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Musician Kristin Hersh Returns from Bipolar

By Sara Calabro

Kristin Hersh is the founder, lead singer and guitarist for the popular 1980s rock band Throwing Muses. In addition to her continued work with Throwing Muses, Hersh performs with her other band, 50FOOTWAVE, and as a solo artist. Her latest album, Crooked, is available as a book, CD and app. She also is the author of Rat Girl, a memoir released last year that chronicles the early stages of Hersh’s 20-year battle with bipolar disorder.

After two decades of trying everything from lithium to vitamins to exercise to just succumbing to her symptoms, Hersh had nearly given up on hopes of becoming well. Then she found acupuncture.
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Mind-Body Split Fatigue

By Sara Calabro

Study findings released last week are intensifying the debate over the relationship between emotions and physical health. The new research found that psychotherapy and exercise can “moderately improve outcomes” for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

This is a feather in the cap for people who think CFS is a stress-related, psychological condition. It’s a blow to patients who are awaiting confirmation that CFS is viral in nature, potentially treatable with antiretroviral drugs. And it highlights the ever-growing need for therapies like acupuncture, which are premised on the dynamic interplay between emotions and physical health, to become better understood and more accessible. Keep reading

Hormone Regulation Therapy

By Sara Calabro

HRT is hormone replacement therapy. Acupuncture is hormone regulation therapy—which, in light of last week’s health headlines, is clearly a better option for treating menopause symptoms.

Big news came out of the U.K., where a large study of over one million postmenopausal women took place. The findings, reported on Friday, show that women who took HRT in the early stages of menopause were at higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who took it five or more years after menopause began.

This is a big deal because popular belief was that younger women who began HRT earlier into menopause had little risk of developing side effects. In other words, the women who were thought to be at the lowest risk were found to be at the highest. Keep reading

Needles Trump Butts

By Sara Calabro

The American Lung Association recently released its State of Tobacco Control 2010 report—and the news is not good.

According to the report, most states are “failing miserably when it comes to combating tobacco-caused disease.”

Instead of directing anti-smoking funds toward tobacco regulation, prevention and wellness, and smoke-free laws, most states used the money for general budget deficits. This is ethically and economically foolish, as tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure cost us billions of dollars every year.

The need is greater now than ever for an effective way to help people quit smoking. Acupuncture can help—but there’s a caveat. Keep reading

Medical Expose Calls for Change

By Sara Calabro

In the concluding chapter of Hippocrates’ Shadow, author David Newman says, “Secrets beget secrets.”

He’s referring to a vicious circle whereby physicians, overwhelmed by peer, time and system pressures, perpetuate medical practices that they know to be ineffective or even downright dangerous; their inaction breeds misinformation among patients and next-generation doctors, allowing the cycle to continue and worsen as false ideas and unrealistic expectations get lodged deeper and deeper in our collective psyche.

The book reads a bit like this phenomenon: Page by page, chapter by chapter, the sense that our medical system does more harm than good feels increasingly overwhelming. In parts—for example, when Newman digs into a statistical concept known as NNT, or Number Needed to Treat—it can feel like there’s no way out.

Yet on the whole, Hippocrates’ Shadow is actually an uplifting book, a well-written, fun-to-read exposé with optimism at its core. Keep reading

Think Twice Before IBS Antibiotic

By Sara Calabro

What does irritable bowel syndrome have in common with ear infections and sore throats? All three now represent tempting opportunities for doctors to unnecessarily—and often dangerously—put people on antibiotics.

New research, published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine, shows that a two-week course of antibiotics helped IBS symptoms in 41 percent of patients. Although the findings are neither impressive (30 percent got better with placebo), comprehensive (patients with constipation were not included), nor unbiased (the studies were sponsored by Salix Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s maker), they provide doctors, finally, with something to offer patients.

IBS has proven especially tough for mainstream medicine to gets its arms around. Stress is known to play a significant role, leading many doctors to prescribe anxiety or depression drugs, but a clear physiological explanation remains elusive within biomedical parameters.

Acupuncture, because it considers the interdependent relationships of anatomical structures and how they’re affected by emotional and environmental factors, is a more sensible approach than medication for IBS. Keep reading

Seasonal Affective Not a Disorder

By Sara Calabro

Holidays, whether fun or stressful, are nothing if not distracting. With them now past, people may notice the return of emotional symptoms that surfaced just before the holiday season began. The biomedical community calls this SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, a condition that describes mood shifts associated with changing seasons.

Acupuncturists call it normal. Keep reading

Defining Research

By Sara Calabro

On Thursday, the FDA recommended to reverse the approval of Avastin for breast cancer, a decision that The Washington Post says, “intensifies a politically charged debate over costly cancer drugs that appear to produce modest benefits—if any.” It also raises questions about the research processes by which therapies, including acupuncture, are deemed effective.

In a case of crystal-ball reporting, The New Yorker, three days before the Avastin news broke, covered the “decline effect” in research. This refers to the increasingly common phenomenon of follow-up studies failing to confirm original research findings. Avastin gained approval for breast cancer in 2008, based on one study that showed it slowed the growth of breast tumors. The FDA signed off with the understanding that the drug’s maker would conduct follow-up studies to confirm the results. Those studies proved unimpressive. Keep reading