April 16, 2014

How Tongue Surgery and A Forest Gnome Helped Me Become An Acupuncturist

When I was young, I knew that I wanted to write. I also knew that I wanted to practice medicine.

I started writing short stories in second grade and haven’t stopped – but when it came to the ‘practice medicine’ part of my dreams –  things weren’t working out that great. My first experiences with allopathic medicine included exam rooms that smelled like rubbing alcohol, big azz needles from hell, gag-inducing tongue depressors, exam table paper that stuck to the back of my legs, and a few doctors who touched me as if I had a PERDUE sticker on my forehead. To add to my disillusionment was a surgery I had when I was 9. I had to get a growth removed from my tongue; the doctors told my mom that it was pretty much a “taste bud gone wild,” which my mom attributed to the fact that I talked a lot.  The only redeeming thing about the experience was the drug-induced loopiness, the wheelchair ride into the waiting room, and the  ‘recovery’ days that followed, which included a popsicle-heavy diet and hours of The World of David the Gnome on Nickelodeon. David the Gnome was the best! A forest gnome and resident doctor of the forest, he went on amazing, world-bettering adventures via animal-taxi, and used acupuncture, hypnosis, and all kinds of other healing arts to treat his patients (who were mostly animals and other gnomes). David was my first real mentor in the field of medicine, but he was 6 inches tall, rode a fox around the forest, and was decidedly a cartoon.

David the Gnome, my hero. And Swift, his loyal chauffeur.

David the Gnome, my hero. And Swift, his loyal chauffeur.

At some point, I stopped telling people that I wanted to be a doctor when they asked me what I’d like to be when I was allgrownup. If I said “doctor” I knew what kind of picture would pop up in their head, and it wasn’t the kind of doctor I wanted to be. I longed to say “I”m going to recreate the genius of David the Gnome and heal my people!” but instead I’d shrug my shoulders and remind them that I was only 9, which is too young to be making such big decisions. Then I’d ask them for a snack.

When I got a little older, I decided to drop the childish, sentimental goal of practicing the art of healing and plunge head first into the world of finance.

Kidding!

Actually… it all worked out great. I discovered Traditional Chinese Medicine when I was 20 and I’ve been practicing gnome-medicine since!

Here’s the story. When I was 20, I’d started seeing an acupuncturist for chronic fatigue syndrome, a health issue that feels exactly like it sounds – exhaustion that loiters. I’d seen a ton of doctors over a 12 month period with no results. I even had one especially PERDUE-like experience that made me swear off doctors forever. Then my mom convinced me to see an acupuncturist, whom I saw once a week for a month; by the end of the month I had the energy to return to the gym, go for walks, hang out with friends. My brain stopped feeling like a mashed potato. Best of all, the soggy miasm that had descended upon my life seemed to lift with each session until it was totally gone.

I honestly couldn’t believe how effective this quack medicine had been for me! My desire to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine increased to a level I’d comfortably call ‘voracious’, and within a couple of weeks of reading some GREAT books, I learned that TCM was pretty much a blend of the three things I loved most – medicine, art, and science!

And just like that my vocation and profession embraced and made love in public, shameless, while David the Gnome watched and smiled with approval.

Okay, perhaps that isn’t the best metaphor, Prude, but it’s hard to express how great it was to realize that what I had wished for as a kid (and as a teen, and as a young adult) actually existed in real life as a modality of healing that I could study for four years at a graduate level! Sans gnomes. Though… we are never really sans gnomes. Face it.

 

To blood and qi and beyond!

To blood and qi and beyond! And yes.. I am aware that Buzz isn’t a gnome.

 

Check out my post on  Books About Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine That Won’t Put You To Sleep

Wildwood Medicine To Open Community Acupuncture Clinic in Portland, Maine

community acupuncture clinic

Wildwood is spreading the love!

Community Acupuncture Clinic to Open in July of 2012

I once had a patient who was having a hard time relaxing on the table because she was so worried about her father. Her father was diabetic and experiencing debilitating low back pain. The back pain interfered with his ability to exercise, which he had used to help manage his diabetes. His blood sugar levels got worse and he found himself unable to cover the costs of the medications prescribed to him by his doctor. Her dad had been out of work for 2 months and was quickly sliding into a major depression. She urged him to try acupuncture for pain relief, but his insurance didn’t cover acupuncture and he couldn’t afford the cash rates.

Unfortunately, this kind of story isn’t uncommon, and it’s especially sad that so many people go without proper healthcare when we are one of the richest nations in the world. But I could spend this whole post complainin’ about the state of health care in our country. Instead, I’m going to tell you some good news. This patient referred her dad to a community acupuncture clinic outside of Boston (10 minutes from his house) where he began receiving acupuncture treatments twice a week. After 2 weeks of treatments, his pain was reduced by 80 percent.  He found work within the month. And getting regular acupuncture treatments didn’t blow a hole in his bank account.

Community acupuncture clinics are steadily sprouting across the country. And in July of 2012, the community of Portland, Maine will be getting a big wallop of love when the doors of the Wildwood Community Acupuncture Clinic open to the public!  After running a successful health clinic in the heart of downtown Portland, the owners of Wildwood Medicine, Sasha Rose and Daniel Katz, have decided that they’d like to reach out to the community in a new  kind of way: to provide a space where people can come for regular and affordable acupuncture treatments in a peaceful and safe environment.

When I asked Sasha Rose about her plans and expectations regarding the new clinic, it was clear that she and Daniel have goals than go beyond simply figuring out how to guarantee financial success.  “It has always been our goal to serve and meet the needs of the local community,” said Sasha. “This model makes acupuncture more affordable and more accessible to more people. Whether someone has a specific complaint or is simply curious, he/she is welcome to try it out. Our goal is to create a healing, relaxing space where people will want to return again and again.”

The community acupuncture setup is a brilliant model that makes it possible to serve ALL members of the community with consistent, preventative/palliative health care. That’s right – ALL members of the community. So, how the heck does it work? And what about health insurance? And what exactly is a “community acupuncture clinic?”

The Community Acupuncture Model

The best explanation of how a community acupuncture model functions comes from the experts themselves, The People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA for short) – an online community rich in resources and information for patients and acupuncturists alike. The website is equipped to answer all the questions one could think of, so visit for more details if you’re so inclined.

Simply put, a community acupuncture clinic is a warm, quiet, safe space in which multiple recliners are set up in small groups. There can be anywhere from 5 to 20 recliners, depending on the size of the space. Patients come in, sign in, and pay on a sliding scale for their treatment (sliding scale is $20-40; pay what you can and no questions asked). One or two acupuncturists are available to treat the patients who are visiting the clinic. There aren’t many questions asked, and if so, they are quick and to the point, and all communication is done in a whisper as to not disturb the other patients. Once the acupuncturist knows what you need help with, he/she will look at your tongue and take your pulse (tongue and pulse are used diagnostically in Chinese medicine). Then you recline, get your treatment, and slip away into the meditative peacefulness that is commonly referred to as “acu-land.” When you are ready to leave, you give the acupuncturist(s) a meaningful glance, and they “de-pin” you and release you to the great outdoors, where you are now more equipped to deal with whatever comes your way.

Because treatments are affordable (often less than a co-pay for those who have insurance) patients are able to come in multiple times a week, which is greatly beneficial to people with chronic health complaints. Acupuncture works best when used consistently, and the community model makes regular treatments an option, even for those without health insurance.

But in my humble(ish) opinion, the best part of a community acupuncture treatment is less…explicable. Something beautiful happens when you have a roomful of (relative) strangers in a deep state of relaxation. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker have a moment to share in the sweetest of all common denominators without even lifting a finger – a moment of pure relaxation in which the body gets a chance to work its own magic.

So, keep your calendars marked for the opening of the Wildwood Community Acupuncture clinic – and come in and get poked!

 

 

How To Treat a Yeast Infection Before Visiting The Drugstore

antidote for vaginal yeast infections

Die, yeast, die!

Overrun By the Yeastie Beasties?

There’s a fungus amungus!

Over the past couple of months I’ve seen a recent spike in women complaining of vaginal yeast infections, so I thought that I’d write  about the subject (especially considering the fact that there are an unbelievable amount of uninformative websites available to someone who might google “yeast infection”). Many of the women I’ve treated were interested in something more natural than a conventional anti-fungal cream (like Monistat), but after searching on-line for alternative treatment options, most confessed that they’d ended up more confused than not.

So, ladies and gents, read on for information about Candida albicans and how to treat a vaginal yeast infection, and rest assured…. there are more ways than one to scratch that itch (hee hee).

All About Candida

Candida albicans is the fungus to be held accountable for a vaginal yeast infection. A healthy amount of Candida albicans is always present in the body, including the mouth, intestinal tract, and vagina.  However, the amount of Candida albicans can grow out of control and cause a vaginal yeast infection (as well as thrush and gastrointestinal discomfort, like gas and bloating). Click here for signs of a vaginal yeast infection.

There are multiple factors that contribute to vaginal yeast infections, including pregnancy, diabetes, the use oral contraceptives/ steroids/antibiotics, hormonal fluctuations around menstruation, HIV/AIDS, stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet. Also, post-menopausal women are more prone to yeast infections due to declining estrogen levels which thin the vaginal walls.

Diet can affect your tendency for yeast infections, though many people are reluctant to change their diet in order to treat an upsurge in yeast. Let’s be honest – it’s been a long Maine winter, and a long winter is nicely alleviated by warm chocolate chip cookies and giant steins of microbrews – but either way, cookies and beer and all kinds of other comfort foods translate into SUGAR, which is, sadly, the favorite food of candida. Why yeast doesn’t love canned spinach – well, that’s because the world is sometimes so cruel.

The “Candida Cleanse”

The connection between diet and yeast overgrowth is actually the subject of major debate. In 1983, in his book “The Yeast Connection”, Dr. William Crook argued that yeast is a major pathogen that can weaken the immune system and cause debilitating health issues, including some serious autoimmune diseases.  Since the publication of this book, there have been hundreds of books/websites/and practitioners purporting the benefits of a ‘candida cleanse’ to cure the sufferers of chronic yeast – a condition referred to “candidiasis hypersensitivity’ or ‘systemic yeast’. However, many conventional medical doctors disagree with this theory, and argue that no such medical condition exists. They argue that if the body (including the blood and organs) were overrun by yeast, the person would be so ill they’d you’d have to visit them in the ICU .

Here’ s my opinion on this, and I have to warn you, it’s pretty simple and incredibly logical.  It’s really no secret that a poor diet (especially one high in sugar and refined foods) is connected with yeast overgrowth. It’s also no secret that lowered immunity makes one more prone to yeast infections, and everyone knows that a poor diet can weaken the immune system. So…. my conclusion is that yeast will stop throwing a party in your vagina if you take away their energy source.

In other words, if you are having issues with yeast, take a good look at your diet. Eating lots of candy, pizza, doughnuts, and beer? Well, stop eating that crap. White powdered doughnuts are like crack to members of my family, as are salt and vinegar chips, so I get it.  But really, if you want to feel better, you’ve got to regulate what you put in your mouth. Call it a cleanse, call it what you want, but cleaning up your diet will only be beneficial. C’mon now –  when there’s a fire in the valley, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can douse it with gasoline.

8 Important Steps to Treating a Vaginal Yeast Infection

Note: If you are pregnant and think you have a yeast infection, make it your first step to consult your primary care provider. Many of these suggestions are not recommended for women who are pregnant.

1. First and foremost, differentiate. Make sure that what is going on is actually a yeast infection (especially if this is the first time you’re having symptoms). It may not be a yeast infection; in fact, it’s pretty common for women to treat an infection as yeast when it isn’t yeast at all. Low on cash? No health insurance? Turn off Rush Limbaugh and make an appointment at Planned Parenthood – a quick culture will tell you whether it’s yeast or something else, and they’ll send you home, informed, and they won’t call you a slut (if you don’t get this, see this link).

2. If you are sexually active, make sure your partner is also being treated (yes, this includes same and opposite sex relationships).

3. Garlic, garlic, garlic. Unless you are romancing a vampire, eat fresh garlic, half a clove a day, preferably raw. You can slice the clove into slivers and try to get it down that way, wrapped in a small piece of (whole grain) bread, or you can swallow the slivers like pills. Garlic is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, which means that it is basically the most awesome thing ever.

4. You can also try using garlic intra-vaginally. What???? Yes. Intra-vaginally. Take a fresh clove of garlic and peel off the paper shell that covers it. At bedtime, insert the clove into the vagina, and when you wake up, take it out and flush it (no, it won’t get lost in your vagina, though it can move around and you might have perform a minor shoulder stretch to retrieve it).  You could always thread the clove with a needle and thread if you are worried about losing it (giving it a pull string, like a tampon). If you go online, there are mixed reviews about this method – some women claim it to be the most efficient way to treat yeast, some women are grossed out by the idea and refuse to try it, and an occasional woman claims that it didn’t work for them. But in general, the results are mostly positive. For an more detailed article on using garlic for yeast infections, click here.

5. Wildwood medicine carries a homeopathic suppository called “Yeast Arrest”. It’s less messy and “gross” than garlic and Monistat, and many women swear by it. Yeast Arrest is made by a company in Oregon called Vitanica (a company that makes supplements formulated by the pro-women superstar Dr. Tori Hudson). It contains some big hitters in the world of the candida freedom fighters, including boric acid, oregon grape root, caledula, and tea tree oil.

6. Adjust your diet. Recurring yeast infection? Start with cutting out or reducing sugar, fermented foods, and refined flours, and I bet you’ll start noticing the difference within a week. Remember – don’t let the initial couple of days get you down – dietary changes usually come with some mood swings and fatigue. Push through, and you’ll feel better.

7. Start taking a good probiotic, such as Lactobacillus GG.  Probiotics are live microbial organisms that are naturally present in the digestive tract and vagina. They are considered to be “good bacteria” as they suppress the growth of potentially harmful organisms like candida. Wildwood carries a couple of excellent brands of probiotics; getting a good probiotic is essential if you are going to try this route.

8. If you do experience recurring yeast infections, see your PCP. In some cases, recurring yeast infections can be a symptom of HIV in women. Also, if you’ve gone the natural route and it hasn’t worked for you (and you know what you have is a yeast infection), make the trip to the drugstore and try the Monistat.  If that doesn’t work, consult your doc.

Good luck, ladies – and remember, the yeastie beasties are a total nuisance, but you’ve got the power and the knowledge to fight back! And like I said earlier, there are more ways than one to scratch that itch! (wink wink)

Research on Lifestyle Shows That Your Choices Matter

Looking for Proof?

If you spend any time online, or regularly peruse a publication that includes a section on “Healthly Living”, then you’re probably just as confused as, well, everyone else. Will my daily supplement shorten my life, or extend it? Should I stop eating eggs? How can I take fish oil regularly when so much is contaminated with mercury?  Is a daily glass of wine good for my heart but bad for breast health? Is my kid hyperactive because she eats sugar, or is it because she eats corn, or is it because she is 7 years old? If I am genetically prone to high cholesterol, does it really matter if I order another Big Mac? Should I use olive oil? Canola oil? Coconut oil?  (Insert head exploding)

Some people get to the point were they are so bombarded with advice that they end up throwing in the towel. Why make modifications to your daily routine when the  recommendations on healthy living and longevity never seem consistent, and at times, seem outright conflicting?  Do lifestyle changes really matter? Or is our mortality pre-programmed in our genes? Is there a chance that no matter what we do, we’re predestined to suffer when the buzzer goes off?

I’ve heard this concern often enough that I’ve decided to blog about it. Instead of making a passionate argument that includes personal experiences, supportive research, and patient testimonials, I’ve decided that it would be more fun to consult some experts on the subject and…watch a movie!

This TEDMED video is just under 30 minutes (the amount of time you spend, once a week, FaceStalking your old college crush – be honest!).  You may not have 27 minutes to spare, but what if this 27 minutes could add 7 years to your life? How’s that for carrot-dangling? Incentives: the video includes a gurgling baby with a droopy hat, joke-making, and two doctors sharing more than 20 years of research into this exact question.

So, does it matter how you live your life, from what you eat for breakfast to what you do for fun? Yes, it does.  But they say it better in the video below. Check it out!

Dean Ornish and Deepak Chopra Speak About How To Stay Alive

Dean Ornish, M.D., is the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. He is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Ornish received his medical training in internal medicine from the Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. He received a B.A. in Humanities summa cum laude from the University of Texas in Austin, where he gave the baccalaureate address.

Deepak Chopra, M.D.,: Dr. Chopra is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, an adjunct professor of executive programs at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a distinguished scholar at Columbia University, and a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. Before establishing the Chopra Center, Dr. Chopra served as chief of staff at Boston Regional Medical Center. He received his medical degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and did his internship at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey. He then completed various residencies and fellowships at university-affiliated medical centers in Boston.

(Dean Ornish bio from the Preventative Medicine Research Institute , Deepak Chopra bio from the Chopra Center)

Entertaining Video About Chinese Medicine

Acupuncturists and patients alike should watch this video – cute, informative, and funny!