalances described above slowly disappear.

When brain chemistry deficits are the result of blood sugar fluctuations, the problem is not cleared up quickly. Blood sugar levels need to be maintained for the brain to produce the neurotransmitters and then it takes time for those chemicals to reach normal levels again. Most patients start to see improvement in two to four weeks, but don’t feel normal again for months.

If nothing is done to correct insulin resistance, the result is often Type II diabetes. This is the most severe form of insulin resistance, at it’s most severe the body loses the ability to produce insulin and the patient is dependent on insulin shots for the rest of their life. And that result is one we should all be inspired to avoid.


Acupuncture for Allergies


Acupuncture was developed by traditional Chinese medical practitioners to treat a wide range of health problems. Once only used in Eastern cultures, it has gradually gained acceptance by medical professionals in the West. Acupuncture is now commonly used to treat everything from pain, stress, and nausea. Lesser-known uses, such as the treatment of allergies, are also gaining popularity.

History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient practice that started in what is now China. It’s based on the belief that life energy, called qi, pronounced “chee,” flows throughout the body along pathways called meridians. By inserting thin needles at specific points, called “acupuncture points,” skilled practitioners seek to restore the flow of energy to eliminate pain and other ailments.

Western medicine doesn’t accept the traditional explanation of acupuncture’s mechanism of action. No evidence that meridians exist has ever been documented by modern science, but despite ongoing questions regarding how it works, science has shown that at least in some instances, it does work. Pain relief is one example. Controlled clinical trials have shown that acupuncture can relieve pain, sometimes better than drugs, in conditions such as chronic lower back pain, migraines, neck pain, and post-operative pain.

Acupuncture and Allergies and Eczema

What about using acupuncture for the treatment of allergies and eczema? Preliminary research indicates that acupuncture may help allergy and eczema symptoms.

Researchers at the University Medical Center in Berlin conducted a large, multi-center studyTrusted Source of the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. The study divided 422 people into three groups for two months: one group received acupuncture treatment, the second received “fake” acupuncture, with needles placed in random, meaningless spots on their bodies, and the third group only took antihistamines. At the end of the study, the group that received acupuncture therapy reported greater relief from symptoms than the other two groups.

However, the group receiving the fake acupuncture treatment also reported relief of their symptoms, though not as much as the group receiving acupuncture. Furthermore, four months later, as a follow-up, the difference between the effectiveness of the real and fake acupuncture treatment groups was less pronounced. This suggests a placebo effect may have taken place with the people receiving acupuncture, in anticipation of its beneficial effects.

In another studyTrusted Source, researchers were unable to support or disprove the use of acupuncture as treatment for hay fever.

Other studiesTrusted Source have looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is an itchy rash that can be caused by irritants like soap or lotions. They found that acupuncture significantly reduced itchiness in some patients. They noted that preventative acupuncture did not work as well as concurrent acupuncture.


In a reviewTrusted Source of published trials, researchers concluded that there is some evidence to support the claim that acupuncture is beneficial and cost-effective as an additional treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, at this time, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that acupuncture is effective as a stand-alone treatment. This conclusion echoes what other scientists who have previously reviewed the existing evidence have determined. So while the study results are promising, present evidence is mixed, at best. More studies are also needed to evaluate acupuncture as a treatment of eczema.

If you’re interested in acupuncture therapy, start by talking to your doctor. They may be able to recommend a center or practitioner.


Low Oxalates Foods May Help Reduce Auto-Immune Disease Risk, Autism and Fibromyalgia

Ronald Grisanti D.C., D.A.B.C.O., DACBN, MS, CFMP

Oxalate (or oxalic acid) is a compound found in a variety of plant-based foods. Under a microscope, oxalates are jagged in structure and look somewhat crystalline.

During metabolism, oxalic acid combines with other minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium to form compounds like calcium oxalate and sodium oxalate in the kidneys. This in turn may be responsible for mineral deficiencies.

One of the most common issues with increased oxalates in the urine (hyperoxaluria) is the formation of kidney stones. However, if the body struggles to eliminate oxalate it can accumulate as crystals anywhere in the body. Commonly it accumulates in blood, then the eyes, bones, skin, muscles, blood vessels, heart and other organs.

High oxalates have also been linked with autism and inflammatory bowel disease. It can also be an underlying issue in those with ongoing gut problems or irritable bowel syndrome.

Tissue destruction, fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are all issues that can be related to oxalates because oxalate in tissues trigger the inflammasome reactions of the body’s innate immune system.

As a side note, the thyroid will also suffer as oxalates can bind to T3 and disturb thyroid function.

The following list of vegetables should be helpful in identifying foods high in oxalates

Low Oxalates Foods May Help Reduce Auto-Immune Disease Risk, Autism and Fibromyalgia

As you can see from the list above your favorite spinach (> 900 mgs of oxalates) green smoothie may be contributing to a host of health issues!

Low oxalate diets involve eating less food that’s high in oxalates. Foods high in oxalates include certain types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes.

On a low oxalate diet, you should limit your oxalate to 40 to 50 mg each day.


Whether for kidney stone prevention or to address other possible chronic health conditions, a low oxalate diet may be the solution.
On a low oxalate diet, you may notice a decreased risk of kidney stones, improved mineral absorption, diminished joint and muscle pain, improvement in fibromyalgia, autism symptoms and improvement of autoimmune symptoms.


The Gene That Makes the Ketogenic Diet Dangerous

Ronald Grisanti D.C., D.A.B.C.O., DACBN, MS, CFMP

With all the craze about the ketogenic diet it would behoove one to know if they are a candidate for this type of diet.

First for those not familiar with the ketogenic diet here is a short summary:

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used mainly to treat hard-to-control epilepsy in children. Here are 8 additional benefits:

  1. Triglycerides Tend to Drop Drastically
  2. Increased Levels of ‘Good’ HDL Cholesterol
  3. Reduced Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
  4. May Lower Blood Pressure
  5. Effective Against Metabolic Syndrome
  6. A Greater Proportion of Fat Loss Comes From Your Abdominal Cavity
  7. Improved ‘Bad’ LDL Cholesterol Levels
  8. Therapeutic for Several Brain Disorders (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease)

Now with all of these benefits the scientific literature has investigated if indeed this type of diet is beneficial for all people.

Well it may ultimately come down to your genes. Most specifically, your APOE genotype.

The three different types of APOE genes are as follows:

APOE2 – Best suited to a High Fat / Low Carb Diet (saturated fats are good)
APOE3 – Suitable For Both
APOE4 – Best Suited For A High Monounsaturated Fat / Low Carb Diet (Avoid Saturated Fats)

Research studies have shown that APOE4 carriers are most effected by high cholesterol, and benefit more from a low saturated fat diet, instead using monounsaturated fats,  low carb diet, whereas APOE 2 carriers suit a high fat low carb diet, regardless of the saturated fats.

So what should you do?

Ask your doctor to order the APOE genotype blood test and see if you are in fact a carrier of the APOE4 gene.

If you are a carrier of the APOE4 gene, I recommend decreasing your consumption of saturated fats and focus more on monounsaturated fats.


Acupuncture Can Lower High Blood Pressure

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MDFROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES 

June 11, 2001 — Some people swear by acupuncture. They’ll tell you how a few painless sessions as a human pincushion cured vicious migraines or relentless back pain. Others remain skeptical, dismissing the ancient practice as mumbo jumbo. Now, scientists investigating its actions in heart disease have found not only that acupuncture works, but why and how. One day, they tell WebMD, that blood pressure medication might be replaced by a few pins and needles.

John C. Longhurst, MD, PhD, first became interested in acupuncture on a research trip to China. “I met an investigator who’d been doing work in acupuncture for years. I saw that he was a very good scientist,” he says. “I, like most scientists, thought acupuncture was a lot of hocus pocus. But when I saw his work, I knew there was something to it.”

Once home, Longhurst, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine, began the first of four investigations into the underlying mechanisms of acupuncture.

In it, his team tested cats with heart disease. “We showed that acupuncture helped the animals by reducing ischemia — the lack of oxygen to the heart” caused when blood vessels are blocked, he says. That was hard evidence that the therapy worked. Next, they tried to determine how it was happening.

In acupuncture, invisible pathways connecting one body part to another are called meridians. “They are located over major [nerve] pathways that are accessed when you put a needle in,” says Longhurst. Stimulating the pathway “sends impulses to the brain, activating different areas.” Some affect pain, “which explains why acupuncture can control pain,” he says, “and others regulate the cardiovascular system.”

One such area, just above the spinal cord in the brain stem, regulates release of adrenaline — a chemical that makes hearts pound and blood pressure soar. But when they induced an “adrenaline rush” in animals, acupuncture “prevented this from occurring. It blocked the effect,” says Longhurst. Hearts beat normally and blood pressure remained low.

In the third study, the team found they could reverse acupuncture’s heart-healthy effects by injecting cats with a synthetic version of naturally occurring opioids — brain chemicals that produce a “runner’s high,” kicking in when we’re in severe pain. “So, we’re narrowing it down, getting more specific and detailed in terms of what’s going on,” says Longhurst.


A fourth study is underway in human subjects, he tells WebMD, but it’s still too early to draw any conclusions.

The ultimate goal of this work is to help the huge number of patients with ischemia, high blood pressure, and irregular heart beat, or heart arrhythmias, he tells WebMD. “The current meds have a lot of side effects. If we can reduce [their medication needed] with acupuncture, that would be great.”

Experts agree it’s not a far-fetched idea. “There has to be something more to acupuncture than the placebo effect or hypnosis,” says Joseph Alpert, MD, Flinn Professor of Medicine and chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “My colleagues have seen people have open heart surgery with only acupuncture, no anesthesia. This is not a bunch of malarkey,” he tells WebMD, “it’s real.”

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, MD, FACC, chief of cardiology at Duke University, agrees. “It’s not an accident that people have been doing acupuncture for so long,” he tells WebMD. The findings are “pretty clear that it’s not a placebo effect. Acupuncture seems to be having a relatively specific effect on the control of blood pressure.”WebMD Health News


Acupuncture is worth a try for chronic pain

Chronic pain in the muscles and joints can make life miserable. Standard treatments like ice and heat, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and appropriate exercises can often ease the pain. But when they don’t, acupuncture is an option with a good track record that’s worth considering.

Over the years there has been substantial debate about whether acupuncture really works for chronic pain. Research from an international team of experts adds to the evidence that it does provide real relief from common forms of pain. The team pooled the results of 29 studies involving nearly 18,000 participants. Some had acupuncture, some had “sham” acupuncture, and some didn’t have acupuncture at all. Overall, acupuncture relieved pain by about 50%. The results were published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study isn’t the last word on the issue, but it is one of the best quality studies to date and has made an impression.

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

What does research say about acupuncture?

Acupuncture is used to treat several types of pain. Here’s what the research says.

Low back pain

A 2015 review of studies found that acupuncture could provide short-term relief from low back pain. This is true if acupuncture is used alone or with other treatments, such as medications or physical therapy.

Knee pain

Pain caused by osteoarthritis in the knee is a leading cause of disability among adults. A 2010 review found that acupuncture is an effective treatment for knee pain and physical symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Neck pain

Acupuncture can significantly reduce neck pain, according to one 2015 study. When acupuncture is used with other techniques to ease neck strain and reduce muscle tension, the symptom relief was significant when compared with traditional care.

Migraines and headaches

2012 review of migraine studiesTrusted Source found that acupuncture was at least as effective at easing migraine symptoms as other treatments, including medication. It also has some benefits over those classic treatments, including longer lasting effects, lower medication use, and fewer serious complications or side effects.

Additionally, research suggests that regular acupuncture treatments may help people with a history of migraines prevent future episodes.

Labor pains

Researchers are mixed on the use of acupuncture to reduce labor pains during childbirth. Some studies show a statistically significant reduction in pain experience. Others point out that acupuncture’s effectiveness during labor is difficult to measure.

Still, acupuncture remains an area of interest for many mothers looking for medication-free options.

Smoking cessation

Acupuncture is sometimes used for the treatment of conditions other than physical pain. Research has yet to establish acupuncture as an effective smoking cessation therapy. When compared with nicotine replacement therapy, acupuncture was less effective.

However, though more research is needed, acupuncture shouldn’t be firmly ruled out as a potential therapy for quitting smoking.


One study looked at the use of acupuncture and antidepressant medication to ease signs of depression. It suggests that medication and acupuncture together may be effective. It’s also well tolerated and presents few complications.

But a review of studies could not declare acupuncture as a reliable treatment for depression. The author concluded the findings were enough to justify additional research.

Overall, the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as effective in treating hundreds of diseases and symptoms.